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Sarah Nunez (’04) and Carolina McCready (’98) Think outside and inside of the “bus” to Create Change

In 2011,  Sarah Nuñez (photo 12004) and Carolina McCready (1998) as well as their business partner Victor Palomino bought a short bus in an effort to continue their community work together and connect the dots in the work and needs of the people that they serve. In 2013, they officially launched the business, CHIVA, LLC – Transporting Opportunities to People.

CHIVA aims to overcome access challenges in WNC through creativity, arts and a bus. The project brings educational opportunities and multicultural activities to places where people live, work and play. This community “tool” helps neighbors to creatively access resources, entertainment and build solidarity. To learn more about CHIVA’s programs and events please like us on facebook at ChivaWNC or visit our website at www.chivatop.com

In 2014, CHIVA launched 2 new areas of work in addition to the arts education program that they launched in 2013.

Story Collection Project- We attend local events and film participants experience, thoughts, and ideas. Check out the video we produced at Goombay Festival this year at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zdQfQ_62UU&feature=youtu.be

Dialogue Circles- The bus is transformed into a “living room” for dialogue and we create the space for communities to embark on their own individual and collective journeys of identity, race, class, and so much more….

As a social entrepreneurship endeavor CHIVA is still growing, learning, and adapting to the needs of the community. We work with local festivals, community events, schools, and in neighborhoods. We are open to working in new areas and with new communities so please contact us to let us know what you think or if you have ideas at chivatop@gmail.com.

  • What was a typical day like in your position?

Sarah- “We share work and have various roles. I do a lot of sales and marketing for CHIVA. On a work day I am usually answering emails, updating the website or facebook, talking with potential clients, preparing contracts, and dreaming up new work and ideas for CHIVA.”

Carolina – “My time is spent mainly in planning meetings with CHIVA partners, running the Quickbooks (paying bills, making deposits, reconciling and making invoices), writing grants, editing video for clients and running events for CHIVA with my partners.”

  • How has your experience helped you prepare for your future?

Sarah- As an interdisciplinary major at UNCA I had the opportunity to work across disciplines and with many professors. Working with Volker Frank and John Wood  in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Joseph Berryhill in Psychology, Ken Betsalel in Political Science, and Alice Weldon in Spanish gave me many lenses to see my work as well as many mentors and students to learn and grow with. This academic approach lends to my analysis of many problems in today’s society.  My approach is to see the world from various lenses, to take in lots of ideas, and to think big.

Carolina- “My studies at UNCA helped me develop critical thinking skills and the capacity to research and find the answers to questions, issues and challenges I face.  Information is always evolving and being able to ask questions and look for answers will always be applicable in my life.”

  • What did you wish you had known going into the experience?

Sarah- “I wish I had taken a business classes in undergrad and understood more about cash flow. As most things in life go,  its also good to learn as you go and learn from real life experiences. We are constantly developing ourselves as business professionals.”

Carolina- “ I wish I had developed more hard skills.  Learned how to develop websites, or work with software such as Quickbooks or video editing.”

  • What advice do you have for current students who are pursuing your major?

Sarah- “Follow your dreams. If you have a deep desire to do something with your life, DO IT. A great mentor of mine always told me, “Sarah, make it happen”. I think of this anytime I have a new idea!  Also, It helps to have a team of people to work with and mentors and people that can advise you on how to accomplish your dreams. Don’t forget that there are people who have probably participated in parts of the work you wish to do. So, don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

Carolina – “Have faith in yourself.  As graduates, you have developed a lot of skills and knowledge; be creative and do not be afraid to forge your own path.”

  • What did you learn about yourself while you were working?

Sarah- “I’ve learned more about my style and how I work in teams. All three team members are different and we bring different skills to the work we do. I have learned more about what makes me excited in my day to day life and how to be a business owner.”

Carolina – “I have learned that there is always more work to do than there are hours in the day. It is important to be able to prioritize and manage your time. I find it is valuable to be mindful what you say yes to always create space to take care of yourself.”

  • What influenced you to apply for this position?

Sarah- “After 15 years of community work I decided it was time to launch something creative and original that could use all of my skills. I also see a lot of flaws in the current systems and ways of doing things. I wanted to create a way that used a team approach, outside of the non profit models, that would bring about community change and be a social entrepreneur business venture.”

Carolina – “I was excited about the CHIVA project because I saw an opportunity to work with people I respected in a creative and colorful way.”

  • What would you do differently if you could go back?

Sarah- “I would have created a business plan or thought through the number more before entering into a business. I am a planner and not having this part was hard for me for me to truly see the full vision of the work and how it would be put into action. On the other side of the coin, I’m learning as I go to, “go with the flow” more and learn to paddle my boat to the rhythm of those around me. As a “go getter” and “jump starter” type of person this is not an easy step for me to take….but as all things in life you have to learn, push your limits, and grow.”

  • Has your internship or job impacted your future?photo 2

Sarah- “Its made me realize that I love to be an entrepreneur and I also have a lot of creativity to share with the world. Its shaping my life daily by teaching me to about myself and all that’s needed to make a successful business.”

The CHIVA Bus at LEAF 2014 Fall festival. Participants talk about forgiveness in the social justice movement with Rev. Lyndon Harris.

Sam Riddle (’11) Serves Buncombe County Schools

Sam.Riddle- Version 2Much like the average Political Science student, I arrived at UNC Asheville with an interest in government, politics, and policy and the vague idea that I would attend law school.  Up to that point, I had some experience with politics and the law, but I lacked a vision of where I wanted to go and what exactly I wanted to do.  However, never being one to back down from a challenge, I used every opportunity I could get my hands on.   While I had the pleasure to work on campus with the different political student groups, in student government with the very important (though rarely called) judicial branch, in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program with Dr. Joe Sulock, and to serve as an intern for the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty in Washington, D.C. (Thanks, Baptist Student Union), my most important internship and opportunity came from this very Career Center by connecting me to the Asheville Downtown Association.  From 2009 to 2011, I worked with Joe Minicozzi, now of Urban3, and the Asheville Downtown Association.

This opened up a new world to me that set me on the path to working with local governments and nonprofits.  I learned about local government structure, citizen input, business interests, planning and development, and so much more.  I completed a big research project for the Downtown Association that provided data for my Senior Capstone in Political Science, as well as an Independent Study in Economics.   With that experience in hand, I decided that a Masters in Public Affairs would better acclimate me to the public sector and its skill set. Western Carolina University’s Public Affairs program increased my management and financial skills and developed the skills and knowledge I received at UNC Asheville even further.  Most importantly, it gave me an even deeper connection to western North Carolina.  Through the program, I assisted the City of Hendersonville move its Main Street program from private to public, I worked and learned with local governments across western North Carolina through the Public Policy Institute and the Local Government Training Program at WCU, I wrote a Downtown Plan for the Town of Sylva, and I assisted Kostelec Planning with a Pedestrian Plan for the Town of Robbinsville.

As I was looking for jobs, I found Budget Facilitator at Buncombe County Schools.  Again, not one to shy away from a challenge, I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to improve my financial skills and understanding.  Lo and behold, I got the job.  One may think that a Budget Facilitator or budget analyst seems more of a fit for accounting than political science, but I use my critical thinking and analytic skills more than accounting ones.  More importantly, not every task is accounting.  In fact, every day is different.  One day, I am working on a system to make a department’s budgeting more efficient; the next, I am tracking the state budget for education.  Overall, I help ensure and promote fiscal responsibility for Buncombe County Schools.   I truly enjoy being able to serve western North Carolina, particularly in a field as important as education.  Every day, I learn more about the budget process, accounting and reporting, and policy implementation.  My skills get used in wide reaching and different ways each day.  For these reasons, I could not be happier to work for Buncombe County Schools.  Outside of my job, I put my education to use in other ways.  Currently, I serve on the board of the Western North Carolina Baptist Collegiate Ministry, a nonprofit that serves UNC Asheville and western North Carolina.  Moreover, I have just begun serving on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee for the Town of Fletcher.   So if you’re a UNC Asheville student, maybe unsure of exactly what you want from Political Science or any other major, my advice is to be open to opportunities you find and challenges thrown your way. Get out there, try new things, try different things, and you may be surprised by what you enjoy and how truly able and adaptable your liberal arts education makes you.

GO BULLDOGS!!!

University of North Carolina Asheville, Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, minor in Economics, Cum Laude with Distinction in Political Science (May 2011) Western Carolina University, Master of Public Affairs (May 2013)

 

Juliana Grassia (’15) Assists NC Secretary of State

Hello! My name is Juliana Grassia and I am a senior studying political science and French. My particular interests are in local and state politics, government relations, and policy making.

In November 2013, the UNC Asheville Honors Program sent out a notice for a scholarship program offered through UNC General Administration. The program is called the Marian Drane Graham Scholars Program. It’s an immersive and experiential summer program designed to provide students the opportunity to develop leadership skills and gain a better understanding of key issues facing public higher education. The program is open to rising juniors and seniors attending one of the sixteen constituent institutions of higher education in the University of North Carolina. Scholars are mentored by UNC leadership, spend time in the UNC General Administration offices in Chapel Hill, NC, travel to UNC campuses, and visit with key NC policy leaders and elected officials in North Carolina and Washington, DC. Scholars are also placed in a state government agency for an internship. In addition, scholars must write and present a capstone project during the program that addresses an issue or policy in public higher education.

As soon as I read the description, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. So I applied, and was chosen for an interview at the end of January. The interviews were to take place in Chapel Hill, so I had to opt for a Skype interview because ophoto2f the distance. With no experience with Skype interviews, I went to the Career Center for some advice. The advisors reminded me not to wear crazy colors or patterns and said to double-check that my webcam was working. They were very insightful and helped me calm down.

My interview lasted about ninety minutes, and I fortunately encountered no technical difficulties. In March, the day before Spring Break began, and received a phone call from the Assistant Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs for the UNC System, Dr. Tracey Ford. She gave me the wonderful news that I had been selected as a 2014 Marian Drane Graham Scholar.

For six weeks beginning at the end of May, I lived in Raleigh with the five other scholars. My internship placement was with the North Carolina Secretary of State, Elaine Marshall. When I found out about my internship, I was ecstatic. Secretary Marshall was the first woman to be elected to that office and the first woman elected to statewide executive office in North Carolina. I had heard her speak before at conferences, and I knew her as role model for women in politics.

It was a challenging internship because the department in which I was placed (government and policy relations) concentrates on working with the General Assembly. They focus on legislation and initiatives that impact the Department of the Secretary of State. My internship occurred in the midst of budget deliberations, so you can imagine every state agency in Raleigh was fighting to ensure they were not negatively impacted.

I quickly had to figure out protocol- how to act, when to speak, what to wear. I sat in on committee meetings and legislative sessions. Even when I vehemently disagreed with a state senator’s position, I had to keep it to myself. I can be very fiery when it comes to certain issues, but sometimes it’s better to pick my battles and emphasize compromise. After all, consensus building is a cornerstone of effective government. It was a lesson in respect and tact, and I’m glad to have had the experience. Luckily, my supervisors at the Secretary of State’s office gladly answered my questions. They knew it was a learning experience for me and I was happy for their mentorship.

The internship half of the scholars program reinforced my love for local and state politics. I decided by the end of the six weeks that my next step after graduation would be pursuing a Masters in Public Administration. Such a program would prepare me for a career similphoto1ar to that of my mentors and supervisors. I’d like to work behind-the-scenes as an advocate for a state agency or public institution of higher education; in fact, nothing would make me happier.

The Marian Drane Graham Scholars Program also included two service projects, three visits to UNC system campuses, and one whirlwind trip to Washington, DC where my peers and I met North Carolina senators and representatives, in addition to lobbyists and staffers. As a political junkie and policy nerd, I had the time of my life learning, asking questions, and discovering aspects of the UNC system that previously I knew nothing about. I also had the honor of presenting the capstone project I developed during the program at UNC General Administration in Chapel Hill. My project was on the Voter Information Verification Act and its impact on UNC system students.

Going forward, I am certain about the path I would like to follow. With the help of the connections I’ve made in Raleigh, Chapel Hill, and Asheville, I know that it’s possible for me to successfully pursue graduate school and (one day) a career about which I’m passionate. As a rising senior, I am terrified about life after UNC Asheville- everyone in my position feels the same way. However, I know that upon graduation I will have both the education and the experience to tackle whatever comes my way.

Nick Lucas (’14) aids successful Asheville political campaign

As a discipline, Political Science contains a great deal of variation. Students are trained to think critically and to analyze institutions, organizations and movements with an eye to discovering the systems of relationships in which these phenomena exist, as well as the actor-dynamics that drive behavior within the systems themselves. The practical application of this training outside of academia can take many forms in both the private and public sectors, potentially including any government post, any corporate or non-profit administrative position, any career related to law, etc. In order to help narrow down this often overwhelming array of possibilities, the Political Science Department allows students to complete an internship thesis track as an alternative to a traditional academic thesis. Being possessed of a strong preference for hands-on involvement over abstract research, I quickly decided to choose the internship track.

I began seekiImageng an internship in March of 2013. My notion of what the internship should look like was fairly vague; all I had to go on was a strong and growing affinity for the city of Asheville and a desire to be involved in local politics. In terms of what I could offer to a prospective employer, my experience within the Political Science Department had led me to think of myself as a reasonably competent policy and issues analyst, a perception shared by my thesis advisor, Dr. Dolly Mullen. After a few meetings and conversations to get an idea of what I might be suited for, Dr. Mullen put me in touch with Bruce Mulkey, Patsy Keever’s congressional Campaign Manager and the recently hired Manager of Reelect Bothwell 2013. I sat down with Bruce over a cup of coffee soon after our initial email contact and did my absolute best to convince him of my commitment to the city, of my academic qualifications, and of my capacity for hard work. For his part, Bruce asked me a series of questions designed (I believe) to assess my ideological compatibility with Bothwell and my suitability for the position of Issues Analyst. At the end of the interview, Bruce simply told me “As far as I’m concerned, you’re on the campaign.”

From that point onward, the internship quickly developed a life of its own, far beyond the minimum parameters of my academic requirements. As an Issues Analyst my job was to research any issue of public concern that might become relevant to the campaign and to prepare a number of possible responses to that issue. This task was not particularly demanding, even with a 17-hour course load; as an incumbent, Councilman Bothwell was already pretty well versed on the issues facing the city and had taken clear positions on most of them. However, after a few weeks of preparing research, blog posts and news releases, everything changed, and I was given the additional role of Event Coordinator and was charged with direct supervision of all campaign events, subject to the preferences of the Manager and the candidate himself. It was at this point, in late April of 2013, that the campaign became a dense and rich experience for me, offering opportunities for development in applied political science that simply do not exist in purely academic settings and allowing me to meet hundreds of interesting and inspiring people.

In late August the campaign really got into full swing and I was promoted to the position of Assistant Campaign Manager, my tasks expanding to include advising other staffers and making decisions Imageabout the campaign’s strategic direction. The last two months of the race were a sprint, filled with events and press releases, culminating in election night on November 5th, by the end of which Councilman Bothwell had won back his seat by a respectable 15-point margin. I was very proud of the job that the team had accomplished, and proud as well of my own contribution. The internship had given me a space in which to explore and expand my understanding of political science as a discipline and as a means to effect real change in the world. Though most Americans may think of the exercise of politics in a negative light, I truly believe that political engagement represents the only real chance for human unity, and that the way to heal the failures of a flawed system is not to give up on it, but rather to confront those failures with energy and conviction. The hands-on experience I gained with this internship reinforced that belief and gave me a much more concrete idea of what I want to do with my education. I highly recommend that all students interested in applied political science seek out an internship that takes advantage of their skills and aspirations as I did; there is no better way to see where one’s interests truly lie.