We recently checked in with four WAGS alumnae, Stephanie Poplika ’05, Lauren Curatolo ’06, Zohra Safi ’09, Christine Bachman-Sanders ’09 and Jamie Mittleman ’10, who are doing very well for themselves. Find out what they are up to now.
Stephanie Poplika ’05:
As a doula (professional labor support), for the past four years, I have assisted hundreds of women through their pregnancies, births, and postpartum period. I have helped them breathe and find comfort during labor; I have caught babies as they slide into the world; I have guided them to latch onto the breast for the first time and watched the tears of a new father and the triumph of a new mother. I find this deeply satisfying work. However, I was consistently reminded of the need for research that attends to the complexities of birth. This past summer I traveled to northern Uganda and started apprenticing as a student midwife in a rural birth clinic. My extensive practical experience uniquely situates me to contribute new ethnographic analyses of training, knowledge, power, and resistance in childbirth, both in the West and cross-culturally. My academic interests lie at the intersections of social and medical anthropology, feminist studies, and the politics of reproduction. Recently, I applied to PhD programs in cultural anthropology so that I can further anthropological knowledge and produce tangible solutions for improving maternal and child healthcare outcomes. I hope to become a trained midwife while completing a doctorate and blend both theoretical explorations and practical applications.
Lauren Curatolo ’06:
Lauren was recently invited to help ring the bell at the NASDAQ to help raise awareness about human trafficking in the United States. A pro bono project called VS, dedicated to ending human trafficking, was featured that day. Lauren graduated from CUNY School of Law in 2012, and passed the July 2012 New York Bar Examination. At CUNY, she was part of the International Women's Human Rights Clinic, and worked on two projects as part of her clinical work. She worked with The Legal Aid Society's Trafficking Victims Legal Defense and Advocacy Project (TVLDAP) and then did a fact-finding mission in Haiti on the pervasive issues of sexual assault, sexual exploitation, and violence against LGBQT persons post-earthquake. She is currently volunteering for TVLDAP. In addition to her position there, she is working in the Brooklyn and Bronx Housing Courts, providing legal services to fulfill the immense unmet legal needs of low-income New Yorkers. She also works with Women's Link Worldwide as a fellowship attorney, researching, editing, and summarizing cases as needed for the Gender Justice Uncovered Awards, a program designed to highlight written decisions or statements made by judges, administrative bodies, defense attorneys, prosecutors, UN Committees, asylum boards, or anyone else acting within a legal context. Her passion is working with survivors of human trafficking who are being criminalized every single day for engaging in behavior in which they did not freely choose to be involved. She is working on building a career that will allow her to work with indigent clients who desperately need their voices heard and represented in the legal system, and she will continue to take the steps necessary to make sure that she will be a voice for those who have been silenced, marginalized and/or forgotten.
Zohra Safi ’09:
I am currently doing community work in Toronto helping immigrants and newcomers. I am also serving on the board of the Toronto-based Afghan Women Organization (AWO). I greatly enjoy the work that I do especially with immigrant women and youth who come from varied backgrounds trying very hard, despite a myriad of barriers, to thrive in a new environment. While doing community advocacy, I have realized how important it is to have, at least, some basic knowledge of gender related issues in order to design and implement programs that will serve a purpose and have a positive impact on the targeted group. I remember learning about the relationship between patriarchy, class, and race in my Foundations in Women and Gender Studies course with Professor Moorti, and now I am seeing firsthand how the inequalities immigrant women experience in their home countries manifest themselves in different forms in their adopted country. Being equipped with the right knowledge gives me an edge when dealing with different groups of people.
Christine Bachman-Sanders ’09
For the first time since graduating from Middlebury in 2009, I am back in the classroom, and loving it! This past fall, I began a Master’s program in Media, Culture and Communication at New York University. The faculty and students that surround me come from a wide variety of departments, emphasizing the importance of an interdisciplinary focus. In the first weeks of the program, I found myself desperately learning a new theoretical language in order to communicate with my colleagues and professors. This two-year program has me already thinking seriously about what comes next. In the fall, I’ll begin my thesis and apply for PhD programs—now that I’ve had a taste of academic life again, I am certain that it is where I belong. Just today, I thought back on my time at Middlebury while writing my senior thesis, as I re-watched the 1927 film Metropolis. The film made a cameo appearance in the conclusion of my senior thesis as I theorized about cyborg feminism. Today, I fantasize about turning that into the foundation of a master’s thesis. But I have a few months and a summer of bicycling across the country before I launch into that project… Until then, I will happily indulge in the joys of academic exploration—and plenty of cyborg-themed films.
Jamie Mittleman ‘10
After graduating from Middlebury, Jamie Mittelman ’10 started a Sister-to-Sister Program at the Asian University for Women in Bangladesh, where she worked as a grammar teacher. Upon her arrival, she immediately detected a need for a mentoring program, in which more advanced students connect with younger students. One way that the female students connected was through food. Since they all hailed from different countries, some of which had recently experienced ethnic warfare, the students shared their cultural traditions by preparing healthy meals in the “Eating Better Food Committee.” Jamie thought of an innovative way to capture the energy of this intimate and ultimately peace-building activity. She proposed the publication of a cookbook to which students submitted a recipe and a story. Jamie produced a beautiful book entitled Butter Tea & Banana Soup: Food as Identity, which aims to empower these students by giving value to their experiences. The book also made it onto the desk New York Times journalist Nick Kristof and was reviewed on his Half The Sky blog.