Author Archives: Karin Hanta

Sister-to-Sister Summit on Saturday, November 19!

sts-4-2015The widely successful “Sister-to-Sister” Program is gearing up for its twelfth season of mentoring middle school girls. Since 2005, Middlebury students have invited girls from the three middle schools in Addison County – Middlebury, Vergennes, and Bristol – to participate in monthly two-hour events on campus and a one-day summit in November. At events, one “fun” activity is usually paired with a discussion. When sisters meet at the pool for log rolling, for example, they will get together after splashing in the water to discuss conceptions of body image. In general, “Sister-to-Sister” strives to make a positive difference by giving a voice to the needs and interests of middle school girls. The program provides a safe space to talk about the challenges that girls face in this day and age. It enables girls to develop friendships with other girls, even if they don’t go to the same school. The program recognizes that in addition to teachers and textbooks, achievement is affected by what happens in the hallways, between classes, and outside of school.  

Our big summit is scheduled for Saturday, November 19 from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Kirk Alumni Center. Activities will include fun workshops such as improv theater, acapella singing, dancing, yoga, and cup cake decorating.

All events are free and include breakfast, lunch and snacks (gluten-free, vegetarian options available). To register or organize transportation, please call Karin Hanta at 443-5937 or email Transportation requests need to be submitted by Wednesday, November 16.

Sister-to-Sister Halloween Night, Friday, Oct 21, 7-9 p.m., Chellis House

sister-to-sisterSister-to-Sister Halloween Night, Friday October 21, 7-9 p.m.

Middlebury College’s widely popular Sister-to-Sister Program is inviting all middle school girls to Chellis House (56 Hillcrest Road, white house behind Proctor Dining Hall) for a Halloween Night with pumpkin decorating and spooky games. For more information, contact or call 443-5937.

Mon, Oct 10, 4:30: “The Empathy Gap” Screening and Discussion

danaPlease join us on

Monday, October 10, 4:30 p.m., Dana Auditorium

for a screening of

The Empathy Gap: Masculinity and the Courage to Change

(Thomas Keith, USA, 2015, 70 mins.)

and Q&A with filmmaker Thomas Keith

In his new documentary, Thomas Keith looks closely at the ways sexist and misogynistic messages in American culture short-circuit men’s ability to empathize with women and respect them as equals, undercutting their innate capacity for caring and empathy. Along the way, Dr. Keith draws fascinating parallels between sexism and racism, spelling out how each is rooted in cultural norms that discourage empathy, and shows how men who break with these norms live happier and healthier lives.

Sponsored by the Athletics Department; Brother-to-Brother; Chellis House-Women’s Resource Center; Feminist Action at Middlebury; the Gender Sexuality, and Feminist Studies Program; Queers & Allies; Queer Studies House; the SGA Committee on Relationship Respect; Sister-to-Sister; Women of Color

-Karin Hanta

2016 Feminist of the Year Awards

On May 12, a bright and balmy Saturday, 50 friends of the Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies Program gathered for the annual Chellis House end-of-the-year party. This year, people not only came together to celebrate the Feminists of the Year, but also to honor writer-in-residence Julia Alvarez and sociology professor Peggy Nelson for their decade-long commitment to promoting feminism at Middlebury.

Catharine Wright, Director of the Writing Program, gave a moving speech in which she remembered her last year as a student at Middlebury College in 1984 and her request to have a woman writer read her senior work. Since there were only two female members of the English Department and neither one of them was a creative writer, Middlebury had to “borrow” Julia Alvarez from the University of Vermont, where she was teaching at the time. “During my defense, for the first time all year, I felt as though someone really saw my work, and spoke about it in ways I understood,” Catharine Wright remembers. Ever since she started to teach at Middlebury, Catharine has used Julia’s essay “A White Woman of Color,” “a story [that allows] for the competing claims of different parts of ourselves and where we come from” and thus models for the young writers in her classes how to write their intersectional experiences of self and world.

Claudia Cooper, visiting assistant professor of English & American Literatures and Education Studies, praised Julia for “her curiosity and sense of justice, and her understanding of the ways in which we construct meaning from narratives, and her dedication to uncovering Truth, which as she reminds us, does not necessarily lie in the facts.”

Cheryl Faraone, professor of Theater and GSFS, lauded Julia for her dedication to the program in all its permutations—Women’s Studies, Women’s & Gender Studies, and finally GSFS. Students Angie Segura ’16 and Zarai Zaragosa ’17, co-presidents of Alianza Latinoamericana y Caribeña, thanked Julia for her dedication to their organization. For over two decades, Julia has been the “madrina,” or “godmother” of the student group, and constantly conveys to the students: “I will be there for you, I will share with you what I understand, I will shine a light.”

The laurels for Peggy Nelson were equally impressive. Holly Allen, Assistant Professor of American Studies, put Peggy’s career at Middlebury in a historical perspective. Soon after arriving at Middlebury in 1975, Peggy became a recognized feminist and advocate for women’s issues on campus. Within a year, she was faculty advisor to the student Women’s Union, which in 1976 had dozens of members and an ambitious program of activities including women’s health advocacy, career counseling for women, and a campaign to establish a women’s center on campus, which finally came to fruition in 1993 with the inauguration of Chellis House. Holly also highlighted Peggy’s abiding scholarly commitment to addressing the deeply gendered demands of family and caregiving—as those demands fall differently on women and men, young and old, abled and disabled, wealthy and working-class.

Heidi Grasswick, professor of philosophy, praised Peggy for taking junior faculty members under her wing and serving as a sounding board “to think through challenges in [one’s] teaching or ideas of how to bring gender issues into the non-women’s studies classroom, to strategize how to balance the demands of teaching with the demands of scholarship and research productivity of Middlebury, and most importantly, how to keep oneself sane and grounded while doing so.” She remembered Peggy as a driving force in building the program and also pushing for initiatives such as a family leave policy.

These two faculty members serve as role models for the 2016 Feminists of the Year. This year, J Finley received the faculty distinction. Her nominators praised “Dr. J” for “the care she takes in getting to know her students and prioritizing their learning in the classroom by soliciting and incorporating their feedback.” She engages with race critically and allows students to develop skills to observe and critique power dynamics in spaces they participate in through ethnography.

Carter Curran, fellow at the Counseling Center, received the staff award. “As a therapist,” one of her nominators wrote, “Carter does not judge students who want to address their pain through activism. She has reminded me to take care of myself and treat advocacy as a marathon rather than a sprint. She has consistently made myself and others feel supported in the work that we do, refusing to dismiss activism as angry or otherwise unproductive.” Carter also supported the “Sister-to-Sister Program” throughout the year, leading a workshop on active listening skills and serving as a resource person at the summit in November. In the spring semester, Carter also held meditation and mindfulness sessions at Chellis House.

As in years past, several students garnered the Feminist of the Year Award. Chi Chi Chang ’18 was honored for her work for “Raisins,” a group of radical Asian students discussing identity, politics, and racial justice. Chi Chi is also involved in the Alliance for an Inclusive Middlebury, in JusTalks and participates in a student coalition for racial justice. Most recently, she was also one of the prime forces behind the activist art installation Stares on Stairs. Developing ideas from Tiffany Rhynard’s J-term class “Radical Performance and Social Activism,” the group staged five performances on stairwells of known party spaces. Surrounded by bodyguards, t­he performers were in various stages of undress and had handprints on their bodies, holding up signs such as “Not asking for it” and “Sexual Assault Leaves a Mark.”

Elizabeth Dunn ’18, another artistic collaborator in the Stares on Stairs project, was also honored as student Feminist of the Year. One of her nominators praised her for being a critical voice for intersectional feminism on this campus and taking up feminist concerns in her writing in the student-run blog beyondthegreen, the student newspaper The Campus, and her weekly radio show “The Kettle.” One of her nominators praised her for being “not a single-issue feminist, but rather a collaborator across a variety of anti-oppression and social justice works.”

The third distinction went to Rebecca Coates-Finke ’16.5. For the past three years, Rebecca has produced and directed Eve Ensler’s play “The Vagina Monologues” to inspire and involve many other students on campus and to turn this event of feminist theater-making into a moment of sustained collaborative activism. She has worked closely with the cast on feminist questions and self-exploration, but also engaged the larger community through pop-up performances of monologues in unusual places (from the dining hall to the gym). Her thoughtful, self-reflexive, ethical engagement with issues of diversity and inclusion as they have been posed to Eve Ensler’s play has had an important impact on Middlebury’s institutional learning process regarding sexual violence and diversity.

Highlighting intersectionality and intergenerational collaboration, the achievements of all honorees at the 2016 Chellis celebration serve as a testament to the vitality of feminist scholarship and activism on this campus and beyond.








The Program in Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies and Chellis House, the Women’s Resource Center, are seeking nominations for the student, staff, and faculty Feminist of the Year.

As feminist, we define a person who actively engages with our community to dismantle social hierarchies and systems of oppression with a multi-layered understanding and appreciation of difference.

You may nominate persons in one or all of the following categories: student, staff, and faculty by Monday, May 9, 6 p.m. by sending an email to Karin Hanta by email: or by campus mail.

I nominate __________________________ for student feminist of the year because

I nominate __________________________ for staff feminist of the year because

I nominate __________________________ for faculty feminist of the year because

Thank you for your nominations!

Edwidge Danticat/Julia Alvarez event

Acclaimed Authors Julia Alvarez and Edwidge Dandicat to Speak at Middlebury March 16


MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Two important contemporary authors will share the stage in an evening of conversation at Middlebury College on March 16 at 7 p.m. in Dana Auditorium. In an event titled “Scheherazade’s Sisters,” Middlebury alumna and 2013 Medal of Arts winner Julia Alvarez and acclaimed Haitian-American author Edwidge Dandicat will discuss a variety of topics including the art and power of story telling across different geographical landscapes, cross-culturally and trans-nationally, feminism, and their collaboration in organizations such as Border of Lights.

“This is a rare and wonderful opportunity for our community to hear from–and engage with–two distinguished writers who have done so much to shape our thinking about story telling, cultural identity, feminism, and many other topics,” said Darién J. Davis, professor of history and one of the event’s organizers.

“These two authors offer the opportunity to think through the ways in which migration and the mobility of peoples have helped cultivate new communities, new creative energies, and new forms of solidarity,” added Sujata Moorti, professor of gender, sexuality, and feminist studies. “They have simultaneously enlivened the stories that circulate in contemporary U.S. culture.”

Alvarez, a native of the Dominican Republic, earned her bachelor’s degree at Middlebury in 1971. She is the author of numerous books, including the acclaimed How The García Girls Lost Their Accents and In the Time of the Butterflies, and the nonfiction book, A Wedding in Haiti: The Story of a Friendship. Alvarez joined the Middlebury English department faculty in 1988 and was made full professor in 1996. In 1998, she gave up her tenured post to focus on writing, but has maintained a relationship with the College as writer in residence. She plans to retire this spring.

Edwidge Dandicat is a recipient of the American Book Award for The Farming of Bones (1999), the National Book Critics Circle Award for Brother, I’m Dying (2007), and a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship in 2009. She is a graduate of Barnard College and earned her MFA at Brown University. Dandicat’s critically acclaimed works also include Breath, Eyes, Memory, Krik? Krak!, The Dew Breaker, and a collection of essays titled Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work. Her picture book, Mama’s Nightingale and a young adult novel, Untwine, were both published in 2015.

“I am a generation ahead of Edwidge Danticat, though I feel a sense of continuity with her,” said Alvarez. “Edwidge is one of the great American writers, on a par with Toni Morrison. She conceptualizes America as a hemisphere, rather than just the United States. She will connect with our students who are addressing injustices so vocally at this moment and are forcing the institution to look at the issue of diversity.”

Edwidge Danticat will read from her work and the two authors will follow with a discussion. The event will take place on Wednesday, March 16, at 7 p.m. in Dana Auditorium, located on College Street (Route 125) in Middlebury. The event is free and open to the public.

“Sister-to-Sister” Summit for Middle School Girls on Saturday, November 14 at Kirk Alumni Center

The widely successful “Sister-to-Sister” Program is hosting its twelfth summit for middle school girls on Saturday, November 14nbfrom 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m at Middlebury College’s Kirk Alumni Center. “Sister-to-Sister” brings together middle school girls from Bristol, Middlebury and Vergennes with female Middlebury College students. In a one-day summit and monthly follow-up events during the rest of the school year, the students develop activities that encourage girls to try new things outside of the classroom (art, music, dancing, yoga, journaling, etc.). “Sister-to-Sister” also focuses on discussions of topics such as body image, relationships, and identity. A national program originally conceived by the American Association of University Women, “Sister-to-Sister” works to develop strategies that support girls. The program recognizes that in addition to teachers and textbooks, achievement is affected by what happens in the hallways, between classes, and even outside of school. “Sister-to-Sister” strives to make a positive difference by giving a voice to the needs and interests of middle school girls. The program provides a “safe space” to talk about the challenges that girls face in this day and age. It enables girls to develop friendships with other girls, even if they don’t go to the same school. The program is supported by roughly 100 volunteers and financial sponsors such as Chellis House (Middlebury College’s Women’s Resource Center), Middlebury College’s Community Engagement Center, and private donors. “Sister-to-Sister allowed me to get involved in the Middlebury community by connecting me with fellow students, faculty and staff members, volunteers and most importantly, middle school girls,” says Grace Giles, a Middlebury College graduate, who was involved with the program for three years. “Every generation represented in our sisterhood is experiencing the environment we live in through a different lens. When we communicate our perspectives, our lives become so much richer.”

All events are free. To register or organize transportation, please call Karin Hanta at 443-5937 or email