Aug 142013

It has been almost two weeks since my announcement of my intention to move on from my position here at Athens’ Own. In that time, I have been working very hard to complete many outstanding projects. I am currently feeling very satisfied with the progress I am making, and I also see many more tasks set ahead for the next two weeks. I am enjoying the feeling of crossing old projects off of my to-do list, and feeling a sense of completion and optimism that these things I have created will be extremely helpful to the person who picks up the hat after me. I know that I would have been very grateful to have this help when I first started!


A few updates on my progress:

Website info packet/tutorial nearly completed. I underestimated the time it would take me to get it all together and in an easily readable way. It is a lot of information, even including all the write-ups I have been doing along the way.
Finished (1st drafts) AFM handbook and Seaman’s handbook/ tutorial. The folder with Seaman’s info will be added to with more tutorials/info on other places we deliver to. It can be the “delivery driver” info binder.
Miles education: I have been checking in on him and supervising some activities over the last two weeks to make sure he (and I) feel confident that he can do those tasks solo. He is progressing very well, and he made his first solo delivery to Seaman’s yesterday, which went well for the most part. I believe he learned from his mistakes and will be better prepared for the next time.

The website is running much smoother, and some long outstanding issues have been solved, which will make the task of updating and maintaining the site much easier for the next person, although I plan to remain available for help and tech support in the future.


As I complete this week, I am turning my attention to the Athens’ Own team and the community, to ask what you think my last two weeks’ time should be spent on? I want to use my time and Constantine’s investment in me to help others as much as possible, and to try in some way to pay him and everyone involved “forward” for the opportunities I have been given. Please feel free to comment on this post with your thoughts, comments, or ideas.

Aug 052013

It seems that I have been travelling quite a bit this summer. From teaching at scout camps to family vacations to wilderness treks, I feel like I have been seeing a lot of the world recently.

This past week, I went backpacking to a family cabin in Ontario.The cabin itself is an old logging resort, and it buried deep in the wilderness. So deep that the closest “city” is over 20 miles away, and that city comprises only a gas station and a few houses. The pristine silence that descends on that cabin, broken only by the occasional call of a loon, brings on an incredible sense of not just the raw beauty of nature around me, but a calm meditation on the entire scope of the world and my small place in it. There really is no better place to contemplate life and the path you are on than the wilderness, in my opinion.

At the end of my ponderings, reflections, and journalings during this trip, I came to a hard but necessary conclusion: I believe it is time for me to begin my process of leaving Athens’ Own. I will be resigning my post at the end of August. Over the next day, I will be writing and developing a plan of action for the next two weeks and four weeks, which will explain not only how I came to this conclusion, but also how I will spend my Athens’ Own time over the next month, preparing myself and the rest of the team as best I can for my departure. I also feel I should note that I do not intend to simply leave the team entirely. We are still part of the same community, and the connections I have made with everyone over the past year mean more to me than I can put into words. It is my sincerest hope to remain in close contact with everyone and to continue to help with Athens’ Own’s efforts as much as I can.


The plan I am preparing will cover at least these topics (and potentially more as it develops)


  • My personal rationale of my decision
  • Detailed thank you letters to the team
  • Continued volunteer work plan
  • Two-week strategy

    – Recruiting

    – Job Descriptions

    – Internship postings

    – Finished tutorials of website

    – Additional blog posts

    – Completion of writings/ stories/ etc

  • Four-week strategy

    – Compilation of documents

    – Detailed plans for replacement

    – Educational models for new recruits

    – Completion of odd jobs on to-do list

    – Additional writings


As I mentioned above, this list is just an initial overview, I am sure this does not cover everything I need to do and say before I conclude my employment. I have learned and grown significantly in the past year with Athens’ Own, and I hope, in this plan, to express the depth of this growth and how everyone involved can move forward from it.

Jul 072013

As is mentioned in various places on this website and in logs, one of the first steps we see to help start building resilience is to take a critical look at the situation in front of you. We have a particular document which we reference often, that we call the “current situation analysis”. This document is a long list of things which we see as the issues, problems, and realities that we are currently facing today.

One of these items concerns the quality of education and educational programs. As a company with an internship program which focuses on helping Ohio University students enhance and supplement their formal educations, we are constantly evaluating and monitoring the students who we meet. And we have noticed a problem, or a “situation” item if you will… the education system is falling short in too many places. We see gaps all the time, whether it be a student who has never had to effectively write a rationale for a project, a student who does not know how to thoroughly complete background research before applying to a job, or even just a student who has ilegible handwriting. As a company who is racing and fighting against time to build a stronger and more resilient future, we need those people who want to be a part of our efforts to be able to keep up with our ideas and our speed. We don’t really have the time to explain over and over what our company does because an intern didn’t read the “about us” section of the website before they applied. We don’t have the time to sit down and watch them write out numbers on an invoice, and we don’t have the time to help them learn such a basic skill as writing an essay. These are all things, among many others, that we think should have been learned at some point already. So what happened? Why are so many students graduating from college without some of these skills, which many businesses would consider basic qualifications?

This is our situation: We see a problem in the educational system. We need skillful, proficient, and intelligent students who are eager to learn and improve themselves. This is not to say that none of our past interns have been up to this standard, rather we have had the pleasure of working with many bright young minds. However, when one takes the average student population into account, I don’t think there would be much argument against the claim that the education system could do better.

If step one is to analyze the situation, what do we do next? Our plan is to connect with like-minded people, who share our observations, goals, and concerns, and try to develop a way to work together to do something about this problem. With that in mind, we will be meeting soon with teacher education professionals to discuss some of these issues and see what solutions we might be able to create.

More on this topic to come soon!

May 312013

If I can be very motivated to do something, I should be able to motivate others to do something as well. By figuring out how to motivate myself, I can gain some insight into the best strategies and plans to help Athens’ Own interns get motivated. In fact, the ability to motivate others to take an interest and act is one of the criteria of the Athens’ Own Worker Readiness Certification.

To start, what motivates me? Constantine recently posed me the question: What new skills I would be willing to learn on my own time and apply towards Athens’ Own? I came up with a brief list of things I am most interested in and that I feel I would willingly, almost unconsciously, want to learn in my free time which could be relevant to my work with Athens’ Own. The question was posed this way to help me draw out those types of skills and concepts which would be most motivating to me.

From here, we looked at which of those things best aligns with what Athens’ Own is working on. If both my “to-do” list and Athens’ Own’s “to-do” list have similar items on them, then that is the best place to start. The main idea behind this practice is that progress will be made faster when there is alignment of needs, interests, etc. If I can work on something I enjoy that helps move our team, our systems, and our actions forward, it is going to be more productive and positive than if I am being coerced into doing something I don’t think is relevant. This is also why we ask our interns to write their holisticgoals. We can take notice of where a certain person’s goals line up with ours, and then work together to move both them and us towards those goals.

We are working on further developing our educational strategy by exploring this idea of motivation and trying to meld educational theories with our everyday business practices. We hope to provide an experiential learning environment for all of our interns and volunteers. By discovering what motivates ourselves and our team members, we can work to find the best and most exciting opportunities for “working” and “learning” to become one and the same.

May 202013

For any current or future interns who have raised questions about editing logs: The way our logs are currently set up, interns can post entries but not edit them. This may seem like we are shutting people out and taking away control, but rather we have a very specific educational goal in mind with this action. First, we hope that by not allowing interns to edit logs, an intern will take the extra time to proofread and edit their own writing BEFORE posting it. Some of the logs have spelling errors, grammatical errors, etc. We hope that by drawing attention to the fact that it needs to be totally ready before it is posted will help remind our interns to take a few extra minutes to consciously proofread, or to get someone to proofread for them. A student wouldn’t ask to edit a school test after submitting it, and in a similar way, these logs are how we evaluate your writing skills, including an intern’s willingness to do their best even before submitting it.

Next, as it is mentioned in many places on this site, we want to develop transparent and open communication. For interns who want to make changes to their logs, they can either post a new revision, or add a comment to their log with their changes/ comments/ edits. By doing this, we have a running record of all the versions of the log document. This helps everyone see the thought process that happened between when the log was first written and the new ideas/ learning experiences which caused a desire to change what was written. If, after an intern wrote something, he/she had a new insight or something to add, we want to see both the original idea, and these new reflections. Again, this helps us see how an intern’s educational experience is progressing. It also helps us evaluate ourselves and to address problems with how we teach, to make it the best and most enjoyable learning environment. For example, this comment will hopefully help future interns to better understand some of the deeper purposes to the logs.


I hope this helps to better explain our reasoning behind the internship logs, and we would love to see any edits or updates as comments on existing logs, new logs, forum posts, on facebook, or any/all of the above. Thanks, and happy writing!


– Alyse

May 202013

Last week, I had the great pleasure to work on staff at Boy Scout National Camping School. Along with two other staffers, I was responsible for teaching a class of sixteen participants how to run a safe and fun ropes course program. We taught everything from theories and concepts to safety procedures, standards, and paperwork. The participants in our class left the week with not only a certification card, but also a sense of accomplishment and readiness to lead their respective programs at their summer camps. As I watched them all go their separate ways, I couldn’t help but think back to my first time at summer camp.

There was one staffer who I remember in particular as being incredibly crazy and funny but also sincerely kind and patient. He had just been through the National Camping School ropes course class, and he is the one who first introduced me to the ropes course program at our camp. I still remember the exact moment during our session when I decided I wanted to work for him and “learn the ropes”, if you’ll pardon the bad pun. I went on to work at that camp for five more years, and I succeeded him as the ropes course director, which meant I got to go through the course at National Camping School myself. I developed a deep love of the program and the effects it can have on groups and individuals.

In my time as a director, I can remember so many staff and scouts who I helped. Some learned merit badges from me, some went on to be leaders at that same camp, their councils, and their communities, and some are still my best friends to this day. If you consider that all of those scouts were affected by me, and I was just one of the scouts affected by that staff member, and he was just one of the participants at his NCS session, that’s an almost unfathomable ripple effect. So, almost six years later to the day, as I watched the class I had just spent a week teaching and befriending reluctantly leave an incredible week to return to their camps, I thought about the ripple I had started, and I wondered in that moment just how many scouts I would have indirectly affected by the end of the summer. Scouts and staffers who I would never meet, but who would go on to do great things because I taught their teachers.


After a week and a realization like that, returning to my daily tasks at Athens’ Own brought on a strange reflection: That although I have a similar position here as a teacher and a leader, I don’t really feel that same ripple effect. It might be because I started near the top, and didn’t get to experience as much of the outer ripples, or maybe because I haven’t been here as long, or that it is much harder to imagine the effects I might have from here. I certainly don’t think there is any less potential here. In fact, I think there is more. I have the potential to help shape an educational system which could help countless students and communities. But right now, it seems like the way our program is set up, there are some problems, and it isn’t producing the results we want, and the ripples are getting lost somewhere.

With this reflection, as well as some other feedback from the team during my absence, Constantine and I have decided to take a step back, and to take a critical look at how we are teaching our interns. We need to find a new way to expand education and to improve how much and how well our interns learn and apply their knowledge. Starting from scratch again today, we are going to try to improve our plan to find and use the best possible resources to give them the best possible educational experience, and to help them develop their own passions, desire to learn, and their own infinite ripples.

Apr 142013

In June 2012, I sat down with Constantine to discuss a potential job opportunity. He was looking for someone to help tell the story of his company. We talked for hours that day, over several cups of Dawn Chorus Coffee. He asked if I thought in two weeks, I could write the whole story of Athens’ Own. I said of course! Two weeks, that’s plenty of time to write about a business. Why would I have thought that with all my organizational, educational, and personal experiences, it wouldn’t be a breeze?


Almost an entire year later, here I am, with still only the beginnings of the story in my head. I am not saying that I slacked off for a year, I am saying that I never imagined the complexity of the Athens’ Own story could be more than a “This is who we are, this is what we do”. It has taken me almost a year to realize that not only did I not know anything then, I only know bits and pieces now.


That is not to say that I haven’t learned that much in a year. In fact, the exact opposite is true. I have learned an incredible amount of information. I have learned stories and stories about people, places, foods, visions, dreams, and ideas. I have learned new concepts and new skills. I have learned a bit about how to run a business, and a bit more about how to embrace my community. But if I had to pick the main lesson out from this past year, it would be the lesson of how to learn.


I still don’t think I was naive in assuming I could write the story of a business in two weeks. I’m sure there are plenty of businesses out there who can easily sum up who they are and what they do in a few fairly simple paragraphs. However, in the case of Athens’ Own, I found that the story is as much about my own journey as it is Constantine’s. Had I arrived at that first day and said there was no way I could ever learn it all in two weeks, I might have reached this conclusion sooner. In fact, looking back, what I should have said was: “I HOPE I can’t learn the story in two weeks. If I could, it can’t be that impressive of a story.”


In each day that followed, I have observed, participated, helped, asked questions, heard stories, looked things up, wrote bits and pieces, and learned a bit more. Perhaps the most challenging part of this experience was that for each bit I learned, ten more bits emerged that I didn’t yet understand. For a person like me who likes things quantified, I have been exasperated more than once with the seemingly endlessness of the journey. However, I have continually held onto the driving and motivating hope that one day I can somehow get it all down in a way that someone else can read. Each piece that I construct brings me a sense of satisfaction that one more piece of the puzzle is in place, even if that puzzle keeps getting bigger every day.


But the point I would like to make from all this is that the old proverb that “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey” is the truest statement I could ever make about my time at Athens’ Own. Although I originally thought my learning experience would have a definitive end and I would move from the learner to the teacher, I have discovered that there is no clear destination, and that is indeed the entire point. I am here to learn, and to continue learning. Even more importantly, I am here to seek out the knowledge and experience, in order to make this challenging journey last as long as possible, beyond Athens’ Own, beyond a job, and beyond anything I can imagine. I have learned, simply, that I have a lot to learn.




Apr 092013

Your Internship Log : What is it? Why do we want our interns to write them? What is the purpose?

Your internship log fulfills at least three important purposes:

1. Tracking. It is a record of your internship progress. Your log can help you remember things you have already learned, reflect on things you want to learn more about, and keep track of what you have and haven’t done. If you are working on an internship for college credit, many universities require a written log just for this purpose, so it can help you with your school requirements as well.

2. Feedback. Through the logs, we can evaluate concepts you are understanding well, and identify ones which need worked on. If you are assigned a certain task to help you understand a concept, your log should reflect on not just what you did that day, but how it relates to your learning objectives. It helps both us and you understand where you are. We can see areas or ideas that you are making good progress on, and/or areas you need to improve, and then we don’t waste time repeating the same lessons, but rather we can use your log to stay on track and keep moving forward. The logs are on the website in blog form because that makes it easy for us to comment and give you feedback, directly on a specific log entry.

3. Community outreach. The question: “What does Athens’ Own do?” comes up often in conversation with community members. Your logs will help illustrate some of the actions we are working on, as well as vividly illustrate how we are attempting to educate and train you for future opportunities. The community can also see the feedback process, and other people looking for educational models can clearly see how we use our logs to work towards our goals.


How to write a log:
Although each person has their own style and format preferences, here are a few things to keep in mind when writing a log:

1. The audience. Keep the above purposes in mind. Try to write in a way that is as transparent and clear as possible, so that the Athens’ Own team, community, and distant readers can understand what and why you are writing. There is so much happening and so much connected to each small action, that there is no reason why your log should be just a recount of the day’s events. Think about what you want future readers to glean from your experience and write to them.

2. Timeliness: We work at the speed of business and the speed of resilience, which is nearly instant. Please don’t wait a week to write a log. By then, it’s likely the information is out of date. Ideally, you should post a log when you get home from working with Athens’ Own, or even DURING your workday, while it is happening, if you can.

3. Concepts and connectedness. If all of our interns wrote logs which simply stated: “This is what I did today”, we would have a lot of repetitive information, and not much interesting or visible progress. Try to connect the small actions you did today to the bigger picture, the concepts behind what you are doing, and what you have done before. If, for example, one day you do extensive work with a mentor to learn about Holistic Management, and the next day you package coffee, see if you can draw in some insight into the coffee packaging from what you learned about Holistic Management. Or, you could think ahead and speculate as to how a future project or learning session could enhance your understanding of the coffee process.

4. Do your best. This is your opportunity to demonstrate not only your writing skills, but your ability to organize information, present it, and motivate others to get involved with Athens’ Own. We take the logs very seriously, and we hope you will too.

Dec 032012

What to expect from an Athens’ Own internship

The Athens’ Own motto is: “Vision, act on your vision, network your actions”. We have a vision of creating an educational internship program, which helps to address some of the “teaching to the test” gaps of the traditional education system, and to nourish a thorough understanding of sustainability and resilience. Communicating our methods of teaching is a particularly challenging task, since our internships are based on situational learning, and do not have a written plan. It may be unusual, but it is set up that way intentionally.


We have both very high and rather low expectations for our interns. We expect above-average, enthusiastic and active participation from our interns, (you won’t be just fetching coffee for your superiors), but the main intern assignment is quite basic: just be present and learn. If you have a sincere desire to learn, and demonstrate that desire, the internship is really quite simple. This paradox presents an array of challenges to the students we mentor. Specifically, how do we claim to have an advanced program, but have no program guidelines? If you are confused about our program, don’t worry, that is the point. It is all related to our goal of building resilience.


Here’s what we know: The world needs outstanding, skilled people who are willing to fight for a better society. This doesn’t mean our interns will be “fighting” by blocking tanks or tying themselves to ancient oak trees, but it does mean that they will be constantly, tirelessly, and optimistically working to make change. Whether that comes in the form of writing letters, organizing events, educating the public, or working with special organizations is entirely dependent on each intern’s skills and passions. Students should come to us and say: “Here is what I know, here is what I can do, and I want to learn more. How can I help?” More importantly, they should know that just by being involved, they will expand and evolve that category of “what I know and what I can do”, hopefully to the point of self-generating a future job.


How, then, does an intern approach this unique situation? My suggestion is to step into the mindset of a “resilience recruit”, headed to boot camp. We are already proud that you put on your uniform and made the decision to get up and go there. So now your question is, “Where am I going and what am I going to do?”. I’d wager that if the answer came back as: “You’re going to build resilience”, you still wouldn’t have a clue. Here is where the simplistic part comes in: We think that is a good thing. Considering the very definition of resilience is “postitive adaptation to change”, what better way to test your resilience than to step into a realm where you aren’t sure what will happen next? By approaching every day and every task with an openness and a sincere desire to learn, what you get back will be a hundred times greater than what you put in.


So you arrive at your first day as an intern, at “resilience boot camp”, and your supervisor claims you will be working in a soup kitchen today. I know, I never mentioned anything about working at soup kitchens in my earlier descriptions of this internship. So how are you going to progressively adapt to this situation?  You could start by finding out where to get an apron, where and when to be there, and what the guidelines are for volunteers. Then you could make an effort to talk to everyone you meet, take notes, and gain as much as possible from the situation.  At the end of the day, you learn that tomorrow you will be helping Constantine pick up grain from Jackie O’s. How are you going to prepare for and respond to that situation? These are only just a few examples, but you get the idea.


Of course, resilience is not limited to a personal readiness to jump in and make the most of what you’ve got. However, it’s nearly impossible to truly understand resilience without a healthy awareness that the unknown is out there lurking, and you not only can but should be ready to stand up and take on anything. And when you get outside of your comfort zone,  you will find that is where the most intense learning takes place. So we understand that this experience is new and strange, but we are here to help you get the most out of it, and to help facilitate the direction you will go next, once you get out there and start blazing the trail.


My name is Alyse Carter, and at the time of this writing, I was the Internship Coordinator, and the Liaison/Public Information Officer for Athens’ Own.