Alumnae Spotlight showcases amazing Laurel women and the paths they have charted since graduation. Whether they are doctors, designers, artists, authors, scientists, lawyers, teachers, entrepreneurs, engineers, pharmacists, or civic activists or volunteers, Laurel women inhabit nearly all careers and corners of the world helping to make it a better place. Our alumnae and the journeys that they have taken speak to the essence of a Laurel education and what makes this School and the community of women who call it their own distinctive. This space highlights their fascinating lives and the mountains they continue to move.
If you would like to be featured in our Alumnae Spotlight, or know of an alumna who might, please email Megan Findling.
May 2017 Alumnae Spotlight
Elizabeth Schaul ’04
Proud Green team member Elizabeth Schaul ’04 received her Bachelor of Arts in Women’s Studies and Psychology, cum laude, from Boston University. After college she stayed in Boston and is a social media project manager for State Street Global Advisors. If social media at its core is about relationship building through connection, interaction and information sharing, then relationship building has featured prominently in her life, long before the advent of Facebook and other social media platforms. She and Jessica Grogan Burnett ’04 have been best friends since Third Grade in Miss Crissman’s class and in addition to other classmates she is close to, especially Nicole Brown ’04 and Lauren Chrien Brown ’04, she stays in touch with alums from the classes below and above her own. Social media helps her continue those relationships.
You entered Laurel in Prekindergarten. Why Laurel?
My enlightened parents let me choose between Laurel and Hathaway Brown, as long as I was at an all-girls school. They recently had read the research produced by Carol Gilligan and Harvard about women having better long-term outcomes if they were educated in an all-female environment. I chose Laurel because there was a strawberry-scented doll in the classroom I visited that I fell in love with at first sight. I was crestfallen when on my first day at Laurel, the doll was nowhere to be found. I never saw her again.
Obviously, you found new things to love at Laurel! What is the most important thing you learned at Laurel (something you draw upon even now)?
Establishing confidence and faith in myself and knowing my own abilities and limitations. Once you leave Laurel, and then after you leave college, you are for the first time adrift— it will be the first time in your life that you don’t have school to attend in the fall (unless you head directly to graduate school directly after college, which I do not recommend), the first time you aren’t part of an automatic community, and the first time that you will not be with peers of the same age and life stage every day as you have been to this point.
There is an Emerson quote, which I think of often: “'If I have lost confidence in myself, I have the universe against me.” Retaining that faith in myself has been key for me in periods of my life that were less stable, consistent, or structured. I have found that even when others doubted or questioned me, I wasn’t bothered by their perception because I realized it had no bearing upon what I am capable of or who I am. Many don’t have that belief in themselves and it is a gift, one I recognize and appreciate and largely attribute to my time at Laurel.
You’ve noted that Laurel allowed you to beat to your own drum…can you explain more about that?
Laurel does an excellent job of allowing each student to be herself. I think if I had attended a coed school, I would not have been nearly as comfortable expressing myself every day in class because I would have felt more pressure to conform and more anxiety about answering a question incorrectly or doing something that would have made me feel or look silly. At Laurel, even at a young age, I usually sat in one of the front rows near the middle, eager to answer the teacher’s questions and participate. I felt— and still feel —that Laurel created space for students to be themselves and really allowed and nurtured students to grow within that space, to explore who they were, and to express that wholly.
There also was a tremendous amount of freedom and opportunity to try new things provided you worked hard and did your best—how many other high schools would have allowed their Seniors to go off to New York City for a month? Yet that’s what Jessica Grogan and I did on our Senior project (our project was to create a Laurel girl’s guide to New York). I always had a strong sense of possibility while I was at Laurel, that anything I could conceive of and put the effort into creating, I could make it happen. That optimism and sense of opportunity is a wonderful gift and I draw upon it even now.
I also learned at Laurel that speaking up for what you care about and what you think is right is a very effective way to bring about change. My sense of activism, my willingness (even eagerness) to do what I think is right, and my sense of conviction when it comes to my various beliefs and causes are an integral part of who I am. Laurel gave me the space and the education to understand how to ask questions, dig for answers, how to be an involved and active citizen who cares for and gives back to her community, how to be resourceful and creative when it comes to finding solutions, and how to develop and expand upon my own opinions and ideas.
You are on the social media team for State Street Global Advisors. Social media has exploded and changed the landscape about how many of us communicate. Is there a typical day and if so, can you describe it? What are some of the positive experiences you’ve had doing social media? What are the most important skills to have to be successful in what you do?
Social media really varies depending on the size of the company and what is being marketed—a product versus a service —and to whom it is being marketed which affects the platform you use and the way you promote and advertise. I have done social media for a very small company selling a service, and now, in a much larger company, that is selling a product, and the experiences are polar opposites. In a smaller company, marketing is usually an afterthought. In that environment, usually it’s a very small number of people working on social media, and it is a small part of their role, so it doesn’t always get the attention it requires. In a larger, more-established organization, we have an entire team that supports social media, and there is more in the way of strategy, planning, and analysis. Each piece of output may be seen or touched by over a dozen people.
A typical day can involve examining current stock market sentiment (which will impact the mood of our audience), reviewing the publishing calendar, checking in to ensure content we want to promote is ready, strategizing potential content to promote in the future, reviewing social media posts, looking at what our competitors are saying or doing, analyzing results, and working with external vendors and internal teams to make sure everything is on schedule.
I like the immediacy of social media; you are able to start measuring impact right away. I like having the ability to tweak our approach on an ongoing basis—I am an inquisitive person and having the ability to get real-time feedback is ideal. In order to be successful in social media, and really any type of marketing, one must know one’s audience, be willing to explore and try new things, and to make mistakes. Also critical is being organized, flexible, and analytical, a strong communicator, and open to new concepts and ideas.
What do you do in your ‘spare time’?
I volunteer a lot— I am a Clinic Escort at my local Planned Parenthood affiliate, and I am also a founding member and on the Steering Committee of their Young Friends group (a group of young professionals who support PP). I am also a marketing/social media volunteer for a local refugee resettlement nonprofit, called Refugee and Immigrant Assistance Center. My friends call me The Encourager— I like to lift up other people, especially other women, advising them professionally and encouraging them to go after their dreams. In this capacity, I mentor friends and younger relatives.
When I need to rejuvenate, I enjoy swimming, the beach (I love living near the ocean), salsa dancing (Boston has a large salsa community) and Boston’s restaurant scene.
What advice would you give to current Laurel girls?
Study abroad in college.
Don’t be afraid to take risks or to try things on your own and to chart your own course.
Appreciate Laurel— it is such a unique place and you won’t fully recognize how unusual it is until you are gone. Laurel offers you the time and space to explore your talents and gifts and to start to imagine how your future will take shape, so do not waste this opportunity. Value the special connection created amongst Laurel students and alumnae as a result of being educated there (and in an entirely female environment)— I was quite shocked when I got to college and was no longer with other Laurel girls and discovered that while I valued my female roommates and classmates for who they were as individuals, they viewed me as competition and kept me at arms’ length. I think the social climate between women is (hopefully) changing, but at the time, I felt this gap in my college female friendships as a loss and it was an adjustment and made me miss Laurel all the more.
Also, take a women’s studies class in college, even if you are not a social science or liberal arts student— it will open your eyes to a different perspective of history, biology, etc., than you have previously considered.
What has been the most surprising life lesson you have learned so far?
How frequently and with unnerving regularity my parents have been right. And, also, how people’s personalities never really change—I see this in myself and in others. My father says there is nothing like old friends and it’s true. I can count on my Laurel friends to be exactly as they were 10, 15, 20, 25 years ago. It is refreshing and comforting at the same time and always brings me back to the earliest years of my life.
If you could write your life’s philosophy for a message in a fortune cookie, what would it be?
Live with integrity, be brave, and never lose your childlike sense of wonder.