Jessy Hodder '14
Name & Class Year: Jessy Hodder, 2014
Hometown: Nairobi, Kenya
High School: International School of Kenya and Marymount International School London
Campus Activities: STRIDE Research Assistant to Professor Ellen Kaplan; Administrative Intern, Theatre Department; Model United Nations Speaker; Smith in the World Conference; Alumnae Reunion Ambassador (May 2013)
Last Movie Seen in Theaters: Gravity
Favorite Movie: Singing in the Rain
Favorite Song: Anything Jazz
Smith House: Baldwin House
Last Book Read: Legislative Theatre by Augusto Boal
Favorite Book: East to the Dawn: The Life of Amelia Earhart by Susan Butler
Hobbies/Interests: Outdoor Sports, Contra Dancing, Traveling
Favorite Place on Campus: Smith College Botanical Garden
Favorite Campus Dining Location Gillett Dining Room
Fondest Smith Memory So Far: While on a PRAXIS internship last summer in Kyoto, Japan with the Organization for Intra-Cultural Development, I advised the CEO on how to implement theatrical techniques into the organization's global projects. I facilitated workshops on how to use theatre as an intra-cultural development tool, and I produced an "Applied Performance Resource Toolkit," detailing various strategies, activities, contacts and resources for the organization. This internship was a true highlight in my Smith career in that it reaffirmed my love for what I am currently studying at Smith, and it gave me an exciting peek into what I hope to be doing in the future.
Favorite Quote: "Being a lady is an attitude." —Chuck Woolery, Love Connection
Where did you grow up and what was life like there?
East Africa is absolutely stunning, and I learned a great deal about myself and about the world while growing up in Kenya. For instance, my family and I witnessed first-hand the nation's political violence of 2007. For us, it simply meant no water and additional nights without electricity. I took my turn hauling plastic jugs from the water tank and studied by the light of flickering candles. We ate the fruit and vegetables we could find. Angry crowds paraded past our compound throughout the day, and each night, I would fall asleep to the sound of gunshots. During this time, I became aware of the fact that Kenyans lacked a safe forum in which citizens could voice political opinions. I came to recognize that theatre can provide such a forum, especially in Africa where storytelling has been and continues to be a deeply respected means of communication. Since witnessing its potential as a young girl and drawing inspiration from the long-established practices of Paulo Freire and Augusto Boal, I have consistently sought to expand my understanding of the ways in which education and the dramatic arts can work hand-in-hand to educate populations and promote peaceful dialogue around the world.
Describe your family.
My parents have always been purposeful, hardworking, fearless people. My mother is a passionate community-builder who never fails to celebrate my womanhood and remind me to live and love to my greatest ability. My father is an enthusiastic leader who has always stressed the importance of education and encouraged me to follow my heart. I am blessed.
How did you discover Smith?
I discovered Smith at a college fair in London.
What were your first impressions of the College? Do you find they're still true today?
Though my relationship with Smith began somewhat tumultuously, as I was adjusting to being incredibly far away from home, I have come to claim Smith as my home. There is nowhere that I would rather be. I have the freedom to be who I want to be in this place, and that makes every day exciting.
What was high school like? Who inspired you?
I spent my last year of high school at Marymount International School London, an all-female institution in England. Being surrounded daily by ambitious women fueled my passion for education, and I felt blessed to be a part of such a powerful sisterhood. This experience reinforced my desire to attend a women's college.
What Smith professors, coaches or advisors have inspired you?
Professor Ellen Kaplan has been instrumental to my study here at Smith and to my development as an artist. I am so blessed to have had the chance to work alongside her during these four years.
Have you volunteered as a student? If yes, what did you find most rewarding about the experience?
Within the last four years, I have organized a number of performance projects in ten countries which have explored various social, economic, and cultural issues. These have included identity among the homeless in Canada, governmental barriers faced by immigrants to the United Kingdom, issues of race and class in Massachusetts, the formation of personal and national identity in South Korea, land conflicts in Kenya, the role of women in India, and human trafficking in the United Arab Emirates.
What are your plans after Smith?
After pursing a master's degree in International Educational Development, I plan to return to Kenya in order to help develop the country's formal and non-formal educational resources, particularly along the Sudanese and Somali borders. These borders have become zones of increased hostility, due largely to violent tribal clashes as well as chronic social, political, and economic instability. With the recent discovery of an aquifer in Turkana, which is sure to transform the economics of the country, as well as the continuing turmoil within the horn of Africa, Kenyans now have both the resources and the motivation to rework their educational strategies as a means of strengthening the nation. Drawing upon my current contacts within UNESCO, and partnering with the Kenya Drama/Theatre and Education Association (KDEA), I hope to offer training workshops and consultancy services to current educators and policy-makers in the region. I will demonstrate ways in which creative techniques can be inexpensively and sustainably integrated into existing education programs, ultimately building peaceful communities, advancing educational goals, and achieving social reform.
What perspective would you share with alumnae?
My Smith experience has been completely transformative, reinforcing my belief that I can indeed combine my passions for international education, theatre, political activism, and community development to fuel my future career as an international businesswoman, artist, educator, and advocate. I believe that, through the continued generosity of alumnae, other multi-passionate Smithies can become confident about their ability to do the same.