Staff Spotlight: Erin Moore

Erin Moore – the Associate Director of Engagement Strategy for C-SED – sat down with Storyteller Sydney Moore to answer some questions about her role and what she’s looking forward to.

Story by Sydney Moore

How did you first get involved with C-SED?

I started off at the School of Public Health in 2015 with Ann Verhey-Henke, who is now the strategic director at C-SED. The office was called Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship. We were in charge of looking for people across campus that could provide interdisciplinary feedback to students in Innovation in Action (IiA). This work included C-SED, which was called Insitu back then. Every time they came to the school of Public Health, we would talk about how much our work overlapped. Then, in 2018, Ann and I both moved over and we became one unit.

Describe your role (and mention any past roles you’ve had if applicable)

My role is called the Associate Director for Engagement Strategy, which is a bit of a mouthful. Pre-COVID, this role dealt with student engagement in a very tactile manner. I think a lot of people were under the impression that shaking hands and tabling was the best way to expand relationships across campus. COVID-19 forced us to take a step back. It made us brainstorm holistic, purposeful methods of meeting students where they are. Personally, this means thinking at a high level about all the ways students interact with C-SED through our classes, programming, and marketing.

I’m also going on my 7th year of working on IiA, so I have a lot of experience with the ebbs and flows of that process and how students seek me out. My calendar is always open, but I felt like last year more people took me up on that because the barrier to meeting was so low. Now that we have a system for meeting virtually, we can be more thoughtful about when and where we want to be in-person. 

What drew you to this role in particular?

As mentioned earlier, my previous C-SED role was much more narrow. When I moved to California, I started reflecting on my time at C-SED and what was next for me. I realized my background in storytelling, film, and entrepreneurship applied directly to the socially engaged design process. So, when Ann called out of the blue to ask if I wanted to come back remotely I said yes! Both of us were like why didn’t we think about this before? I have always loved working with students around these big topics.

What have you learned in your role?

Communication and storytelling are valuable in every field. I’ve noticed that if people can’t figure out a way to explain their work to others, it will fall short of its potential. In my role, I spend a lot of time helping students shape their story and match it to an audience who cares.

What is one project you really enjoyed working on?

My mind automatically goes to IiA projects. There was a team in 2016 – an amazing group from different schools with no particular problem in mind. They just liked working together and wanted to learn. The project focused on medical imaging, which involved interviewing tons of people. They got through to the first presentation, and during the break they came up with a new idea. They ended up winning IIA with a project called Canopy: an end of life planning app that’s kind of similar to turbotax and produces a legal document.

I heard a quote somewhere that some of the best innovations are not completely new but rather they take what already exists to combine them in new and interesting ways. I’m so proud of this team even if all we did was give them resources to succeed.

To tie that all together, the last step of the social engaged process model is called realize. It goes to show how broad the base is here. IiA used to be focused solely on entrepreneurship, but now people’s projects could turn into anything: policy paper, curriculum, or a partnership. After all, these are big problems in our world that are going to take more than one startup to fix.

What can students come to talk to you about (areas of passion/expertise)?

Come talk to me about any question related to C-SED or IiA. I love matching student passion to what we offer at C-SED. I often talk students through how the work they are doing connects to bigger problems in the world. They can also give me feedback on what C-SED could do. 

Any unexpected parts of the job that surprised you?

Before the pandemic, everyone typically evaluated the work they did by the time they spent in the office. Physical presence was assumed to mean you were working hard, but being my own boss and going through the pandemic dispelled these assumptions. 

We had no template for online work or learning before. While there are still downsides, zoom has made things more accessible, because of things like time zones and ability to move. It also allows for a chat function, which is a less scary way to engage. As a student, it’s so normal to show up to a three hour class and just listen. Now we are more shrewd about what needs to be synchronous, especially with C-SED because it’s not for credit. 

TLDR: COVID made us reinvent everything we do to meet people where they are. 

Any advice for those considering your role or a similar one?

The more you are open and welcome, the more people will be willing to talk to you and have deeper conversations. Because I’m not assigned certain students in my role, I have to be critical and purposeful about the language I use. Students read into the words, your vibe, and how you invite them into conversation. You also have to be willing to put information and requests into the world in a bunch of different ways without knowing when people will be able to respond. You have to realize that you aren’t being annoying by sending an email more than once because people are busy and sometimes important information slips past them.

What do you like most about working at C-SED? (Talk about what makes C-SED special)

When working at a place like C-SED, everyone wants similar things in life and the world. It doesn’t mean we all have the same background or perspective, but we are all interested in asking big questions of the world. This makes for a motivating workplace.

One silly thing, everyone is so obsessed with office supplies. I have a giant bag of pens by my desk from C-SED, paperweight flares are my favorite.

Any design tools recommendations?

Most of the planning I do starts with PostIts that I can move around. I find it freeing to jot thoughts down in a way that I can erase them, like on my giant white board. I need to visualize things before moving on to the next stage.

Name a social justice topic you are passionate about and why.

The more I do this work with C-SED, and the further I get into adulthood, I’m realizing everything comes back to policy and democracy. Access to free elections is critical. Any matter that people want to work on has a connection to those in power who can change the way our system is set up.

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