Department Chair at SMC
Traci Griffith, Department Chair of Media Studies, Journalism, and Digital Arts at Saint Michael’s College, first came to Vermont fifteen years ago when SMC was looking for someone to fill a professor’s sabbatical leave for one year. After her first semester, she was offered a full time position and has remained at the college ever since. Growing up, Traci’s family moved a lot because of the job opportunities her father was presented with, a lifestyle that’s been ingrained in her.
No stranger to change, Griffith, a first generation American (her parents are from Barbados) was born in Brooklyn, New York, and has lived in Ohio, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Florida, Washington D.C., and Virginia while pursuing her own career and educational goals. In Vermont, she lived in South Burlington, Williston, and Cambridge before settling in Winooski.
Moving to Vermont was totally by chance – I had to look it up on the map – but it was about opportunity. The lack of diversity, as compared to some of the other places I’ve lived, was not something that was going to make me pass it up.
It turns out that it was one of the best career decisions I’ve made. All areas of my life have grown and prospered living here. It’s a great place to start a career. Being here has allowed me to grow professionally in ways that I never would have been able to do in, for instance, Chicago. I’m on six different boards for organizations I believe in, issues that I work for that make my life better, that make the world a better place for my child.Vermont is the place I’ve lived the longest in my entire life, and I’ve chosen to stay here because I like it.
Vermont is one of the only – maybe the only – place I’ve lived that the quality of life is so peaceful (unless you consider Barbados!). It’s the ability to walk down the street and not worry about bad things happening to you. The people in Vermont are so incredibly friendly. They are liberal and open and welcoming. I don’t feel that I’ve experienced racism here like I’ve experienced in other places that I’ve lived. That’s not to say that other people haven’t. I have talked to other people who have experienced overt racism. But overall my experience has been a good one.
But there are some down aspects to living in Vermont. A black woman can’t just walk into a beauty salon and hope that there’s going to be someone there that’s going to be able to do her hair. It’s not that those people aren’t here, you just have to really search for them. Finding certain spices at the grocery store to use in traditional Barbadian dishes can be tough.
Vermont is a great place for families, even families of color. And while it’s a good place to raise my son, the lack of diversity is a concern. I really don’t want him to be the only black kid in his school, like I was. There are ways around that – the Burlington and Winooski school districts are much more diverse now than even when I first came here. And despite the fact that I was raised in the Episcopal church, we currently attend a predominantly black Baptist church, where they worship in the African American tradition. Diversity concerns aside, you just don’t feel the stress here like you do in other places. That makes me a better mom. For me, that makes all the difference. This is a place where you can really relax and just enjoy life.
If you’re a young professional and you want action all the time, maybe this place isn’t for you. But there’s always something happening in Vermont if you want to find it. Be realistic about what it’s going to provide you – a good opportunity professionally, an opportunity to find yourself because you’ve got so much peace and serenity around you, an opportunity to try things you never would have. Have it clear in your mind why you’re coming. Set goals for yourself and don’t be disappointed if certain areas of your life don’t develop as quickly as others. Focus on the areas that do. Here, it’s all about making the most of the opportunities in life.