Women’s Voices

The Intercultural Arts and Leadership Spring Series, in collaboration with six Institute Students and Cheryl Faraone, Mettler Professor of Theater, Gender Sexuality Feminist Studies Present:
Cerebrating African Women’s Voices in Leadership, a staged reading of selected books by African women authors.

Thursday, March 1
7:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Library 2nd floor

Selected Books

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Nigeria

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, Ghana

Unbowed, by Wangari Maathai, Kenya

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Une si Longue Lettre by Mariama Bâ, Senegal

Beneath the Lion’s Gaze by Maaza Mengiste, Ethiopia

Performing Students

Francesca Aka, Abidjan
My name is Francesca Aka, I am a third culture kid, a polyglot and a dancer born in Cote d’Ivoire. My name is Italian but my parents had no idea until we moved to Italy where I spent most of my life. I consider myself more of a creative than a scientific person and I love to take on responsibilities that portray me as reliable.



Shinae Meylor, New Jersey
My name is Shinae Meylor and I descend from a very eccentric Caribbean background. As an International Policy and Development candidate, I hope to one day use my knowledge and skills to aide in a refugee camp. “Peace is a day-to-day problem, the product of a multitude of events and judgments. Peace is not an ‘is’, it is a ‘becoming’.” – Haile Selassie I


Ianthe Duncan-Poole, Texas
My name is Ianthe and I am a 2nd semester IPD student. born in Chicago, IL and raised in Houston, TX. I received my BA in Political Science from the University of Illinois at Chicago and after working in various governmental positions, I decided to pursue my MA here at Middlebury Institute. I am a creative; a woman who aims to bring strength, power, and creativity into every situation, especially professional or academic environments. My love for people and my ability to engage with them is my hearts joy and I look forward to seeing where this Masters Degree journey takes me!


Elizabeth Watiri, Nairobi
My name is Elizabeth Watiri. I am currently a 4th semester International Policy and Development student on a Fulbright Scholarship. Having worked and volunteered for development for almost 5 years, the experiences I got in the field led me to pursue an MA in International Development here at MIIS. When human beings are unable to access basic human rights (for instance reproductive health rights), it is not uncommon for their lives to unravel. I hope to use my acquired skills and training to advocate for reproductive health and rights with a focus on policy advocacy. I believe that my training here at MIIS and my field experiences have well equipped me to work for development in my field especially in the public health sector.


Tangut Degfay, Addis Ababa
I am pursuing an MA in International Policy and Development, and specializing in Monitoring, Evaluation, and Design. I am passionate about bringing social change in the areas of global youth leadership, girls’ education,gender equality, early childhood development, and violence against children prevention. My extensive work/study abroad experience, foreign language study, leading and collaborating with multicultural teams have inspired my commitment to fostering cross-cultural understanding and inclusive social change. I am all about that “girl power” spirit!


Eunice Deha, Cotonou
I am a second year Fulbright graduate student from Benin. I am passionate about public policy and development and the betterment of living standards for all, especially the marginalized and those who do not have a voice. I hope to become an example of success for young people in Benin.

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Arts and Leadership Series Starts Strong

March 30, 2018

This post was originally published by Melody Jensen, Middlebury Institute of International Studies Newsletter

The Celebrating African Women’s Voices in Leadership event in the library on Thursday, March 1. Six students, Tangut Degfay MAIPD ’18, Francesca Aka MPA ’18, Ianthe Duncan-Poole MAIPD ‘19, Eunice Deha MAIPD ‘18, Shinae Meylor MAIPD ‘19, and Elizabeth Watiri MAIPD ‘18 read from the works of six African authors. (Credit: Stephen Keith )

The Institute’s first-ever Intercultural Arts and Leadership Series kicked off at the end of February with a week-long celebration of Africa, followed by a week dedicated to movement and dance. The spring series is hosted by Tangut Degfay MAIPD ’18, who applied for and received funding from the Ron and Jessica Leibowitz Fund for Innovation. Featuring six arts modalities — music, theatre, dance, film, sculpture, and writing — the series involves teaching and performance residencies by diverse international artists throughout the term.

The project is assisted by a team of students including Kaitlin Emmons MPA ’19, and Airon Whitt MBA/MAIPD ’19 as part of a course entitled Intercultural Arts and Social Change, taught by Visiting Professor Andrea Olsen.

The series has three goals: to bring the arts more robustly into the academic curriculum of the Institute, to connect Middlebury Institute students with innovative artists and educators from the Middlebury network, and to connect the Institute and Monterey area communities through the arts.

The first event of the jam-packed week was Ethio-Jazz vocalist and TED senior fellow Meklit Hadero and her band, who packed Irvine Auditorium and received a standing ovation for their dynamic performance. (Credit: Stephen Keith )

According to Degfay, “the idea of the first week was to highlight distinct African nations, while featuring interdisciplinary and individual perspectives on the role of the arts in global projects.” To support this intent, participants in the winter term course International Development and Social Change, Rwanda (DPMI Rwanda) were asked before their trip to be aware of the arts and share their views on return. Several student organizations on campus collaborated to host events, including the African Nations, Model United Nations, and Peace Corps Clubs.

The first event of the jam-packed week was Ethio-Jazz vocalist and TED senior fellow Meklit Hadero and her band, who packed Irvine Auditorium and received a standing ovation for their dynamic performance. Meklit was introduced by Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Institute Jeff Dayton-Johnson, who affirmed the importance of the arts in intercultural dialogue at the Institute. Tuesday, the DPMI Rwanda panel, hosted by Emmons, shared insights from four participants about the deep values and important challenges of engaging intercultural dialogue on site.

Another full-house audience attended the staged readings of six African authors by six Institute students at the library. The culmination of many people’s efforts, the project was directed by Cheryl Faraone, professor of Theatre at Middlebury College, who guided an intense three-day rehearsal period with the six participants for Celebrating African Women’s Voices in Leadership: Degfay, Francesca Aka MPA ’18, Ianthe Duncan-Poole MAIPD ‘19, Eunice Deha MAIPD ‘18, Shinae Meylor MAIPD ‘19, and Elizabeth Watiri MAIPD ‘18.

Celebrating African Women’s Voices in Leadership team: Francesca Aka MPA ’18, Eunice Deha MAIPD ‘18, Shinae Meylor MAIPD ‘19, Tangut Degfay MAIPD ’18, Elizabeth Watiri MAIPD ‘18, and Ianthe Duncan-Poole MAIPD ‘19. (Credit: Stephen Keith )

The week-long celebration of Africa and the arts involved over 370 participants and attendees from the campus and region. When reflecting on the success of the week, Olsen said: “After Meklit’s dynamic performance, the Women’s Voices participants exclaimed that she had set the bar high for the whole week and series—not competitively but to encourage the very best from each person as part of a larger whole. It shows the power and mystery of how the arts connect us in ways that are not obvious, but that are clearly felt and impactful.”

It was such an empowering feeling to see the whole school talking about common themes and wanting to talk even more.

— Tangut Degfay MAIPD ’18

This weave of conversations and interactions drove the success. “The focus on Africa was exciting to say the least,” says Degfay. “It was such an empowering feeling to see the whole school talking about common themes and wanting to talk even more. I think we have set the foundation for future conversations at the Institute.”

Last week Middlebury graduate Cameron McKinney and his Kizuna dance company were in residence in Monterey with public performances, movement workshops and a lecture-demonstration on “Dances born from Revolution: How Japanese Butoh Ideologies Can Influence Streetdance.”

The series continues throughout the semester with more arts projects including building a NEST sculpture with Jayson Fann, an international water dance film project with Scotty Hardwig, and African Soundscapes with Damascus Kafumbe, an ethnomusicologist at Middlebury College.

To learn more about the series and the upcoming events and see photographs of the projects, visit http://go.miis.edu/arts18

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