About Vermont Humanities

New Employees Reflect on Joining Vermont Humanities During a Pandemic

Three new employees have joined Vermont Humanities in just the past six months: Community Programs Officer Rachel Edens and Literacy Programs Manager Jonny Flood started in September, while Communications Production Manager Sahra Ali started in January.  

All Vermont Humanities employees will continue to work from home for at least several more months, until we can safely return to our office in Montpelier. Ryan Newswanger recently spoke with Rachel, Jonny, and Sahra by video chat. 

What has it been like to start your job without going into the office on Loomis Street? 

Jonny FloodThe first three or four months I thoughtThis is finethis is the new job and Im adjusting to it. But the more Ive learned about the scope of my work and how it interacts with other people and programsthe more Ilike to be in the office.  

Rachel EdensOnly now is it starting to feel like this is my work home, this is my community, this is what we do. But if we were in the office, somebody could just pop their head in and say, “Hey, let me sit with you and show you what this is. Or I could get those snatches of conversation at lunch that would help things make more sense. 

Sahra AliI wasnt in Vermont when I interviewed, and Inot in Vermont right nowSo if everyone was working at the officethat would be different for me. But since everyones also working from hometheres some sort of comfort there.  

What have you learned about Vermont Humanities that surprised you? 

RachelJust how broad Vermont Humanities is. thought, “Where was Ior where was Vermont Humanities, when moved here in 2014?” As a Black woman coming from another region of the world, this would have been a place to find not only entertainment and enlightenment, but also a lot of community. 

Sahra: Itso crazy that I was at the John Lewis event [at the Flynn Theater in October 2019] and that I had no idea that it was hosted by Vermont Humanities! Also, Ive been surprised by the scope of our grants. So many people and organizations interact with us.  

Jonny: Theres so much that we offer in so many pockets and communities and places. Im still learning all the time about what we do. And yeah, I feel similarly about where was I? Especially since I grew up in Vermont. 

What are you most excited about over the coming months? 

JonnyRachel being the hub of our lecture world is exciting to me. I think it can advance Vermont Humanities as a scholarship and thought leader in the region and help us be an invigorating leader of discussions.  

SahraIm interested in what our diversity of thought is going to look like as far as the people that we book for our programs. Im really excited about the people who will speak for us, because there are so many great options for bringing new discussions, and not in a onetimeoneoff kind of way. 

RachelSo, Johnny, thanks for the shout out. Im going to pass the baton back and say that Im excited about working with Johnny and how the literacy programs and the community scholarship programs will interface. Right now theyre very separate. But because weve been working remotely, Ive probably heard more about the programs and projects that Johnnys working on than I might have otherwise, because we debrief together as a full team. 

What do you think it will be like to finally work “in person” in the office or on the road? 

RachelThis season, our First Wednesdays programming has been all digital. And while thats really worked well for some people, others are missing that community connection. So Im looking forward to visiting the host libraries, and being more proactive and helpful about the way that First Wednesdays happens in their library. 

JonnyIm going to be visiting and working with educators all around the state a lot, which is really excitingIts going to be a whole new transitionbecause Im still building all these relationships. Its going to make all of the relationshipbuildingand inroads into prisonsand inroads into parent child centersand inroads into schools and nonprofitsrapidly speed up and totally shift. My days are going to be really different. 

Sahra: I look forward to random chats and seeing the faces and the minds behind everything thats happening. Its kind of interesting that three people have started just in the past few months. That alone is bringing about change in a very deep way.