Double Antioch Alumna, Dr. Claudia Ford (PhD ’15, MHA ’86), has been awarded both the John R. Frazier Award for Excellence in Teaching at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), and the Environmental Excellence Alumna Award at Antioch University New England (AUNE), both honors in 2018. “I was completely surprised,” admits Dr. Ford, mother of four, and a well-traveled intellectual and ecological adventurer whose doctoral thesis was entitled, “Weed Women, All Night Vigils, and the Secret Life of Plants,” and currently lives on a working farm.
If you think that’s exhausting just to read, Dr. Ford is apparently barely breaking a sweat. “I’m nearly at retirement age, but I have no plans to retire. I currently have four jobs as adjunct faculty at RISD, Antioch, Salve Regina University, and a visiting lecturer at New Hampshire Institute of Art.” So where do you go from there? “I love teaching, I was raised by a teacher, and I got my PhD so that I could teach at university level. I had a three-decade career in international development and international public health, spanning the globe. My four children went to school in 11 different countries on four continents. Right now I live on a working farm where I want to run an artist retreat center and grow herbs for medicine. I want to work a little less and write a little more. I never want to stop teaching.”
A writer at heart, Dr. Ford has worked for more than thirty years as a health and environmental educator around the world, whether it’s with the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg working with AIDS orphans, or teaching the next generation of socially conscious educators, dedication to the vocation of “teaching” remains the constant in Ford’s life; “I am now teaching undergraduate students who are motivated to do something about environmental problems and injustices, and that is a privilege. I enjoy being in the classroom where I get to work alongside my students in investigating how to comprehend complex social justice issues, and then exploring how to make a difference in their communities and in the world.” And she gives much of the credit for that passion to her double time at AUNE. “I chose Antioch twice because it encouraged me as a scholar and social justice worker to think out of the box, allowed me to shine in my difference, and expected me to adhere to academic rigor and produce top quality work. I also chose Antioch both times because I’m a single mother of four with a complex family life, and I needed the flexibility and compassion that the institution allows.” Her Master’s work dovetailed especially well with her passion for social justice and her desire to make a difference in the world, “The Antioch degree in health administration gave me the skills to train government and private sector administrators, practitioners, and teachers globally, which I hope, in turn, allowed them to provide top quality care to their communities.
Now at “retirement age” and winning multiple awards a year, Dr. Ford is simply getting her second wind, and still has challenges she wants to tackle, “I would like to write and publish more. I am on a number of boards of directors for important social and environmental justice organizations (Soulfire Farm, Orion Magazine), which is a great way to expand my work at this point in my career.” And what words of wisdom would she offer to the next generation on a similar trajectory?
“Always choose to be kind. Commit to being a lifelong learner. Find the difficult balance between hope for change and despair at the seriousness of the challenges that face us. Seek both inner and community peace, but continue to walk with a hint of motivating unrest.”