Lauren North ’09
Armed with a degree in Peace, I graduated from Earlham five years ago in December (a stint as a field organizer for the Obama Campaign in 2008 kept me from finishing a pesky two credits) and found myself leaping into the abyss of quasi-adulthood. I applied for a few positions, all long shots in Washington, DC and hoped (improbably) for the best. Five months in, I would say the best (and improbable) is exactly what I got. In January, I started work for The Nation Magazine's DC bureau as a salaried intern. My work there had three distinct facets: sussing out a beat about grassroots organizing efforts on Capitol Hill; producing a weekly podcast for the magazine's website; and research for my boss, the impossibly intelligent and prolific, Christopher Hayes (now of MSNBC fame).
It was with a heavy heart that I left the Nation in June 2010, but my PAGS degree was itching to actually go global. With an over-sized bag packed full of an obnoxious idealism, I embarked on a life-altering adventure with the US Peace Corps. I found myself in Africa's last absolute monarchy, a beautiful blink of a country nestled between South Africa and Mozambique with problems three times bigger than the land within its borders. With a population just over one million, Swaziland had the highest rate of HIV infection in the world. At times my experience was a fairy tale filled with a colorful cast of warm, beautiful characters, other times a nightmare inhabited entirely by the dark specter of death, poverty and sexual harassment. I was able to turn my darkest times into projects that I (and more importantly the community) felt passionately about, mostly related to the educational, financial and existential empowerment of women in the country.
Setting foot back on American soil for the first time in two years was the greatest shock of my life, made all the more vertigo-inducing by joining the Obama re-election effort in Colorado a mere six days after returning home. I went from never driving to being behind the wheel for a 20 hour sprint across the western plains. I went from working 18 hours a week to 18 hours a day. It was exhausting, exhilarating and engaging in the way that only electoral politics can be. We won, and that victory returned me to where I started my young career: Washington D.C.
Following the campaign, I worked on the Presidential Inaugural Committee organizing the largest day of community service in our country's history, then for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee launching grassroots media events before settling into the last three years of Barack Obama's presidency at the US Department of Labor fighting for fair wages, paid leave and a whole host of other democratic causes. Being a part of governance can be especially frustrating, progress is rarely pretty and never as fast as it should be, but it has been an honor to push for reform in the Administration I helped elect, twice.
In my field, I feel very lucky to have had a PAGS education because it gave me a framework for facing the world that I think is largely missing from modern politics and policy. My PAGS experience is not only a large part of what physically brought me to this point, it also prepared me to be unprepared. I owe much of my ever-evolving flexibility, commitment and patience to my time at Earlham. For that, I will forever be grateful.
Stay tuned: Lauren was just accepted at the Gender Institute at the London School of Economics!
Maggie Jesme ’14
Two months after graduating from Earlham with my beloved PAGS degree, I left the US to explore the incorporation of traditional medicine into post-conflict healthcare reconstruction as a Thomas J. Watson Fellow. Having completed all the courses required for entry into medical school during my time at Earlham, I was gearing myself up for medical school with the intention of working on access-to-care issues as a doctor. Throughout this fellowship, however, the urge to dedicate my work and education wholly to community organizing and solidarity with political resistance movements finally overtook my desire to work on these issues from a doctor’s position. As a result, I tweaked my project slightly and am now calling it Healing for Resistance. I’m exploring the work of intracommunity psychosocial support workers in the face of repressive violence, specifically occupation, genocide and regime violence. I’m interested in how these workers are promoting nonviolence and compassion while politicizing the care they provide to build strong political resistance movements. I’ve learned so much from Rwandan, Syrian and Tibetan activists, therapists and educators and look forward to continuing this exploration in South Africa and Northern Ireland in the coming months (I’m half-way through the year-long fellowship, writing from Dharamshala, India). My immediate post-fellowship plans include continuing my training as a community organizer and intensively studying Arabic, both of which I began at Earlham. I expect to soon pursue higher education, probably in the field of Social Work. I feel truly empowered by my PAGS education and use what I learned every day to try and understand and explain the world in ways that promote positive peace and support resistance to structural violence.
Jamie Utt ’08
Immediately following my 2008 graduation from Earlham and the PAGS program, I became a high school social studies teacher in Chicago while earning my masters from National-Louis University. After teaching for two years, I left teaching to work in education at a more macro level. I started my own business as a diversity and inclusion consultant and sexual violence prevention educator, and since that time, I have been asked to speak at and consult with more than 200 colleges, universities, conferences, businesses, non-profits, and K-12 schools. I am also the founder and director of education at CivilSchools, a comprehensive bullying prevention program for school communities. In addition to my consulting and training work, I am honored to be a contributing writer at Everyday Feminism. I'm currently in the process of applying for Ph.D. in Education programs in hopes of studying the impact of White teacher racial identity development on their teaching practice. Learn more about my work at www.JamieUtt.com and www.CivilSchools.com, and read my writing at www.ChangeFromWithin.org and www.EverydayFeminism.com.
Michael Shellenberger ’93
I started off as an activist in high school and college. I went to graduate school but left before getting my PhD, in part because I felt what I was doing wasn't helping any of the people I was studying at the time, which were peasants in the Amazon. So I started a PR firm working on green and liberal causes back in 1996 and worked for a number of environmental groups doing work on climate change. Over a period of years I decided that what environmental groups were doing was actually not helping to solve the problem. I didn't agree with the strategy or policy agenda on climate change. So in 2002 I started a group called Apollo Alliance, which was not focused on cap and trade strategies like green groups, but instead on big state investments in technology and infrastructure to make clean energy cheap. That work got frustrated by environmental groups who did not want us calling for anything more than pollution regulation so they actually asked us to kill the legislation. After a year we decided that environmentalism itself was the problem so we wrote an essay called the Death of Environmentalism, which eventually led to the creation of the Breakthrough Institute.
Michael is president and co-founder of Breakthrough Institute, and has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The American Prospect, Salon, Harvard Law and Policy Review, Democracy, Glamour Magazine, and other publications. He can be found at the Breakthrough Institute website.