Leading In Central MA: Ctr. for Nonviolent Solutions’ Christa Drew
Monday, October 28, 2013
Christa Drew has a longstanding personal and professional commitment to nonviolence and social justice. Christa earned a Bachelor’s degree in Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution from Syracuse University and was awarded the Chancellor’s Award for Public Service at graduation. After college she served as an AmeriCorps volunteer working with the incarcerated population and on restorative justice. Since then Christa has spent 13 years founding and managing nonprofit organizations and coalitions, gaining skills in community organizing, facilitation, policy advocacy, grant writing, communications, and more. Her work has largely concentrated on issues of hunger, conflict transformation, food policy/systems, and public health.
Christa also earned a Masters of Public Policy and Administration from University of Massachusetts Amherst with a focus on food policy and served as the Food Science Policy Fellow, Sylvia Rowe Fellow, and the Scientific Integrity Fellow. Christa was awarded the Hertz Award for Public Service upon graduation from UMass. In addition to her role as Executive Director for the Center for Nonviolent Solutions, she provides leadership to a statewide food policy alliance, and serves on an advisory committee for the legislatively created Massachusetts Food Policy Council as well as on Steering Committees for reputable food-related coalitions based in Western MA and across New England.
A Conversation with Christa Drew
SW: Lets talk first about your career as the Executive Director for the Center for Nonviolent Solutions. What exactly is the mission of the center and how do you achieve it?
CD: The mission of the Center is to “provide education and resources to help people in the Worcester Area to understand nonviolence and peacemaking as a way of life and to reject the use of violence in resolving conflict”. We are currently focused on achieving this through a variety for education efforts and through our Community Mediation Services program where experienced trained mediators are available to help bring interpersonal conflicts to a mutually agreed upon resolution.
In terms of our education efforts, we are focused on implementing our three core programs, Conflict and Cooperation, Healthy Power and Peer Mediation, in Worcester middle and high schools although we have also conducted these outside of the schools and have additional curricula and programs focused on peacemaking and nonviolent social action. We are also again providing a Professional Development Institute for local teachers of grades 5-12 on Nonviolent Social Movements. Engaging in community event sponsorships, speaking opportunities, and other events are also ways that the Center achieves its mission.
SW: You are also a consultant and a leader in the field of food policies and systems. What exactly is on the drawing board right now that you would like to talk about?
CD: Truthfully I am engaged in so many food/agricultural networks, planning projects, and policy education and advocacy projects right now that is hard to mention them all here. In general its important to highlight that now that we have a legislatively established MA Food Policy Council, where I serve on its Advisory Committee, we are moving forward with creating a plan for the Massachusetts food system. Similar plans have been or are under development across New England and the country, and are spurring economic development, job creation, increased agricultural market share, and improvements to the environment, as well as to the physical health of the citizenry.
Overall my work aims to help ensure the health and sustainability of Massachusetts agriculture, its economy, environment, and its residents by engaging stakeholders from across the food system: farmers, researchers, business-owners, consumers, entrepreneurs, nonprofit organizations, processors, food policy councils, and many others.
SW: How did your career begin and where?
CD: I usually cite my early volunteerism with faith-based and non-profit organizations as the beginning of my career as those learning experiences formed the foundation for my professional values and skills. My first full-time job after undergraduate school was with Jeremiah’s Inn in Worcester where I served at the Director of the Nutrition Center (community food pantry) and developed and facilitated Conflict Resolution and Healthy Relationship courses for Jeremiah’s male residents in recovery from drug and alcohol addictions.
SW: What led you to your current career path?
CD: I am passionate about leading and collaborating to achieve political, social, and systems change, particularly in the areas of food policy, hunger, public health, social justice, sustainability, and conflict transformation. I have worked in both direct service and in policy and chose to earn a Masters in Public Policy and Management, with a focus on food science policy and nonprofit management to span and bolster my interests and skills. My career path is consistent with my interests, skills, and professional connections.
SW: Can you describe a day in the life of Christa Drew?
CD: Due to my variety of responsibilities sometimes I’m in my Worcester office, or working from our home office in Franklin County, or conducting business and meetings in a café in Western MA or elsewhere in Massachusetts. Every day includes a different mix of efforts, people, and locations.
SW: What is the something that few peo ple know about you?
CD: I have been an active fan of professional football, especially the New England Patriots, since I was a child.
SW: How do you spend your free time?
CD: Along with my husband I spend as much of my free time outside in nature and exercising as possible. I love to run, bike, swim, hike, kayak, camp, and dance. I’m passionate about exploring the woods and enjoying oceans, lakes, and rivers.
SW: What is your advice for helping the city to reach its full potential?
CD: I remain concerned about the limitations of poor communication and collaboration and the competition for limited resources. Any time there is an opportunity to increase efficiency, collaboration, and transparency—from the grassroots to the grasstops—I think it is important.
SW: You are active in the community. What other organizations are you involved with?
CD: Currently I’m active in more than one community and there are a few too many organizations to mention here.
SW: Any special plans for your future?
CD: I am open to embracing opportunities as they emerge and I try to be focused on what is happening and positive in the present moment.
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