Businesses, local governments, not-for-profits and other organizations all benefit from reliable, up-to-date information about the areas they serve. Here in upstate New York, the Community Indicators Project, also known as CNY Vitals, assembles and makes available data about a number of key sectors, including health and human services, education, and economic conditions. Kristi Carey ’15 has taken on the task of assembling current data sets for Madison County, and assessing changes by comparing with previous years. The goal of the project is to produce a finished website, and a written report that will be used by policymakers, and others, to address the most pressing issues of concern in the area.
Unlike many of the Upstate Institute (UI) Summer Field School Fellows, Kristi is not working with a single community partner, but directly for the Upstate Institute. However, the project offers plenty of opportunities to engage with a variety of groups in the community as Kristi attends meetings and participates in conference calls to verify information and develop a better understanding of community data needs. As she puts it “In my research, I have been lucky enough to encounter so many community partners who are more than willing to help out with the project, and are very happy to do so. Seeing the motivation and investment that each of the make to their local communities is inspiring. It’s really a joy to work with all of the community partners, and get to know each of them personally. Next week I get to go to an Artists’ convention right here in town, which should be really great!”
Because her project is directly linked to Colgate’s UI, Kristi is in a great position to appreciate the mission of UI relative to the broader community. “Seeing as I am working primarily for the Upstate Institute, I have been lucky enough to learn how invested the organization is in the surrounding community. This initiative is taken so that the institute can learn where it would be most useful to spend the most time, all in order to improve the local community. I really value how much of a grassroots approach it takes to community empowerment, and therefore think that it has the capacity to make lasting social change.”
Kristi is a joint major in Peace and Conflict Studies, and Educational Studies. In her coursework, serious global conflicts, and the resulting devastation of communities are topics of analysis. Many undergraduates experience a sense of powerlessness to have any real impact on these issues, but for Kristi, this project provides an opportunity to dig in, at the local community level. “Especially in my studies, it is rather too easy to get overwhelmed in questions of ‘what can I do?’ and further, enwrapped in a feeling of helplessness in the grand schema of the global problems we face. However, I think it’s important to keep in mind that right now, even if I can’t affect anything on an incredible scale, I do have some power to help and change my local community—which is where it all starts, anyway. ”