Sarah Harpster, MS '08Advocacy for Social Justice and Sustainability
- Why did you choose Antioch’s Advocacy program?
When I decided to get a Master’s degree in environmental advocacy, I had just recently settled on this direction after thinking I would be looking to get a Ph.D. in comparative religious and ethical approaches to earth care. I was looking at Naropa University and AUNE. AUNE was closer to Ohio where I would have to travel every several months, and I was not totally sure that I would fit in to the Buddhist program. I interviewed with Steve, I was happy with the program, so I applied and the rest is history.
- What did you like most about your time in the program?
I enjoyed the challenge of learning such a broad range of material. I didn’t have a strong background in science, so that was new and I was kind of proud of learning all of this very real information. Everything, from science to civics, was very practical and in the community. We were always piling into cars and going places outside the classroom, from forest preserves to Louisiana bayous to Board of Selectmen meetings.
- What valuable skills do you think you learned in this program?
I started to learn more about networking and participating in public discourse. I grappled with the environmental challenges we face and the layers of politics that mediate how we respond to these challenges. I learned to think about the life of an activist and how to envision the long process of standing up for issues that are important to us.
- What is your current work and what other jobs have you had since graduation?
I am the Gleaning Coordinator at The Community Kitchen, Inc. in Keene. I organize volunteers to harvest fruits and vegetables from farmers who are donating produce that is no longer marketable to The Community Kitchen. After I graduated, I worked for Clean Air-Cool Planet, which had been my practicum site. I helped them work with municipalities to measure and reduce their energy use. I also briefly worked for New England Coalition for Sustainable Population, raising awareness about issues of population growth and sustainability. For a couple of years I worked for ServiceLink Aging and Disability Resource Center doing community organizing around building support for family caregivers. I am also a founding member of Transition Keene Advocates, a member of the Board of Directors of the Monadnock Food Co-op, and an active member of Monadnock Farm and Community Coalition.
- How did Antioch’s Advocacy program help you get there?
So much of where I am now kind of ties back to Antioch. This is probably more the case than for alums who move away, but Antioch was the reason that I moved my family to the place that we finally settled down to live our lives. Antioch strongly influences this community. An Antioch student made a proposal to The Community Kitchen about how they could start a Gleaning Program. I have been applying the skills I learned at Antioch as I developed my career, and worked with Antioch students and my Antioch adviser (as well as other professors from time to time) on most of the things I have done in the community since I graduated. Now as a Gleaning Coordinator, I have depended a great deal on Antioch for everything from volunteers to partnerships to programmatic support. So, I rely on the contents of my Antioch education as a foundation under much of what I do, but I actually depend on Antioch in a lot of practical ways as I go about my work life and community life in general.