UMD teach-in

UMassD Teach-in: Bridging Differences and Creating Change

As a senior in college with graduation only three months away, not only am I sad to be leaving my UMass community and wondering how to “adult”, I am also terrified of leaving the concrete fortress that has protected me from the outside world for the past four years. Usually you hear about people being afraid of change – moving, trying new foods, meeting new people – but I am afraid of the lack there of.

With the chaos that has erupted nationally and internationally, due to our recent presidential election, we can clearly see the division among our people. I’m not saying that the election caused these divisions, but it certainly opened the world’s eyes to them.

Whether you are freaking out, hopeful, or gung-ho about Trump’s win, there are obvious issues in society that need to be discussed. Instead of “let’s make America great again” how can we make America united?  Communicate, collaborate, and create change. The administration at UMass Dartmouth hopes to aid this effort with a community “teach-in”.

UMD teach-in

What is a “Teach-in”?

Cynthia E. Cummings, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth supplied me with the Merrian-Webster definition – “an extended meeting usually held on a college campus for lectures, debates, and discussions to raise awareness of or express a position on a social or political issue”.

“UMass Dartmouth’s Teach-In 2017 is an opportunity for students to learn the value of dialogue, bridge differences, and create positive social change.”
—   Jeannette Riley, Dean of College of Arts and Sciences

Activities will be run from 11am-9pm on Wednesday, March 1st and 12:30pm-6:30pm on Thursday, March 2nd. For the complete schedule of events go to:

Admission to teach-in events is free and open to the public. All members of the university community and members of the larger community are welcome and encouraged to attend

Who will be presenting?

A variety of faculty and staff will present workshops and other presentations. Student groups will set up message tables. Student artists will display relevant work.

What is the goal of this program?

Explore the societal issues that have divided our country and community
Examine their own narratives
Learn from each other’s perspectives
Practice the art of dialogue
Take action to bridge differences and create change

Hopefully this teach-in can promote conversations, offer new perspectives, and educate those of us who are shaking in our boots with no idea what to do. Rather than fear, I want to feel confidence. I want to know that I, we, he, she, they, and everyone else can work together to push positive change forward.

What topics are being focused on?

Topics to be explored:
Racism – Activism – Religious Diversity – Mindfulness – Sexism – Transgender 101 – Power & Privilege – Standing Rock  – LGBTQ + Inclusivity – Feminism – Women’s Issues – Health Diversity – Immigration Policies – Social Justice – Ableism

Younger generations are constantly stereotyped as “not being politically aware” and “unaware of what’s going on in the real world”. The amount of times that I have been called ‘naive’ -with demeaning intentions- because of my hopes to improve our global community, pisses me off. Just because I’m not 50 years old doesn’t mean I don’t have the ability to be educated, educate myself, or experience and affect the world.

Time to change that. Lets show them we are aware, show them we know, we watch, we listen, we communicate, we’re involved. Show them…Show up. Share and learn about what we all post and read on Facebook, in person with each other instead.

How are the sessions organized?

The purpose of the initiative is to engage in civil discourse, so participation will be encouraged. Talks are designed to promote active civic engagement and open dialogue.

Want more info or hope to help organize and promote this event?
Contact the Student Affairs office at 508-910-6402.



Sustaining Sea Scallops: Fish, Farm and Film Night!


We are screening Sustaining Sea Scallops tonight at Groundwork! The locally produced and filmed documentary is about how researchers and fishermen team-up to improve the sustainability of not only their industry, but also the underwater ecosystem. Hang out after the screening for a Q&A with the director!

Screening begins at 6:30pm and Q&A at 7:05pm.

After watching Sustaining Sea Scallops, I interviewed director, Elise Hugus, to find out more about what motivated her to create this film. Learn about what she enjoys most in her work, how fisherman inspire her, and how she collaborates with her husband at work, here:

How did you get into the film industry, and what do you enjoy about it the most?

I want to be clear that UnderCurrent Productions isn’t exactly in the film industry. We’re a niche/boutique video production company specializing in environmental and science documentary. That came about kind of through association– we live and work in Woods Hole, which is home to four large marine science institutions and several smaller ones. I personally have a journalism background and my partner, Daniel Cojanu, has a television news, documentary, and feature film background. We saw a need for video services to help the science institutions and non-profits do outreach. And that’s what I enjoy the most– telling complex stories in ways that people can relate to. I have learned so much through this work, and I hope viewers will too.

What initially made you aware of the scallop industry and want to create Sustaining Sea Scallops?

We were hired by the non-profit Coonamessett Farm Foundation to show how their work led to some successes in the sea scallop industry. Since we’re not into doing fluff pieces, we did our research and found that there was a bigger story here– lots of great work from various institutions over the past 20 years have transformed the sea scallop fishery, and could be a model for others.

What’s next for the scallop industry?

Reach out to the American Scallop Association or the Coonamessett Farm Foundation to find out.

What process do you go through when choosing a project to work on?

Is there a budget to support this?!

What are you working on now?

Our biggest project now is a 3-part series about coastal resilience in Massachusetts, i.e. how communities can use or restore “green infrastructure” like wetlands to protect ourselves from sea level rise and storm surges. We’ve shot mostly on the North Shore but will focus on South Shore communities this spring.

Could you tell us a little bit about how you and your husband collaborate together?

We are a partnership, but in terms of roles I’m the producer and he’s the director/director of photography. So I turn ideas for projects into proposals and budgets, then research and schedule the production. I do the interviews, Daniel makes them look good, and shoots most of the B-roll (non-interview) material. I usually handle the sound or a second camera if needed. I’ll put together the scripts and the timeline edit, and Daniel does the majority of the editing.

Elise and Daniel

Daniel Cojanu and Elise Hugus

What inspires you?

In this context, I think the story of the sea scallop industry can be inspiring. A lot of fishermen are resistant to the idea that they “overfish” and there’s a lot of political reasons for the declines of fish populations, like cod for example. But in this story, you could feel a real sense of pride from the fishermen that they’re working in a relatively clean industry, and there’s a lot of respect between them and the researchers. They speak a little differently, but there’s a lot of overlap– they both observe and experiment based on those observations. They also truly love the ocean. So that’s inspiring to me– an example of how people, and an entire industry can change, by making small adjustments to the way they do things.

Do you have any advice for someone interested in the film industry?

Find great stories, and tell them! Even if you don’t have money or equipment to do it the way you want to, the essence of a great story will shine through. Don’t be afraid to start small– in fact, you’ll probably get more audience that way!

Sustaining Sea Scallops Documentary info:

Initial release: 2016
Directors: Daniel Cojanu, Elise Hugus
Produced by Coonamessett Farm Foundation & UnderCurrent Productions

Unable to make the screening tonight at Groundwork? Check out the documentary here:


Students enjoying Intermission

Feed New Bedford, Feed the World: Southcoast Food Security Forum

Students enjoying Intermission

UMass students enjoying local menu.

As I walked into the auditorium of the Charlton College of Business at UMass Dartmouth, I felt a wave of excitement and motivation. The seats were filled with such a diverse and passionate community of people, all working towards helping one another achieve change. As a student of UMass, I was positively surprised by the turn-out of my peers. Scattered among the audience, I spotted several friends that I was not expecting to see. I had no idea that they were planning to attend let alone interested in the discussion. Faith in my generation restored!

The inspirational Ellen Parker, Director of Project Bread, was the perfect pick for the event’s keynote speaker. Parker revolutionized the fight against hunger through engaging her community and has now expanded that community nationally. One look at Ellen and I assumed that she would be this sweet woman with a big heart, and of course she was, but I missed something – her fight. Listening to her, I couldn’t help but be moved by her powerful words and emotional connection to humanity.

Ellen Parker, Project Bread

Ellen Parker quotes Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Food isn’t only about food, it’s about community…community resilience!”

Indulgent Intermission

You can probably imagine that after an hour and a half of discussing food, our stomach’s were getting restless. Dinner time! We were treated to a local menu by UMass catering: salad, quesadillas, Portuguese pastry and more mouth-watering deserts – as my mouth waters at my desk, typing this blog.

Innovation: Fresh Ideas

Presentations began with Groundwork’s own, Adam Davenport, discussing his Urban Agriculture Initiative, and continued through the line-up of amazing people with brilliant ideas.

Julianne Kelly talked about ‘What’s Cooking Fall River’ – cooking lessons online which are smartphone accessible and two new, free food banks that will help improve food access in FR.

Why is fruit so expensive? Joyce Bettencourt explained it to us and presented a solution – fruit donations and the planting of fruit trees at schools and parks.

“We don’t have a problem with ‘food deserts’. We have a problem with ‘HEALTHY food deserts’”. Kimberly Ferreira and Mass in Motion New Bedford have the solution – Subsidized Farm Share with New Bedford Housing Authority.

Dartmouth YMCA Farm Director, Dan King, solved the problem of only being able to offer produce seasonally, with chickens! 100+ chickens “live in a luxurious tiny house” and produce eggs that can withstand the winter.

Victoria Grasela discussed United Way’s Hunger Commission and new Mobil Market, an after-hours (5:30pm – 7pm) food pantry, alternating sites in the north and south ends of New Bedford.

Last, but definitely not least, was Shaktisingh Rijput, presenting his team’s Food Access App. Their project began in the fall semester of 2016 and has a bright future. Keep up-to-date with to see how their prototype develops!

The night was full of captivating innovations and panelist, Dr. David Weed, pointed out how truly fantastic these ideas are:
“we are marrying today’s technology with the ancient method of farming”.

The event was wonderfully collaborative. The audience frequently asked questions and gave suggestions, which may explain why it ran an extra hour long with zero complaints. We all wanted to be there.

Adam Davenport presents

Adam Davenport discusses the future of Urban Agriculture in New Bedford.

Helping Hands

Every presenter and panelist also mentioned their challenges and what they need – aside from food – “Finding, Funding, Facetime”.

Closing out the forum, my close friend Alexandra Dissanayake, President of Roots & Shoots – the student organization started by Jane Goodall – was handed the microphone and offered her group’s time and dedication, as well as her own, to anyone who needed it. Business cards flew at her like rice at a wedding – which is something I don’t quite get but makes for an appropriate analogy.
It was nice to see.


Keynote speaker: Ellen Parker, Director of Project Bread
Innovation Presentations:
The Future of Urban Agriculture in New Bedford – Adam Davenport, Terra Cura Inc.
Improving Food Access in Fall River – Julianne Kelly, MA in Motion Fall River
New Bedford City Fruit – John Callahan, Southeastern MA Food Network
Subsidized Farm Shares – Kimberly Ferreira, MA in Motion New Bedford
Sharing the Harvest Community Farm – Dan King
Hunger Commission – Victoria Grasela, United Way of Greater New Bedford
Food Access App – UMass Dartmouth Management Information Systems Students
Panel Discussion:
Christine Sullivan, Coastline Elderly Services
Maurice Cyr, BCC Mobile Food Market/UMass Dartmouth Food Pantry
Dr. Dave Weed, Healthy City Greater Fall River
Kendra Murry, Southeastern MA Agricultural Partnership (SEMAP)

Adam Davenport

Member Spotlight: Adam Davenport

“The fact [is] that most of the answers to our social and environmental problems are simple. Really to fix MOST of our ills just takes a change in mindset and habit. I have hopes for the millennial generation and beyond to break the tipping point on this. We are connected and have more resources than we ever have!”

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compost and coworking
Farm to table

Join us for a farm-to-table feast!

Hey everyone! So we’re halfway to our funding goal on IndieGoGo. To keep the momentum going, Dena and I decided to add a farm-to-table dinner as one of the perks for contributing. Contribute $200 and you and a guest will join us for a farm-to-table dinner served at Dena’s farmhouse in Berkley, MA. We’re talking a five course vegetarian feast, featuring organic veggies grown by Dena and lovingly prepared by both of us.

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Open doors to Groundwork!

Groundwork! is under construction

Construction is taking place at Groundwork!

Construction workers have been working hard taking down walls, restoring the electrical and making all efforts to revitalize the space for Groundwork to move in!  The natural light is now flooding in through all of the windows, revealing the beautiful open space, wooden floors and beams.  We are slowly learning about the unique qualities and history of the space, which was originally built as a textile mill and then became a theater.  As you can imagine, it is filled with so many hidden gems, gadgets and fixtures!  We couldn’t be more excited and are feeling so fortunate to have the opportunity to build Groundwork within these four walls!

Street entrance to Groundwork!

Street entrance to Groundwork!

Open doors to Groundwork!

Open doors to Groundwork!

Walls are all knocked down

Walls are all knocked down

Sarah forming thoughts on space layout :)

Sarah forming thoughts on the layout of the space :)

freelancer's lunch break

Freelancing to Save the World (and yourself)


freelancer's lunch break

Go ahead, get some vitamin D…


A couple of years ago, I took a series of vows (or precepts) as a Zen student. Among them, I vowed not to take more than what I need. Now, if you live by intentions or vows , you know that a big part of that practice is bringing awareness into what happens when we break these vows. These are not rigid rules, but fluid guidelines that help us to hold ourselves accountable.

So when I brought more attention and awareness into the idea of living with what I need, I noticed that my life style by nature seemed excessive. I was working full time, often running late… dropping work clothes at the dry cleaner, ordering takeout, and hopping in taxis to get across town quickly. What I needed to maintain my pace was actually quite a lot.

Eventually I made a major decision to leave the full-time workplace and strike off on my own as a freelancer. I was terrified of going broke, so the first thing I did was look at ways I could slash my personal budget. Having more time at home meant I could get pretty creative with things, and running around less meant that I needed less too.

The results were remarkable: the less I worked, the less I needed, which created a positive feedback cycle that really allowed me to reduce my footprint. Of course, there is a point of diminishing returns. I’m not suggesting that if you work for four hours a week you will be able to live without food, BUT with trial and error I am finding a sweet spot in the production – consumption balance.

work date

Work date at a gorgeous theater-turned-bookstore in Buenos Aires.


Here are some ways in which the freelance lifestyle has allowed me to cut back:

I consume less water.

After my last day in the office, I emptied my closet and gave away all of my office clothes. This might be a little extreme, but I was really excited to be liberated from the excessive routine I had developed in order to look “professional.” As a freelancer I’m not a slob, but I don’t feel the need to wear a freshly laundered and ironed outfit every day. If I wear the same shirt and jeans a couple of times during the week, it’s no big deal. And I’ve definitely realized that showering every day is excessive and completely unnecessary for most of us.

So by cutting back on my laundry and showering needs, I’ve been able to drastically reduce my water consumption. This saves me money; and more importantly, I am doing my part to conserve a valuable resource: water. (It is not unlimited, people!)

I save time and fuel.

Cutting out the daily commute was a huge life change. I was actually a bike commuter for most of my office life, but I still consumed plenty of fuel on those days when I was running late or had tons of errands to do. Adding my commute time to the morning beauty routine, I easily have an extra two hours a day for productive tasks. That’s ten hours a week, or more than an extra work day! Incredible! And it goes without saying that less fuel consumption is good both for my wallet and for the environment. (In fact, I’m starting to discover that most things that are easy on my wallet are also easy on the environment. Huh.)

I cook at home.

Working at home means that I can take a super long lunch break if I want to. Actually, I’ve found that a long mid-day break improves my ability to focus in the afternoon and my overall productivity. I really look forward to chopping veggies in the middle of the day. It gives my eyes a rest and my body a chance to be active after working on a computer all morning. And my home-cooked lunches produce very little waste: no takeout, and no rushing means that I don’t even buy pre-cut or washed, packaged veggies. Not to mention that my diet is way cleaner and healthier. I’m less stressed, and less likely to reach for a Starbucks latte or processed sugar to keep myself going.  And yes, it is way cheaper and more sustainable. So I’d say that home cooking is a win across the board.

I have time to be crafty.

If you’re like me, beauty products are an important and comforting part of your routine. They are also costly, they come in plastic containers, and they often contain chemicals. So when I began my crazy budget-slashing spree, I realized that the beauty product insanity had to go. Since I had more free time (10 hours a week… remember?) I went on a DIY rampage and learned how to make things myself. These days, I make almost everything at home, from toothpaste to deodorant to body lotion and face cream. The only thing I have left to learn is the great art of soap making. (If you want to get in on the homemade beauty product fun, I recommend getting started on the Crunchy Betty blog.)

You might not necessarily be into DIY beauty products, but my point here is that the freelance lifestyle lends itself to creativity, which is pretty awesome. Who knows, you might even become an entrepreneur and sell your new inventions!

I don’t shop emotionally.

I have enough time to start my day with meditation and yoga. Sometimes I meet up with a friend for lunch or coffee. If there’s good surf or an important family engagement happening, I can take the time I need. I still have deadlines and hard weeks, and truthfully, I often work over the weekend. But the freedom in my schedule allows me to live a life that is spiritually, socially, and physically fulfilling. So I’ve noticed that lately most of my purchases are utilitarian. I don’t find myself buying clothes or shoes during my lunch break to justify the stressful ten-hour day I just worked. This is completely natural… the more fulfilled I am, the less I need. Let go of it, and it will fill you up.

Start small: How can you cut back?

My lifestyle changes have been pretty radical, I get that. Freelancing is not for everyone: it can be unstable, you can have months with no cash flow, and working for some clients can be worse than having a boss. So I’m not saying that you need to do exactly what I did. I’m just hoping that by sharing my story, I might inspire you to rethink your work/life balance. Maybe a bigger salary means bigger needs, and the difference you take home is not actually that much.

Perhaps working more and more does not necessarily equate a better quality of life. Maybe you can work from home one day a week, and reap the benefits of those savings. Or maybe you can forego working overtime in favor of doing something that makes you feel more whole.

So how about you freelancers out there? Have you been able to simplify as a result of your freedom?