Every person has a heart, every machine has an engine, and every organization has its center. The driving force behind the Center for the Arts and Humanities at Colby has always been the ingenuity, tireless work, and confident management of Megan Fossa. Today we recognize her much deserved promotion from Program Coordinator to Assistant Director. The Center would not be what it is today without Megan, and we would like to take this opportunity to thank her for everything she has accomplished.
Megan first started out at Colby in 2011, serving as Administrative Secretary to the Goldfarb Center. While working, she simultaneously completed her Master’s degree in Business Administration at Thomas College. “It’s such a huge, wonderful benefit that Colby offers to get your degree for free,” Megan told us. As just one example of her incredible work ethic, Megan finished up her degree, applied for, and received her position as Program Coordinator at the Center all while nine months pregnant.
The Center had existed for three years before Megan joined it in 2014, but it was run entirely by Director Kerill O’Neill and the Executive Committee, meaning that there was a surplus of ideas but no staff to execute them. Megan quickly became the master of logistics, flawlessly executing annual themes and countless events. Coming into the position, Megan had a strong knowledge of the ins and outs of Colby– but, coming from a social sciences background, knew little about the humanities. “Kerill was a fountain of knowledge,” she told us, “offering me guidance while also giving me the reins.” Today, Megan has worked at the Center for seven years, and has witnessed how it has changed over time.
“The Center has changed dramatically in terms of reach,” said Megan. “We’ve become much bigger in the humanities realm, and are now recognized by colleges across the nation.” The Center has worked extensively with the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes (CHCI), and will soon become central to the running of the New England Humanities Consortium (NEHC) (stay tuned for more updates!)
Broadly speaking, the Center’s role at Colby is to provide an annual theme, which brings together and inspires humanities scholars across campus; to curate a series of events around that theme; and to bring in a Keynote Speaker who embodies that theme. These themes and speakers are not pulled from thin air, but are taken from the ideas and suggestions of Colby faculty and students. “It’s great that each year everything changes,” said Megan. “One year we focus on climate, the next on how we learn from the past or repeat the same mistakes. The change makes you step up your game and keeps things from becoming mundane.” Megan believes that the current year’s theme, Boundaries and Margins, was unfortunately shortchanged by the necessary restrictions accompanying the COVID-19 pandemic. However, she believes that the theme and events were adapted well to a virtual format. “And how relevant is the theme to what we’re going through right now?” she pointed out.
Megan feels that the most fulfilling aspect of her job has always been taking the ideas of students and faculty and bringing them to life. She sees the Center as a support system, which plays a pivotal role in helping the goals of the Colby community come to fruition. She particularly enjoys working with students. “Working with the Student Advisory Board and helping to give a voice to students has been a true pleasure,” Megan told us. “How they see things is completely different from how I see things, and it’s given me a new perspective which has helped me grow in both my personal and my professional life.”
The 2019 Presence of the Past Keynote Speaker, author Dr. Roxanne Gay, is an example of a speaker suggested by the Center’s Student Advisory Board. Board members had been deeply moved by her books, were members of the #metoo movement, and wanted to hear more of what Dr. Gay had to say. “Students thought it wouldn’t happen, it was such a long shot,” said Megan. “To see their faces when they got to have one on one time with her was amazing.”
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of Megan’s job, she told us, is the opportunity to work with the keynote speakers. These individuals are always world renowned for their unique perspectives, persuasive arguments, and brilliant minds. Megan’s first event at the Center was hosting keynote speaker Sir Salman Rushdie, and she described the experience as surreal. After meeting Winona LaDuke, the first Distinguished Fellow in the Environmental Humanities, Megan said she was “on cloud nine. She rocked my foundation.” Megan continued, “I’m from central Maine, from Winslow. If I was ever told that I would have conversations with these people, I would have laughed at you. I never would have had these opportunities if I hadn’t been at Colby. To have had direct contact with these artists, activists, authors, and poets, has been such a wonderful gift.”
In her new position as Assistant Director, Megan will continue to work tirelessly as the dynamo at the core of the Center, bringing in exciting new speakers and giving life to the ideas of students and faculty alike. “I love the Center, and I love Colby,” said Megan. “It’s truly inspiring to be part of an ever changing community that’s always striving to do better in new ways.”