Dr. Kathryn Hall-Trujillo arrived on the Middlebury campus on the evening of October 16th. She is the founding director of Birthing Project USA, holds a B.A. and a Masters in Public Health, has had an extensive career in social services and women’s health, and is an Ashoka Fellow. But this list of illustrious titles and accomplishments does not come close to fully describing the smiling, warm woman who arrived at Middlebury on a rainy October night. Right from the beginning, she said, “Call me Mamma Kat.” Mamma Kat exuded kindness, wisdom and humility. She conveyed warmth, gentleness and acceptance.
Mamma Kat visited Middlebury as a Social Entrepreneur in Residence. The program is a part of Ashoka U, an initiative geared at bringing social entrepreneurship to college and university campuses. Middlebury itself is an Ashoka Changemaker Campus, with exciting endeavors like MiddCORE, the Programs on Creativity and Innovation and the Center for Social Entrepreneurship earning the college this designation.
During her Wednesday through Friday visit, Mamma Kat had a full slate of workshops, engagements with classes, and lectures. The first event she led was a workshop titled, “Whispers, Dream and Blessings” that aimed to help students define themselves, their community and their future.
A group of 18 Middlebury students joined together of this workshop on Wednesday evening. Throughout the session, Mamma Kat empowered and challenged the group of students to truly assess their sense of self and community. The students rose to the challenge: the conversation ranged broadly and dug deeply into themes of identity, opportunity, fairness and relationships. Mamma Kat created a space of safety and acceptance, while still pushing each individual to question their beliefs and motivations. One participant remarked, “I was drawn to this workshop because it offered a chance to press “pause” and think about my life and my choices. And Mamma Kat asked the kind of questions that will help me move forward with a greater sense of purpose.” A second student added, “I don’t know where I’m going, but these kinds of conversations are helping me get there.”
Upon the conclusion of the workshop, there was a tangible feeling of fellowship and unity in the room. Mamma Kat fostered this, and the Middlebury students embraced it. The workshop was just the first event in Mamma Kat’s busy schedule during her stay at Middlebury, and it was a wonderful way to kick off the visit and welcome this wonderful woman to the Middlebury community.