Ashoka Fellow and “Serial Founder” Alisa Del Tufo Engages Middlebury Students


Alisa is deep in thought as she listens to student participants come up with new and innovative ways for her to promote her movement, “A Word Is Worth.”

Throughout her career, Alisa Del Tufo has believed deeply in the goal of community empowerment. As she states, “We need to get this idea out there: the people in our communities are actually the most powerful engine for change and we need to find effective and ethical and meaningful ways of bringing their participation into the conversation about change.”

Wow. For me, as a young woman interested in community-based activism, hearing Alisa talk about her work was incredibly cool. It was exciting and empowering. She has spent thirty years tackling issues of domestic violence from both a hands-on and policy-based standpoint. She has identified the areas in which government programs are not sufficient, and she has had the courage, spunk and creativity to develop innovative programs that meet those unaddressed needs. With all her experience in the field of social entrepreneurship, Alisa is an invaluable mentor for Middlebury students. But equally or perhaps more important than Alisa’s knowledge is her compassion, humility and dedication to her work. Her mentoring goes beyond strict skills; she models kindness and a commitment to what she loves. For us, as college students who are unsure where our lives lead, this is a powerful example. With a smile, Alisa said, “I made somewhat of a left turn from studying Tibetan Buddhism to becoming a feminist activist. But it didn’t seem like a left turn to me; it seemed completely in line with really trying to understand what made people tick and what their values were – and it’s those ideas that are important to me.” Continue reading

Kick-Off of Mamma Kat’s Middlebury Visit: Whispers, Dreams and Blessings Workshop

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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. Continue reading

?What If! Workshop at Porter Hospital

We walked through white-walled hallways, heard heart monitors beeping, and smelled the sterile hospital air. And then we were challenged to ask ourselves how things could be different. We were asked: “What If you could add to the experience of being in this hospital? What If you could redesign the building, the decorations, the experience, everything?”

This was the premise to the MiddCORE Workshop I attended this past Friday with Blake from ?WhatIf! Innovation. From the beginning of the workshop, there were smiles, laughs, and excitement pouring out of everyone in the room. Our challenge – to redesign the Porter Hospital ER Experience in 3 hours – seemed daunting, but thanks to the incredible guidance of our mentor, Blake, I left the experience reminded that anything is possible if you keep asking yourself “What if?!!”

I have spent the past four years in numerous classroom settings and labs which have drilled into me the idea that by following the logical steps, an answer will be found. My experience at the ?WhatIf! MiddCORE Workshop reminded me of the wonderful power that comes from stepping out of the box and nurturing (even the most absurd) ideas. This workshop gave me another taste of just how awesome the MiddCORE program is, and it once again confirmed my strong belief that if everyone did MiddCORE, our world would be a wonderfully different place.

-Kathryn Benson ’13


Students experience first hand what it’s like to be an ER patient in a simulation (above), then debrief, challenging typical “rules” of hospitals (i.e. wearing gowns, waiting alone for doctors) and evaluating how the patient experience could be improved (below).

kathryn what if

Feedback on Fall Workshop Series

This fall MiddCORE hosted four fabulous workshops: Persuasive Communication, Storymaking, Negotiation, and Activating Empathy (co-sponsored by the Center for Social Entrepreneurship). We were blown away by the mentors that led mini-MiddCORE sessions this fall, but don’t take our word for it! See what our participants had to say…

 “Could this workshop be offered again? Or on a more permanent basis?”

“That type of learning is exactly what I’ve been yearning for at Middlebury…”

“Really fascinating and interesting learning experience!”

“MiddCORE seems like the missing piece that I have been searching for in my Middlebury education – and I know I would be lucky to be able to be a part of the program this January.”

Peter DiPrinzio ’13 competes with Jake Nonweiler ’14 in an arm wrestle as part of Paul Cramer‘s workshop on negotiation.

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