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Shawna Shapiro Receives Grant for Work with Vermont Nepali Bhutanese Community

May 20, 2016

Shawna Shapiro, assistant professor of writing and linguistics, has received a grant from the Vermont Humanities Council to support a community engagement project she is developing with the Nepali Bhutanese community in and around Burlington, Vermont. The portion of her work supported by the VHC grant will help establish cultural heritage language programs by which children in the community become more proficient and literate in their home language of Nepali.

“In my interviews, focus groups, and community meetings with New American students and families, I have discovered that loss of cultural knowledge is of great concern to Nepali Bhutanese parents,” said Shapiro. “There is a great need for more programming related to cultural preservation and enrichment.  Unfortunately, while the local schools do offer some multicultural activities, budget and time limitations prevent a deeper explanation of these students’ cultural heritage.”

Shaprio’s curriculum focuses on Nepali and Bhutanese arts, as well as literature, history, and other humanities studies. The program aims to highlight the diverse ways of knowing within Nepali Bhutanese communities, and to share this knowledge with the broader community in Chittenden County. 

There are currently two programs that have begun operation, serving almost 40 children ages 6-13.  Funds from Middlebury’s Office of Community Engagement helped get these programs started and several Middlebury students have been involved in the program. Some students will continue their work this summer as Research Assistants.