Brita Fisher ’15 talks with NER intern Hannah Frankel ’22 about social justice organizing, teaching, and following your interests.
Hannah Frankel: What did you study at Middlebury and where do you live now?
Brita Fisher: I majored in Literary Studies and minored in French. I’m currently living in Calais, Vermont.
HF: Tell us a bit about what you did after you graduated and how you decided what to do.
BF: Right after college I taught English in France for a year, and then taught high school French and a literature elective in English at a private school in southern Vermont for two years. Throughout my time teaching, the curricula I was writing focused on both literature and issues of social justice. For example, we studied immigration, racism in France and the US, decolonization movements and how they intersected with the Civil Rights movement in the US, as well as mass incarceration and the Movement for Black Lives.
During that time I got involved with community organizing through the Root Social Justice Center in Brattleboro, the Vermont Workers’ Center, and Resource Generation. The Root focuses on local racial justice organizing, the Vermont Workers’ Center is an economic justice organization with a campaign for health care as a human right, and Resource Generation organizes young people with access to wealth and/or class privilege for the equitable redistribution of resources to social movements.
After two years teaching in southern Vermont, I thought that I wanted to do something more aligned with organizing for work, so I got a job through AmeriCorps at Vermont Legal Aid in Burlington doing community legal education and community outreach. In the end, I found that working at a nonprofit felt very different than the organizing I felt more passionate about. When my contract ended after a year, I got a job baking to prioritize mental and emotional space for the unpaid community organizing work I had continued to do. I baked for a year and a half before getting a job delivering packages for FedEx. This fall I started a two-year program through Goddard College where I’ll get an MA in teaching and a license to teach English in high school. The program is self-designed so I’ve gotten to center an intersectional social justice lens.
HF: How has your professional life changed between then and now?
BF: My professional life has gone through a lot of changes since I graduated. I suppose where I am now—in school for teaching, working part time in food service, and deeply involved in the Vermont Workers’ Center and Resource Generation’s Vermont chapter—represents a blend of where I’ve been since graduating. The biggest changes have been orienting my life around community organizing and then making the decision to go back to teaching in a school. I really value what I’ve learned and accomplished in different organizing contexts, especially in developing and facilitating political education workshops as part of campaigns, and I am excited to add teaching back into my life.
HF: What’s one thing you remember about your time as an intern with NER?
BF: I remember the feeling of being in the cozy and welcoming office and the awe I felt at getting to be involved, in any small way, in the work NER was doing. For Literary Studies we were reading almost exclusively books published before the 1930s, so participating in the active publishing of new material, and seeing how that happens, felt exciting and inspiring to me. The generous way that Marcy and Carolyn brought me into the different processes feels central to my time at NER.
HF: What would you say you learned as an undergrad that really benefits you today, either personally or professionally?
BF: I would say what I learned about my own analysis and writing process—how I like to approach it and what works for me.
HF: What advice do you have for current students that have similar interests and goals as you had when you were a student?
BF: The most concrete advice that comes to mind is to not wait until senior spring to take an intro level class you’ve been wanting to take. I write poetry for myself and waited until senior spring to try to take an intro level creative writing class. I wasn’t able to get into it because I was a senior and wasn’t able to take any of the upper level classes because I had no prerequisites. I’d known for a while that it was something I wanted to do, so I wish I had prioritized taking that class earlier.
HF: What are your favorite ‘guilty pleasure’ reads and what have you read lately that you enjoyed?
BF: I came across the books Daughter of the Forest and Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier when I was in eighth or ninth grade. Something about the way she writes about trauma, healing, and the power of myth and storytelling in a fantasy context really moved me then, and I read them multiple times. I periodically return to them when in need of a comfort read. As for what I’ve enjoyed recently, last week I read Passing by Nella Larsen, which is a short and intensely powerful novel about race, racism, and power.
HF: Thanks so much for taking the time to answer all my questions! I hope school goes well and wish you happiness and fulfillment in the future.