Alumni Spotlight: Rachel Dawn Davis

MeandPrezWJCTell us a little bit about yourself:

I’m a Sustainability Strategist, consulting for an array of clients interested in building their brand upon a foundation of organization and clarity. I’m interested in community movements, media and music. The power of the internet, a tool which connects a broad ecosystem of change makers and fundraisers for social change, astounds me, almost as much as our molecular make up.   

What brought you to Milano?

I became an activist while thrust into a legal assistant job at a 250+ year old law firm.  I was caring for my elderly grandfather in my hometown, where my mother also grew up, commuting from Teaneck to Manhattan and then Franklin Park to Wall Street. I built diverse coalitions at work and in New Jersey, using communications and marketing to drive awareness campaigns and electoral outcomes during the 2006 midterm elections. 


As a high school student I learned to read from the Bergen Record. There was a lack of reporting in 2005 when I started voraciously reading local news again, watching PBS and talking over my analyses with Grandpa. I knew I had to do something. I was most attracted to groups that were more than willing to get their hands dirty in existing systems to change things from the inside out. I ultimately decided to apply to The New School after reading a subway advert. Cliche, I know.

I applied and was accepted. I began Fall of 2008, just in time for the infamous economic collapse and The Rachel Maddow Show debut on MSNBC.

What has been your career path since graduating from Milano?

I had an unpaid internship at the William Jefferson Clinton Foundation in their Digital New Media department that was the impetus for me to become a consultant and chop a career path for myself and my would-be family. I enjoy working on several projects simultaneously with different people, offering transformational leadership, digital marketing and advocacy prowess to client teams. At present I most enjoy working with my own Township leaders, our Teen Leadership Council and various stakeholders in our community to carry out objectives as an Environmental Commissioner.

I’ve directed creative, empowering education campaigns through Food & Water Watch connecting the pervading problems in communities near and far caused by hydraulic-fracturing. Recently I shook up and enlivened volunteer marketing support for an industry alliance-a nonprofit coalition of stakeholders rallying around Open Automated Demand Response 2.0b, communications protocol, securely sharing energy consumption behavior information between utilities, end users and devices in-between. Register for the next OpenADR Alliance webinar.

Key indicators of success have been policy reforms, event attendance, dollars raised, leaders created, etc. I’m amazed by the potential we have to connect resources and people through the use of digital strategy and am using all I have learned to date in creative ways with my own township. 

What experiences have you had as a professional that reinforced lessons you learned at Milano?

  • John Green’s Financial Management for Nonprofit Management course paid off-My husband, Evan, and I planned a budget before our family grew. 
  • I remember learning about succinct and powerful presentation deliverance, working in groups, and crunch time “deliverables.” Jargon! There’s so much jargon in academia-land. Advice: Be able to communicate your industry and the work you do to a 5-year-old. We’ll all be answering to generation z soon.
  • For each project I have worked on since graduating I have taken great care to understand what my collaborators have on their plates, how best to communicate with them, and our frequency of remote/physical meetings.

Looking back, what were some of the highlights of your Milano experience?  

Policy Analysis with Bryna Sanger, a most wise investment in an elective. I learned that consideration and an awareness of policies-past, present and future-is important regardless of your role in an organization. In Social Entrpreneurship through Design, working as part of the {UN}wanted team, I learned a lot about group dynamics, bringing a business plan together and,at the same time, learning how the other teams were functioning. Being proactive in email communications, setting up appointments, and ensuring confirmation of receipt is a big deal in this hyper-connected day and age.

The biggest highlight was working with the University Student Senate, typing voraciously to be a #2 secretary, helping highlight words spoken firsthand. Incorporating a livestream to the University Student Senate was a big deal back then. LiveStream was coming of age. Working through the University Student Senate and the Sustainability Advisory Committee, with help from Ed Verdi. Here’s some coverage of my favorite day in 2010, the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day, seeing all the plans come together in the beautiful New School space, courtesy of Chris Crews, who just got back from Nepal, and his baby: rv media. 

What opportunities do you see for Milano students and alumni to collaborate?

New School students-likely each and every one of them-have come across a situation and “had to do something” to bring about a change, create or recreate something out of nothing. Alumni-Student relationships, both formal and informal, will only serve to make the world a better place. Milano students must understand the pivotal nature of interdisciplinary collaboration. Each student who becomes an alumnus has a network, and networks can be used for greatness. I’m working on a few New School collaborations at present because activism needs art and vice versa if we are to have lasting, sustainable and happy ecosystems.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *