Charlotte Bewersdorff, Merit’s VP for Community Engagement, is the recipient of Internet2’s esteemed Rose-Werle Award for her visionary leadership in the area of broadband expansion.
The Rose-Werle Award recognizes extraordinary individual contributions to extending the reach of advanced networking from research universities to the broadest education community. Each year, the award honors an individual with a demonstrable impact on the formal and informal education community by extending advanced networking, content, and services to this broad array of institutions and constituents. Charlotte was selected to receive the award based on her support of anchor institution collaboration through her leadership of the Michigan Moonshot Initiative and the Community Engagement teams at Merit.
The Michigan Moonshot is Merit’s answer to bridging the digital divide in our state and seeks to leverage anchor institutions and public/private partnerships to connect everyone into broadband internet. Under Charlotte’s leadership, the Michigan Moonshot has become an exemplar for organizations interested in supporting broadband expansion efforts throughout the country. In a few short years, the program grew from initial ideation to a statewide engagement and collaboration platform. This program includes the development and crowdsourcing of hundreds of pages of community network resources and guides, an in-person and virtual educational series that has garnered more than 1,500 participants, and a digital community of policy-makers, municipalities, anchor institutions and broadband champions more than 600 strong.
In addition, Charlotte is leading the development of a statewide survey and broadband mapping initiative which gathers granular, citizen-driven connectivity data, sentiment analysis and speed test information with the goal of supporting municipalities in broadband expansion and grant application efforts. To date, more than 12,000 individuals have participated in these survey efforts. Recognizing the integral nature of community anchor institutions, Charlotte designed this innovative engagement platform to leverage the support of local outreach partners in order to increase the success of data collection efforts. Her grassroots approach to data collection and engagement creates stronger relationships between public and private partners, anchor institutions, community organizations, broadband champions, elected officials and residents. Working together to solve the first steps of equitable connectivity has served to further these explicit goals while reinforcing bonds between those working to solve our shared challenges. She also provides frequent statewide and national expertise on community networking topics in various news outlets and conference sessions.
Charlotte also leads the Events and Marketing team, Community Engagement Management, and the Member Engagement Support teams at Merit. Our events team facilitates multiple in-person and digital events yearly, ranging from 600-person sell-out, multi-day community anchor collaboration conferences, to deep dive in-community workshops designed to provide action plans for practical improvements, in addition to hosting ongoing technical communities of practice that allow those in like-minded job roles to collaborate with individuals from other member organizations. The Merit Marketing Team, under Charlotte’s supervision, develops collaborative community content, such as whitepapers and case studies to facilitate opportunities for cross-organizational learning. The Member Engagement Team serves as a first point of contact within our membership, connects members to other in-community experts and assists our CAIs to achieve their strategic goals.
Charlotte has been with Merit since 2013 and has grown our member community by 131 organizations during her tenure. The accomplishments of the Merit Community Engagement teams can be directly attributed to her visionary leadership. The directors and managers that report to her have flourished from her guidance and inspiration, much like the anchor institutions within our state.
Please read the Internet2 press release here.