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Who We Are

Leadership Team

Mojan Farid ’20 is a sophomore Geography major and works with the Resettlement and Local Engagement Team within Vassar Refugee Solidarity. She is a member of Vice music and plans to study abroad her junior year. She was born in Iran and can speak Farsi fluently.


Zoë Zahariadis ’21 is a first-year prospective Political Science and French double major. She is working on design and media for the VRS website. She is also a member of Vassar Alliance for Women in Foreign Affairs, Vassar Voices for Planned Parenthood and works as a French research assistant.


Matthew Brill-Carlat ’19 is the Consortium Coordinator of the Mellon Foundation-funded Consortium on Forced Migration, Displacement, and Education (CFMDE). He works closely with the Principal Investigator and Project Director of the grant and with colleagues at Bard, Bennington, and Sarah Lawrence colleges. At Vassar, Matthew is a senior History major who also studies Spanish and Arabic, having spent time abroad in Cuba and Jordan. He was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland.


Margaret Edgecombe ’22 is a prospective International Studies major with concentrations in the Geography and History departments. She serves as the co-coordinator for the Consortium on Forced Migration, Displacement, and Education. Margaret learned Spanish while living abroad in Mexico for a semester. She is a member of Amnesty International and is currently studying Arabic.


Sabrina Surgil ’21 is a first-year from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, intending to pursue studies in History, French, and Creative Writing. She is a part of the VRS Resettlement and Local Engagement Team. In addition, she works as an assistant at the Vassar Observatory and is also a member of Britomartis, Vassar on Tap, and the Underground.


William Zemp ’20 is a sophomore prospective Independent Major, and Arabic or Hispanic Studies Correlate. He is part of the Oral Histories Team and will be doing work with the Consortium on Forced Migration, Displacement and Education, which he did research for during the summer of 2017. He works at Matthew’s Bean, the coffee shop located in the library.


Student Team

Local Resettlement Project

Sasha Gopalakrishnan ’20 is a sophomore Sociology major with a possible correlate in Anthropology or Women’s Studies or both. She is a part of the Resettlement and Local Engagement Team within VRS. She is also Assistant Arts Editor for the Miscellany News as well as a member of South Asian Students Alliance (SASA) and VCTV Producers. She speaks English, Hindi and broken French, and is thinking about studying abroad in Sweden or Denmark next year.


Oral Histories Project Event Coordination

Caroline Ingram ’19 is a junior History major at Vassar with correlates in Hispanic Studies and Economics. In her role with VRS, she will primarily be working with the Oral Histories team, collecting recordings of refugee narratives locally in the Hudson Valley. She is also a Research Assistant in the History Department, as well as a CARES Listener, and will be spending the upcoming spring semester studying abroad in Madrid.


Emma Mertens ’19 is a junior Philosophy major and hopes to declare a Hispanic Studies major/correlate soon! She is a member of the oral histories team for VRS. Outside of VRS, she is also a member of Vassar College Majors Choir and a VELLOP tutor at Poughkeepsie High School. She is currently studying abroad for the fall of 2017 with the Vassar-Wesleyan Madrid program. She speaks Spanish conversationally and hopes to improve it while she is in Spain.


Event Coordination

Joan Krickellas ’19 is a junior Environmental Studies major with concentrations in Biology and Sociology. She is the Vice President of Prohealth, a student organization that works to raise awareness for local and global public health issues. Joan is also involved in Vassar’s Exploring Science program, where she helps lead activities for local Poughkeepsie elementary students at the ecological preserve. This past summer, she had an eye-opening experience as a volunteer at a refugee camp in Greece, working with UNHCR, Samaritan’s Purse, and Greek government officials.


Faculty Director

Maria Höhn is the Marion Musser Lloyd ’32 Chair of History and International Studies. She is a German historian and scholar of the American military presence in Germany after WWII, with a special focus on the interaction between African American GIs and German society. Together with Anish Kanoria, she founded Vassar Refugee Solidarity to get the Vassar College community involved in findings ways to help with the unprecedented global movements of people and the resulting crises in states responses.


Ex-Officio Advisor

Sam Speers is director of the Office of Religious & Spiritual Life and assistant dean for Campus Life and Diversity. He is past president of the Association of College and University Religious Affairs (ACURA). He recently completed an eight-year project as director of Secularity and the Liberal Arts, a Teagle Foundation working group of faculty and chaplains that asked what higher education leaders really mean when we call ourselves “secular.” He is an ordained Presbyterian minister.
He advises Vassar Refugee Solidarity in the Mid-Hudson Refugee Solidarity Alliance.

Past Contributors

Elise Shea ’19 is the founder and Director of Conversations Unbound, a non-profit organization that grew from a VRS digital initiative.

Jessica Schwed ’18 is the Assistant Director and VP of Conversations Unbound and a former member of VRS's digital initiative programs.

Camelia Manring ’20 is the Spanish Program Manager of Conversations Unbound. She was also the Consortium liaison for VRS during the '16-17 academic year.

Gabbi Chwae ’19 is the Marketing & Public Relations Manager and Secretary of Conversations Unbound. She oversaw the English Language Exchange for VRS during the ’16-17 academic year.

Zuzanna Wisniewska ’20 s the Finance Manager and Treasurer of Conversations Unbound. She was a general body member of VRS during the '16-17 academic year.

Ilayda Takil ’19 is a Marketing Assistant for Conversations Unbound. She conducted research for the Consortium on Forced Migration, Displacement, and Education during the summer of 2017.

Nikki Lohr ’17 was the History Department intern for the ’16-17 academic year and curated the Migration, Exile, Refuge: Stories from the Hudson Valley exhibition

Shira Goldmann ’17 served as the liaison between Vassar and the broader community, particularly with faith-based organizations, as the Community Outreach Coordinator for Vassar Refugee Solidarity during Fall ’16.

Christina Yang ’17 was the events and fundraising coordinator for Vassar Refugee Solidarity for the ’16-17 academic year.

Julia Albertson ’18 joined the initiative in early 2016 and researched available scholarship, internship and volunteer opportunities for the ’15-16 academic year.

Joseph DeGrand ’17 was the co-chair for archiving oral histories for the ’16-17 academic year.

Jakob Eckstein ’18 was a member for the archiving oral histories team for the ’16-17 academic year.

Nicholai Babis ’19 conducted research for the Consortium on Forced Migration, Displacement and Education during Spring ’17.

Dea Oviedo ’20 was part of the events and coordinating sub-committee during the ’16-17 academic year.

Annie MacMillan ’19 took charge of this website during Fall ’16.

Ashley LaMere ’18, together with Lily Berman, took lead in fostering cooperation with local agencies and organizations and helped in the initial stages of the resettlement efforts.

Lily Berman ’19, together with Ashley LaMere, took lead in fostering cooperation with local agencies and organizations and helped in the initial stages of the resettlement efforts.

Gaven Eier ’18 explored whether it would be possible to get scholars who are forcibly displaced to Vassar specifically through the language fellow program.