July 8, 2020 | Bringing It #42: Staff Farewell

Dear friends,

As you know, BTtoP has moved to our new home in Elon University. We’re excited to build new relationships here in North Carolina and to start a new chapter of our work. But it is also bittersweet to bring the current chapter of BTtoP to a close. Caitlin Salins and Mercedes Yanora have been at the heart of  that chapter. Their engagement with the values and mission of BTtoP, their leadership of our publications, convenings, and grant programs, their planful creativity, and their sheer kindness have made them indispensable colleagues and a blessing to work with. As I (David) write this from Elon, I am grateful for their generosity in agreeing to work with me and the new staff colleagues we will soon bring on, through this transition. And I’m glad they wanted to use this issue of Bringing It to offer their thoughts and words.

Caitlin: Gratitude for the BTtoP Team & Community
It’s with absolute joy and gratitude that I reflect back on the past five years with the Bringing Theory to Practice team. I joined BTtoP in 2015 as Project Coordinator and Executive Assistant to our founding Director Don Harward; working and learning under him and BTtoP’s former Project Manager Jennifer O’Brien was foundational to my professional growth and personal values. It was with their mentorship that I came to my current role as BTtoP’s Executive Project Manager for the past three years, and had the great pleasure to welcome David as Director in 2018. I’ve also been privileged to work with my rock stars of colleagues, Mercedes Yanora and Kate Griffin, and our fabulous friends at AAC&U, who I will miss dearly.

Aside from the internal BTtoP support network, the shining light of this position for me has been the chance to build relationships with so many of you in BTtoP’s community. Through our grants, conferences, webinars, newsletter, books, PLACE Initiative, and Well-Being & Equity Collaboratory, I’ve had the opportunity to connect with friends in person, over zoom, and over email. Those who have corresponded with me know I’m a die-hard apologist for an emoji smiley face in an email text -- because that’s how this job makes me feel. :) I will deeply miss working with you all, and toward BTtoP’s mission, particularly on issues that are more critical than ever -- advancing student well-being, social justice, civic consciousness, and authentic community engagement in higher education. I look forward to staying tuned to BTtoP’s future successes and the opportunities I know will come with the new Elon University partnership.

Some of you may know that separately from BTtoP’s new digs at Elon in Greensboro, I moved down to Charlotte, NC from my lifelong home of Washington, DC this past spring with my boyfriend. It’s been an upgrade from a studio apartment to a bungalow with a yard for our rescue pups, and I’m so excited to start building a life and new career here. If you’re ever in the area, I would absolutely love to get together; and if not, I would be thrilled to stay in touch virtually. You can reach me at csalins88@gmail.com and https://www.linkedin.com/in/caitlin-salins-50382895/

Mercedes: Reflections & Thanks 
Since junior year of undergrad, I knew I wanted to work in higher education. My professor at the time pushed me to have faith in myself and to pursue endeavors usually not afforded to working-class students like me--for example, studying Hindi in India. She modeled the type of mentorship higher education so desperately needs. Whether attending grad school, advising young students in the United Kingdom, or working at BTtoP, I’ve taken her lessons and applied them to my relationships with colleagues, mentees, and grantees.

Through my work with BTtoP, I’ve had the welcomed opportunity of collaborating with community members, students, and faculty who all share my belief in an accessible, equitable, and empowering higher education. I’ve taken exceptional joy working with our grantees and collaborators, be it at convenings throughout the country or virtually through our grantee spotlights. I will always be thankful for these experiences. I also owe much thanks (in chronological order!) to my teammates throughout the years: Don Harward, Caitlin Salins, Jen O’Brien, David Scobey, and Kate Griffin. All of them have helped me grow as an employee and a person.

I'd also like to thank my colleagues at AAC&U. Through special events such as our global talks, you’ve given me a platform to share my passion for foreign policy while opening my mind to cultures and lines of thought I knew little about. I will miss these engaging conversations and the welcoming atmosphere. 

Though I will greatly miss my colleagues, David, Caitlin, and Kate, I am excited to see what the future will bring. I recently moved to Oklahoma to start my life with my partner, a marine currently stationed at Fort Sill as an Artillery Instructor. The slower (and may I say cheaper!) pace of life is a welcomed reprieve from Washington, DC. Though I’m ~1,400 miles away from the center of all things foreign policy, I’m still editing for three foreign policy/diplomacy publications: Charged AffairsSouth Asian Voices, and Diplomatic Courier (you should check them out!). If anyone else in the BTtoP community is interested in higher education and/or foreign policy, feel free to reach out to me! I can be reached via mercedes.yanora@gmail.com and https://www.linkedin.com/in/mercedes-yanora-247b7056/.  

With thanks for the work you do,

Caitlin, Mercedes, Kate, and David