Looking Back: Dartmouth Seniors Reflect on Transformational Dickey Center Experiences

by Alexander A. Lopez '15

Photo: Evan Diamond ’13, Mahmud Johnson ’13, Lars Blackmore

As Dartmouth says goodbye to the Class of 2013, the Dickey Center asked seniors to reflect on the global learning that informed their passions, interests, and career paths. The following stories represent a sampling of the many amazing undergraduates that the Dickey Center has worked with over the past four years.

Evan Diamond '13:  Transforming Education and the Environment through Art 

Evan Diamond '13 knew he wanted to attend Dartmouth in the second grade. An avid ski-racer, growing up in Connecticut, Diamond described skiing at Dartmouth as “the dream.” Diamond’s dream became a reality when he was recruited to the Dartmouth ski team after rigorous preparations undergone at his private boarding school in Vermont.

Competitive skiing enabled Diamond to travel around the world, from Argentina to Chile, and throughout much of Europe. After two years, however, Diamond became injured and was unable to ski his junior season.

While many would have become disheartened by this loss, Diamond used his extra time to evaluate his performance at Dartmouth, his academic and personal interests and ways in which he could combine his interests while also maximizing the resources available to him as an undergraduate

When Diamond returned to campus he became involved in the Students Teaching in the ARTs (START) program with the Hopkins Center for the Arts. Through START he was able to take his interests into a co-curricular experiential learning-based program where he could teach curricular lessons through art projects for kids.

After this, Diamond realized that his primary interests were working with children and creating art. It was through a mutual friend that Diamond soon discovered the DarDar internship at the Dickey Center. One of three interns, Diamond taught grade 3, 4 and 5 at a local school in Mbagala, the largest impoverished area in Tanzania.

“It was incredible. I had never been to Africa before. It was my first real experience with poverty and disease and seeing education systems that were not at all like the ones I was familiar with. It was intense but it was eight of the most transformative weeks of my life,” says Diamond.

In addition to teaching class, Diamond began a project that addressed environmentalism.  According to Diamond, manufacturing companies dumped large amounts of their waste in these villages. He worked to create the Arts and Nature Club, which would meet after the regularly scheduled daily school lessons. At the club, Diamond would lead workshops that encouraged the kids to consider their environment, and how to take ownership of their neighborhoods.
The first lesson, entitled “What is Nature,” slowly evolved to an ever-larger project in which the kids made decorative art out of the trash and repurposed the waste into many useful things.

Each day he would take the kids out to the dump and they would all pick out items like fabric or plastic in order to make some kind of art that reflected the lessons of the class. They had the opportunity to work with local artists and Diamond even found funding for the children to receive safety gear.

While he is back now, Diamond credits this experience with his decision to pursue teaching after college. Soon after graduating, he will begin a two-year post as a sixth-grade science teacher in Boston through Teach for America.
“After having gone to Tanzania I knew that I wanted to be an educator. I would prefer a classroom and interacting with students to an office, any day,” says Diamond.

He plans to incorporate art into his daily science lessons with his students in Boston: “Anytime you incorporate art it just makes it that much more beautiful.” Along with his DarDar internship, Diamond also pursued an International Studies minor and a Global Health Certificate through the Dickey Center.

“Everyone’s Dartmouth experience is so different. You have a lot of control of what you want it to be. I went here for two years as an athlete. Dartmouth and the Dickey Center give you the opportunity to push beyond single ways of identifying yourself. Being a DarDar intern was my transformational Dartmouth experience. If it weren’t for my experience with the program, I wouldn’t have found my true passions.  I encourage anyone whose looking to do something that might be uncomfortable or unexpected to just go for it. It could really shape what you end up doing.”

Grace Afsari-Mamagani '13:  Expanding Networks and Dialogue Through Print Publication

In the fall of her freshman year, Los Angeles native Grace Afsari-Mamagani '13 joined the Dartmouth community. Coming from an immigrant household, that transition was an interesting one, as many of her classmates were from more traditional American homes. Afsari-Mamagani soon joined The Dartmouth, the college’s official student-run newspaper as well as the Dickey Center sponsored organization, the World Outlook Journal.
As a government major who also studied English, Afsari-Mamagani battled with the practicality of how to make her disparate interests intertwine. A main area of her research interests at Dartmouth included technology and how it relates transatlantic fiction. She formed these interests into a thesis around technology, literature, and identities. “I’ve always had an interest in multiculturalism and technology and how these things intersect. My Dartmouth experience has had somewhat of a narrative arc in that the things I pursued looked at the larger issues of how identities interact on global scales.”

Her junior year, Afsari-Mamagani became the editor for the World Outlook Journal. “Our goal was: How do we make this about what’s important to people? How do we get people involved, interacting, and engaged?” she asked her staff.
The principal way she worked to do this was through the official publication and bringing the World Outlook Journal to social media through a blog, Twitter, and Facebook. The resulting online presence opened communication with students and new constituents and allowed the group to reach new audiences.

“We wanted to provide a forum for discussion and the Dickey Center makes that possible,” she says. The World Outlook Journal has hosted numerous talks led by students and professors as well as hosted visiting speakers from Foreign Affairs and other notable journals.

“It’s really cool to see the staff get excited," she says." That’s when we know we have a good idea. Our goal is to form a community and a discussion despite all the impediments that daily life now brings.”

Along with her involvement in the World Outlook Journal, Afsari-Mamagani participated in the fall uAcademy for Conscious Change at Dartmouth, program, which focused on creating sustainable social ventures both domestically and abroad.
“I worked with a team that linked Dartmouth’s community to the Upper Valley where there is a great disparity. T ese are people who have stories to tell us and in order to be successful in our mutual goals, we have to begin to rethink what volunteering is, take a step back and listen.” What’s next for Afsari-Mamagani? She is bringing her interest in world issues, print publication, and the discussion on identities to New York University, where she will pursue a Masters in American Literature.

Mahmud Johnson '13:  Building Sustainable Social Ventures in Liberia

Dartmouth attracts students from around the world who work towards creating sustainable change. One of those students is Mahmud Johnson '13, who is pursuing a year long post-graduate Lombard Fellowship sponsored by the Dickey Center.

Johnson’s Lombard Fellowship is a culmination of a lifetime of dedication to social activism. In 2008, when Johnson graduated from high school in his home in Monrovia, Liberia, he worked for a year for Population Services International, one of the largest social marketing firms in the world. Johnson has worked in numerous high-ranking positions on humanitarian issues, including the President’s office in Liberia. After his co-workers noticed his drive and charisma, they encouraged him to apply to schools in the United States.

“Financial aid and acceptance of international students was a major factor for me, so naturally I found Dartmouth,” he says.

Johnson was a member of the Dickey Center's inaugural class of Great Issues Scholars, a first year program designed to give students a network of globally minded students who are actively working towards change in their interest areas.
“I really enjoyed discussing international issues with students who I may not have otherwise met,” he says. After his freshman year, Johnson was selected to receive a Davis Projects for Peace Grant, a program administered through the Dickey Center and funded by the Davis Foundation.

For Johnson’s Peace Project he focused on outreach programs to young men and women who have dropped out of school in Liberia and who are refugees or former child soldiers. This experience led Johnson to the Tuck Bridge Program and the Paganucci Fellowship in his junior year of study at Dartmouth.

During his Paganucci fellowship, Johnson worked with Tuck alumna Gretchen Wallace, founder and CEO of Global Grassroots, a New Hampshire based non-profit that focuses on creating sustainable social ventures for women in post-conflict regions of Africa.

“Global Grassroots really focuses on mindfulness and using many tools to realize and channel into yourself and the situation at hand,” he says.

Through Johnson’s work with Global Grassroots, he traveled twice to Liberia to develop an online training curriculum with and for change makers in-country. He returned to Liberia to create local partnerships, training opportunities, and to inspire fellow grassroots change agents in their work of addressing some of the world’s troubles.

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