The moral of the story of how this blog started is: listen to your good friends when they ask you to do something. They can see potential in you that you may not have seen in yourself.

Rachel and Emily went to graduate school at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE) in 2007 to earn a Masters of Science (MS) and to learn how to change the world. We each partnered our MS (with concentration on behavior, education, and communication) from SNRE with a masters degree from another school; Emily with an MBA from Ross School of Business and Rachel with an MPH from the School of Public Health. We finished, alive and relatively unscathed, in April of 2010.

In March of 2009, a full year before we were going to graduate, the SNRE administration asked for student speaker applicants for that year’s graduation speaker. Our friend Becca forwarded this email to Rachel with an email that said, “I know this is a year early, but when we graduate I want you to be the one that speaks at our graduation.”

Rachel remembered this vote of confidence and when the same email calling for student speakers came round in March of 2010, she accepted. Rachel was comfortable with the getting up and speaking part of this challenge, but knew that her words would be better if someone else had seen them before she unfurled them on a crowd.

So she asked Emily to be her ghostwriter.  Rachel knew that Emily was a good candidate for the job – conversations in class and over late-night porch beers helped us see eye to eye on some pretty crazy ideas about world changing.  Together, we had something we wanted to say to our classmates, something we wanted to contribute, something that translated what our research and guts told us needed to be said to our friends, to new graduates, to future environmental leaders, and to change agents.

After countless edits, rewrites, and impassioned, grocery store conversations (always multi-tasking!) about “what we want to say” we wrote a speech about what we know and what we don’t – a speech that offered a way of thinking about how each of us actually changes the world (welcome the Small Infinity namesake). A speech that suggested that we were in it together. A speech about uncertainty, courage, hope, and taking action.  And then Rachel delivered it at graduation, and for the first time in 25 years of SNRE graduations, the student speaker received a standing ovation (and Emily swears she saw the Provost tearing up).

That told us we were on to something – we had hit a nerve in many of our fellow graduates, and we didn’t want our message to stop there.   We felt like we still had things to say about how the world changes and had stories to prove it. AND we realized that our classmates probably had and were making those stories too.  So we started this blog to unearth these ideas and stories, to share them, to help ourselves and others to feel empowered as individuals to change the world. Go figure- our commencement actually inspired us to commence something.
Thanks for visiting and for contributing – we’re doing this because we love these ideas, the stories we’re collecting, and, most of all, the people in this world.  We hope you feel as good reading as we do writing the Small Infinity Project.


Emily is a program coordinator for an undergraduate action learning program and a research assistant in the Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship in UM’s Ross School of Business.  She loves outdoor movies, dancing, and helping people grow – especially her nephew and niece, Ethan and Maddie.

Rachel is a program manager for the nonprofit Fair Food Network, and loves local food, making music, and her dog, Juanes.