Slides from Feedback Workshop

Thank you to all who came to the workshop last night, and for Nadia for teaching! We loved the fun and laughter. Feel free to let us know what you got out of it or what we could have done better ūüėČ

If you weren’t able to make it, ask a friend to tell you about what we learned!

Feedback Workshop Slides

The Power of Quiet

The Power of Quiet

By Nadia Rabesahala Horning

Today a controversial speaker is coming to the college where I teach. Even though I am away at a conference on social innovation, I am aware of this visit because it has generated so much activity on campus. In fact, for the past week, colleagues in my department have exchanged dozens of emails, some explaining why the department is co-sponsoring the event, others requestinq that our department rescind its cosponsorship. Our departmental exchange has been respectful, informative, constructive, and even productive. All but five colleagues participated. I was one of the quiet ones.

I ask myself why I did not feel compelled to “speak up”, and I had to get away from the activity at a conference on social innovation to find an answer to my own question. The reason for my silence is not indifference. I do have a position on the matter. What I don’t have is the urge to make noise about it. Here is why: energy, physical and intellectual, is a scarce commodity. Since it comes in limited supply, one is wise to use it where and when it matters most. What I saw my colleagues do is use their energy to accomplish two things: make noise and impress. And noisy and impressive they were: they wrote multiple messages, laying out their positions and defending them with eloquently marshaled and well-reasoned arguments. This is standard practice in academia.

So, why did I not participate in the exchange even though I did have position and I am an academic? It is because I am comfortable with quiet action that inspires, not with noise that impresses. I don’t judge colleagues who run on noise that impresses seeing as this is precisely the behavior that academia and academic institutions promote and reward. What I am saying is that I don’t think of this as the best way to use my intellectual and physical energy. Instead, what I aspire to do is inspire my students to engage with issues that go beyond debating whether or not an institution of higher learning should contribute to the reproduction of a monocultural environment, to borrow from former Stanford University provost John Etchemendy. Our world has pressing issues to deal with. And considering the state of said world, it is imperative that we focus on our students and find ways to equip them with the mindset and tools to engage a world rife with tensions in informed, respectful, ethical, and effective ways. We must teach to invest in impact, not in noise.

March 2, 2017

February Workshop Follow-Up

This is a reminder that, as a follow-up to the February workshop, “Who/What inspires you and why?” please post either your personal values matrix, a written reflection, or both.

Racism in International Development

A recap of Tuesday’s panel discussion.

International Development is a topic of frequent discussion at a globally-minded place like Middlebury College. Many faculty members have taken it on as a subject of critique; others teach development economics and practice, regardless of their views on the field. Some students interested in global power structures, humanitarianism, colonial history, service, or justice consider international development a possible line of work for after Middlebury; yet those same students may harbor qualms about working in a field laden with neocolonial overtones, one governed more often by political motivations and economism than by an uncompromising and honest concern for human life.

During Tuesday‚Äôs ‚ÄúRacism in International Development‚ÄĚ panel, three guest speakers¬†shared their perspectives as academics, practitioners, and entrepreneurs on how racism informs development theory and practice.

Professor Crewe began by holding up an intersection lens to racism in the development sphere. As an academic conducting ethnographic research on¬†INGO projects in Sri Lanka, she observed the infantilizing, feminizing, and devaluing language¬†that (largely white) European practitioners (mostly male) used to describe local cooking techniques and technologies. Crewe commented, for example, that words like, ‚Äútraditional‚ÄĚ‚Äďwhich the¬†aid workers used to describe a chimney that women had in fact only recently innovated‚Äďrelegate (black and brown) women, their work, and their lives to the status of primitive. They become¬†the problems to be fixed, the practices to be improved upon. ‚ÄúKnowledge is power,‚ÄĚ is University College London‚Äôs motto. Yet, knowledge, Crewe noted, does not always give you power. As a development consultant, too,¬†Crewe¬†witnessed racism play out in hiring decisions. British and American development organizations too often hire white Americans and Britons to do work that could otherwise be done by members of the communities where development projects are being implemented; these organizations justify such decisions with language that hardly masks real racial bias. Crew cited managers who have said that local people‚Äďlocal professionals‚Äďare disorganized, unmotivated, unable to handle the analytical rigor of the work, though of course it‚Äôs ‚Äúnothing racial.‚ÄĚ Hierarchies of gender, knowledge, nationality, and ultimately, race, shape¬†development work and the decisions that critically affect people‚Äôs lives in developing countries.

Connor Shapiro ‚Äô03, founder and CEO of St. Boniface Haiti Foundation, offered his thoughts on why the development field so easily writes off the people it purportedly aims to help. He described¬†the healthcare desert that exists on Haiti‚Äôs southern peninsula. St. Boniface is the only quality health care facility on the southern part of the island. While the organization provides healthcare to thousands of people and has even expanded its services over time, it faces funding and infrastructures limitations that donors (individuals, foundations, NGOs, government aid agencies) explain away by appealing to ‚Äúcost effectiveness‚ÄĚ or ‚Äúproject sustainability.‚ÄĚ Port-au-Prince, as Shapiro pointed out, is less than two hours from Miami by plane. There is no credible reason why infrastructure and supplies should not make it to Haiti, nor would well-off Americans accept¬†such limitations on our own health care. In our world, some lives simply do not matter as much as others, Shapiro asserted. In Haiti‚Äôs case, black lives do not matter¬†to funders¬†in the same way that their ideas and dollars do.

William Michael Cunningham, founder of Creative Investment Research, affirmed this analysis with a bang and took it even further: ‚ÄúEconomics does not work for people of color.‚ÄĚ With its system of values, economics doesn‚Äôt actually work for anyone. Cunningham, himself an economist by training, challenged the assumptions of classical economics and even questioned its effectiveness as a tool for understanding human life and behavior. Within a discipline as old‚Äďand as powerful‚Äďas economics is today, there needs to be more innovation. Cunningham presented his own analysis of GDP‚Äôs inefficacy as an indicator: while global GDP comparisons, for example, put the U.S. and Europe ‚Äúon top‚ÄĚ in terms of wealth, Africa and Antarctica house the majority of the world‚Äôs natural resource wealth. The countries in the Global South have also have immense human resources and potential. Indeed, these countries produce a significant portion of the manufactured goods and parts that ultimately make it to ‚Äúrich-world‚ÄĚ consumer markets. This output, resource wealth, and even cultural capital is not considered or valued within the framework of contemporary economics. Cunningham is a proponent of crowdfunding as a means of circumventing barriers to just resource allocation such as racism. By democratizing and diversifying financial flows, he believes that people can challenge big banks, the IMF, USAID, and other hegemons of global resource governance.

These three talks sparked audience questions that shaped a rich conversation after the panel. In what other ways are brown bodies fetishized and devalued in international development? Can we use the tools of economics to produce just knowledge, or do we need entirely new tools? How can we encourage interdisciplinary development work, and would such an approach address some of the problems mentioned today? There was a sense that students and other community members would take these questions and thoughts with them into their work, scholarship, and personal lives.

International development work is necessary today because colonialism disrupted organic social structures, destabilized societies, altered psyches, and established extractive economies that persist today and perpetuate global power differentials. These legacies pauperize millions of people. More optimistically, empathy and a shared sense of humanity drive Middlebury students and others to work in international development. In classes and in conversation, though, we must acknowledge that colonialism itself was a project based on racism. Our guests revealed the ways in which racism still pervades efforts to address the very problems that racism created.


Racism in International Development, a panel on Tuesday, February 21st, was designed and co-sponsored by the Rohatyn Center for Global Affairs; the Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity; and the Center for Creativity, Innovation, and Social Entrepreneurship.

Me in 3





Sustainable Development Practices in Argentina

Sustainable Development Practices in Argentina – January 2017

San Esteban Farm

                Sustainable development has been a topic that has become popular in the recent years. With the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in 2015, some countries have taken the initiative to include the promotion of sustainable development in their agendas. Particularly Argentina is one of the countries that has taken the lead within Latin America in terms of human development, therefore, I went to Argentina to be exposed and learn about the current practices and approaches of sustainability in Latin America.


¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† This J term I had the opportunity to work with the project ‚ÄúSustainable Development Practices in Argentina‚ÄĚ, where I had the opportunity to work and learn from the San Esteban Farm. Working in the farm was such an experience. It was the opportunity for me to study and value how it is possible to run a business that incorporates sustainability practices in their daily life work. This farm‚Äôs work has also been seen as an example for other kind of ecotourism, ‚ÄúTurismo de estancia‚ÄĚ, where the visitors have the chance to stay at a place that runs under sustainability practices and feel connected with the environment surrounding them. Visitors end up having a different experience than just staying at a hotel or a hostel. The farm receives visitors who are mainly interested in perpetuating the idea of sustainability, and therefore learn about how to do it while enjoying their stay at this farm. The farm is currently trying to increase their target audience to young travelers and people who are not that aware of sustainable practices, to therefore, serve as a window of knowledge and advocates of sustainability.


                My role was to assist with the day to day activities at the farm, such as checking the crops and animals, the watering and solar electricity systems, and being the bilingual person to talk to when needed. My previous work in Costa Rica and Guatemala with sustainable development practices was highly valuable to contribute to this experience. I felt I was able to contribute and learn at the fullest with this experience, as I was familiar with the practice’s background and the farm’s sustainability goals.

A summer in D..

Undoubtedly one of the biggest highlights of my Middlebury experience this year has been my summer internship. This summer I worked at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, DC. This internship allowed me to grow personally and professionally, and it was for sure a motivational and learning experience that will impact my decisions for the near future. I was able to experience the diplomatic world, dressing up nicely every day and working with really outstanding and remarkable people.  I was in charge of writing and editing a technical note about the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Programs in Latin America. The Social Protection and Health Division publishes these technical notes explaining how the CCT programs have worked in different countries, and I was writing about the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) in Jamaica. The research and writing process itself was difficult but this was definitely a broadening experience in all senses.


This new experience allowed me to grow personally and professionally. I was able to experience the diplomatic world, dressing up nicely every day and working with really outstanding and remarkable people. This internship was for sure a motivational and learning experience that will impact my decisions for the near future. I always said I didn’t want to spend my entire day working in an office, but the IDB has no simple and individual offices, it’s was a home for me. The working environment was definitely an unexpected aspect of the internship. I never expected such a pleasant and collaborative environment. The fact that most people there spoke Spanish surprised me a lot and how much the language would positively affect the working relationships.


            This internship combined many of the classes I have taken at Middlebury, for example, hard economic courses, and electives, such as Development in Latin America and Economic History of Latin America. The combination of those allowed me to contribute to a publishing paper which needed both, the knowledge of STATA and data interpretation, as well as the economic and historic background of Latin America. There were so many things that I didn’t know about or how to do them. I was learning something new every day. I always felt well supported from my supervisors, if they did not know the answer, they would send me to see different specialists at the Bank and I would ask them my questions and doubts. I learned a lot about poverty levels, poverty indicators and, Latin American backgrounds in general. My feeling was that everyone wanted to share their knowledge and, therefore, contribute to have a better understanding of the specific topics as a whole group, not individually.


                This was definitely a broadening experience in all senses. At first, I felt pretty intimidated by my co-workers, almost all of them had finished their masters and they would continually ask me how much more time I needed to finish mine. They would be surprised when I told them that I was just finishing college. This internship reinforced my idea of getting a master’s degree after college with the focus on development economics. I have clear now that I want to continue contributing to Latin America in any possible way. There is so much to be done, never too late to start and there is no insignificant contribution that can be made.



Social change

Me in three




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Here is a calendar with this spring’s events featured, in case this visual is helpful for anyone out there.

Spring Calendar

Netflix and Trill

We have all heard of the saying, “Netflix and Chill.” Some of us love netflix and chilling but what about those who simply want to kick back with few lemon San Pellegrinos, some Chinese food, and comfy clothes?


Here’s a list of shows¬†on Netflix that you¬†may want to check out when you are in one of your many moods.


Hotep: A Different World

Existential: 3%

Ponderous: 13th

Romantic: How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days

Dramatic: Lo Que La Vida Me Robó (What Life Stole from Me)

Powerful: How to Get Away with Murder

Silly: Parks and Recreation

Chismosa: Gossip Girl

Superhuman: Ajin


If you try any of these shows and like them, leave a comment below! As usual, stay true and real. Stay trill, divas.






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SE Calendar

april, 2017

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28apr12:30 pm- 1:30 pmReflection Friday with Mohamed Hussein12:30 pm - 1:30 pm


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