What student groups/clubs/activities were you involved in when you were a student at Puget Sound?
I worked at the Center for Intercultural and Civic Engagement as a Food Justice Coordinator, I was on the Mortar Board, I worked in the Center for Writing, Learning, and Teaching as a Writing Advisor and Writing Liaison.
I was a nontraditional student, so I was a part of a group for nontraditional and transfer students to share their experiences and support each other.
How would you describe your role and organization?
My organization, Harvest Pierce County, is the urban agriculture wing of the Pierce Conservation District (PCD). We see food as a natural intersection between ecological and social justice, and a direct way to connect people to the land and to each other. We focus on empowering community leadership, and filling in the gaps so that we make sure that we as a government organization are truly serving everybody in our County. To this end, my personal role focuses on responding to the needs of our immigrant and refugee gardeners, developing programming in five different languages including Russian, Vietnamese, Korean, Khmer, and Spanish.
My other roles include coordinating the Fruit Tree Education program, and the Gleaning Project through which we prevent hundreds of thousands of pounds of food from going to waste.
We also have a Program Manager on staff who is a UPS alum (Micaela Cooley), and our Executive Director and City Councilman Ryan Mello is a UPS alum.
How would the skills and competencies gained through a liberal arts education be beneficial in the type of work you do?
A liberal arts education gave me the ability to see social problems structurally, which helps me think about upstream solutions that don't reinforce the same inequities over and over again. My degree was interdisciplinary (STS), and thinking across disciplines helped stoke the creativity needed in this kind of work. Finally, classes in the IPE and SOAN fields helped me learn to be a better listener and as such, a better public servant.
What can a student expect to experience by job shadowing you?
Wednesdays are relaxed for us by design. We have something at noon called 'Lunch Club," where we take turns cooking lunch for each other and try to get to know one another beyond our roles at work. We also invite different community partners to Lunch Club so we can network with them in a fun and informal way.
After that, we have Staff Meeting, which the student is welcome to join. We have a pretty hierarchically flat structure, so these meetings are about sharing what's working and troubleshooting what's not. We also do something called "celebrating failures," where we talk about something we knew we could have done better and what we learned from the experience. This normalizes feedback and growing, and learning from mistakes.
A lot of our work is out in the field during the spring and summer; since this is winter, it is our reflective time. That means we will have the space to talk about our programming, and to plan for the year ahead. It's a great time for a student to get an overview of our work.