Tuesday, August 26, 2014
For some, deciding a major is the biggest decision of their college career. But for Austin Drukker ’15, when his advisor told him ‘just do what you love,’ the choice was easy: math. And what started as a few equations has evolved into a double major in economics and math, and a research project to battle world hunger.
Dr. Michael Veatch, head of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, approached Drukker at the end of the third quad of this past academic year and presented the idea to him. Veatch reached out to a colleague at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to see what projects he had underway, and soon the MIT professor sent Veatch something he was working on for the World Food Program (WFP).
The WFP is an agency of the United Nations that responds to natural disasters or civil conflicts and provides food to people in need. Its programs continue after the crisis has ended in order to assist in rebuilding the community affected. But if there isn’t enough food available on the market in that region, how can the agency respond? That is where Drukker’s research will come in.
Currently, the WFP is working in Darfur region of west Sudan to establish a food voucher program similar to the United States’ SNAP (food stamp) program. In order to accurately predict prices and quantity of food, the program will use a mathematical model that takes into account factors including wholesale prices and transportation costs. “We’re not completing the model, but contributing to it,” said Drukker.
Since about 80 percent of the model had been completed when Drukker became involved, his research this summer has focused on how seasonality—the changing of weather—can affect food supplies. He also researches whether there is even enough food in the market to meet the needs of the planned Darfur program, using harvest reports from previous years to assess how many people the voucher program can assist.
In an office in the Ken Olsen Science Center this spring, Drukker surrounded himself with maps of the country and literature on the topic. “I spent the bulk of two weeks just reading information,” he said. “I hadn’t done work like this before, but it’s good to experience what research is.”
Drukker’s 10 weeks of work on this project are funded by an undergraduate research grant he and Veatch applied for before the summer. “It’s a great opportunity for people who want to do research,” Drukker said.
Students wishing to pursue further study in a specific area have multiple options, including the Undergraduate Research Council (URC). The council exists in order to provide students at Gordon with the funds to cover the costs of attending or presenting at conferences. “If this is something you want to do the funds are out there,” said Drukker.
Jesse Steele, ’15, is a communication arts major focusing on journalism with a minor in kinesiology. He plans to attend grad school for public health to work in Central America, growing mangos and fighting disease.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
|Venetia (second from the left) with her Walden Media colleagues.|
Venetia always knew that she wanted to work in a setting that involved meeting new people and in which she would focus on the relational side of her job. “I also always had a creative flair that was waiting to break out,” she said, “but I always just assumed that my creativity had to be suppressed in my career path, and things like photography would just be a hobby.”
Early in her college career, Venetia discovered "cause-related marketing," a system that pairs for-profit businesses with non-profit organizations with the hope of generating a wide network of supporters for outreach efforts. Within this field, she saw herself using her love for images to get people to stop and think about how they can change the world. Thinking long-term, Venetia says, “I’d like to be the creative director of a non-profit campaign, like (RED) or MADD, or something along those lines.”
As her time at Gordon came to a close, Venetia began to look toward finding a job. In the summer of 2013 she had interned with Arnold Worldwide, assisting in its advertising department. This gave her the concrete direction she needed. “I was finally able to attach abstract learning to practical skills and prove to someone that I was willing to put in the long hours to learn and grow,” she said. “I had already decided to go into cause-related advertising and Arnold gave me some structure to organize my abstract thoughts.”
As graduation approached, Venetia found a job opportunity during Gordon's annual Celebration of Faithful Leadership dinner. She attended the dinner as one of the College's student ambassadors. Her father sits on the Board of Trustees, so during the pre-dinner meeting her family introduced Venetia to Micheal Flaherty, founder of Walden Media. Founded in 2001, Walden is known for bringing Christian themes and educational content into Hollywood films, producing movies such as The Chronicles of Narnia and Waiting for Superman. By the end of their conversation, Flaherty had offered Venetia a job for the summer.
So for the past several months she has done marketing for The Giver, which entered theaters on August 15 and features Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges. The movie follows Jonas, a boy living in a seemingly perfect world who learns a deep secret hidden in his community's past. Venetia has monitored social media for the film, organized private screenings and focus groups to test the movie, and worked to get the word out to anyone who could spread positive buzz about the film (such as newspaper columnists, radio hosts and media personalities). While balancing all those tasks, Venetia must also manage Flaherty’s schedule and supervise Walden’s interns.
Being in charge of marketing right out of college might seem impossible, but Venetia found herself pulling resources from her past experiences. Principles from her marketing class helped in ensuring screenings were attracting Walden's target audience. The information she learned in Media Criticism helped as she looked through different movie cuts or adjusted the scripts. But even with her solid educational foundation, Venetia's first job out of college is taking her skills to the next level.
As the movie unfolds, Venetia future lies in limbo. Already she has received a job offer for the fall at Arnold Worldwide in its New York offices, and the possibility that she might continue her work with Walden still lays open. With this important decision awaiting Venetia she is able to stay calm, knowing the connections she has made at Walden will be very helpful for her in the future. “For now," Venetia says, "you could say I’m living life on the edge.”
Jesse Steele ’15 is a communication arts major focusing on journalism with a minor in kinesiology. He's right off the plane from a summer in Rwanda where he interned with the International Justice Mission.
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
“A little bit of desire is worth a whole lot of opportunity.”
Dean Kamen is an inventor, entrepreneur and advocate for science and technology. He, the man responsible for the Segway, was one of about 200 proponents for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education at the STEM^2 Summit, which took place this past Wednesday in Gordon College’s Ken Olsen Science Center.
Hosted by ’04 alumnus Francis Vigeant of KnowAtom and Gordon Associate Professor of Education Priscilla Nelson, the STEM^2 Summit provided an opportunity for elementary school educators and administrators to hear from nine distinguished speakers who stressed the importance of immersing students in STEM from a young age.
"We need to start students young, get them involved, and light a fire beneath them,” Massachusetts Congressman John F. Tierny said in the opening remarks. “Elementary educators are the ones to make this happen."
After receiving a grant of $10,000 grant in 2013 from the Northeast Regional Readiness Center housed at Salem State University, STEM^2 held five monthly free workshops at Gordon. Now, the program has established a collaborative business model consisting of elementary educators, professors (those training teachers), education students, inventors and over 75 community school systems. It is being said by participants that this collaborative approach offers the very first networking structure with potential to be a model for other states across the country—one that can be replicated easily and adopted immediately.
Mr. Kamen and Dr. Bernard Gordon, inventor of modern analog-to-digital conversion, served as the summit’s keynote speakers. Also in attendance as lecturers were audio equipment designer Lewis Athanas; computer programmer, engineer, businessman and philanthropist Mark Gelfand; sports technology inventor Corky Newcomb; founder and President of 3D Printsmith LLC Sean O’Reilly; software programmer Jim Starke; and founder and CEO of Playrific, Inc., Beth Marcus. 26 North Shore STEM organizations were present to join in the dialogue with attendees.
The presenters shared personal stories of their childhood experiences—both lighthearted and heavy—with STEM, education and discipline.
“It isn't enough to teach kids about technology,” Starkey said. “Kids have to learn about technology change and, ultimately, innovation. I don't know whether or not innovation can but taught, but I do know it can be inspired.”
“It’s one thing to teach people about things, and another to improve their abilities to think,” Gordon said in his presentation.
Even for the non-scientifically-inclined, STEM^2 proved inspirational. The lessons of discipline, bravery and opportunity are applicable to anyone, no matter the stage of life or range of interests.
Attendees noted the recurring theme of parenthood. Nearly every speaker showed images of their parents to speak about the positive, challenging influence. Many also spoke of memorable educators from their own experiences. Those recurring themes left everyone thinking about their influences, a little more grateful for the hours set aside for homework after school, and even those pesky third-grade quizzes.
In his keynote talk, Kamen spoke of how in his business model for his nonprofit, he strove to replicate for the STEM community the encouraging, celebratory nature of athletics . This core idea became hugely successful, partially due to the countercultural nature of its approach: Culture does not celebrate inventors and engineers, he said.
Although our culture is endlessly fascinated by technology, society tends to celebrate the inventions, rather than the inventors. Is that a good or bad thing? Should we be celebrating the inventions or the inventors? Kamen suggested that more credit may be due to technological innovators, and that such encouragement could yield even greater advances in STEM fields. Dr. Gordon echoed in his lecture that engineers have a deep desire for recognition. Yet we rarely stop to think about the minds behind our computers and amazing new headphones that lay down a beat oh-so well.
What became so remarkable about the STEM^2 summit was the scope of its impact. As Kamen reflected on his experience as a misunderstood student, his story took on new life: It will not only influence his own path. It will not only influence the roughly 200 educators in the audience. The testimony will change the lives of each student that each teacher encounters in the future. One boy’s challenges will bring support and encouragement the lives of an incalculable number of scientifically curious children. And so it was with each of the dozens of innovative approaches to STEM education introduced at Wednesday’s gathering.
Even before any new educational model has been instituted, before the system has been reformed from top to bottom, STEM^2 has already done its job.
Wednesday, June 4, 2014
By Mary Hierholzer ’16
Ian Corbin wants to bring more clarity, understanding and happiness to the world. He often writes cultural and literary criticisms for publications like The Wall Street Journal, First Things, The Weekly Standard, Commonweal, The New Criterion and The American Conservative. But the ’06 Gordon alumnus, 32, gives a wry laugh when asked about his treasury of fellowships and scholarships. A true philosopher, he would rather discuss life over coffee than rattle off a list of achievements.
Corbin’s Gordon experience was not the typical four-years-and-La-Vida. After two years at Salem State University, a professor recommended that he transfer to Gordon for the Oxford program abroad. His junior year, Corbin came to Gordon as a political science major, and found himself in the first cohort of the Jerusalem and Athens Forum (JAF). The seminar came at a time of transformation in his education, when Corbin had “just discovered Christian intellectual tradition beyond C.S. Lewis.”
Monday, May 19, 2014
Dave Hicks, ’14, had a tough choice to make: attend Gordon College on the East Coast or another Christian college in the Midwest. In the end, it came down to a coin toss. And while the initial decision may have been left to chance, today Hicks is happy with where his luck landed him. Last weekend he received his college diploma alongside the rest of Gordon’s Class of 2014, and goes on to a summer full of exciting career opportunities.
Before college even started, Hicks had studied the student handbook and figured out a way to fit in a triple major in philosophy, English, and history. Over his four years he held positions on student government, Gordon College News Service, and the Gordon Presidential Fellows. Yet, this past spring, he still found the time to co-chair a Model United Nations committee in Russia.
Taking everything he has learned Hicks will head to Washington D.C. for two internships—the first in the Capitol with Pennsylvania congressman Jim Gerloach, and the second two blocks away in a public defender’s office.
“Gordon taught me how to be networking. I saw on the congressman’s website they may be hiring interns and submitted my resume,” said Hicks.
As Gerloach’s term will end in January, many of his staffers have been leaving to find new positions, and with so much left to do, Hicks will be taking on more than a normal intern.
“I don’t know a lot about politics but I’m hoping to learn about it this summer,” said Hicks. “I’m hoping to meet other people and see what it’s like.”
His month-long internship with the congressman will be followed with a criminal law position for another three months. During this time Hicks will be interviewing witnesses to crimes and doing the legwork for the lawyer he is staffed to. This internship is the pinnacle of his’ summer work, since he hopes to become a federal prosecutor in the future.
Hicks’ goals began with a dream to become a trial lawyer. The blend of public speaking and debating drew him into the position, but the prospect of prosecuting petty theft and minor drug possession didn’t much interest Hicks.
“From trial lawyer you move to being a district attorney,” Hicks said. “The higher you go the higher the crimes and the more you deal with issues that are black and white, clearly right or wrong.”
This past year as a Presidential Fellow working in the office of Gordon President D. Michael Lindsay, Hicks had the opportunity to connect with someone working as a prosecutor. The meeting offered Hicks a better picture of the career he had been considering and solidified his intentions.
As a Presidential Fellow Hicks gained sensible knowledge for himself, but also practical experience he could use in the future, like the importance of researching information ahead of time. “If you’re meeting someone, Google their name and basic facts about them,” he said.
Hicks’ experience in the program is only one part of how Gordon has prepared him for what’s to come this summer.
Back in high school when Hicks was applying to colleges, he knew he wanted to study philosophy. As Hicks learned more about Gordon he realized its philosophy department could be a perfect fit.
“Even though it was a Christian worldview, at the end of the day [the department] explored other thinkers without Christianizing it,” he said. “We would read Nietzsche as Nietzsche, and not Christians against Nietzsche.”
The way he has learned to think has been grounded in an understanding of the importance of seeing both sides.
With the public defender Hicks will be going door to door in lower income neighborhoods, gathering information from possible witnesses. Being in this new environment will expose Hicks with a new kind of leadership and teach him to interact with his community in ways he’s not used to. “It will help to be a more well rounded person, talking to people from all walks of life,” he said.
Hicks also hopes that this environment will help ground him, reminding him of the importance of being profession yet relational—something he wishes he had known as a freshman.
While post-summer is still a mystery to Hicks, and law school remains a couple years away, he is hopeful that this real world experience will be the sort of supplementary learning he needs for his graduate school application. For now, Hicks is playing with the idea of one more internship, working with International Justice Mission in India to fight human trafficking.
Jesse Steele, ’15, is a communication arts major focusing on journalism with a minor in kinesiology. In the coming years he will be attending graduate school to study public health, concentrating on community education. He loves attending basement concerts, roaming the streets of Salem and overcommitting himself.
Thursday, April 17, 2014
The Model UN experience challenges students to think and work in new ways concerning an assigned country and the issues facing that society, and to develop skills required in international diplomacy. Class time is devoted to research, public speaking, practicing simulations, and strategizing. Though Harvard makes the country assignments, the Gordon team is able each year to send its top 10 picks. "We typically seek African states, because I want our students to get a taste of representing states that are not superpowers," said Brink, a native of Canada with extensive research in liberalism and pluralism. "This year, though, there weren’t many African states with delegation sizes large enough, and we received Saudi Arabia."
Over 3,000 college/university students participated in the Harvard competition this year; student teams from the U.S. and other nations represented 73 different countries. Last year, Gordon represented Tunisia. Other countries represented by Gordon students in the past include Angola, Uganda, Kenya, Zambia and Gabon. Gordon also offers a Model UN Club for students interested in competing at international club level.
Friday, March 28, 2014
im• age noun \’i-mij\ : a reproduction or imitation of the form of a person or thing; especially: and imitation in solid form: exact likeness.
When Andy Crouch took the stage last week at the A. J. Gordon Memorial Chapel, so did the baroque-era composer. It was Deep Faith Week 2014, after all. Crouch was playing the "Prelude and Fugue No. 1 in C major," the tones striking a chord that came to string together the themes of the annual spiritual emphasis week. Consonance transforming through dissonance into beautiful crescendo.
Gordon students and staff responded to this call by turning to a time of prayer after one of the chapels. We were being reminded what it meant to live as Christ, to live like him in vulnerability and authority. “Being able to pray with student after student and connect with their deep pain but also say to them, 'God loves you and he cares for you and he wants to comfort you in that pain,'” said Gordon Chaplain Tom Haugen, “that was a real highlight for me.”
This moment was only a vignette of the week. Friday night, students had the opportunity to participate in a 12-hour worship service lasting into Saturday morning. The service welcomed several student groups representing a diversity of different student worship styles. Like the evening chapels, it brought a renewed call toward the gospel (even for the students who couldn’t stay up). Gordon senior Ben Boossarangsi collaborated with the groups to make it possible. “Deep Faith Week is a great way to spend an entire week diving into different ways, traditions, and spiritual questions we either wrestle or take something away from,” said Boossarangsi.
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
We’ve all heard about how “great minds think alike.” But as a new social enterprise competition at Gordon College is demonstrating, perhaps “great minds think together.”
The Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership (CEL) has set a stage for the great minds of Gordon College to come together with new ideas for business, non-profit or hybrid enterprises. Currently in its very first year, the CEL exists to provide a new kind of space for innovative thinking and world-shaping action at Gordon College. "The CEL is on a mission to animate deep convictions and to instigate impact in the hope that more Gordon students will dig deep, reach out and start something,” says CEL Director Dr. Carter Crockett.
Upon the announcement for its first annual Social Venture Challenge, the CEL put out a call for students to gather, share, and refine adventurous plans for these new endeavors . Leading up to their final presentations on April 23rd, experienced peers will help contestants to hone their ideas into a ten-minute pitch and a two-page executive summary. The top three proposals will receive $10,000 to split in order to set their enterprise in motion, and each team will also benefit from professional mentoring as they work to make their idea a reality.
In serving the adventurous thinkers who do not yet have an idea or a teammate, CEL headquarters acted as matchmakers during a mixer event late last semester, which served to connect them with other interested participants and share potential proposal ideas. The CEL has also been hosting a weekly event series every Thursday morning at nearby Gusto Café, where attendants have the opportunity to hear from a local entrepreneur and join in the discussion that follows. In all of its outreach, the CEL works to build up a community of innovation and ambition committed to developing the types of ideas that will serve the common good.
Dr. Crockett says this competition, specifically, encourages that community of students to be bold and to think creatively—whatever the outcome. “We should be less afraid of failing. In my experience, it can be good to fail fast, fail often and fail hard... Those unafraid to fail are the ones that learn the most. Enter the Social Venture Challenge, because the world may need your idea, and breakthroughs aren't discovered by those afraid to try.”
Photo 1: Dr. Carter Crockett (center right) collaborating with CEL instigation team members and a local leader.
Photo 2: Thursday morning conversations at nearby Gusto Café.
Graduate Education Program at Gordon College, studying elementary education and moderate disabilities. She loves working with children and youth, and enjoys nature walk, exercising, singing and playing the piano.
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
The ACS national meeting attracts 12,000 chemical professionals and includes 1,066 student chapters at colleges and universities. Outstanding Chapter is the highest honor in higher education chapters by ACS. Only 30 chapters in the nation received both of the Outstanding Chapter and Green Chemistry awards and recognition. For the past two years Gordon has received the highest set of honors possible—fewer than 3% of student chapters receive those combined honors.
Monday, February 24, 2014
This semester, Gordon welcomed a new member into its community. In a short period of time, he has already established many relationships with students, regularly meeting with them and mentoring them, ready for visitors to drop by his office any time for a conversation. This is our new chaplain, Tom Haugen.
Previously, Tom had served in churches in Atlanta, Georgia, on Boston’s North Shore, and most recently Zurich, Switzerland, for over 6 years. Why would someone living in beautiful Switzerland move back to the United States, I wondered. “I had sensed God asking me if I can dream big, what my dream job would be,” Haguen said. “And the one job that rose on top was to pastor a liberal arts Christian college.”
Tom prayed persistently and consulted his wife, who had attended Westmont College in California, and she told him he would be perfect for the job. Along with their three daughters, the family then decided to move back in 2010, having faith that God would provide them with the right opportunities.
For the next 3 years, Tom began working toward a Ph.D. in homiletics at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. In September 2013, the position for chaplain at Gordon opened up, and Tom went for it. He was chosen, and then began working part-time in November alongside then Dean of Chapel, Greg Carmer, who has since taken on the dual role of Dean of Christian Life and Theologian-in-Residence. To this day Tom says he still has Dr. Carmer on speed dial and has learned immensely from him.
“What excited me the most was the opportunity to invest in and pastor college students at a place in their lives where they are hungry for someone to teach them and point them to Jesus,” Tom continued to say, “being able to shepherd students to do what God has put on their heart through pastoral counseling and mentoring is exactly what God has put on my own heart to do here.”
Tom’s first task was to come up with a chapel theme for the semester, and as he prayed through the themes, one concept kept coming into his mind: unity. “I am committed to this: I believe that God has created us to be joyful beings glorifying God and enjoy him forever, and I want to bring this idea to campus through my genuine commitment to it and have it overflow,” Tom explained. Combining unity and joy with Tom’s commitment to preach through God’s Word, Philippians emerged as the perfect book to build the semester’s chapel program: Together as One: A Walk through Philippians. Written by the Apostle Paul, Philippians addressed the first congregation in Europe. In the text, Paul aimed to encourage and guide this church to grow as one in the name of Jesus Christ—just the same as Tom’s vision for the Gordon community.
The semester’s chapel schedule interweaves Tom’s series on unity with many other speakers and themed weeks. The seven separate messages on connection, purpose, humility, compassion, hope, joy, and contentment will work together to empower and motivate the campus to go through scripture together and trigger conversations and reflection.
In his sermon on Purpose, Tom focused on the teaching that God’s purpose is bigger than our circumstances. “Paul understood that hard things would come his way,” he preached, “But whatever happens, he says live a life that gives Jesus Christ the honor and the glory that he deserves; whatever happens, hold firmly to the truth of Jesus Christ; whatever happens, represent Christ well; whatever happens, allow God to use your suffering to advance the gospel; whatever happens, stand firm striving together as one, for the sake of the gospel.”
“I want students to come into chapel not knowing what to expect,” Tom said. He has done just that—whether through fresh expressions of corporate faith, like moments of silence for the student body to confess to the Lord together, or fun community experiences like a recent free t-shirt giveaway. And these small moments—praying together, noticing a couple classmates wearing the same t-shirt—will work to build the unity Tom is preaching about. Through his chapel sermons and outside of chapel, through Tom’s interactions with students, he is encouraging the student body to see the bigger picture of the Kingdom, together as one.
To watch follow Chaplain Tom Hauguen's chapel series on unity, visit the Gordon College YouTube channel here.
Sarah Tang '16 is a sophomore sociology and communication arts double major at Gordon from Hong Kong, China, and a writer in the Office of College Communications. She is a member of the Campus Events Council and works as a barista in Bistro 255. She is passionate about human trafficking and special needs orphans and has a burden for Southeast Asia.
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
On Thursday, members of the Gordon community will head to New York City, where the Accessible Icon Project—an advocacy project to update the current International Symbol of Access—will go on display in the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA).
As a thank you to Gordon College, a select group of Gordon College art students have been invited to an exhibit preview, and will observe as MOMA curators handle the final details prior to the gallery opening. Two faculty members, Brian Glenney (philosophy) and Tim Ferguson Sauder (art), will receive lifetime memberships as artists in MOMA's permanent collection as a result of their work as artists for the AIP icon.
Following the invitation-only viewing, the art students, under the director and curation of Peter Morse (manager, Barrington Center for the Arts), will create a one-day exhibit titled ACCESS in a New York City gallery on Saturday, February 15. The opening reception will begin at 5 p.m. at Ludlow Studios and the exhibit will remain open to the public until 10 p.m.
Throughout the trip Gordon alum Daniel Stevens '07, owner of In the Car Media—a video production company—will document events and travels of the Gordon crew by taking over the College's social media (SM) pages. Stevens will guest author Gordon's social communications Thursday, February 13 through Sunday, February 16. In addition to updates, he'll spread the word that on Sunday at 11 a.m., a Gordon representative will be at the MOMA entrance and will provide Gordon-sponsored free admission tickets (quantity limited) to anyone who says "Rush the MOMA 2/16."
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For twitter users, hashtag #RushtheMOMA216 will also provide updates through the weekend.
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Photo: AIP co-founder Brian Glenney (philosophy)
Thursday, February 6, 2014
Friday, January 31, 2014
By John Buckley ’15
John Buckley ’15 is a junior business administration and communication arts double major at Gordon College and the Presidential Fellow for Rick Sweeney, Vice President for Marketing and Strategic Communications. Depending on the weather, his interests are theology, photography, a good read of Sherlock Holmes, or wiping out on his longboard.
Friday, January 10, 2014
For Rebecca Light ’03, her dream to live and serve in a developing community began with a missions trip. As a junior social work major focusing on social policy and community development, she traveled to Nicaragua with World Focus, adding practical service and a global perspective to her coursework. In Nicaragua, Rebecca saw communities working to enact change in order to combat poverty and oppression—and she felt the call on her own life to be a part of such work. Now as project manager for a new venture called Inua, a women’s empowerment project in Tanzania whose name means “lift up” in Swahili, Rebecca is putting this calling into action.
After graduating from Gordon eleven years ago, Rebecca worked at a Department of Children and Families (DCF) group home for adolescent girls on the North Shore and obtained her master’s in social work at Salem State University. Rebecca then spent five years with a small Cambridge-based nonprofit called On The Rise, where she worked with homeless women in a daytime shelter. During this same period Rebecca volunteered for a year as a co-organizer for the Boston Oxfam Action Corps, expanding her understanding of extreme hunger and poverty, women’s issues, lack of educational opportunities, and other global social justices. Experiences like these continued to solidify Rebecca’s passion for social justice and international development.
Rebecca’s ability to recognize and step through open doors of opportunity—as she had done for the past ten years—eventually led her to Inua. In the spring of 2013, Rebecca received the opportunity to volunteer in Tanzania. What began as a three-month endeavor became a seven-month stay, and then prompted the decision to move to Tanzania for another year to start the development project.
“I took the opportunity wholeheartedly… During my time in Tanzania, I have witnessed first hand many of the injustices and oppressive systems and policies I spent time discussing and learning about beginning with my time at Gordon and continuing through my experience volunteering with Oxfam,” Rebecca says.
Rebecca began a partnership with Sylvie Ofstie, an American with a background in fashion, design and education; and a local Tanzanian woman, Pili Mtonga, an accomplished tailor, designer, artist and educator. Together, these three women founded Inua as a community outreach to support women in Bagamoyo, Tanzania, through vocational training and educational initiatives.
The empowerment project is designed to equip women with the skills needed to pursue careers and generate income independently. In addition to tailoring, design and other crafts, the yearlong curriculum designed by Rebecca and Pili also offers English and computer courses. “Without access to education, young women often do not obtain job skills or a way to earn a sustainable income and often end up married and pregnant at a young age, thus continuing the cycle of extreme poverty,” Rebecca notes.
In an effort to ensure that the organization could be self-sustaining, Rebecca and Sylvie have also created a socially conscious clothing line, called naSuma, in collaboration with Pili and her tailors. Beautifully designed and tailored by the team, every piece of naSuma's collection uses traditional African fabric featuring vibrant colors. The pieces are designed in modern and flattering cuts and are very wearable but also unique—unlike anything one can find in stores. These items are sold on their Design From Bagamoyo Facebook page, the naSuma Etsy shop and in Pili’s shop in Bagamoyo, and the Spring/Summer 2014 collection will be sold in several boutiques in the US and Europe. Revenue from the project will provide a fair and sustainable source of income for the local tailors, and will fund Inua's operating costs.
To get naSuma up and running, Rebecca, Sylvie and their new member and business consultant, Ted Humphrey, have launched a fundraising campaign. The funds they raise will be used to ensure the clothing line pays fair wages, provide workshop spaces and material, and covers other administration fees. This crowd-funding campaign offers donation options ranging from fifteen dollars to a thousand dollars, and each option comes with “perks,” which range from special thank you message and update videos from the students of Inua to naSuma items such as totes, scarves and throw blankets.
You can support this Gordon alumna and her team in their work to empower women in Bagamoyo, Tanzania, by spreading the word or making a donation before January 15.
Photo: Rebecca Light ’03
Sarah Tang '16 is a sophomore Sociology and Communication Arts double major at Gordon from Hong Kong, China and a writer in the Office of College Communications. She is a member of the Campus Events Council and works as a barista in Bistro 255. She is passionate about human trafficking and special needs orphans and has a burden for Southeast Asia.