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Hillside Chats: Mike Izzo, Creator of "Authentic Eagles"

Mike Izzo, A&S '14, is a lot of things. He rowed crew for three years before injuring his back going into junior year; he is an integral part of the Boston College Chapter of Big Brothers, serving younger kids in the local community; he currently captains a Freshman League group and was an Orientation Leader this past summer.

When he isn't going to his pre-med classes or diving into his studies, he's an open, caring resource to his friends. I know: I've had the privilege to call him my friend for the last few years.

Few people on campus have weighed the balance of school work and countless other obligations as fluidly as Izzo has, but that's exactly what the humble senior wouldn't want you to believe.

His latest project, "Authentic Eagles," is a series of reflections authored by BC students and faculty coming from many different perspectives. These members of the BC community detail their path to authenticity and the struggle they surpassed to reach a self-fulfillment that is, at the least, a memorable and rewarding read.

Izzo approached a team of editors on the Gavel that embraced his idea and sent out inquiries to many members of the BC community. What transpired was a collection of stories that were made to be told: the type that carry some weight of importance in our everyday lives and bring us to a better understanding of our own authentic image.

I got to sit down and chat with Izzo about his creation of the series, which has become an integral part of the Gavel.

Mike, what was the driving force for the creation of the series?

I was really inspired by the conversations and reflections I was having during the 48 Hours trip that I led last November. People were being vulnerable, which was both cathartic and refreshing at the same time—something that I was not used to witnessing back at BC where even best friends put up seemingly "perfect" facades. I figured that the conversations that we were having in this safe space shouldn't just be limited to the retreat setting. Why should you have to go to Dover or the Cape just to be yourself? I want people to be themselves all the time.

Jono Keedy / Gavel Media

Jono Keedy / Gavel Media

How did this come to fruition?

I had written a 'This I Believe' statement for a seminar on gender taught by Peter Folan and Katie Dalton last semester, and they got me really thinking—based on a once-a-week discussion—what it meant to be a person as a part of this BC community. So, I started writing 'This I Believe' statements, and I was able to get into this reflective mode that I previously hadn't been in my last three years of college. The Gavel's Editor-in-Chief, Jenna LaConte, was a 48 Hours leader with me, and after such eye-opening experiences on our trip with the freshmen and other leaders, we realized this need for on-campus dialogue on reflection. What better way to make it happen than with an Editor-in-Chief of a campus news source? It was amazing how readily people shared their stories with us, so we really just wanted to give them a place to publicize their reflections. Since the beginning of the series, people have sent us new pieces almost every day, which means that the community clearly wants more vulnerable conversation to happen.

Do you credit a faculty member in particular for inspiring you to do this work?

Not one faculty member in particular, but many inspired me to create the series. It all really began with my interactions with the staff at FYE during the summer that I worked as an OL, especially Biz Bracher and Peter Folan. They first showed me the value of simply thinking about my own life and how I relate to others, and even more importantly was the thinking about whether or not I felt fulfilled.  From there, Katie Dalton of the Women's Resource Center, who taught the gender seminar with Peter and Mike Sacco at the Office of Student Formation, continued to make me think about the community that I live in and face the facts about students' experiences at BC—especially the not-so-pretty ones. All of these people instilled a need for conversation among the BC community in me.

How have your reflections evolved over the course of your college years?

I really didn't do much "reflection" at all until this past summer, after my junior year. I went on 48 Hours as a freshman and went to church every Sunday, but I never felt the importance of applying my introspection to the people around me until I started working as an OL. I now take the time each day, even if it's just for a few minutes, to stop and think about what I'm doing and what my priorities are and if I'm really making myself a better person—kind of like the magis that Jesuits talk about. These reflections help me to understand myself on a much greater level—so much so that I've found myself torn from my comfort zone to embrace things that I never thought I would've done before such as auditioning for the Dynamics, leading 48 Hours, and taking a gender class.

What do you envision "Authentic Eagles" doing for the BC community?

This series is an outlet for people to share their stories, in the hopes that in witnessing their vulnerability, more people on this campus will be willing to open up and embrace this community and beyond on a much more genuine level. I hope that people continue to contribute their own reflections, but even more so I hope that readers will be inspired, just like I was, to have conversations and reflections of their own to be authentic. When you have this sort of dialogue opened, it's really beneficial for the entire community.

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Born in New York, from Philadelphia, but meant to live in New England.