Nov Retreat: The Beginning of the End (Of Animal Cruelty)

The nervousness lay thick in the air Saturday morning, as Mr. O’Leary stood at the foot of the room, discussing the order of pitch presentation. It seemed only minutes later that I was leaving the front of the room, my presentation complete, and my determination to pursue the topic, just as strong.

By dinner on Saturday, enthusiasm replaced the original tension, and people were already discovering parallels between their selected topics. This excitement continued through dinner, and was explained during our consensus building period directly after. An immediate interest revolved around the immigration and refugee resettlement topic, in which two groups emerged, one being Intercultural Communication, and the other being Migrant Workers. The fact that many migrant workers worked on Vermont dairy farms, raised a question surrounding whether or not my topic of Animal Cruelty on Vermont farms could relate. Resulting from this conference, it was decided that it might be easier if Animal Cruelty was a topic on it’s own.

Throughout this experience on the first day, I found that little interest was shed on my subject, and I began considering ways that I could pursue a final project on my own. Fortunately, one other person considered animal cruelty to be an issue that they might want to face, and a group of two, plus a mentor, was formed. I soon found the incredible benefits of working with multiple contributors. Already mulling over how I would work on my own on the What’s the Story project, my approach to my work for the rest of the year already began to change, so it was both relieving and disorienting to know that someone else expressed some interests in the concerns that I was addressing.

I was soon impressed by how much complexity, and passion we uncovered around an issue that I had been processing on my own. I realized that working as an individual, carries many limitations to the depth, and accuracy of a piece of work. By the end of today, we developed a structured plan for the next few weeks, and have built promising levels of potential surrounding how we want to convey our story.

In the following weeks, our roles revolve around preparing for reaching out to the community and conducting interviews. Since I have spent the last few months researching the relationship between dairy farms and veal, I have the basic understanding of the topic, surrounding statistics and facts, which is preparation to beginning to uncover the layers that aren’t conveyed in the factual information.

I am excited to see how the growth that has been made during the retreat continues to expand, and what direction each group decides to go in in the following weeks.


Lena Ashooh

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