This fall, CSIS welcomed two new full-time staff members to our team: Vaughn Sayers and Rosemary Clark-Parsons. We’ve been anticipating bringing them onboard for a while, and look forward to what we can accomplish with such powerful and compassionate minds at work. By way of a formal introduction, we asked Vaughn and Rosie to share some of their background, current work, and interests.
Tell us a little bit about your background.
Rosie: I have been at Penn since 2013, when I started the doctoral program at the Annenberg School for Communication. I finished my PhD in 2018 and stayed on at Annenberg as a postdoctoral fellow and later as associate director at the Center on Digital Culture and Society. My research and teaching at Penn have centered on communication for social change, with a specific focus on feminist social movements and their media practices. I’m very excited to continue building on this work at CSIS, especially with our executive students, who have a deep interest in using media to support their social impact initiatives.
I am also currently writing a book for University of California Press. Networked Feminism examines how digital media users have reconfigured the face and reach of feminist movements in the U.S. Look for it out in Fall 2021.
Vaughn: I am passionate about empowering others to live their dreams and achieve their goals. In my undergraduate degree, I studied Philosophy. I love Plato and live a life in pursuit of truth, justice, and wisdom. The mix of both my passion and academic background had me involved in social impact work until eventually I decided to grow my skill set at SP2 in the Masters in Nonprofit Leadership degree.
What will you be doing at CSIS?
Rosie: As a program manager at CSIS, I will be primarily working with the Executive Program in Social Impact Strategy, as well as our partner programs in social impact. In a nutshell, my work will involve making sure these programs are running smoothly, recruiting and guiding students through the programs, and identifying opportunities to grow and improve these programs.
Vaughn: As the new program coordinator, I will be front and center in the process of managing our Executive Program in Social Impact Strategy. I will help steward prospective applicants and our
2021 cohort through the program/admissions cycle. Alongside the Executive Program, I will also support day-to-day operations of the Center.
What are you most looking forward to working on at CSIS?
Rosie: I’m so excited to join the CSIS team. I first learned about CSIS in 2018, when I was invited to develop the Executive Program elective course on Digital Media for Social Movements. The experience of developing the course made me want to seek out more opportunities to work directly with students on developing toolkits for social change work. I’ve been aiming to get back to CSIS ever since and couldn’t be happier to be here. My path here has been a bit winding, but it feels like the perfect place to do the work I care most about. I’m very excited to be collaborating with staff on building new programs, including a program focused on digital media for social impact. Researching, writing, and teaching about communication for social change is my passion, so I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to do that work in a space focused on real world application and practice.
Vaughn: Before my position as Program Coordinator, I was an Intern for CSIS. Therefore, I’m most looking forward to officially joining the team and continuing to work on the various projects I had a hand in during my graduate study. Working with such a kind, driven, and passionate team is a privilege.
Outside of work, what are your interests?
Rosie:Outside of CSIS, family is my top priority. My daughter, Robyn, turns two this November, and is the light of my life. My husband and I spend most of our free time adventuring with her. I am also working on my own research, teaching in the Nonprofit Leadership and Social Policy programs at SP2, and collaborating on side projects with media organizations in the Philadelphia area.
Vaughn: Outside of work I love to run, spend time with family, and catch up with friends. Each are cornerstones in my life.
How would your friends describe you?
Rosie: I think they would describe me as someone who is passionate and kind with a type-A personality, a dry sense of humor, and a love for any opportunity to let loose, try new things, and find the humor in any situation.
Vaughn: My friends would describe me as a positive guy who is driven, but doesn’t take himself too seriously. I’m the first one to initiate the group laugh after I say a solid lame dad joke.
What book do you just keep coming back to?
Rosie: In my research and teaching, I constantly revisit a book that is not cited nearly enough — Changing the Wor(l)d: Discourse, Politics and the Feminist Movement by Stacey Young. The book focuses on how the very act of making media or telling a story can be a form of activism in an of itself, as our words challenge commonly held frameworks for thinking about gender. I love this idea, because we typically think of media as simply supporting and marketing our activist projects, not as being an activist project in and of itself. In my personal life, I find myself constantly returning to Brené Brown’s book Daring Greatly. I’ve struggled with imposter syndrome, and this book has been a powerful tool for, as Brené says, showing up and being brave.
Vaughn: I can’t say one book in particular, but probably anything philosophy oriented. I tend to contemplate a lot, so a good book or audiobook helps me to expand my thinking.
What advice do you have for others out in the world who want to make a positive impact?
Rosie:In our current moment, my advice is to hang on tightly to the optimism and hope that led you to social impact work in the first place. All of us come to this work with the belief that change is possible, or else we would not bother doing it. But in our current climate, it can feel difficult and even impossible to protect that optimism. Without it, we may burn out and even move away from impact work altogether. Do what you can to look for hope and protect your own optimism and energy. Notice when it’s waning and when it may be time for you or your team to unplug, reenergize, and recommit to the fight ahead.
Vaughn: I would say find a balance. If the roots are weak the tree will fall. On your journey as a change agent make sure to prioritize your roots as much as your mission. Spend time with your family, catch up with your friends, and explore your passions. This will be what fuels you as you live your dharma, destiny, or life’s purpose.
What has been your go-to quarantine: 1) snack? 2) song? 3) hobby?
Rosie:My go-to quarantine snack has been Cheezits (or, more accurately, Aldi-brand Savoritz), which are great for stress-eating.
My husband and I have been obsessed with the Hamilton soundtrack since the filmed production came out on Disney+. It has been our spark of quarantine joy, and it is rare for a day to go by without us singing and dancing to it in the kitchen with Robyn.
During quarantine, we’ve been playing a lot of virtual board games with friends. My husband and I have a tight knit group of friends who we’ve known since high school and board game nights have always been a cornerstone of our friendship. Since having a baby, we haven’t been able to attend many, but one silver lining of quarantine is that virtual hangouts and board game nights have been much more accessible for us. We use a website called boardgamearena.com — highly recommend!
Vaughn: For me, it’s been running. I am coming off of an injury so both on a mental and physical level I am grateful for the days where I can run, feeling free as a bird!
Thank you to Rosie and Vaughn for taking the time to introduce themselves. We could not be happier to welcome them to the team.