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Center for Professional Development
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Dartmouth College
Hanover, NH 03755
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Alumni Stories: Kate Read Villars '81

A Non-Traditional Career Path

by Rebekah Rombom '08

Kate Read Villars ’81 says that even though she may not have chosen a “traditional” post-Dartmouth profession, she knew fairly early on that life at a finance firm wasn’t for her. “A sense that I wanted my work to have a positive impact in the world” led Villars to a career path in the nonprofit sector, which has allowed her to stay in the Upper Valley and pursue positive change in the area.

When Villars first came to Dartmouth, she thought she would major in biology, but decided midway through her college career to minor instead. “I took a look at what the grad students in the biology department were up to and I just couldn’t see myself doing that,” Villars says. She also decided that she wanted to improve her writing skills, so she became a history major.

In addition to her classes, Villars became a member of the Collis Center’s governing board when the center had just opened and was seen as an alternative social outlet to the Greek system.

“I think I learned a lot from that in terms of working in an organization, working with a group of people,” says Villars, who was not a member of a Greek house.

Outside of Dartmouth’s campus, Villars worked at a gourmet foods shop called Gourmet Alley, which was located in the space that Molly’s Restaurant & Bar currently occupies. Villars continued her work there after graduation, then eventually discovered that the Upper Valley Food Co-Op, then located in Lebanon, had an opening for a manager.

“They were just opening this storefront, and I had some food retailing experience at Gourmet Alley,” Villars says. “I had taken a course on bookkeeping at Lebanon College, so when they put a balance sheet in front of me and said, ‘Do you know what this is?’ I could say ‘That’s a balance sheet.’ I guess that impressed them because I got the job.”

Villars’ relative lack of managerial experience, in addition to the Co-Op’s less-than-ideal location, led to a difficult beginning at that job.

“It was really an uphill struggle for the first couple of years,” she says.

But business began to pick up when the Co-Op moved to White River Junction, and Villars learned many of the skills she needed from on the job experience.  Villars left the Upper Valley Food Co-Op in 1984, though, and began working part time under the education director at the Hanover Consumer Co-Op.  When he left in 1990, she was promoted to fill the position.

“My job incorporated consumer education, particularly focused on nutrition education, but it also took in marketing, membership and governance,” she says.

After fourteen years with the Hanover Co-Op, Villars moved on to another area nonprofit, the Upper Valley Land Trust, an organization that works with individuals and communities to permanently and legally protect parcels of land in the Upper Valley.

Villars is currently the community relations director at the Land Trust, and is responsible for “keeping our donors informed of what we’re up to, what we’re doing with our money, and getting the word out to the public.”

While the titles of her current job and her last position at the Hanover Co-Op may sound different, Villars has found that she’s been able to directly transfer skills from one to the next.

“It really kind of boiled down to marketing the organization to its stakeholders and to the community,” she says of the education director position at the Hanover Co-Op.

In her current position, Villars is able to utilize the writing skills she acquired as a history major at the College, remain in the Upper Valley area she grew so fond of during her Dartmouth career and stay true to her goal of working to make a positive impact.

Last Updated: 6/21/12