Grace Peterson’s Passion for Helping Others Leads to an Unexpected Career
At its best, Bentley University — like a successful business — is about people.
Ask Grace Peterson ’21. Like many, the Falmouth, Mass., native came to Bentley determined to make it big in business. Four years later, she’s graduated with a new mission to help others, something she credits to the relationships she formed with Bentley students and staff along the way.
“I came here looking at it in terms of furthering my career, becoming a professional and life after Bentley,” says Peterson. “But what I found in terms of my involvement, my sense of passion and my ‘why’ once I got here was so much greater and extremely unexpected.”
Peterson majored in Management with a Liberal Studies Major in Health and Industry. But it was her time giving back to fellow students and the community at large that really shaped who she is today. In fact, she says she noticed that sense of community all the way back on her first visit to campus as a prospective student.
“Whenever I listened to students talk about the school and why they were drawn to it, they always focused on that sense of community and belonging that they were able to find at Bentley,” she says. “That was something that stuck out to me and something I wanted in my college career. Knowing that, regardless of what path I decided to take at Bentley, I’d be able to find myself as part of that community was reassuring.”
FEEDING HER PASSIONS
In high school, Peterson’s path involved tutoring elementary school kids, coaching youth sports and serving as class president. She knew she wanted to continue her work helping others in college.
“I always loved working with peers and students,” she says. “Once I got to Bentley, I realized that the business side wasn’t as much a part of me as I thought it would be. I knew I needed to find that sense of community elsewhere.”
She then turned to Bentley’s annual activity fair, looking for organizations and fellow students who were aligned with what she wanted to get out of her college experience.
“That’s where I stumbled upon the CAB (Campus Activity Board) table and met a bunch of students who shared in that passion to touch the lives of students on this campus and really make an impact on the Bentley community,” says Peterson. “For me, that was huge in terms of getting involved.”
Peterson also signed on with the Bentley Service–Learning and Civic Engagement Center (BSLCE), figuring that working in the community beyond campus was a way to continue the mentoring she loved so much in high school.
“I jumped at the opportunity,” she says. “I was so excited to be able to get off campus for a little while, immerse myself in the Waltham community and get a more holistic view of the college experience.”
Peterson moved her way up through the BSLCE, ultimately becoming lead program manager. Her involvement in CAB grew as well, and she was elected president her senior year. Planning large-scale student events was obviously different with COVID-19, but Peterson is proud of the work her team did to keep the Bentley student experience meaningful.
“The most important part was trying to mimic the community that I always found great comfort in at Bentley, within a virtual space,” she says. “So all of the different traditions and the places where people could gather together — I wanted to mimic that in virtual programming.
“This is a super isolating time for everyone,” Peterson adds. “If you can find ways to build community and still bring people together, you’re achieving your end goal.”
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MUCH MORE THAN BUSINESS
Peterson enjoyed her work with fellow students and with staff members from the Office of Student Programs and Engagement (SP&E) so much that she’s hoping to eventually work in higher education herself. This fall, she’ll begin graduate studies in the University of Vermont’s Master of Higher Education and Student Affairs program.
“You can have such a large impact on students in that role as a student affairs professional,” says Peterson. “Though I came to Bentley, like many people, thinking I’d be an accounting or finance major, that I’d go into corporate America, I soon found that that wasn’t necessarily my passion as much as working with students was.
“Bentley’s just a really special place. It’s so great at helping students develop their passions and find the areas they want to pursue, whether that’s through an LSM or a minor or through their extracurricular involvement. I think that, although people see it as a business school, Bentley is so much more than that.”