On April 1, 2023, Laura Rice formally became the second executive director in CLiF’s 25-year history, taking the reins from founding executive director Duncan McDougall. Having given her a (very) little time to settle into her new role, we decided it was time for the extended CLiF family to get to know her better, so we peppered her with questions, and she humored us by provided insightful answers that illustrate some of the many reasons we are thrilled to have her as CLiF’s new leader. Take it away, Laura! – CLiF Staff
Hello! As I adjust to life as CLiF’s new ED, I remain so grateful to Duncan for establishing this path for me, and to the staff for welcoming me and helping me get up to speed on the intricacies of the important work we do each day. It is an incredibly exciting time for CLiF, as we have just moved into our beautiful new offices, and are preparing to celebrate our organization’s 25th anniversary on Friday, April 21 at the Hanover Inn in Hanover, NH. All friends of CLiF, and those who may be looking to learn more about CLiF, are invited to join us at this free event, open to all ages. For more details, and to RSVP, click here.
Now onto the questions!
Q: How does CLiF’s mission to inspire a love of reading and writing in under-resourced children connect for you?
A: As the youngest child with three much older siblings, I spent a great deal of time alone during my growing up years. While books provided me with the companionship that I craved, these countless hours of expanding my vocabulary, imagination, and understanding of the world around me also unquestionably paved the way for me to attend college (Mount Holyoke) and graduate school (Boston University School of Public Health). Now as an adult and a parent, I fully see the opportunities that access to literacy creates, and the inequities that result from decreased skills in reading and writing. I know that every day CLiF is working to provide every child with the chance to experience a bright and positive future.
Q. You have worked at several mission-driven organizations throughout your career, what made you choose CLiF and why now?
A. When I was first introduced to CLiF over ten years ago, it resonated deeply with me as a social justice organization, and how it intentionally worked in partnership with local communities. I knew that I wanted to be involved with its work. I was fortunate to serve on the CLiF Board of Directors from 2015 – 2021 which furthered my commitment to expanding access to literacy to children with the most need. I have had the wonderful opportunity to work for thoughtful, inspiring leaders at my other workplaces, and I have often wished for the opportunity to bring my own talents and personality to a similar role. With my three children now young adults, providing me with more available time and energy, as well as my deep interest in CLiF, it was serendipitous to pursue this opportunity at this time.
Q. During your initial days as CLiF’s executive director, have there been any events or experiences that particularly stood out to you?
A. I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting so many people in the CLiF family, from the invaluable volunteers to community librarians and teachers to generous supporters. So it is hard to pinpoint just one, but earlier this month, I had the opportunity to attend a presentation by author/illustrator Jason Chin at White River School, one of our 2022-2023 partners on CLiF’s flagship Year of the Book grant. I had previously attended CLiF events as a board member, so knew how moving and powerful they are, and this one certainly met and exceeded my expectations. The impact that the presentation had on the students was palpable, and I felt so excited to be a part of this incredible organization.
Q: While we know you’re still in your first few weeks at CLiF, do you have thoughts on what you see in the next chapter for the organization?
A: With its new building, strong Board of Directors, and generous support of so many wonderful people, CLiF has an incredible foundation upon which to build. It is also in such a unique moment right now as Duncan steps down. A founder understandably has such a compelling role in an organization, and my hope is that this shift creates new space for the CLiF team (Cassie, Jana, Kat, Mary Edith, Sarah, and myself) to leverage our perspectives and explore together the opportunities that lie ahead. Team members have already shared with me some wonderful forward-thinking ideas that can increase CLiF’s ability to reach more children in deeper ways. As our current strategic plan articulates, I do anticipate that much of our work will look to expand support to our partners as they continue to navigate the effects of the pandemic on children and their communities.
Q: While you grew up in Buffalo, NY, you have spent over three decades in New England, what is your favorite season?
A: While I have become an avid (if not very talented) fan of XC skiing in recent years, I have to say that summer is my favorite season. I love to kayak, and live in Hanover, NH so its central location allows great access to the many beautiful lakes and ponds in both NH and VT as well as the Connecticut River. I also love blueberry picking, warm nights by the firepit, and fresh local flowers.
Q: As a bunch of book lovers, we have to ask this question: what is your favorite children’s book and why?
A: Wow, there are so many that I love for so many different reasons. The well-known Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney is definitely one of my favorites. The illustrations of Miss Rumphius’ travels are stunning (and encouraged by her reading of books!) and the message to readers to consider ‘how to make the world more beautiful’ is so powerful in its simplicity and importance. And, I share the middle name ‘Alice’ with my mom and one of my daughters, so feel particularly affectionate towards the lovely “Lupine Lady.”
Q: CLiF is a dog-lover kind of place. Do you have a furry friend to join the family?
A: Indeed, I do! Zealand, our very friendly 6- year-old black lab, has already visited the new CLiF office and can’t wait to check out the nearby trails at the Waterbury State Park. Z, as we often call him, was named after Mount Zealand in the Whites of NH, where we have often hiked as a family.
This was fun! Thanks for the questions, and for giving me the opportunity to share a bit more about myself. I am always happy to answer more questions, and I invite you to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to continue the conversation!
Thank you to the many people who make it possible for us to do the work that we do for the children of Vermont and New Hampshire. We hope you’ll join us at the Hanover Inn on Friday, April 21, from 5:30pm to 7pm and help us celebrate 25 amazing years of CLiF.