Institutional News

Critical Mass of Change

Holly Andersen, project manager for the Planning Office, was the staff speaker at Convocation 2018. She shared her career over the course of nearly a decade spent at Bennington, reflected upon her experiences as a first-generation college student, and encouraged students to take advantage of the family found on campus. 

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Critical Mass of Change

Holly Andersen addresses the College at Convocation 2018

Good morning everyone--

I am the Project Manager for the Planning office- I get to play everyday on construction projects here at Bennington. I am happy to report that I have the best, most fun job here on campus. Over the course of my almost 10 years at Bennington, I have acted, among other things, as the Benevolent overlord of construction means and methods, and turbonag of everything involving efficient technologies and sustainable building systems. At the moment, I am playing the role of Antagonizer in Chief of the Commons project, keeping the general contractor on task with the important work of renovating our most sacred of campus buildings, and working with a broad team of engineers, architects, and subcontractors to get it right. Construction is the game I get to play everyday, and it is definitely a game.  There are different players, different ways to win, and each time there are different constraints and different obstacles. Don’t get me wrong, construction is not a cake walk, especially since I do not resemble a typical construction manager. I can usually gauge how well I am doing at my job by how colorful the descriptions written about me on the jobsite porto john walls are, what is being said at a high volume about me in the job trailer, and I would not want it any other way.

I was lucky to grow up spending time with my father on his construction projects at Cornell University, where he was the project manager for the utilities department for 42 years. Watching my dad made it very clear to me that working hard was important and taught me that people who work hard love life. He would bring me along to check out water main breaks that flooded buildings and underground utility projects, watch the construction and repair of underground steam lines and electrical infrastructure, and from all this I became intrigued by the underbelly of campus, the hidden inner workings that keep the modern world running.  I have vivid memories of being woken up on weekend mornings and asked if I wanted to see asphalt boil-- there was an active steam leak that dad had to check out-- did I want to go with him? I quickly learned that construction sites usually have donuts, so I was always in. I knew from an early age that this was a world I wanted to be a part of, and since I learned that engineers have to sit at a desk all day (would be zero percent good at that), I decided to pursue construction management as a career. My sister and I were the first in our family lineage to go to College. We were afforded modest higher educations, and as a result I have had a multifaceted construction career that ultimately brought me here, to Bennington.

I learned early on, from everyone here at Bennington, most notably Joan Goodrich-- who is now retired, but who performed nearly every job at the College at some point during her nearly 40 years here (you can visit her garden behind Crossett Library)-- that being here is far more than a 9-5 endeavor, not merely a job but an induction into a community, into the fabric of an institution that has become my working family.  Which isn’t to say we don’t work here at Bennington. Because we do work, and we work hard. And we love what we do.

The students who’ve been here know, and new students will quickly learn, that every human on this campus is here to teach you something. Everyone here is a mentor, has something to share with you, and we are here to learn from you too. We are the Bennington family. The Barn is full of people who will help you make better financial decisions, assist with employment goals, and guide you in making life decisions. For those of you who are the first in your families to go to College like me, be sure to tap into these resources; ask lots of questions, consult with everyone here and just do your best everyday. I got a D- the first time I took calculus and I was super proud of it.

"Those outside our immediate on-campus community enrich our experiences here -- bringing the world to Bennington. It is also our job to take Bennington out into the world.  I teach people how to snowboard on the weekends, train instructors how to teach, travel to ski resorts across the country to teach all populations of riders with disabilities--anyone who wants to be out on the mountain. I volunteer in Wounded Warriors and Warriors in Action snowboarding and water skiing programs whenever I am able. I sit on two boards of examiners, give instructor exams across the east coast, coach on both of my daughters baseball teams, and volunteer in my daughter's school parent teacher group. Sleep is optional. We work and volunteer in our communities to do the most good whenever we can, to make the greater community our home, and because the world needs more Bennington. And the world needs Bennington more now than ever.

Every facet of the Bennington community is full of brilliance and beauty. Friends are the family you meet along the way and we are all here ready and waiting to meet you. Erin McKenny makes everything on campus she touches more intricate and beautiful. When you are in dire need of a laugh, or comic relief,  seek out Chris Adams in IT, Nicole Arrington in Communications, or Ken Collamore in Campus Safety. They could put anyone on the current cast of SNL to shame. Todd Siclari, our Systems Manager in B&G, is a genius and can fix anything, except maybe a rainy day. Visit Theresa Sholes in the bookstore--she will help you with anything you need and is rad. The people here are kind and caring- when you are given the opportunity to provide feedback - tell them what they are doing right first. Hold doors open. Stop at stop signs. Say please and thank you. Learn your housekeeper's name.

As proud as I am of the people at Bennington, I am equally proud of the work we are doing our to conserve and protect our natural resources. During the past ten years, we have implemented dozens of energy-saving efficiency projects, which together kept 1,337 tons of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere, saved 2,311,446 KWH, and has saved the College more than $380,473 in electricity costs alone.  We also recently entered into an agreement to purchase approximately 75% of our electricity from Vermont-based solar arrays. Please help me with this: Turn off your lights when you leave a room, close doors and windows when you can. Recycle. Every small act of conservation, no matter how insignificant it may seem at the moment, is a subtle, but vital act of resistance that, when combined in aggregate with thousands of other small gestures that demonstrate care and awareness, can create a critical mass of change.  It’s easy work, but meaningful and important.

I hope you get to become more of yourself here. Stay safe and be well. I could keep talking, though I hope Stephanie Hurley baked today, and her cookies are not to be missed. Welcome home.