Lara Scott, the new director of MOVE.
Lara Scott, the new director of Saint Michael's College's campus service organization MOVE, went to a prom recently that affirmed what her instincts have been telling her: She's found the right match.
"It was great!" Scott said of the 25th annual MOVE "Senior Prom" in Pomerleau Alumni Center, which paired close to 50 college students with as many senior-citizen "dates" from local senior residences to enjoy conversation, music and great food. "They were dancing and laughing and having dinner together and it was really wonderful."
It's the kind of positive energy that MOVE for years has brought to local initiatives like the prom, or work with food shelves, schools or refugees, and to more elaborate extended service trips overseas or to impoverished urban and rural regions of the U.S. The goal always is to live the spirit of the Gospel by helping people in need, but also to form "others-oriented" leaders among Saint Michael's students who come to know their better selves as servants in the best tradition of the college's founding Edmundite priests. Close to 70 percent of all Saint Michael's students volunteer at least once with MOVE during four years of college, and many are deeply involved as "core leaders" for most or all of their time in college.
The acronym MOVE stands for Mobilization of Volunteer Efforts, and new director Scott says this signature program for the Catholic college, part of Edmundite Campus Ministry, embodies many elements that have informed her own life of outreach to others as a higher education professional, longtime service volunteer, community activist and spiritual seeker.
Her notion that she and Saint Michael's will be a good match appears to be mutual. "Lara brings a wealth of experience in both serving others and in higher ed," said Rev. Brian Cummings SSE, director of the Campus Ministry office of which MOVE is a part. "We are blessed to have her join the Edmundite Campus Ministry team."
Scott, who began work Oct. 6, has spent the past four years working at the Center for Student Ethics and Standards at the University of Vermont and teaching a service-learning course at Community College of Vermont. Before that she worked at HOPE Works in its campaign against sexual violence in Chittenden County, and before that was the Director of Education in Residential Life at Champlain College. In 2002-2003 she spent a year of service with Mercy Corps at the House of Mercy in Baltimore, MD – a very "MOVE-like" experience inspired by Scott's early college years among the Sisters of Mercy at Trinity College, where she played varsity basketball at that now defunct Burlington women's college.
Scott grew up in a volunteer-minded family in Derry, N.H., so it felt natural to continue that mindset and activity in college and then in her life after graduating as an elementary education and English literature major at Keene State College in New Hampshire, where she finished once Trinity closed, she says.
The new director had what she describes as an unusually interesting family faith background with a father of Scottish ancestry who was a Christian Scientist and a mother from a Lebanese Melkite Catholic family. Her mom would take Scott and her brother to Melkite Catholic services in Arabic every other week, when they weren't at Christian Science Sunday school with their dad the other weeks. She also later came to admire and connect with much about Catholic spirituality and active service during her year in the Mercy Corps in Baltimore, living at a Catholic parish with three Catholic women who became her closest friends to this day, she says. There she helped run an after-school program in a low-income urban neighborhood with a reputation as one of Baltimore's toughest.
The Saint Michael's MOVE director position became open after Heidi St. Peter, who was the organization's assistant director briefly in 2005 before becoming director that year and staying as its head until 2014, moved this summer to a new position at the college as assistant director of academic support. St. Peter called Scott "an incredible asset to our community, bringing new ways of putting our ‘mission into motion' in MOVE."
"She has excellent experience working with college students, and allows herself to be inspired by who they are and what they do," St. Peter said, "realizing this privilege is at the heart of working in MOVE. She also brings her broad service experiences, wisdom, and a fresh new perspective to the role. Working together with Assistant Director Kate Floyd and our student leaders, I am excited to see where she will lead MOVE in the coming years." Floyd '06 had been acting director since this summer when St. Peter moved to her new job.
As the new director, Scott says she'd like to focus where much of her experience has been in previous jobs, though they are areas that she already sees as being strong in MOVE: "I'm interested in further developing a really intentional leadership-development component, and also the social justice component that just exists as part of service work," she said.
"I have a lot of background in really purposeful social justice -- making social change through justice work -- and I'm excited to connect that with the faith-based piece," said Scott, who hopes students will ask questions during their MOVE work such as, "'how do I compare my identity or experience with those I'm working with, where are systemic issues that exist in our society causing this discrepancy, and where do we put our energy?' So it's not just about a one-time service experience because I feel better about it … but also reflection and meaning-making so that leadership and social justice end up being a part of who I am."
Scott loves travel and is looking forward to that aspect of her new job leading service trips with students, faculty and staff, even while balancing that against family time at her home in Fairfax, VT. She remembers how her earliest full awareness of Saint Michael's came when she was on a joint study-abroad programs between the college and Trinity in her student days there, and she has gotten to know the work of MOVE and St. Peter through her other jobs and graduate study in the Burlington area, always admiring the quality and spirit of what she observed.
"The first thing I noticed when I came to campus was how welcoming this community is, people stopping in my office to say hello or asking how they can help," she said, "and the other thing that's been amazing is the passion that students have to do the work they do in MOVE. They are so excited and driven, more than anywhere I've been. It's really neat to see."
Scott completed her master's of education in higher education administration at the University of Vermont in 2005, and since then also has earned certificates in non-profit management and in mediation. She also greatly enjoys spending as much time as possible outside, coaching and playing sports, including basketball in a Burlington women's league and helping her husband coach at Milton High School, and practicing yoga.
"Saint Michael's students are serious activists who make change," she said. "There's really great stuff happening on this campus."