SJ Dube (Affordable Housing & Diversity,Equity and Inclusion Committees)

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Sarahjane Dube: The Consummate Volunteer

By Phyl Newbeck

Sarahjane (SJ) Dube has a lot on her plate. In addition to her full-time job as a Research Specialist at UVM, she’s got two young children at home and she’s taking graduate courses in epidemiology. On top of that, she chairs Jericho’s Affordable Housing Committee and is a member of the new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee.

Dube moved to Vermont in 2008, purchasing a small home in the New North End with the goal of trying to decide if she and her husband wanted to stay in Vermont. They built up some equity and when their son was born in the fall of 2012, they decided to make their next move. Basing their decision on what they could afford, the status of the schools, and proximity to skiing for her husband, the two found a split-level ranch in Jericho in 2013 which would also provide room their new daughter.

Initially, Dube concentrated on her job and raising her family but during the pandemic, she was able to attend evening meetings via Zoom and became intrigued by the options to serve her community. Dube watched Select Board and Planning Commission meetings while rubbing her daughter’s back and when Bob Robbins posted on Front Porch Forum that he needed people for a new Affordable Housing Committee, she volunteered. “I didn’t have the expertise,” she said, “but I was willing to help.”

When Robbins left the committee, Dube took over as chair. “There was a need,” she said, “and I was willing to try it until the following March when the term would expire.” March came and went and Dube is still the chair. “I just fell into it,” she said.

While listening to Vermont Edition, Dube learned about the Declaration of Inclusion movement across the state. She approached Town Administrator John Abbott who told her that the Select Board had just tasked him with creating a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee. Dube again raised her hand to volunteer, and the committee has just adopted a charter.

Dube’s day job is as a research specialist at UVM in the Department of Psychiatry. She is involved in two research projects. One is with the Vermont Center of Behavior and Health and the second one is part of the national Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development study. Although those areas are very different from the ones where she volunteers, Dube believes her expertise in information gathering, analysis, and reporting has been useful in her municipal volunteer work.

Dube is studying for a graduate certificate in epidemiology which she believes will provide a good background for a potential move into the field of social justice through public health. All of this doesn’t leave much time for hobbies, but Dube said she likes to have busy hands. She enjoys knitting, crocheting, and quilting, as well as hiking, reading, and being outside with her dog.

Dube’s entry into the world of municipal volunteering coincided with her daughter aging out of her toddler period. “I was just starting to be more than a mom,” Dube said. “I was coming out of the fog and woods of the infant and toddler years, and I got excited about having a brain that was working and having some time on my hands.”

Another impetus for Dube’s volunteer efforts was her concern about the state of the world. “Between the pandemic and the social and cultural state of the country at that time, things got dark,” she said. “I went to a place of feeling overwhelming despair but then I started thinking about how I could help people.” Dube started by sewing masks and offering to run errands for immunocompromised people. “Those little acts of agency made me feel a little better and a little more empowered,” she said. “I was finally able to come out from the early years of motherhood and connect with people again. I wanted to be more connected and to serve my community.”

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