Alum Spotlight: Alison Sever, Class of 2013

What is your current job, and what do you do on a daily basis?

I direct a semester program for young adults at an Eco-Institute in North Carolina. The program teaches holistic environmental leadership skills for 18-28-year olds by integrating land-based living with social and political action. I live at the program’s host site, which is an Earth sanctuary, learning community, and permaculture farm—a very peaceful environment. Two mornings a week, I begin my work day with my hands in the dirt as part of the garden co-operative program, and most of my work time otherwise is spent managing admissions for our growing fall cohort.

Why did you choose to go into the industry/industries that you have since graduating from UVM?

I originally deferred enrollment to UVM for the opportunity to take a gap year, during which I traveled, taught in a school, nannied, lived with host families, and studied Swahili and Czech. As a high school senior I had my eyes on a pre-med path; after my gap year travels I was more curious and open about the ways that human beings relate and communicate, hence my interest in linguistics. During and after my college career, I took as many travel opportunities as possible, and with some leadership positions at UVM (Outing Club, Alternative Spring Break, among others) things translated smoothly into leading—and later developing and administrating—experiential educational opportunities for young adults around the world.

How has your degree in linguistics been useful in the work you’ve done since graduating? Are there any particular skills you’ve developed from linguistic coursework that have been especially helpful?

Studying linguistics has taught me about the relationship between voice and power. I learned to devalue prescriptivism in pursuit for the more subtle and nuanced ways that humans connect with one another. My honors thesis in linguistics at UVM advocated for an amplifier to the voices of marginalized communities in respect to their own futures, and I still relate to this call as a mission as I direct a program and team of staff. Right now a big question for me is: How can we unapologetically state our values through our policies, and what practices would truly support them?

Do you have any advice for students interested in your line of work and/or the work you’ve done in the past?

Language is everywhere—it’d be hard for you to find a field in which you couldn’t apply it!

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