Sage Center: A New Team Empowering Changemakers

By: Maurisa Jones
Sage Center: A New Team Empowering Changemakers 
The Sage Center is one of the most integral and innovative pieces of the Sage Hill experience.

Over the summer, a new Sage Center team was put into place, including: Sanan Shirinian, Sage Center Director; Tanya Lerch, Sage Center Assistant Director for Inclusion and Outreach; Sara Graham, Sage Center Assistant Director for Global Outreach; Sydney Smith, Coordinator of Community Engagement; Matthew Vadeboncoeur, Dean of Academic Technology; and Kevin Garcia Cruz, SHIP Coordinator. 

Each team member has taken ownership of a specific initiative that makes the Sage Center successful, from Service Learning to Spring at Sage to Sage Center Designated Courses.
Once the new team was in place, they began redesigning and updating programming as needed after the changes previously made last year to accommodate dual learning modalities. This included identifying safe domestic and international travel options for Spring at Sage, lining up inspirational speakers for our in-person Speaker Series, and confirming our partnerships with elementary schools and other nonprofit organizations involved in Service Learning.

The team’s focus was also on making sure the community understood the mission and purpose of the Sage Center.  One of their very first initiatives was in solidifying the vision of the Sage Center. The team developed a vision that would serve the Sage Center as a whole, as well as work in conjunction with the objectives of each signature program. 

Vision: The Sage Center empowers students to become agents of change by learning about, experiencing and engaging with local and global communities.

“When we came to the realization that this was our vision, there was consensus that it could be embodied differently for different students,” Shirinian said. “In this, we are not directing students to what type of change, we just want students to recognize their own agency and become changemakers in a society that depends on their brilliance and action." 

Shirinian is no stranger to change making -- her own resume includes degrees in both gender studies and human rights as well as experience in educational leadership. Her deep passion for service and human rights led her to provide her time as a resource during her recent trip to Armenia -- a country that is beginning to rebuild post-war.

She shared her experience with words that vividly illustrate that our work as changemakers is never done. 
“I drove eight hours south from the capital for a three-day trip to the southernmost town of Armenia, called Meghri. Imagine living somewhere that is an eight-hour drive away from the closest airport, only accessible through windy roads paved through the mountainside.” 

She recounted Meghri as a tranquil and scenic town that ironically couldn't be reached without a road now littered with military posts filled with armed soldiers. She visited a hospital in which the staff of seven served a population of 10,000 and a clinic that housed the only MRI machine in the entire region.
She also shared the beauty that comes from the rare post-war moments when people can forget their sadness that rests right under the surface -- a wedding that brought joy, laughter and toasts or the first day of school that brought a sense of normalcy to families. 

“These experiences build our character and put into perspective the things we have a responsibility to teach. It's important for me to apply these lessons learned to the programs and curriculum that we are building,” Shirinian said.

The Sage Center provides a standard of amazing initiatives, innovative curriculum and opportunities for students to learn outside of the classroom. All of these play into the larger picture that the Sage Center team is working to illustrate in order to make sure that the work truly makes an impact.

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