UVM publicizes finalists for new sexual violence prevention position


Mac Mansfield-Parisi

Elliot Ruggles, sexual harassment and assault resources and education advocate at Brown University, gives a virtual presentation Dec. 1.

The student advisory council interviewed the finalists considered for the role of Sexual Violence Prevention and Education Coordinator last week, according to a Nov. 29 email from UVM.

In response to thousands of  students condemning UVM for its lacking support for survivors, the University created a council July 29, consisting of three students and three faculty members to advise Erica Caloeiro, interim vice provost for student affairs and Dean of Students David Nestor on who to hire, Caloiero said.

After months of searching for student applicants and recommendations, Caloiero selected medical student Elise Prehoda, junior Caroline Noonan and junior SGA senator Maddie Henson, as the student representatives for the advising council at the end of August, Prehoda said.

“When positions have a lot of interface with students, it’s important to have students represented on search committees,” Caloiero said. “It comes from a place of knowing personally how important this position is to many students.”

All three students reviewed applications and resumes of candidates for the new position, looking for qualities they felt would represent the demands and wants of the UVM student population, and reported them back to the administration council for review.

“The recommendations that we made were taken to invite the finalists interviewees based on our input and now we’re in the finalist interview process,” said Prehoda, a survivor herself. “I could not be more happy with the final three that we selected.”

The three candidates include Elliot Ruggles, Emily Smith and Anna Hand.

The University encouraged students to attend and provide online feedback for the presentations given by the three final candidates, according to the Nov. 29 email.

After the presentation by each candidate, students received an online feedback form where they shared their thoughts and feelings about each contender.

Ruggles presented his goals and qualifications in their Microsoft Teams presentation on Wednesday, Dec. 1 and Smith presented hers on Friday, Dec. 3, according to the email.

Hand will present to the community on Dec. 9 from noon to 12:45 p.m. on Microsoft Teams, according to a Dec. 1 email. Her presentation was delayed from its originally scheduled date. Hand’s presentation was originally scheduled to occur on Thursday Dec. 2, according to the Nov. 29 email.

Among the advisory council with students are UVM faculty members Joseph Russell, assistant dean of students for retention, Kelly Thorne, director of Catamount sport psychology and counseling, and Genell Mikkalson, nurse-midwife and clinical assistant professor, Henson stated in a Dec. 5 email.

The students work closely with Russell, Thorne and Mikkalson, who encourage the students to voice their opinions and feelings to one another about candidate selection, Henson said.

However, after meeting most of the recent demands, this effort to improve sexual assault prevention and support is still just the beginning, Caloiero said.

“I think that we will see evolution but we will see it as a process of community,” Caloiero said. “There is broad recognition that this is work that will remain ongoing and we will see changes over time, near term and long term.”

The students on the council urge other students to involve themselves in the selection to fully bring about crucial change to the campus community, Henson said.

Henson said she invites the student body to hold the administration accountable for their behaviors, utilize the resources available and further reinforce that their voices and feedback need to be heard.

The council will continue to evaluate the three candidates for the next few weeks and the selected candidate is projected to be chosen around Jan. 18, 2022, the start of the new semester, Henson said.