Friday, July 22, 2011

Time for a cookie break

Drawn by my promise of cherry chocolate chip cookies, four Unity students who work on campus this summer visited Unity House during their 9:00 a.m. break on July 29.  As the new Presidential Spouse, I wanted to learn about how they help to keep the Unity College campus clean and green, and how they implement Unity's ideals of thinking, working and living sustainably. And as a future teacher here at Unity College, I just wanted to meet some students!  I learned about how connected the students are to Unity's ideals, and how the students’ relationships with their staff mentors sustain them as members of the Unity College human community.

Rebecca Day and Matthias (Matt) Waddicor (whose brother and cousin also attend Unity College) work in the custodial department and arrive here at 6:00 a.m. each morning.  Annica McGuirk, who also works in custodial, arrives at 5:00 a.m. And Ben Darling, who works with the maintenance department, arrives at 6:00 a.m.
All four students brimmed with enthusiasm and respect for their staff mentors, or “buddies,” as they sometimes called them.  These mentors – Tom Byron, Bill Veilleux and Rick Montana in maintenance, and Jan Wright, Bob Berry, Debbie Braley, Glen Manchester, and Teresa Reynolds in custodial – partner up with the students to teach them green cleaning and maintenance techniques. Students and mentors usually travel in pairs around campus as they complete their tasks.
But there’s more to this mentoring than a short course in green cleaning -- the mentors also share “a common sense you’re not used to,” to quote Matt, through examples of how to work effectively and cooperatively. The buddy system ensures that many hands make light work. If a pair of workers completes its tasks for the day, Rebecca says, they will go around to other pairs and ask “Do you need any help with what you’re doing today?”
Inevitably, our conversation turned to the imminent start of classes, and to their experiences as students as well as workers. Annica, who hails from Arkansas, was thankful for the classes she took in her first two years here that connected her to the outdoors.  Thanks to those classes, she’s able to identify various species and geological features as old friends.  After her first semester, she says, “I felt like I knew the land better than any place I’d ever lived before.” Her tattoo of a birch leaf is an expression of her love for this region.
Our talk today made me think that reaching out to new experiences involving place and people – whether we’re learning how a washable floor mop can also be used to clean walls, or how to tell a paper birch from a silver birch, or how to offer help to one another – is at the heart of a sustainable community.  And cookies make life sweet.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A New Family for Unity House

Tuesday morning, July 5, 2011 -- Stephen and I arrived at Unity House with our two dogs, Heather and Keeper. Within what seemed like just a few minutes, Stephen was in his office and on-task with presidential duties, keeping Unity College on its path of continuous improvement.  Read about his vision for the college here in his Welcome.
Meanwhile, I got busy unpacking, with the occasional break to step outside into the warm summer air.
I grew up in Massachusetts, soNew England feels like home to me. Outside Unity House, native and ornamental plants in the gardens and meadow edges greeted me with their familiar colors, textures and scents. The lupine and peony blossoms were spent and gone to seed when we arrived; daylilies, coneflowers, goldenrod, daisies, and Queen Anne’s Lace bloomed. As I write this blog entry at the end of July, sedums and asters are now beginning to bud, and the late summer promises a generous harvest.

After three weeks of traveling here from Idaho by way of Tennessee and Florida, Heather and Keeper may have forgotten what “home” meant.  But they adapted cheerfully, sharing their enthusiasm for the trails and ponds and streams around the Unity College campus. One surprise that helped the dogs to feel at home was the discovery of over a dozen bones hidden around the yard by their canine predecessor, Mitch and Cindy’s dog Paco. Even the dogs are practicing the Three R's: reduce, reuse and recycle

Now that we’ve unpacked our bags, the best part of acclimating to Unity -- the house, the college and the community --  begins:  meeting the students, faculty, staff and community members who can tell us about their experiences in this special place.