University of Vermont

Office of Community-Engaged Learning (CELO)

Service Learning Alumni Highlight: Zoe York

It was in a service-learning course that Zoe York (formerly Gordon) realized how quickly history can be swept from a community during a natural disaster.

Zoe York graduated from UVM in 2014 with a bachelor's degree in Community & International Development. During her time in the Community Development & Applied Economics program, Zoe found herself in a service-learning course that would ultimately provide shape to the path of her future career.

In Rebuilding Vermont: Community Engagement in Disaster Preparation and Relief taught by Professor Kelly Hamshaw, Zoe learned about project management through studying disaster relief volunteers involved in the Tropical Storm Irene recovery efforts throughout the state of Vermont. Zoe shared that the importance of the course stemmed from how the topic deeply connected with her. “This project was centered around a topic I was, and still am, passionate about, so I felt like it helped me learn project management, working with a group, and about an important topic from real professionals in the field” she shared.

Following her graduation, Zoe found a position working in Waterbury, VT serving as an Americorps VISTA focused on securing grants from FEMA in order to relieve the impact Tropical Storm Irene had on the community there. Each home she worked to secure assistance for, she found to be woven into the fabric of the community through it’s historic significance.

Today, Zoe is a Project Manager at Waukeshaw Development Inc in Petersburg, VA. “We take historic properties that most people think are unsalvageable, and we conduct adaptive reuse projects to give the building a new life with a modern purpose” Zoe explained.

When asked what the most important takeaway was of her experience, Zoe shared that learning the importance of listening has remained the most relevant to her throughout her career. “ I still am a huge proponent of listening to the community we are serving before we decide on the best course of action” she shared.

“When I think of my connection back to Vermont and specifically Waterbury, it really feels like I am tied back to my roots in disaster relief and community development.”