Chris and Candice have joined the PL team this spring to expand the breadth of our blog, by uncovering stories of the people shaping a more vibrant narrative for Cincinnati. C&C aim to build stories that capture our collective imagination, encourage innovation and social change and celebrate rootedness, all while compassionately humanizing our citizens through word and image.
For their first post, Chris and Candice interviewed their peer residents. Read on and learn more about Chelsea, Hannah and Rachel.
Meet the Residents | Hannah. Chelsea. Rachel.
CHRIS: Describe the path that got you to where you are now.
CHELSEA: At Duke I studied sociology, with a focus in business—understanding how businesses work, how business people work and interact. On the other end of the spectrum, I also pursued a certificate in journalism. After school I became a Venture for America fellow; the program is similar to Teach for America in some ways, except instead of recent grads being placed at under-resourced schools, they’re placed at early stage start-ups in cities on the rise. One of the program’s goals is to work against the talent trap that’s currently drawing many graduates from top schools around the country to New York City, San Francisco, Boston, instead of heading towards opportunities in smaller cities. That’s how I ended up in Cincinnati. And I have to say, I love it so far.
HANNAH: After I graduated from RISD in Baltimore, Maryland, I decided to return to Cincinnati and really think about what I wanted to do with my career, then go from there. I stumbled upon People’s Liberty by word-of-mouth. I think living in a smaller city generates an environment for stronger creative impact; people are inclined to take more risks and connect with a more focused pool of creative energy. Since I’m just starting out in my career, the opportunity here has given me more leverage, less grunt work, and fewer constraints.
RACHEL: I’ve always been interested in social responsibility and giving back in some way. It started in high school when I participated in some alternative spring break programs where I gained a lot of first hand experience with education and poverty issues. I later went on to study urban planning at UC. That strengthened by interest in community development and other social issues and eventually led me to enroll in graduate level studies. I pursued a business degree because I began to see how money is central to both action and decision-making. So I got an MBA and learned the nitty-gritty side of business. Ultimately, I hope to be in a position where business and social responsibility intersect to make an impact.
CHRIS: How do you get unstuck?
HANNAH: Actually, a professor I had described my process as being meditated chaos. I spend a lot of time thinking in broad terms and sometimes that leads me to getting stuck or behind on things. If I keep powering through, the form that results in the end is extra rewarding. Pondering and just letting things sink in, and not forcing things really helps. I try to let ideas naturally and organically come into form.
CHELSEA: I think one of the nice things for me it totally unplugging. Taking the night and thinking about absolutely nothing related to work. Staying off my phone for the weekend, not checking my email, etc. I also tend to speak with people who are going through the same things, or have previously—these are usually other fellows in my Venture for America program. I’ll lay out what I’m frustrated or stressed about, just to get it out of my head and into the atmosphere. Usually, they’ve gone through something similar. Once I’ve unwound, I can usually come up with a new solution.
CHRIS: What was the last “a-ha” moment you had?
RACHEL: I feel like there are a lot of little ones. Currently, being part of the People’s Liberty environment is very exciting. I graduated in August and I had five months of not being involved in processes that made me feel inspired, so being back in a space where people are throwing out great ideas, and encouraging each other to “go do” or “go learn” has felt very a-ha to me. I am back on the path that I want to be on.
CHELSEA: Before I moved to Cincinnati I was actually in San Francisco working a corporate job. I went there to avoid being "that girl", you know, the one who followed her relationship somewhere. It was really hard for me to put my ego aside, I felt embarrassed even. I moved to Cincinnati in 2013, joined Venture for America and moved in with my boyfriend (yes, we are still going strong.) So the a-ha moment: it's not about what you do, but who you do it with. Even though it felt like I was putting my professional career aside, the decision ended up really benefiting me professionally. Your life can go down a myriad of different paths as you mature, and a lot of that has to do with who you surround yourself with. I moved here to be with a very positive person; through that I've become more positive and adaptable to change. I may have quit a great job to get here, but personal growth and happiness have benefited my professional career more so than if I stayed in San Francisco.
CHRIS: Are there things you want to work on that you haven’t explored yet?
HANNAH: I think a big goal for me is getting my work set up and going. I think eventually I’d really like to get started working on my own independent work instead of just projects for other people. I used to do a lot of fine art work which I think I need to return to at a certain point. Printmaking and also painting; I’d like to work on combining the two together.
CHELSEA: That’s something that I’m struggling with right now; you can only do two residencies at People’s Liberty and I’ll have exhausted those in April. I’ve been thinking about what’s next. Since working with PL, I’m realizing that I’d like to work somewhere with social impact as their bottom line. I’ve been thinking a lot more about teaching lately as well; that or being in some kind of mentor role. One of my favorite things with the [Haile} fellows has been reading through their ideas/research and suggesting ‘you should try this’ or ‘why don’t you explore this?’ to move their ideas and stories forward. That’s been very fun and rewarding, especially when I feel like my skills can really add to their projects. It’s been good for me to see that I can be another perspective for someone older and more experienced than I am. I love to learn and feel like I am helping people learn as well. Figuring out how to make that a bigger part of my day-to-day here, and in my next gig, is a big goal.
CANDICE: What do you want people to say about you when you’re gone? What do you want your legacy to be in Cincinnati?
RACHEL: I would like people to recognize that I am trying to make a positive impact in my hometown. Through my co-ops at UC I never worked in Cincinnati. I wanted to take advantage of experiences in other places. I think it’s great to be able to say that I was involved in an organization here that is positively impacting the place that is both my hometown and where I went to college. As I progress through life, Cincinnati very much where I came from, the root of who I become.