COA, Sterling College to share diversity and inclusion fellow – College of the Atlantic

coa,-sterling-college-to-share-diversity-and-inclusion-fellow-–-college-of-the-atlantic

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College of the Atlantic, pictured, is teaming up with Sterling College to bringing antiracism to ...College of the Atlantic, pictured, is teaming up with Sterling College to bringing antiracism to the foreground with the hiring of Rachel Blansett as a shared diversity and inclusion fellow.

A collaborative effort by Vermont’s Sterling College and Maine’s College of the Atlantic to bolster antiracist initiatives has led to the hiring of a diversity and inclusion fellow to support both institutions. After an exhaustive national search, Rachael Blansett has been appointed to the new position, which is made possible with a generous grant from The Endeavor Foundation. She begins her fellowship on August 1.

“In addition to directly serving the needs of communities of color on both campuses, Blansett’s leadership will also better equip everyone with the tools, skills, and self-awareness they need to work toward communities where all members are thriving,” COA President Darron Collins ’92 said.

“As two ecologically focused institutions, Sterling and COA prioritize the relationships between humans and the natural world and deeply value the diversity of nature and human cultures. By partnering, these two small colleges can efficiently share diversity, equity, and inclusion resources, hold each other accountable, take advantage of scale where it makes sense, and learn and grow together in their effort to effectively become anti-racist institutions,” Sterling President Matthew Derr said.

Blansett’s expertise includes student activism and agency. She values intersectional critique and analysis, developing self love and healing from trauma, and building coalitions and relationships across queer communities of color. She comes to this role from the University of Michigan, and most recently from the University of California-Berkeley where she was the resident director for a residential community of over 600 students and the Asian Pacific American Theme House.

New College of the Atlantic and Sterling College Diversity and Inclusion Fellow Rachel Blansett w...New College of the Atlantic and Sterling College Diversity and Inclusion Fellow Rachel Blansett will bring together, and provide support for, traditionally marginalized communities on both campuses.“I am excited to be joining the Sterling and COA teams to further their missions and work closely with faculty, staff, and students on their journeys within diversity, equity, and inclusion work,” Blansett said. I look forward to building relationships between both institutions, providing support for marginalized communities on campus, and developing and facilitating trainings covering issues such as anti-Blackness, decolonization, and building solidarity.”

Blansett’s work will include deeper faculty-driven engagements with the Abenaki (Vermont) and Wabenaki (Maine) nations; coordinated visits by experts, scholars, and activists of color to lead and to participate in academic programming; encouragement and mentorship for student activists of all races and identities; and student life support to broaden the social and academic experience for students of color and link the communities on both campuses virtually for regular group meetings and shared programming.

Blansett’s appointment follows several years of work at COA to bring antiracism to the foreground of the college’s focus on human ecology, which has included multiple task forces and working groups. In spring 2021, the school’s DEI Strategic Planning Task Force brought forth a multi-year strategic plan, which was passed unanimously by COA’s All College Meeting governance system. This was followed by the appointment of the DEI Oversight, Accountability, and Resource Team, a group made up of faculty, staff, and students tasked with coordinating DEI-focused efforts on campus and creating the next iteration of the DEI strategic plan.

“Through this partnership, Sterling and COA have embraced the obligation to redouble our efforts, and are working to build trust that we are earnest about fulfilling the commitments we’ve made together,” Collins said.

“We recognize that climate change and environmental degradation disproportionately impact communities of color,” Derr said, “and thus the intersection of environmental and social justice and creating conditions of genuine inclusion is our responsibility.”

Founded in 1958 in Craftsbury Common, Vermont, Sterling College advances ecological thinking and action through affordable experiential learning, preparing knowledgeable, skilled and responsible leaders to face the ecological crises caused by unlimited growth and consumption that threatens the future of the planet. Enrollment is limited to 125 students. Sterling is home to the School of the New American Farmstead, EcoGather, and the Wendell Berry Farming Program; is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education; and is one of only nine colleges and universities recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a “Work College.” Learn more at sterlingcollege.edu.

Sterling College, above, and College of the Atlantic share small intentionally small student bodi...Sterling College, above, and College of the Atlantic share small intentionally small student bodies, low faculty-to-student ratios, a focus on sustainability, and a commitment to become actively antiracist institutions.

College of the Atlantic believes that education should go beyond understanding the world as it is to enabling students to actively shape the future. Every COA student designs their own major in human ecology—which integrates knowledge from across academic disciplines and seeks to understand and improve the relationships between humans and their natural, built, and social environments—and sets their own path toward a degree. The intentionally small school of 350 students and 35 faculty members was founded in 1969 and offers Bachelor of Arts and Master of Philosophy degrees. Learn more at coa.edu.

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