SIT changemakers of 2023

December 28th, 2023   |   Alumni, Careers, Faculty, SIT

The SIT community—students, faculty, alumni, and partners—step forward every year to make meaningful change that affects our communities, our countries, and our planet. Here are some of the extraordinary SIT changemakers we had the privilege of profiling in 2023.

Colin Byers

Colin Byers
SIT Global Master's in Climate Change and Global Sustainability
As a staff member of a Union of Concerned Scientists, Colin Byers is working to make the U.S. electric grid more equitable. “As stakeholders work to get renewable energy online quickly, it’s key that equity and justice are front and center," Byers writes. "If done correctly, the transition to 100 percent renewable energy could dramatically improve the quality of life for generations to come.”

Amara Evering

Amara Evering
SIT Cameroon: Development and Social Change
Evering produced a radio series to get information to women in rural Namibia about healing. The seven segments address sexuality, eating disorders, intergenerational trauma, and more. “Without access to information, women are left unaware of available resources. So, there has been a need to communicate information to women in Namibia on a larger scale, despite infrastructural limitations,” says Evering.

Amit Gerstein

Amit Gerstein
SIT Nepal: Development and Social Change
Gerstein partnered with a local makeup artist to create workshops for trans women and sex workers in Nepal, where communities experiencing high rates of unemployment were hard hit by the pandemic. Many were forced to go back to families that didn’t accept them and discrimination they had tried to escape. Gerstein said the workshops "helped marginalized people find jobs. However, throughout the workshops, I realized that we might be doing something equally as powerful: We were empowering people to be themselves, legitimizing thoughts and feelings that are so often under attack. If people recognize their own value, perhaps that can be a step in building a society that does, too."

Bahati Kanyamanza (foreground)

Bahati Kanyamanza
SIT Master's in Sustainable Development
As an advisor with the United State Refugee Advisory Board, Kanyamanza is working to ensure that refugees in the U.S. are well-supported and that the U.S. is a global leader in policies and practices that engage and fund refugee organizations. "The U.S. government pays critical attention to displacement and invests heavily in this work," he says. "If the U.S. does a good job, other countries are likely to follow suit. My role as an advisor is to make sure that I use my forced-displacement experience and expertise to shape better policies for refugees in the U.S and globally."

Brittany Lavalee

Brittany Lavelee
SIT Global Master's in Humanitarian Assistance and Crisis Management
As a member of Pine Creek First Nation in northern Manitoba, Lavelee developed a curriculum on empowerment in First Nations resilience and sustainability, which includes an educational exchange that takes Pine Creek First Nation high school students to Indigenous communities across Canada and South America. The project uses a First Nations-based curriculum with land-based knowledge and field excursions. "Many Elders had told me that our youth must return to our roots to heal and overcome barriers," Lavalee said.

Emmanuel Orozco Castallnos

Emmanuel Orozco Castellanos
SIT Switzerland: International Studies and Multilateral Diplomacy
As a 2024 Rhodes Scholar, Orozco Castellanos will continue to address the Inter-American asylum regime and how the UN High Commission for Refugees operates in Mexico with support from the United States. “The University of Oxford pioneered the field of refugee studies in the 1980s," he says. “I am ecstatic to learn from some of the world’s most prominent experts in the field, many of whom have worked as humanitarians and have a holistic view of the realities of forced displacement.” 

Cece Roth-Eagle

Cece Roth-Eagle
SIT Argentina: Social Movements and Human Rights

The Smith College journal Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism awarded Roth-Eagle the Elizabeth Alexander Creative Writing Award for Prose for her piece, Month of Wind/Mes del Viento, which the journal describes as "a masterful blend of narrative with scholarly power." The 2022 Smith College graduate, who has a special interest in literary forms and Indigenous rights, lived and worked with a Jicarilla Apache community in rural Colorado before moving to Spain to teach English in fall 2023.

Shahida, left, and Ismael, center, with a neighborhood homestay mother in Cape Town.

Ishmael and Shahida
SIT South Africa

In Cape Town, South Africa, Ishmael and Shahida create a warm and welcoming home away from home for SIT undergraduate and graduate students, who share the family’s home and meals, attend community events, and become part of the family’s daily lives. At the same time, the couple, who have experienced apartheid and the new South Africa, shares the complex history and realities of their country. “It changes their whole mindset,” says Ishmael. “So we also try and talk to them about our childhood, how we grew up. "

Angela Tucker

Angela Tucker
SIT Study Abroad Ghana

Emmy and Webby award-winning filmmaker Angela Tucker sees a common thread running her diverse body of films—a through-line that goes back to when she picked up a camera to film the arts and culture of Ghana with SIT. “My work is about representing underrepresented communities in unconventional ways. I think my Christmas movie had a place in my work as much as a documentary about forced sterilization. It’s about representation, and the importance of showing the experiences of Black people ... It’s about Black joy—and that’s radical in a world that wants to show Black pain.”

Leslie Turpin

Dr. Leslie Turpin
Professor Emerita, SIT Master's in TESOL

Dr. Turpin retired in 2023 after more than 30 years at SIT Graduate Institute. Her legacy continues in the work SIT alumni are doing around the globe. “I believe that the way to solve the world's problems is to learn better,” says Turpin. “We need to figure out how to learn differently. ... Language is the portal to that bigger question: What does it mean to learn? How do we evolve as human beings through the process of learning?”

Ronan Wallace

Ronan Wallace
SIT Nepal: Tibetan and Himalayan Peoples

Wallace is using low-cost three-dimensional modeling to document climate-induced impacts in two villages in the Himalaya that are experiencing dramatic changes due to the climate crisis. His project “encourages communal voices to take center stage, spotlighting marginalized Himalayan communities struggling to adapt to anthropogenic climate impacts.” He hopes the project will become a model for other impacted communities to use data-based storytelling "in a way that not only places communal voices ahead of our own, but also results in an effective resource for communal use.”