Olivia Neubert, CCI’s program assistant, works behind the scenes to make sure our learning communities and other convenings go as smoothly as possible for all our participants. From coordinating event logistics to helping with our budget, she helps makes sure the Center is a well-oiled machine. In her spare time, Olivia can usually be found exploring Boston’s history or reading Leaves of Grass.
How would you describe your role at the Center?
I’m the Center’s program assistant. My role is primarily operational and I wear a few hats. The most prominent are organizing CCI’s events and maintaining our working relationship with the Lincoln Institute. Because the Center is small, most preparation for our events is done in-house, including choosing venues, preparing people’s travels and managing participant needs. Being in that role allows me to see how many factors beyond content contribute to CCI events. One of the best parts about my role is that, in a sense, I get insight into both an organization that is just setting its roots (CCI) and one that is already very rooted, with very set policies and practices (Lincoln Institute). I’m interested in nonprofit management, so this role allows me to see the difference between established practices, like managing contracts, and new ones, like establishing a new budget.
What about the Center’s work most excites you?
I am excited about changing the narrative of community development and looking at the work from a different perspective. I am also excited about getting our climate work going. One of the reasons I was most attracted to CCI was the Center’s interest in climate adaptation. I came out of college with the goal of working in environmental policy. However, since working at CCI, I have been introduced to different sectors I didn’t previously know or understand, so at this point I have also become more interested in planning (or lack thereof) around equity and understanding why some areas struggle and others don’t.
How did you become interested in environmental policy?
It wasn’t a linear path. I studied international relations in college. I was going to focus on national security and ended up taking a course called “Conflicts, Peace, and the Environment.” It really exposed me to the direct and indirect consequences of environmental degradation, misuse of resources, and other structural aspects that contribute to groups of people and nations being more vulnerable to the effects of climate change. That course sparked my interest and passion. Through it, I realized the poor state of environmental policy.
What were you working on before you came to the Center?
I was in college. Most of my coursework focused on international relations, national security, and sustainability. Towards the end, I decided that the sustainability path is what I wanted to follow. My senior seminar was focused on sustainability and globalization, and my senior paper was about preservation of national parks in sub-Saharan Africa. I came out of college with that at the forefront of my mind.
When you’re not at work, you are…
Exploring Boston. It’s a new city for me and I am lucky to have a couple of friends in the area, so I can explore sites with them. I am a big fan of history and Boston is a fantastic city to explore that more. I try to find places around Boston significant to its history and go with friends.
Favorite place in Boston?
The North End, because the food is delicious. I have a connection to the North Church because Longfellow’s poem about Paul Revere’s ride meant a lot to me in my childhood, so going there always makes me very happy.
We know you like poetry—what are some of your favorites?
I have two favorites. I love Emily Dickinson because she was a woman who had a beautiful way of connecting to the natural world. She is one of the most prominent female nature writers, which I appreciate. My other favorite is Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. I love any writing that is in relation to nature. It’s a beautiful skill to write about the earth and inspire other people in that.
People would be surprised to know…
If somebody had met me 5 years ago, they would be surprised to know where I am now. I am now very passionate about things that were not on my radar 5 years ago. I have really changed my perspective on what matters and how things can change. For example, 5 years ago I was extremely passionate about historic preservation and art history, and I think that I have realized that those things are important but am now much more interested in protecting people.
What is your media diet—a few things you always read, maybe, or something noteworthy you recently read?
My media diet consists of a lot of international news sources to keep that interest alive—primarily Al Jazeera and BBC. As far as things I read more casually: usually poetry. Reading poetry is a wonderful way to relax and get a different perspective on something that I might have read before. I’m also a big fan of nonfiction. I love to read something and be able to put it in context, which stems from my interest in history. Right now, I’m reading How Chance and Stupidity Have Changed History. It’s an interesting way to see how human error and leadership decisions impact the tides of history. And, of course, I go back to Walt Whitman often.