A New Cohort of Students Joins CIE



Seated: Vongai Changamire, Nolizwe Mhlaba, Betsy Vegso 
Standing: Shamo Thar, Homayoon Taheryar, Jenn Flemming, Adane Miheretsu, Kayla Boisvert 


Homayoon Taheryar     htaheryar@umass.edu 

I am from Afghanistan, a country where I believe that education is THE ONLY option IF its people want to survive and bring lasting peace to their homeland. My passion with education and working with academia, during the past few years, led me to CIE where I believe I can earn food for thought to consume during the rest of my life in the development of education and higher education sector. 

When I was privileged to work in the Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE) in my country, I came to realize how we badly need professional minds and education practitioners to develop, run and implement higher education policies/programs. My work at MoHE (2009) and recently with the Higher Education Project (HEP) and University Support and Workforce Development Program - USWDP (2013 – 2015) was full of challenges, learning lessons, and wealth of experience to grow as an educational practitioner. During these recent years, I realized the needs and gaps in the Afghan higher education system within MoHE and public universities which is all about the absence of quality. I have witnessed the rapid quantitative growth of higher education in Afghanistan during the past 15 years but there is still a long way to go for Afghan education to reach the quality which every developing nation wants for its education systems and universities.


I believe CIE is the right place for me to learn theories and best practices in education development. During my professional life I realized that I was missing some of the tools required for success as a professional practitioner – both theory and practice.  I am very excited and feeling very privileged and proud to have the opportunity to do my Master’s in International Education.  With the experienced and honored professors at CIE and in the College of Education, I believe, I will have a terrific start to my graduate studies here.



Betsy Vegso   bvegso@umass.edu 

My interests are in culture, conflict, and organizational change processes in education and development. I am coming to CIE after ten years with Peace Corps, and five years with a community-based, conflict resolution organization in the San Francisco Bay area.

I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Jordan, where I taught English for two years at a girls’ school in the beautiful village of Orjan.  Subsequently I became a Director of Programming and Training (DPT) for the Peace Corps programs in Turkmenistan, Romania, and Indonesia.  My primary responsibilities as DPT were to work closely with the staff to prepare volunteers for their service and to likewise prepare host country communities to receive a volunteer. Most recently I served as Chief of Programming and Training for the Europe, Mediterranean, and Asia Region of Peace Corps, based in Washington, DC.

Prior to Peace Corps I was Associate Director at Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center, which has about 150 trained volunteers who partner with staff to mediate community disputes, facilitate public meetings, and train people in local government, schools, and non-profits in conflict management skills. As Associate Director, I was responsible for a civic engagement program and for managing and mediating complex, multi-party disputes. 


I have a bachelor’s degree in English and a master's in communication.  My graduate studies focused on interpersonal and organizational conflict.  I also have a TEFL certificate and have done on-line study in intercultural communication.  In addition to teaching in Jordan, I taught English in Prague and a suburb of Milan, and taught undergraduate courses in communication and conflict in Philadelphia and the San Francisco Bay area.


Kayla Boisvert    kboisvert@umass.edu 

I’ve always had an interest in how the human mind works and learns, social justice issues, and cultures and places different from where I call home. In undergrad, I studied psychology and Spanish, and with my degree, I worked in the field of social work for several years as a therapeutic recreation counselor and later as a drug and alcohol clinician for adolescents.

Tired of the “reactive” treatment approach, I transitioned into education where I believed I could work on preventing many of life’s difficulties and working towards a more just, fair, and equitable world. In the Somerville, Massachusetts public schools, I worked in the Welcome Center, a guidance office to support immigrant students in transitioning into Somerville High. In the Welcome Center, we provided “wrap-around” services, recognizing that student achievement is also impacted by outside-of-school issues, including housing, medical, legal, and social/emotional issues. Later, I coordinated the Parent English Program, a program of English classes and support workshops that help immigrant parents feel more comfortable with and become more active in their children’s schools. In the program, I initiated the development of a parent engagement/English language curriculum, facilitated teacher training, and lead outreach and engagement of parents.

With great appreciation for Brazilian culture and a desire to work more closely with Brazilian students and their families, I moved to Macaé, Rio de Janeiro, where I worked in a K to 9 English Immersion Program for two years. There, I taught classes and developed curriculum that emphasized fun and interactive learning in natural settings, mimicking how children learn their first language. I created a placement assessment and end-of-year assessments for all grades and levels and trained teachers on the implementation of the assessment. In my free time and with a passion for non-profit and public sector work, I volunteered as a journalistic translator for an Urban Planning and Development NGO in Rio.


I’ve since come home to my roots in Massachusetts to pursue a Master’s in Education, which will allow me to further my career in development education. In my free time, I enjoy being outdoors and active, particularly through cycling, triathlon, hiking, and traveling.



Shamo Thar   xmaotai@umass.edu

My visit to a remote Tibetan herding community in Qinghai Province of China in the summer of 2009 truly changed my life. I was heartbroken to learn that access to even the most basic schooling was severely limited for Tibetan children. At that time, no girl from the community had ever completed a primary school education. Since then, some of the best days of my life have been spent initiating and improving educational outcomes, first in a village, and later in 56 tribal villages in the area. I have become increasingly convinced that the expansion and improvement of educational opportunities for Tibetan children is a critical social issue of my time. 

To respond the tremendous need in education opportunities in the area, I founded a non-profit organization, the Pentok Institute to promote quality education for Tibetan girls. Together with my team, we raised millions of grants for the programs. We worked closely with ten public schools and 7,000 children in the communities. We provided “culturally relevant curriculum” and teaching practice via several programs during summer and winter holidays. In 2014, I established the very first private school in the area with authorization from the local government. It is a Montessori pre-school that uses teaching practice of Montessori techniques but combined with culturally relevant materials and activities. Later on the local government employed the Montessori teaching philosophy in the region and shifted the traditional teaching mindsets of local Tibetan teachers for early years of children. 

My passion for education grew while I was a teacher at the English Training Program at Qinghai Normal University. Better known as ETP, this program has transformed the lives of numerous young Tibetan students, many of whom were the first university students in their families and communities. Through ETP, I established a Development Studies Program and taught English, Development, and Education. ETP modified conventional teaching strategies widely employed in the area and proved that culturally appropriate, student-centered teaching helps maximize students’ learning outcomes. While teaching Development Studies in the classroom, I organized students to bring their real ideas to action in the service of their villages and communities. 

In 2010 I was one of very few Tibetans invited to speak about Tibetan Education for nomads at a conference on Tibetan Herders' livelihoods at Leipzig University in Germany. Other participants were Western or Han Chinese Tibetologists. My presentation was well received. I spent the next two years conducting field research on education in our program area. This is when I realized that I would need a more advanced study to expand my knowledge in the area of education. With my spare time, I also write stories in Tibetan language for young Tibetan children. The first published illustration book “looking for a baby yak” touches the souls of many young readers in Tibetan language.


As someone who has gone through Tibetan, Chinese and Western education systems, I believe truly quality education is a powerful tool that can change not only one individual, but also the family.  I am deeply thrilled to join the CIE community. I look forward the opportunity of deepening my knowledge in education through my doctoral studies with each and every incredible member at the vibrant learning community.



Vongaishe Changamire    vchangamire@umass.edu

“Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm-workers can become the president” Nelson Mandela

The opportunity to work in education is one of the greatest things that has happened to me. It has been a journey or realization that education is actually every child's right rather than an obligation or responsibility. For my undergraduate studies at Africa University in Zimbabwe, I completed a Bachelor of Arts in Education degree so I could contribute to making education accessible to every child in Zimbabwe.  I joined World Education Inc. right after graduation and worked with children and youths’ individual growth in parallel strengthening and catalyzing national and community development through linking advocacy and education. Our work sought to improve the lives of orphans and vulnerable children and families through programs in basic education, school governance, vocational and life skills education, integrated literacy, girls and women’s education, HIV/AIDS education and prevention.

The Zimbabwean education sector, over the decade, has been heavily affected and weakened by various emerging economic and social challenges. As a result thousands of children continue to drop out of school and some are never then afforded the opportunity to enjoy education as a basic right. “Second Chance Education” programs that serve as transit points to critical services and catch up mechanisms for school dropouts have therefore been the core of my interests. For several years I became heavily involved in the evolution of in-school and out of school non-formal education programs. These centers are designed to offer safe places for out-of-school children and youth to develop functional literacy or numeracy skills using an accelerated curriculum.

Participating in developing an accelerated curriculum and advocating for a Non- Formal Education Policy has led me to an in depth understanding of the challenges children encounter while trying to access education as well as understanding  the sector-wide programming and policy issues that have a bearing on agencies working with children in Zimbabwe and Africa at large.


I am excited to join the Center for International Education’s vibrant community. I strongly believe that this master’s degree program will be an excellent springboard for my career and will serve as a platform to understand the different dimensions and practical consequences of educational policy decisions and alternatives from various contexts within the globe.



Adane Miheretu   amiheretu@umass.edu

Tadias! My name is Adane Miheretu and I am a first year Doctoral Candidate in International Education. I am interested in and passionate about Education in Emergencies & in Post Conflict Settings. For over ten years, I have worked for a number of International Nongovernmental Organizations (including International Rescue Committee, Women’s Refugee Commission, Concern Worldwide, and USAID’s various projects) in the education field in East Africa and in the United States. 


I am so thrilled and looking forward to working with a fascinating group of students and professors from various corners of the world with a wide range of interests and commitments. I am confident that my time at CIE will allow me to fulfill my personal and professional dreams.


Nolizwe Mhlaba     nmhlaba@umass.edu

I have long held a deep interest in international affairs, economic development, and education. This interest was largely shaped by childhood experiences in Zimbabwe, growing up in multicultural environments and in a home where education was highly valued.

I graduated from McGill University with a BA in Economics and I also hold an MA in International Studies and Diplomacy from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. During this transformative experience, I engaged more critically with discourses about economic development and explored more closely the adverse impact of misplaced, context-blind policies. This growth continued in my advocacy and research work with non-governmental organizations in New York and Nairobi.

I am joining the International Education program after five deeply rewarding years at the Johannesburg-based African Leadership Academy (ALA). Throughout my time at ALA, as a member of the African Studies department, I had the privilege of teaching and learning with dynamic young people from across Africa. Moreover, the mission of ALA, to develop the next generation of African leaders, challenged me to play a more meaningful role in the improvement of lives in Africa. 


Armed with this practical experience, I was motivated to pursue the International Education program to seek a better conceptual and theoretical understanding of teaching practices in formal and non-formal settings. Moreover, I intend to acquire tools that will enable me to design more culturally relevant programs that prepare communities (especially in Africa) to address challenges they face. Finally, I look forward to drawing from the knowledge and rich experiences of the faculty and my peers at CIE.



Jennifer Flemming        jflemming@umass.edu 

I am a doctoral student at CIE, focusing on education in crisis and conflict settings. I am particularly interested in the role of civil society and communities in developing creative opportunities for educating refugee populations. I ultimately plan to focus my research while at CIE on the Syrian refugee crisis. 

I have a diverse set of work and life experiences that have lead me to CIE. Most recently, I interned for the U.S. Department of State developing curriculum for the Resilient, Entrepreneurial and Dynamic Youth Initiative. Past work includes case management and social services for resettled Iraqi refugee populations in Denver, Colorado, management of women’s cultural mountain climbing exchanges in Iran and the US, and research and program management in community and public health initiatives in India, Bolivia, and Tajikistan. I have worked as a research consultant on projects for UNICEF and the UNHCR, and currently worked on the USAID Education in Crisis and Conflict Network as a member of the research support team, housed here at CIE. 


I have an M.Ed in International Education Policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, an M.A. in Anthropology from the University of Colorado and a B.A. in Peace and Justice Studies from Tufts University. My master’s thesis, entitled “What We Come With: An Ethnographic Assessment of Barriers to Accessing Healthcare in Refugees Resettled in Denver, Colorado” introduced me to the process of research design and implementation and ultimately motivated my decision to pursue doctoral studies.