One came from Liberia, the other from Sudan, bringing with them the skills and knowledge formed in countries struggling with deep and protracted conflicts. Both were initially drawn to CONTACT, SIT’s iconic summer peace-building program, and both continued on to earn their master’s degrees from SIT Graduate Institute.
Joe Wiah and Asma Ali Abunaib are bringing their distinctive backgrounds, skills, and understanding to expand diversity and inclusion in the overwhelmingly homogenous state of Vermont. Displaced from Liberia due to civil war, Joe studied in Nigeria, Tanzania, and Kenya before returning home to work with former child soldiers. Today, he is director of the Multicultural Community Center, one of nine branches of a national refugee resettlement organization, the Ethiopian Community Development Council. In just one year, he has helped build a thriving local organization that has facilitated the resettlement of more than 100 Afghan and other refugees in southern Vermont, thanks in large part to a growing network of deep community and organizational partnerships. Earlier this year, his work earned him an award from the Vermont Community Foundation for his efforts to “build a better Vermont."
Further north in Vermont, Asma is using her multicultural understanding and conflict transformation skills to facilitate diversity, equity, and inclusion at Champlain Valley School District. With a BS from Gezira University in Sudan and a diploma in Peace and Development Studies from Juba University, Khartoum, in South Sudan, in 2008 Asma was working with the United Nations Office for the Coordinator of Humanitarian Affairs in Sudan when she decided to attend SIT’s CONTACT program. After graduating from SIT in 2013, Asma returned to Vermnont from Sudan to earn her EdD in educational leadership at University of Vermont, where her SIT capstone research on the experiential learning cycle for non-western learners fed into her doctoral dissertation on culturally responsive adult education. She brings that broad educational and experiential background to her new position as director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.