What is “sustainability?” It’s more than growing crops or planting trees. It encompasses a type of
progress that helps and supports society’s needs without interfering with the future. Often people in our Champlain community consider sustainability, they might about the apiary or the water bottle ban. But what about the inner workings of sustainability? What are the members of the community doing to contribute?
Assistant Director of Graduate Admissions Carin McCarthy has taken sustainability to a new level through her work with the Women’s Empowerment Initiative (WEI).
“When I first started at Champlain, I got involved with the WEI. I saw it as a place where women were coming together, sharing ideas, and growing and challenging themselves.”
The WEI is based on learning, engagement, networking, and connecting people and ideas, keeping in mind a goal of building confidence and creating courage. As part of her role as chair of the WEI this year, McCarthy coordinated the volunteer committee in putting together a symposium featuring a panel, workshops, films, and a keynote speaker.
Panelists were selected through a survey completed by the students, staff, and faculty at Champlain. Those chosen represent different academic divisions and identity groups on campus and are inclusive to women’s empowerment.
“We’re excited to have this particular day that’s really focused on women and identity. It’s been a really great opportunity to bring people together and engage them in to utilize their strengths,” said McCarthy. “Through planning these events, members of the planning team have been able to take on leadership roles, connect across departments, and collaborate and share resources that support and uphold people and their growth at Champlain.”
CNN Journalist Moni Basu was chosen as the symposium’s keynote speaker through this survey process. She’s covered stories from war zones to sexual assault on college campuses, offering a bicultural perspective on world events.
“There’s so much she brings to the discussion of identity and empowerment,” said McCarthy. “We’re really excited to have her.”
Events McCarthy and the WEI volunteer committee planned for the spring are focused on recognizing bias and inspiring a sense of both self-agency and responsibility to advocate for justice issues. They’re innovative, engaging, and require a level of critical thinking. They offer the students, faculty, and staff at Champlain an opportunity for continued learning and personal investment.
“As students prepare themselves to go into their field of work, how can they be change agents? How can they have a personal impact on the way change is done? Whether it’s the students, staff or faculty, any time we’re able to engage the talent we have and promote their growth and leadership empowerment, it’s an opportunity to move the College forward collectively,” said McCarthy.
But how do the events tie in with sustainability? McCarthy notes that the events give everyone the opportunity to consider diverse perspectives and engage with a variety of stakeholders. The symposium fits in with the innovation model, challenging the status quo and bringing a new lens to discussions on campus.
“To me, sustainability is about marrying the ideas of people, place, and profit. You can’t look at just the monetary bottom line and have a sustainable organization. […] Any time you bring new voices to the conversation and build upon people’s strengths,” said McCarthy, “it enables you to have greater problem-solving potential because you’re seeing issues in a different context. By growing our abilities, we are building a strong network of advocates and expanding our collective capacity.”
McCarthy also serves as a volunteer executive board member for Vermont Women in Higher Education (VWHE), an organization working to support professional development and networking for professionals across campuses in Vermont. The VWHE is open to all women working in higher ed in Vermont. It’s free to join and provides opportunities for women to make connections and develop professionally.
One of McCarthy’s favorite parts about all of this work is that she gets to tie it all in with her degree in sustainability.
“It’s been a really great opportunity to get to know the work people are doing in lots of different departments and bring people together around an issue that we’re interested in advancing,” said McCarthy. “It’s been a great opportunity to learn from leaders here on campus and at other institutions across the state of Vermont.”
The Women’s Empowerment Symposium will be held March 7, 2016.