Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Jenna Emerson, I’m the health and sexuality educator in the Center for Health and Wellbeing. I’m grateful today to be able to honor my friend and colleague, Sarah Mell. Sarah has had an incredible and transformative impact on UVM. In 4 years as the coordinator of outreach and education at the Women and Gender Equity (WAGE) Center, and as a consultant at UVM prior, Sarah’s leadership has had a lasting impact. Some of their many contributions have been reimagining the Dismantling Rape Culture Conference into a space that centers survivors of sexual violence, abolition, transgender women of color, and a hub for sexual violence prevention providers across the state. They created and implemented a 4-year sexual violence prevention program for all NCAA Athletic teams and partnered with Fraternity/Sorority Life providing individualized programming with a focus on power dynamics, identity, and pleasure.

Over the years Sarah and I have worked closely on The Good Stuff, UVM’s peer-led positive sexuality group, which has received national recognition for its innovative and sustainable approach.

Here’s what others had to say about Sarah.

The Associate Director of Athletics spoke to how well received Sarah’s workshops are; their ability to use humor and a lighthearted, non-judgmental stance in their work invites student-athletes to take risks and participate in difficult conversations.

A colleague reflected on how this past year many students and staff members at UVM lost trust in leadership; however they never lost faith in Sarah. They were able to support students and staff to build an ethos of care within this institution. Their presence is an oasis for our people across departments and identities and humanizes UVM and holds all of our people with radical respect, care, and love.

A former intern wrote that Sarah’s level of respect is wrapped up in humility and kindness. They treat people as if their wellbeing is tied up in their own. Whenever Sarah and I gathered for my work as an intern, she took time to check in with me and show care for my wellbeing.

Sarah’s supervisor commented on how she spends time learning the specific rules and lingo of all of the UVM sports teams so she can tailor her approach, style, and examples to each sport and build rapport and trust with her audiences. So often the work Sarah does, and the work of the WAGE Center, is invisible. Honoring Sarah’s contribution to UVM with this recognition is one step toward changing that narrative.

A student stated that when they met Sarah, they knew they had a place at UVM. As a queer, trans student who is also a survivor, Sarah was their role model, and the WAGE center literally changed their life.

Sarah is a gift to the UVM community. Thank you for sharing your brilliance, care, and love with us all, and congratulations.