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 Flood: The first three or four months I thought, “This is fine, this is the new job and I’m adjusting to it.” But the more I’ve learned about the scope of my work and how it interacts with other people and programs, the more I’d like to be in the office.
Rachel Edens: Only 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 Ali: I wasn’t in Vermont when I interviewed, and I’m not in Vermont right now. So if everyone was working at the office, that would be different for me. But since everyone’s also working from home, there’s some sort of comfort there.
What have you learned about Vermont Humanities that surprised you?
Rachel: Just how broad Vermont Humanities is. I thought, “Where was I, or where was Vermont Humanities, when I 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: It’s so 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, I’ve been surprised by the scope of our grants. So many people and organizations interact with us.
Jonny: There’s so much that we offer in so many pockets and communities and places. I’m 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?
Jonny: Rachel 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.
Sahra: I’m interested in what our diversity of thought is going to look like as far as the people that we book for our programs. I’m 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 one–time, one–off kind of way.
Rachel: So, Johnny, thanks for the shout out. I’m going to pass the baton back and say that I’m excited about working with Johnny and how the literacy programs and the community scholarship programs will interface. Right now they’re very separate. But because we’ve been working remotely, I’ve probably heard more about the programs and projects that Johnny’s 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?
Rachel: This season, our First Wednesdays programming has been all digital. And while that’s really worked well for some people, others are missing that community connection. So I’m looking forward to visiting the host libraries, and being more proactive and helpful about the way that First Wednesdays happens in their library.
Jonny: I’m going to be visiting and working with educators all around the state a lot, which is really exciting. It’s going to be a whole new transition, because I’m still building all these relationships. It’s going to make all of the relationship–building, and inroads into prisons, and inroads into parent child centers, and inroads into schools and nonprofits, rapidly 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 that’s happening. It’s 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.