Hilary Duff addressed an audience of Chapman University students, encouraging them to make time in their lives for humanitarian causes.
Actress Hilary Duff addressed an audience of Chapman University students, encouraging them to make time in their lives for humanitarian causes.

Chapman students enjoy a bit of levity, leadership advice with Hilary Duff

By Laurie Swain ‘13

It was evident Wednesday, Oct. 16, that something big was happening at Chapman University.  A line of students snaked around the outside of the Sandhu Conference Center and the University’s Twitter and Facebook pages buzzed with the news — Hilary Duff, actress, singer, author, and humanitarian had come to speak on campus.

The celebrated star of Disney’s hit show Lizzie McGuire, was chosen for a live broadcast with the National Society of Leadership and Success, which has a chapter at Chapman University.  Each semester the organization chooses three speakers to address its 322 chapters throughout the United States and broadcasts the talks live from one of those campuses.

Once inside the conference center, the excitement in the air was audible when the crowd shrieked with delight as the star emerged from behind the curtain and took the stage. A representative from the national organization led the interview-style presentation during which the actress talked about her professional life, humanitarian work and the bestselling book series she authored.

Duff described how she began volunteering at a young age, inspired by her mother’s example.  She remembered that whenever there were large dinner parties at the home, her mother would encourage people to bring goods for donation to a local shelter.

When asked about how she chooses the organizations that she supports she said that she helps with causes that she feels passionate about and where she feels she could be useful.  She especially focuses on child and animal organizations as those are close to her heart. Among the causes she has supported is Hurricane Katrina relief and organizations like Kids with a Cause and Blessings in a Backpack.  She was also named the Youth Ambassador to the children of the Colombian capital, Bogota. For Duff, it’s more than just the usual celebrity involvement.

“I like getting my hands dirty and work hard, it makes you grateful for the life you’re living,” Duff said.

She encouraged all in the audience to find causes meaningful to them.

“Find something you’re passionate about. Volunteering is the easiest way to get involved in something. It’s about getting creative and not thinking ‘I’m just one person I can’t make a difference,’” she said.

After the interview, Duff answered questions from Chapman students, many of whom were keen to hear stories from her Lizzie McGuire days.  She jokingly referred to the famous episode when Lizzie shops with her mom for a bra, much to the delight of the audience.

But for many Chapman students getting to also see the serious side of a celebrity they had grown up with was eye-opening.

Leah Freeman ’15, a television and broadcast journalism major, said she learned a lot from the presentation.

“It was very inspiring to hear the stories surrounding this favorite movie star and how real and genuine a person can be when they are surrounded by stardom. As a student wanting to enter the entertainment industry it was a great experience to hear her own perspective on the Hollywood life she has had,” Freeman said.

Dawn Bonker