Charlotte Bewersdorff, Merit’s Vice President of Member Engagement and Marketing, is leading the organization through several new initiatives. Read on to learn more about Charlotte and her continued efforts to serve Merit’s community and connect the unserved and underserved in our state through the Michigan Moonshot.
Q: Considering your recent promotion, what goals do you have for making a lasting impact on the community?
Our members, as well as the Merit staff, are full of rich and innovative ideas and I think everybody involved in the Merit community wants to positively impact society. A goal I have is to listen consistently and thoroughly to the community and the staff. Then find creative ways to remove obstacles and barriers for them to help the larger community succeed.
Q: You have a pair of projects directed at connecting everyone in rural areas across the state in order to “close the homework gap.” Can you describe how you learned of this need?
Unfortunately, the discussion around the digital divide and the homework gap is not new. Merit has already played a pivotal role in expanding middle mile infrastructure throughout Michigan allowing many rural community anchor institutions to be connected. Recently, Merit participated in the MCAN working group that led to the Michigan Broadband Roadmap, through that effort it was shared that 27 percent of our K-12 students don’t have access to broadband in their homes. A large focus of the Michigan Moonshot is concentrated on addressing the homework gap, which aligns with Merit’s mission as regional education network and is such an imperative societal driver.
Q: Is Moonshot a platform that’s already in place at Merit? If so, how will Merit utilize it to address the digital divide?
Some of the pieces exist already and In other ways this is something we’re still building. Like the original Moonshot to the moon, this initiative is a multi-year project with a lot of complex and different variables. Moonshot is a platform that we hope will drive collaborations to get this digital divide conquered. It’s certainly not something that’s easy, especially when we talk about the rural corners in the state of Michigan. Still, we feel its Merit’s duty to leverage a position with the community anchor institutions to organize a movement that we think can bring about a positive impact.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about the Citizen Science Data Collection project?
We’re partnering with Michigan State University’s Quello Center, using a citizen science/crowdsourcing approach, the goal is to gather more granular and accurate data on broadband availability and adoption.
Phase two of the Moonshot initiative is more about continuing to educate, but also taking action. Once we have the data project and the communities are aligned with funding, we want to create community connectivity teams. The teams will provide expertise is many areas spanning from from data analysis and feasibility to grant writing, network architecture, and network construction — with the goal of end to end resources for those communities that are ready to build a community network. The educational component includes Merit launching a series about building networks and boot camps focused on taking action.
Q: How is Merit Network uniquely positioned to address these challenges?
Merit is a non-profit service provider, so we make business decisions from a very altruistic standpoint. Merit’s role is to provide a platform for collaboration. Community is one of our pillars, and members come together in many different ways throughout the year to collaborate. They share problems and challenges they face along with ideas for overcoming them with Merit and our community, which is one of the things I love about working at our organization.
Charlotte was promoted Merit’s Executive Leadership team in 2017 from her role as Executive Director of Member Engagement and Marketing in the organization, where she had been serving since 2013.
Charlotte’s passion for solving long-term challenges in Michigan’s research and education community through organizing around action, assimilating team components and managing with a strong sense of urgency has aligned perfectly with Merit’s mission of “Connecting Organizations and Building Community.”
Prior to joining Merit, Charlotte served in various leadership roles at M&O Marketing where she focused on identifying opportunities to enhance systems and provide continuous improvement platforms.
Charlotte graduated from Detroit Mercy with her BA in Business Management and Finance. In her down time, Charlotte can be found on the golf course, reading or spending time with her family.