Greg Woodburn

Greg Woodburn

Greg Woodburn (ΦΒΚ, University of Southern California) has worked with many top organizations dedicated to social impact through education, sports, community development, and partnerships. A former student-athlete and Rhodes Scholar Finalist, Woodburn founded Give Running, a nonprofit organization that brings together and builds up young people through running and service to promote success in life.

Woodburn's leadership has been profiled in People Magazine and Reader’s Digest; and recognized with prestigious honors including the Pac-12 Leadership Award, Congressional Award Gold Medal, and Jefferson Award for Public Service. A former student-athlete and Rhodes Scholar Finalist, Greg has traveled throughout Africa and Southeast Asia and has worked with the Clinton Global Initiative, Right To Play, USC Athletics, and other organizations dedicated to social impact through education, sports, community development, and partnerships. Greg earned his MBA with honors from the USC Marshall School of Business. Prior to that, he graduated summa cum laude from USC, with a BA in History and double minor in Entrepreneurship and Painting. 

What is your favorite part about your job?

The people. From my wonderful U.S. program teammates to my Canadian colleagues at Right To Play HQ in Toronto, I feel blessed to work with dear friends who inspire me and teach me each day. The education leaders and teachers we partner with as part of our community-building program are also central to what this job means to me. They have taught me so much about values-based leadership.

Is there a particular skill that you think young professionals should learn to give themselves a leg-up on job applications?

I would recommend that young professionals can stand out in their current job and in applying for new jobs by cultivating their ability to facilitate, because nearly all jobs benefit from bringing people together and bringing out the best in people. Being able to develop and guide a process for harnessing people’s wisdom and fostering new connections between ideas is a significant way to add value to any team.

To me, facilitation also means creating space where people feel safe and where relationships deepen their trust. This includes appreciation for how things outside of work impact how people feel and perform at work, too. Whether you are running a cross-departmental meeting, coaching someone who reports to you, or seeking to build something together with a client, facilitation can take many forms.

How has being a member of ΦΒΚ helped you in your field?

I think being a member of ΦΒΚ is a well-recognized honor that has certainly helped me when applying for scholarships, grad school, and jobs. And the qualities that ΦΒΚ looks for in members also helps reinforce the story I want to tell to prospective employers and partners – that I am eager to learn and to contribute in a wide variety of ways.

Do you have any career advice for young professional Phi Beta Kappa members?

I think it is important, along with understanding and working on our strengths and areas for growth, for us to be patient and kind with ourselves. This self-care is what allows us to fully engage in the other meaningful processes that are essential to our lives and careers, such as building relationships and continuously learning.

To this point, the late humanitarian and coach John Wooden famously said the two most important words in the English language are love and balance. My advice is to make time for the people and activities you love, and make room for balance in your life. It doesn’t take much skill to be busy – but it takes great skill to align your time with your priorities.

I would also encourage members to identify their personal self-care strategy – and to make those practices into regular habits. I will also plug here how important it is to consistently get a good night’s sleep as a foundation for physical and mental well-being.

What book are you reading right now? Are you listening to any podcasts? Anything you’d recommend?

For those interested in learning more about social entrepreneurship, I would highly recommend my role model Jessica Jackley’s recent book Clay Water Brick about her experience founding Kiva and other journeys and lessons. My all-time favorite book to recommend is Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations on and off the Court by Coach John Wooden: it’s a perfect book for reading an observation or two each night before going to bed. The wisdom ranges from family to personal development to social justice.

With Phi Beta Kappa’s mission in mind, The Innovators by Walter Isaacson provides fascinating insight into the power of connecting art and science. In a similar vein, I love listening to “Fresh Air” and “Planet Money” podcasts on NPR.

If you could write yourself a postcard on your college graduation day, what would you say?

I think college graduation is such an important time because, as Phi Beta Kappa represents, this period marks both a capstone to one journey and a threshold to all that life holds next.

In my experience, the first year after undergrad was challenging in many ways because there was so much transition: the number of possibilities could at times be overwhelming. There is no one “right” choice, and one’s criteria for “right” would surely change anyway depending on what vantage point of time you are looking from. 

The most timeless “right” choice I know is to do your best each day, and to be kind to others. To this end, my main advice would be a reminder of the importance of patience. “Good things take time,” Coach Wooden said, “usually a lot of time. And good things should take time.” Patience allows us to make the compassionate choice – to respond in alignment with our values to a situation, rather than to react immediately. 

I would also include a quote I love from Van Gogh in one of his letters to his brother Theo: “Time can be our friend by ripening us, if we do our part too.” May we have the patience to do the hard work and the heart work that is our part; and may we have faith that our efforts and endurance will in good time create ever more joy, as does any friendship.