A global community-engaged educational project of Lloyd International Honors College of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in collaboration with the East Side Institute
Everyone has something to teach; everyone has something to learn. This is what we do as human beings: teach-learn. Come one, come all. In this spirit, Let’s Learn! The World as Classroom is designed for people from all walks of life all over the world to share and create knowledge and culture together. A free and volunteer-based community of teacher-learners, Let’s Learn! is organized and self-generated through the goodwill of artists-scientists-poets-gardeners-cooks-musicians-doctors-nurses-counselors—all of us. No grades, just growin’.
Let’s Learn!—through Zoom, What’s App, and other online platforms, along with in-person events when appropriate—organizes classes, seminars, conversations, story-telling gatherings, poetry and song sharing events, performances and playful participatory workshops. These offerings vary in content, length, and form. Some are one-time events, others resemble courses, still others may expand in different directions for various lengths of time and develop into new structures. Whatever the form and content of its learning experiences, Let’s Learn! crosses academic, national, and cultural borders, blurring disciplinary boundaries and the distinctions between experts and non-experts. It brings world-class scholars, teachers, and researchers in the natural and social sciences, the arts and humanities, elders, healers, and specialists of all kinds together with all interested persons to share their local and global knowledges, cultures, histories, and emotions.
Let’s Learn! breaks new ground in a number of ways: 1) all its offerings are free and open to all who want to attend anywhere in the world where there is access to the internet; 2) teachers share their knowledge, skills, and experience for the joy of sharing; 3) there are no grades; people participate in courses, workshops and other events out of curiosity and a desire to have fun and expand their horizons; and, 4) the sharing of knowledge, skills, and experiences is dialogic and participatory. Its fluid faculty includes internationally renowned academics and professional artists, along with teachers with non-academic cultural skills and historic knowledges to share—a mix that expands the learning experience and deepens its impact.
Let’s Learn!, while affiliated with Lloyd International Honors College, whose motto is “Play, Experiment, Perform!,” along with other established educational and training institutions that may wish to collaborate, affiliate, or support it, is primarily dependent on its teacher-learners for its existence, development, and growth. This self-organizing aspect of its activity is an important part of what makes Let’s Learn! innovative, creative, democratic, and developmental for all who engage in co-creating it.
Project Manager, Dan Friedman, Ph.D. (email@example.com) Logo designed by Pei Ying
(Leadership Through Performance Activism)
Jorge Burciaga-Montoya, Miguel Cortes, Sandra Paola Lopez-Ramirez
Sabado/Saturday, Septiembre/September 10
5:00 pm – 6:30 pm Hora del este EE.UU./ Eastern U.S. Time
3:00 pm – 4:30 pm Ciudad Juarez-El Paso Time
¿Ha oído hablar del ‘Activismo Performativo,’ el nuevo enfoque lúdico y performativo para abordar cuestiones sociales, culturales y políticas? ¿Le gustaría conocer a estos activistas y aprender sobre lo que hacen y cómo repercute en sus comunidades? Entonces ven a esta primera clase de ¡Aprendamos! en español, en la que tendrás la oportunidad de dialogar con algunos de los que están experimentando con esta nueva forma de activismo en diferentes regiones hispanohablantes del mundo. Compartirán cómo han creado espacios performativos fuera de las limitaciones institucionales del teatro donde pueden surgir la creatividad, el desarrollo personal y grupal y la transformación social. Quién sabe, quizá usted también quiere llevar el activismo performativo a tu comunidad.
Have you heard about Performance Activism, the new playful, performative approach to engaging social, cultural and political issues? Would you like to meet such activists and learn about what they do and how it impacts on their communities? Then come to this first ever Let’s Learn! class in Spanish where you will have the opportunity to dialogue with some of those experimenting with this new form of activism in different Spanish-speaking regions of the world. They will share how they have created performative spaces outside of the institutional constraints of the theatre where creativity, personal and group development and social transformation can emerge. Who knows, maybe you’ll want to bring performance activism to your community as well!
Dr. Dan Friedman
Monday, September 12, 6:00 pm -7:30 pm, Eastern U.S. Time
Dan Friedman, the Artistic Director Emeritus of the Castillo Theatre in New York City, has long been active in progressive political and community-based theatre. He will introduce us to a new way of exercising power that is emerging around the world: Performance Activism. Not over determined by what it’s against, Performance Activism is a reconstructive approach to changing the world. It allows us, through play and performance, to generate new ways of seeing, build new kinds of relationships, and imagine new social and political possibilities. Over the last three decades, performance activists have brought play and performance into classrooms, workplaces, community centers, hospitals, prisons, and onto the streets. Dr. Friedman will unpack how and why Performance Activism has emerged—and why it’s important in a world facing so many crises. There will be ample time for questions and conversation.
Ethan Divon & Dr. Omar Ali
Monday, September 19
12:15-1:00 pm Eastern U.S. Time/2:15 am-3:00 am Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea Time
Ok, so if you want to get better at playing basketball, what do you do? Play basketball! If you want to get better at having conversations, or become a better learner, improve your grades, get a new job, win the lottery, go to the moon, or fly like an eagle into the future … come to Monday Play! That’s right, we invite you to join one of our weekly open improv sessions co-led by Ethan Divon and Omar Ali of Lloyd International Honors College at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Come practice ‘yes, anding’ with others—that is, build on what others say or do, and create new possibilities together. Zero humor and/or related skills required, just a willingness to play.
Purvi Sanghvi & Dr. Nick Gross
Saturday, September 24
11:00 am – 12:30 pm Eastern U.S. Time/8:30 pm – 10:00 pm Mumbai Time
A physicist and an historian walk into a kitchen. The historian also happens to be a wonderful cook. The physicist is an innovative grassroots educator. What do you have? This class. Join Purvi Sanghvi, a graduate student in history at Georgia State University, and Nicholas Gross, senior research scientist at Boston University, for a cooking class … with a twist. Sanghvi will share her traditional family recipes from India, while Gross will discuss the science behind why these recipes work the way they do and what the benefits of the ingredients and cooking process are. It promises to be an informative and delicious class.
Qazi Abdur Rahman
Saturday, October 1
10:00 am – 11:30 am Eastern U.S. Time/8:00 pm – 9:30 pm Dhaka Time
Longtime educator Qazi Abdur Rahman of the Oxford International School in Dhaka, Bangladesh, leads us on a discovery of some of the greatest Bangla poets of all time. He will open the class with a brief introduction to Bangla literature, going back to its origins 1,500 years ago and tracing it to its modernist flowering in the 20th Century. The life and impact of five Bangla poets will be introduced and a poem from each will be performed in the original Bangla by Rahman’s students from Oxford and in English translation by Let’s Learn! class participants. The readings will be followed by reflection and discussion.
Dr. Jaime E. Martinez
Thursday, October 20th, 1:00 pm-2:30 pm Eastern U.S. Time
Let’s Learn! is all about bringing together people from all walks of life all over the world to share and create knowledge and culture together. Just how can we do that? This is a chance for students, teachers, and life-long learners of all sorts to get together and play with new possibilities for teaching and learning. Join Dr. Jaime E. Martinez, associate professor of Interdisciplinary Studies Sciences at the New York Institute of Technology, in this participatory workshop, inspired by teams working to explore educational needs and finding new ways of engaging them. No experience with formal education needed—just curiosity and a willingness to explore the unknown with others.
Arts Into Acts
Saturday, October 22
11:00 am – 12:30 pm Eastern U.S. Time/4:00 pm – 5:30 pm London Time/6:00 pm – 7:30 pm Lesbos Time
The Greek island of Lesbos lies just 12 kilometers (7 miles) off the coast of Turkey. Since 2015, millions of refugees and asylum seekers, fleeing war, violence and political persecution have passed through the island seeking a better life. Thousands of people have lived in the Moria Refugee Camp, which Doctors Without Borders has called “the worst refugee camp in the world.” Initially many locals welcomed the refugees. However, in the years since, the political climate has grown divisive. Anti-migrant nationalism has grown and incidents of racism have become an everyday reality. At the same time, Mytilene, the capital city of Lesbos, has become a melting pot of cultures, languages, lives, and dreams. There young people have found ways to connect and create art and community. Through their art they responded to alienation, creating collective power and giving expression to a collective voice. Their arts became acts of solidarity and hope. During this session young people will share their arts and their acts, their journeys, and what inspired and maintained them. The session itself will become an act of support for their dreams. We will interweave conversation and performance, inviting the participants of the class to join us to co-create a world stage for their acts. The session will be hosted by Elena Boukouvala, dramatherapist, performance activist and action researcher who has worked and played in the camps and communities of Lesbos (and beyond) since 2016. The session is inspired by the action research project “Arts into Acts.”
Saturday, October 29
1:00 pm – 2:30 pm Eastern U.S. Time/7:00 pm – 8:30 pm South African Time
In this participatory workshop, Alex Sutherland, the Coordinator of Creativity in Activist Education and acting Head of Programs at the Tshisimani Center for Activist Education in Cape Town, South Africa, will lead an exploration of the ways in which creativity and imagination are key to political and social activism. We will look at case studies from around the world that have used play, humor and creativity to re-imagine another world while voicing resistance to the status quo. There will be a special focus on Africa where liberation struggles have consciously embraced arts and culture in organizing and campaigning. Workshop participants will engage in simple activities that can build an artistic activist repertoire of resistance and imagination.
Dr. Syed Mizanur Rahman
Friday, November 4
9:00 am – 10:00 am, Eastern U.S. Time/7:00 pm – 8:00 pm, Dhaka Time
Daffodil International University in Dhaka, Bangladesh has a policy of “One Student, One Laptop.” Each student is provided with a laptop so they can fully participate in 21st Century education and connect with the wider world. When the pandemic lockdown struck in 2020 and students needed to return to their home villages, they were asked by the university to take their laptops with them and to use them to generate curiosity and learning back home. In this conversation led by Dr. Syed Mizabur Rahman, director of the General Education Department at Daffodil, a group of returning students share their experiences and how it impacted on them and on their communities.
Daniel Maposa & Dan Friedman
Tuesday, November 15
10:00 am – 11:00 am, Eastern U.S. Time/4:00 pm – 5:00 pm, Zimbabwe Time
Zimbabwe has a history of creative and combative political theatre stretching back to its War of Liberation in the 1970s. Daniel Maposa is the founder and leader of the Savanna Trust, one Zimbabwe’s most impactful political theatres. He has led its evolution from “hit and run” street theatre under the Mugabe dictatorship to the participatory performance workshops it generates today in villages all over the country. These workshops organize local residents to create their own interactive plays about issues of importance to them. Join Maposa in conversation with Dan Friedman, author of Performance Activism and Artistic Director Emeritus of New York’s Castillo Theatre, for a conversation about Zimbabwe’s political theatre—past, present and future.
Monica Carrillo & Nodia Mena
Thursday, February 17, 7:00pm – 8:30 p.m.
This sweeping presentation and conversation on the history, culture, and politics of Afro-Latin America will be given by Monica Carrillo, human rights leader, poet, and Grammy Award-winning Afro-Peruvian artist, and Nodia Mena, Garifuna (African and Indian-descended) cultural ambassador from Honduras, dancer, and educator based in North Carolina. Q&A with Carrillo and Mena will follow moderated by Omar Ali, historian of the global African Diaspora and Dean of Lloyd Honors College, University of North Carolina, Greensboro. The event is co-sponsored with the Greensboro Public Library and the African American & African Diaspora Studies Program at UNC Greensboro.
Saturday, February 26, 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm
Join professional dancer and choreographer Valerie Green, artistic director of Dance Entropy, in this unique workshop which explores the complex and subtle relations between movement and emotionality. Words label what we know; movement can reveal the unknown. Starting with expressive movement exercises, Green will lead students on their own personal movement journey within a safe and nurturing environment. This workshop aims to find a physical expression to the feelings, whereby a healing process can begin. No previous dance experience needed. Wear clothing you can move in.
Nadja Cech & Omar Ali
Tuesday, March 1, 11:00 am – 12:15 pm
When you think of science do you think of complex formulas or memorizing charts and tables or do you feel curiosity and the excitement of discovery? For Dr. Nadja Cech, Patricia A. Sullivan Distinguished Professor of Chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, it’s the latter. Join her in conversation with historian Omar Ali, Dean of Lloyd International Honors College, to explore the joy and wonder to be found in the ongoing quest of discovering how the universe works by asking big and small questions, and drawing from all disciplines and approaches. The conversation is part of a class they regularly co-teach entitled “How do we know what we know?: Power, Epistemology, and Methodology.” The conversation is being co-sponsored by Cultivating Ensembles, which brings together individuals with different sensibilities and interests in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM) to celebrate the interwoven nature of sciences, technologies, humanities, and arts as human activities.
Monday, March 7, 10:30 am – 11:45 am
“The heart of improvisation is transformation.” – Viola Spolin
Improvisation, the ability to actively listen, accept “offers” from fellow performers, and create something new together, is a vital life skill. Learn the basics of improv—group warm ups and “yes, and” scenes—from Marian Rich, a talented teacher, improvisational performer and co-founder of the Global Play Brigade. Since this is Improv for everyone, no experience necessary!
Raquell Holmes, Nick Gross, Martha McCoy & team
Saturday, March 12, 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm
When you ask a scientist a question, you may get an answer, but you may also get a question back. Have you ever wondered why the weather changes on Earth—or Mars? What makes water healthy, or not? How do vaccines work? What are “black holes”? Bring your questions to this conversation with scientists in physics, medicine, biology, mathematics, and computing. Discover how different scientists respond. Do scientists all think alike? How do they develop their ideas? We’ll create answers together with the essential tools of science: drawing, curiosity, and building with the contributions of others. Let’s develop our relationships to science and to one another.
Sanjay Kumar & Dan Friedman
Sunday, March 20, 9:30 am – 11:00 am
India has a rich and varied theatre history stretching back two thousand years. It also has one of the most wide-spread and deeply-embraced progressive political theatre movements in the world. Sanjay Kumar, who teaches theatre and literature at Hans Raj College of Delhi University and is founder and leader of the pandees, one of India’s most impactful political theatres, lives and breathes this history. Join him in conversation with Dan Friedman, author of Performance Activism and Artistic Director (Emeritus) of New York’s Castillo Theatre, for a conversation about India’s political theatre—past, present and future.
Dr. Wen Der Jan & Mei Hui Zhang
Friday, April 1, 9:00 pm – 10:30 pm.
Chinese medicine approaches health and illness from a different perspective than medicine in the West—and has much to offer a world that is seeking healing and wellness. Join Dr. Wen Der Jan and Mei Hui Zhang of the Ludi Community School in Taipei, Taiwan, for this introduction to the basic assumptions and methods of Chinese Internal Medicine. The class will be conducted in Chinese (Mandarin) with simultaneous English translation.
Sunday, April 10, 2:00 pm – 3:15 pm
Omar Ali & Dan Friedman
All over the world today—in the United States, Brazil, France, Hungry, the Philippines—anti-democratic, authoritarian and neo-fascist movements are being called “Populist” by the media and political pundits. Yet Populism started in the late 19th Century in the U.S. as a movement of poor farmers and workers to oppose the authority of the big corporations and their political parties. It was a movement for more democracy, not less. What has happened since and why this confusion? Dr. Omar Ali, Dean of Lloyd International Honors College, and author of the pioneering study, In the Lion’s Mouth: Black Populism in the New South: 1886-1900, in conversation with Dr. Dan Friedman of the East Side Institute, will discuss the history and significance of Populism and how and why its name is being misused today.
Ambassador Akbar Ahmed
Monday, September 20 – 6:30 pm–7:30 pm (US Eastern Standard Time)
Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University, will discuss Islam in Europe and around the world, and the challenges of immigration and identity with Dr. Omar Ali, Dean of Lloyd International Honors College at UNC Greensboro. One session.
Sundays, September 26 and October 3 – 12:00 pm–1:30 pm (US Eastern Standard Time)
Over the past decades, street art has evolved from an illegal and persecuted street activity by youth, mainly young men, to a celebrated art form around the world. This class will explore the history and politics of street art. We will be viewing all forms of street art, including graffiti, murals, stenciling, wheat pasting, tagging, and bombing. We will explore the question of what is art and who gets to answer that question. The class will include videos of street artists speaking about their work. Topics for discussion will include: street art as a tool for democratizing art, graffiti vs. street art, the commodification of street art, the relationship between street art and gentrification, women and LGBTQ+ street artist, street art as a tool for community development and other topics. Students will be encouraged to go out street art hunting and to bring photos of street art to the second class. Two sessions.
Henry Ferris & Susan Massad, M.D.
Wednesdays, September 29 and October 6 – 2:00 pm–3:30 pm (US Eastern Standard Time)
Writing your own story is exhilarating, thrilling, nerve-wracking and cathartic. Emotions run high and the drama is real. In this two-part class, you will discover the skills needed to unfold a narrative, realize characters, compose dialogue and find the words that tell the story inside you in a compelling way. Veteran book editor Henry Ferris and veteran writing teacher Susan Massad will provide you with tips and pointers to help you focus on the right tale, the themes you want to explore, and proven methods for making it all come alive on the page. You will write during class and receive guidance on how to improve and keep going forward with your writing. Join us and bring your story out to the world! Two sessions. Enrollment limited to 30 students.
Monday, October 18 – 10:30 am–11:45 am (US Eastern Standard Time)
“The heart of improvisation is transformation.” – Viola Spolin
Improvisation, the ability to actively listen, accept “offers” from fellow performers, and create something new together, is a vital life skill. Learn the basics of improv—group warm ups and “yes, and” scenes—from Marian Rich, a talented teacher, improvisational performer and co-founder of the Global Play Brigade. Since this is Improv for everyone, no experience necessary! One session.
Jazmin Graves, Ph.D.
Tuesday, October 19 – 6:00 pm–7:15 pm (US Eastern Standard Time)
Dr. Jazmin Graves, Assistant Professor of African American and African Diaspora Studies (AADS), who recently completed her Ph.D. at the University of Chicago will discuss her research on the communities of African-descended people in India with Dr. Omar Ali as part of this AADS Conversation with the Community/Let’s Learn! initiative. One session.
Thursday, October 21 – 12:00 pm–1:00 pm (US Eastern Standard Time)
An accomplished stage performer and co-founder of Global Play Brigade: Play it Forward. Change our World, Cathy Salit will discuss her work using play and performance to help build a global community of ‘players’ during the pandemic … and beyond! The session will include practical (playful) tips on performing that can help everyone be more creative and connect with others. One session.
Friday, October 22 – 6:30-7:15 pm (US Eastern Standard Time)
“The Crisis” is an opera based on an unfortunate and all-too-common experience in a NYC emergency room.
Singers: Sishel Claverie, Tomas Cruz, Gabriel Hernandez, Joshua Jeremiah, Emily Suuberg
Piano: Dima Glivinskiy
Creating the opera changed everything. Come hear this beautiful musical piece and join us in the conversation that follows.
Raquell Holmes, Ph.D. and Colleagues
Saturdays, October 30 and November 6 – 1:00 pm–2:30 pm (US Eastern Standard Time)
Have you ever wondered about why the weather changes on Earth—or Mars? What makes water healthy, or not? How do vaccines work? What are “black holes”? Do scientists all think alike, or do they have disagreements? Bring your questions to this two-part conversation with a physicist, chemist, biologist, mathematician and computer scientist. We’ll create and answer questions together in ways that challenge our relationships to science and to one another. Two sessions.
Omar H. Ali, Ph.D. (U.S.A.) Dean of Lloyd International Honors College and Professor of Global and Comparative African Diaspora History. A graduate of the London School of Economics and Political Science, he received his Ph.D. in History from Columbia University and has been a Fulbright Professor of History and Anthropology at Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá, and a Library Scholar at the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University. He also holds an appointment in the French Ministry of Education as Inspector of History and Geography for the International Baccalaureate and has served on the board of directors of IndependentVoting.org, the Cone Health Foundation, and the All Stars Project. At UNC Greensboro he regularly co-teaches a course entitled “How do we know what we know?: Power, Epistemology, and Methodology” with Professor of Chemistry Nadja Cech, on whose Medicinal Chemistry Collaborative he serves as a Research Associate. His interest in history, philosophy, and performance goes back to the early 1990s. He performed on the Castillo Theatre stage and the streets of New York and now infuses play, performance, improvisation, history and practical philosophy into the Honors College and in his own classes. Locally, in Greensboro, he directed the community-based initiative Community Play!/All Stars Alliance–free cultural events, classes, and workshops in the city’s poor and working-class communities that support learning and development through performance and play.
Mark Balsam, M.A. (U.S.A) lives in New York City, where he was born and raised. In the late 1970’s he was attracted to the therapeutic approaches that were being developed called Social Therapy. For 10 years he had been working in a psychiatric hospital in NY and was frustrated with the revolving door of patients in and out. There was no real development happening. He holds an MA in Counseling from NYU and was trained as a Social Therapist and worked in the mental health field most of his professional life. He used his training to help create environments where people, including himself, are supported to grow and develop. A longtime independent political activist, for the last 10 years he worked part time at the All Stars Project while volunteering to help build and expand“UX”, a free school for adults, under the leadership of developmental psychologist and educator Dr. Lenora Fulani and theater historian, director, and playwright Dr. Dan Friedman.
Jorge Burciaga-Montoya, M.Ed. (MEXICO) is Professor of Pedagogy and Community Development at the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional del Estado de Chihuahua (UPNECH) in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, where he lives. Jorge has a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics Education and a Masters in Community Education, also has the training in Social Therapy by the East Side Institute of New York. He has more than 20 years of experience working with NGO’s. He is a founding member of the Fred Newman Center for Social Therapy in Ciudad Juárez where the practice of Social Therapy is taking place with different groups, such as students, teachers, young people, parents, and NGO members in order to build community in different ways of also developing personal growth. In 2017 Performing Communities the Esperanza Coalition was born on the US-Mexico Border, with the collaboration of the Institute of Improvisation and Social Action (ImprovISA) based in El Paso Texas, Jorge participated in this process as a founding member. Since 2020 has participated in the Global Play Brigade international movement to promote play as a powerful tool to face pandemic times.
Monica Carrillo Zegarra, M.F.A., (PERU) is an Afro-Peruvian writer, performer, and human rights advocate, founder and former director of LUNDU Center for Afro Peruvian Studies and Advancement (http://lundu.org/) In the artistic world, Carrillo goes by the name “Oru.” She creates poetry that mixes afro-beat, hip-hop, and Afro Peruvian music to bring attention to the ongoing effects of racism and sexism. Her productions “Unicroma” and “Poetics of Reparation” included a CD, a book and a live performance with musicians and dancers. As a songwriter and performer, she has been featured in the GRAMMY ®, Latin GRAMMY ® and Independent Music Award’s winner album “El Orisha de la Rosa. ” She holds a M.F.A in Performance Media and Interactive Arts from Brooklyn College, a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from The National University of San Marcos (Peru), a master’s degree in Political Journalism and Cultural Analysis from The University of Antonio Ruiz Montoya (Peru), and a specialization in International Law and in Human Rights from Oxford University, (England). Carrillo has lectured at Harvard and Columbia, among other universities and her work on issues of sexuality, gender, philosophy and the African diaspora have been included in United Nations and other publications. Her latest book, Faces of Violence, Faces of Power explores the intersection of racism and sexism in the lives of Afro-Peruvian women. She has led over twenty-five human rights projects to improve the quality of life for people in her community. One project included the building of 250 houses for people left homeless after a severe earthquake in Peru. Carrillo also led the first successful lawsuit against the use of black-face on Peruvian television – a case which had national and international precedents. She led a separate strategy which resulted in changes to Peruvian law and the official recognition that racist insults are a type of sociological violence. Carrillo delivered the keynote in the NASDAQ ® Closing Bell ceremony for the International Day of Women and has been recognized as a global leader by Google Earth, and by The Elders, an organization founded by Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. She has been featured on programs on PBS, CNN, Univision, MTV Europe. Carrillo is the former community organizer of the Queens Museum and the current Regional Director of Latin America of a philanthropic organization that supports grassroots movements, food sovereignty, alternative economies and climate justice.
Nadja Cech, Ph.D. (U.S.A.) is an analytical chemist who leads an National Institutes of Heath-funded natural products medicinal chemistry lab as Distinguished Sullivan Professor of Chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Dr. Cech serves on the Honors Council—the curriculum advisory board of Lloyd International Honors College at UNC Greensboro—and has collaborated with Omar Ali on a range of projects in which they have infused play and improvisation. Together they co-teach a class entitled “How do we know what we know?: Power, Epistemology, and Methodology,” which produced “The Underground Railroad Tree” multidisciplinary art exhibit, produced the “Yes, and Café” podcast, and have led performative workshops or offered presentations that bridge the sciences and humanities, including for the National Humanities Center. A recipient of numerous scientific research and teaching awards, Nadja also leads a community garden involving forty families and members of the broader community.
Rita Ezenwa-Okoro, M.A. (NIGERIA) is a Creative Culturist, Performance Activist and Communications Expert with over 16 years’ experience. She’s the Founder of Street Project Foundation, ROC Strategic Communications and co-founder of Black Soup Media and Ideas Cache. With the support of development partners such as the United States Consulate, OXFAM, World Connect, Global Play Brigade and Lagos State Government, Rita has directly empowered over two thousand youths and counting, using Creative and Performing Arts tools to facilitate youth enterprise development, internship and mentorship opportunities including, social justice advocacy and mental health wellness. These have been achieved through projects like the Creative Youth Boot Camp, Digital Amazons, Street University, Talent Hub and Youth Psycho-social Support Initiatives, which have helped to deepen the impact of youth development in Nigeria. Rita is a Mandela Washington Fellow, Global Fellow of the International Society of the Performing Arts (ISPA), recipient of the Lagos State Award of Excellence in Youth and Social Development, the Lagos State Award of Excellence in Entrepreneurship Development, NELIS Next Generation Leaders Award and the Champion of Change Award. Rita has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Creative Arts from the University of Lagos, Nigeria. A Master’s degree in media and Communications from the School of Media and Communications, Pan-Atlantic University, Nigeria, a Certificate in Civic Leadership from Tulane University, New Orleans, USA and a graduate of the International Class on Social Therapeutics from East Side Institute, New York, USA.
Dan Friedman, Ph.D. (U.S.A.) is Project Manager of Let’s Learn! The World As Classroom. Dr. Friedman previously served as Artistic Director of the Castillo Theater and also served as Associate Dean of UX, the All Stars Project of New York’s school for continuing development for people of all ages. As a playwright, Dr. Friedman has written or co-written 15 plays including a number that have been produced by the Castillo Theatre. He has also directed at La MaMa E.T.C., the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and at a number of New York City colleges. Dan helped to found the Castillo Theatre as a volunteer in 1984, where he has served as dramaturge. He joined the staff in 2003 to establish and run Youth Onstage! Dr. Friedman was a member of the pioneering New York Street Theatre Caravan in the late 1960s and helped found Madison Theatre-in-the-Park in Madison, WI and later, the Theatre Collective and Workers’ Stage in New York City. Dan is a professor, editor and writer who has taught theatre, public speaking and writing at Baruch College, Queensborough Community College, York College, and the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. Dan holds a Ph.D. in Theatre History from the University of Wisconsin.
Nicholas Gross, Ph.D. (U.S.A.) earned his doctorate in physics from Boston University and has been working on a variety of science education projects for over two decades. Dr. Gross is recognized as an expert in the development and delivery of interactive and engaging STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education programs for a wide range of audiences, including: public audiences, undergraduates and graduate students in specialized workshops, and in teacher professional development. Dr. Gross applies improvisational approaches to help build inclusive learning communities that tackle learning challenging together.
Raquel Holmes, Ph.D. (U.S.A.) is a computational cell biologist by training. Founder of improvscience, her programs help scientists build inclusive work environments, communicate with others and realize their potential. Dr. Holmes is a pioneer in bringing performance and play to scientific and technical communities. She is a Harvard Medical and Tufts University trained scientist, an author and the founder of the international arts, humanities and STEM conference: Cultivating Ensembles. Her hallmark is helping leaders in academia, national laboratories and corporate settings to build multi-racial, developmental and inclusive environments. First introduced to performance through grassroots political organizing, Holmes continues to explore the politics of inclusion in STEM and the world. She is passionate about bringing science to everyone and worked with the All Stars Project’s UX to bring STEM to youth and adults from poor communities. Her most recent innovation, Uncomfortable Independent Conversations, is a series that brings people together from diverse backgrounds to create conversations that transform their experience of race and class in America.
Sky Kihuwa-Mani (U.S.A.) is a first-year medical student at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City and a recent graduate of Lloyd International Honors College at UNC Greensboro where they majored in Biology. A musician, a language-learner, and a collaborator, they served on a panel representing UNC Greensboro at the International Performing The World conference in 2020, served on the advisory committee for the “forums on race and racism in American history” at UNC Greensboro, and have participated in virtual collaborative-growing spaces with many from the East Side Institute over the last year.
Powpee Lee (TAIWAN) has been a community and political organizer in Taiwan for much of his adult life. He served as the director of the Ludi Community University in Taipei for 20 years. Most of the students at Ludi are working class adults. It is an environment that encourages learners to transform their learning activity from individual growth into community development by means of “anybody could teach anybody.” Ludi facilitates an environment in which the learners can learn to teach, and learn from teaching at the same time. We see it as an activity of individual liberation and creating a new culture within social change. Since 2020 Lee transferred from director of the school to the Chair of the Ludi Community Meeting.
Jim Martinez, Ph.D. (U.S.A.) is an Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences at the New York Institute of Technology. He has ten years of experience as an online teacher educator, and his research interests include interdisciplinary collaboration and performance-based approaches to human development and learning. He is the Co-Chair of Cultivating Ensembles, a group that creates academic conferences and virtual events with diverse scholars and practitioners at the intersection of the arts and sciences. His most recent collaborations involve architectural design, data modeling, and visualization in community-based pre-disaster planning, development, and response initiatives. Dr. Martinez earned a Ph.D. in Urban Education and a certificate in Interactive Pedagogy in 2009 from The Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He is a permanently licensed New York City teacher and holds an undergraduate degree in computer science. Before teaching, Dr. Martinez was a managing director in an internet security start-up and a corporate information technology manager for 16 years. He has served on the All-Stars Project board of directors, a national non-profit youth development program, where he has been a volunteer and financial contributor for over 25 years. He is also an East Side Institute Associate and a graduate of the Institute’s International Class. He has authored two books and several book chapters using performatory social therapeutic approaches in formal learning settings.
Qazi Abdur Rahman, M.A. (BANGLADESH) had been a school principal from 1987 to 2019 in schools and colleges in rural areas and in the capital city in Bangladesh and in a country in the Middle East. He worked mostly in conventional settings of learning-teaching environment with traditional mind-set of the stake holders where he made efforts to make possible developmental changes by initiating ‘new’ approaches, mobilizing teachers and students and at time risking some personal damage. He loves to devise/create improv/mind game/situation to challenge anti-developmental comfort jones in order to unleash/generate possibilities/ imagination among students. He earned MA in English from Jahangirnagar University and M.A. in Education from Dhaka University in Bangladesh. He is a graduate of the East Side Institute’s Social Therapeutic online certificate program. He is now serving as a teacher in a school.
Syed Rahman, Ph.D. (BANGLADESH) is an Associate Professor of Daffodil International University in Dhaka, Bangladesh. His
present position is Head of the department of General Educational Development at Daffodil International University. He is also the university’s Director of Students’ Affairs, and in that role, has developed different training and skills building tools to develop employability skills. He has created a course called “Art of Living” jointly with Dr. Sabur Khan to develop young people with basic humanitarian qualities; it is attended by 22,000 students each semester. He holds a Ph.D. in the Political Economy of Mass Media. In addition to his university work, Syed has been conducting training and psychosocial support for women and children affected by poverty, catastrophic cyclones, and other disasters for the last 20 years. Syed is also very much attached with East Side Institute after graduation from there 13 years back. He is also a theatre director and co-founder of Theatre for Education, Research and Education ( TREE Foundation ).
Karen Riedel, Ph.D. (U.S.A.) obtained Bachelor’s Degree from Eastern Michigan University, Master of Science degree at University of Michigan, and PhD from Graduate Center CUNY in Speech Science. She moved to New York City from Ohio in the late 1960’s. Dr. Riedel joined the staff of Speech-Language Department at Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine in early 1970’s. She had an over forty-year career with that department, rising from staff speech pathologist to Director of Speech -Language Pathology in 2010. Dr. Riedel oversaw the Speech-Language Pathology Department’s diverse programs, including pediatric and adult inpatient and outpatient neurogenic communication disorders units, and the communication and swallowing programs at Tisch Hospital (now NYU Langone Health Centers). The outpatient services included the Swallowing Disorders Center of NYULMC, the Cochlear Implant Center and the SLP services of the Voice Center NYU. She retired from Rusk Rehabilitation in 2014. Her major interest has always been the nature and impact of human communication. Formerly on the Faculty, Associate Clinical Professor (Rehabilitation Division), School of Medicine New York University Langone Medical Center, Dr. Riedel was an adjunct instructor at New York University (Steinhardt School) Communicative Sciences and Disorders Department until 2020. She has also taught for the School of Medicine, New York University Langone Medical Center and Hunter College. She has authored several articles and chapters. After retirement, she has devoted herself to volunteering at two programs, the Central Park Zoo educational section, and All Starts Project’s various programs, the house staff of the Castillo Theatre and the adult educational program (UX). She is on the leadership team of the All Stars Project.
Alex Sutherland (SOUTH AFRICA) is currently arts-educator-activist with the Tshisimani Centre for Activist Education in Cape Town and a Research Affiliate at the University of Cape Town. From 2001 – 2017 she was a lecturer and Associate Professor in Applied Theatre at Rhodes University. She is passionate about devising theatre in unlikely spaces and has facilitated dozens of original theatre pieces with youth from a street children’s shelter, men in prison, mental health care users in a psychiatric hospital, and young people from poor communities in Cape Town. Her current work involves developing arts-based pedagogies for political education with grass roots movements and organizations, supporting these movements to incorporate the arts in campaigns, education and activism, and facilitating access to the arts for political expression with young people. Her published research has focused on gender and theatre in prisons, the political possibilities of theatre spaces in rigid institutions such as psychiatric hospitals, and the development of politically engaged participatory arts methodologies with youth.
Esben Wilstrup (DENMARK) is a Danish performance activist, psychologist and community-builder based in Copenhagen. As consultant and educator he helps professionals to create communities with young people that boost development, inclusion, resilience and power. In 2015, he co-founded and co-led www.Efterskolen-Epos.dk – a boarding school in Denmark where students aged 15-17 learn the mandatory state curriculum but through play, community and wonder. In 2018 and 2019 he co-organized www.PPLG.org – an international conference for performance activists. A long-time student and now associate of the East Side Institute, he has worked to promote the power of play, community and development through his work as a consultant for the City of Copenhagen and the Danish Ministry of Education.