Christina Goodwin ’02 is the Executive Director for Home Share Now, Central Vermont’s only home sharing program. She took time out of her busy schedule to talk about Ned Houston, how singing makes everything better, and holistic thinking.

Sterling provided me with a wide diversity of mentors and passionate educators that I’ve worked to embody aspects of in my own personal and professional development.

Ned Houston is one of the few people over the course of my life that has said, “you can do better.” Farley Brown and John Zaber are genuine, readily sharing both their professional expertise and personal journeys. Jeff Bickart was ridiculously committed to anything he put his mind to and knew more jokes than any other person I’ve ever met. Jeff Parsons has an answer for every question while Dave Linck has a comic from The Far Side for every fish and wildlife concept. Ann Ingerson and Dave Brown “walk the talk.” Ross Morgan reminds me of the woods he walks. Perry Thomas, a steady force who often surprised us with her transparency when we least expected it. In hindsight, it was a real honor to get to know them each.

I couldn’t have asked for a more committed group of people to be in community with.

[One of my favorite classes was] James Bay—12 days in Canada practicing plant identification and looking at the impacts of the Hydro-Quebec project on both the cultural and natural landscape. There isn’t a day spent in the woods that I don’t run through Latin names (or struggle to remember them).

The Sterling education emphasizes sense of place—to have a first-hand experience of a place and, maybe, fall in love with it. For me it was a handful of blueberries, cranberries, and Black crowberries. The smell of a fen. Northern lights on the water under a full moon. A goose dinner and stories told by Cree elders in a traditional shelter. Walking trap lines. As for the dried up riverbed and flooded reservoir, those aspects of the new landscape were heartbreaking, but an important loss to feel.

And while I can’t remember the name of the class, I loved using Stella, a modeling program that gives users the ability to manipulate a system based on scientific data. My project involved how canopy cover impacts vernal pool duration and thus amphibian reproduction. I’ve been hooked on vernal pools since.

Expedition tips? Always have a Ned Houston in your life. Or, a George Gardner. Whether it was Expedition or rock climbing or whitewater canoeing or academics, Ned was almost always my go-to guy. He let me struggle outside my comfort zone but provided just enough information and encouragement to get me through. This past spring, I ran my first half-marathon and crossing the finishing line was a very similar feeling of that final Expedition walk across the Common. I’m pretty sure Ned Houston was cheering me on from afar.

As for practical advice: Singing makes everything better. And if you are looking for a Bounder Buddy, I highly recommend Kate Crosby.

I wasn’t planning to be in nonprofit management—I always thought I’d do something “in the field,” so to speak. That being said, I’m not sure I could have run a Conservation District at age 23 without the confidence, problem-solving skills, holistic thinking, and network that I brought with me from Sterling. I will never have all the answers, but I know how to find them, try them, reflect, and strive to do better from the mistakes I do make.

Since 2011, I’ve served as the Executive Director for Home Share Now, which serves central Vermont. Home Share Now is one of the strongest home sharing programs in the country, where older adults with a spare bedroom to share are matched up with vetted home seekers. Instead of rent, services are exchanged for housing—nearly 13,000 hours in FY16. Last year we “created” 94 affordable housing units by maximizing the existing stock. Services provided can be everything from companionship, household assistance, transportation, and help with meals. Home Share Now expands the possibilities for living by bringing together people who might not otherwise ever meet.

In the same way that a healthy ecosystem is made up of many parts, so are socioeconomic systems. Poverty doesn’t just happen, but rather, it is a symptom when other, smaller systems are broken. For me, transitioning into housing was an important opportunity to think about poverty or loneliness or aging and how it limits a person’s capacities to care about anything beyond basic needs. To expect folks to make eco-conscious choices, first you need safe and healthy people. I see my work at Home Share Now as building a foundation for stronger communities.

The other thing we do at Home Share Now, which is unique to our program, is provide participants with a mediator. In the same way that Sterling’s Community Meeting provides a forum and structure for living together well, so do our conflict resolution services. The ways in which we agree to live together—be it a school, a house, a neighborhood, etc.—is a really important piece to successful community.

Filed Under: Alumni Blog