CROSSING THE WATERS INSTITUTE.org

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Our Team

We inspire new ways of thinking about African Culture.

Ingrid Askew

Executive Director

Ingrid Askew is an African American actress, stage director, educator, and cultural activist, Ms. Askew lived in Cape Town South Africa for ten years and knows South African culture and society well. She has run drama, storytelling, and writing programs for township youth and has hosted American artists to work with youth in the townships; she has also worked with youth in schools and community groups in the US. A founding member of New World Theater ensemble at the University of Massachusetts and a founding board member the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts High School, (the only charter school devoted to the performing arts in Western New England)

In 1998, after six years of planning and fund-raising, she co-founded and led the historic year long walk known as the Interfaith Pilgrimage of the Middle Passage; following the Transatlantic slave route in reverse from the United States, the Caribbean and Brazil to West Africa, and ending in South Africa 1999. Fifty walkers from the United States and other countries accompanied her on that historic journey. The Pilgrimage is featured in the PBS series This Far by Faith: African American Spiritual Journeys.

At the end of the pilgrimage, Ms. Askew settled in Cape Town where she continues to work with community artists and township youth. In 2003 Ms. Askew served as acting coach and coordinator for a theatre project ex-change (Middle Passage: The Homecoming) between acting students from the SYASANGA Theatre company in Langa township, Cape Town, South Africa and the University of Louisville. The play was written by noted South African playwright Fatima Dike, and the culmination of the project was a production featured at the 2003 Grahamstown Arts Festival in South Africa and at the University of Louisville, Directed by Nefertiti Burton.

In 2005, the Womanspirit Project founded by Ms. Askew collaborated on a writing project in Cape Town the University of Louisville Theater Department.

In 2007 Ms. Askew produced and directed Langston Hughes’ The Black Nativity

with students from TSiBA Education and LEAP high school in Cape Town.

In 2008-2009 Ms. Askew served as Project Coordinator for the South Africa Youth Arts Exchange Program, sponsored by the Institute for Training and Development and the US State Department.

She served as the on-site liaison in charge of project development and logistics with the South Africa partner organization Artscape Theatre Centre in Cape Town. Ms. Askew is continuing her exchange work through her most recently established, Crossing the Waters Institute For Cultural Exchange

Ms. Askew’s work in theatre and cultural activism has always been inspired by the goal of bringing people of diverse backgrounds together to build community and work for social change.

Dr. Cheryl Shain

Chief Operating Officer
Dr. Shain is a life-long learner in the field of education and a community activist. She has been actively involved in higher and adult education, secondary and college student development for over thirty years. In her capacity as a college administrator, she has designed, developed, implemented and managed college access (opportunity) programs for high school and college students. Fifteen years ago, Dr. Shain returned to her home town in Bridgeport, Connecticut and became enthusiastically involved in Early Childhood Programs and the Bridgeport Public Schools. Dr. Shain is a graduate of Columbia University Teachers College and has taught education classes to high school and community college students.

Denise Patmon

Board Member

Denise Patmon is an Associate Professor of Education in two departments at the University of Massachusetts at Boston: Curriculum & Instruction, and Leadership in Schools. She is the Faculty Advisor and former Co-director of the Boston Writing Project, a site that has been in existence since 1979. Her doctoral research is in Japanese Literature and the Teaching of Writing: Multiple Frames for Knowing. Author of two books for children and several articles and monographs and an associate past editor of two journals, Patmon is also a contributor to Jim Gray's seminal text Teachers at the Center. Her most recent research involves the investigation of curriculum and instructional leadership at the 18th century Abiel Smith School for African American children in Boston.

Dr. Patmon is on the boards of trustees for the Crite House Museum in Boston and the Benjamin Banneker Charter School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and on the advisory boards for her writing project site as well as the Center for the Improvement of Teaching at UMASS/Boston, where she has just been nominated as its incoming Director. Pedagogy is her passion, and she has been recognized and honored as a recipient of the Althea Lindsey Teacher of the Year Award as well as the Cynthia Longfellow Teacher of the Year Award from Wheelock College. She has lectured and presented papers at professional conferences and universities in diverse higher educational settings throughout the United States, South Africa, South America, Asia, and Europe. She is an avid reader, writer, pianist, violist, and kotoist, and is Luke's mom.

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Gregory D.S. Bascomb, Esquire

Board Member

Attorney, Gregory Bascomb began practicing law in Northampton in 1985. For the next 30 years, his practice has taken him throughout Western Massachusetts where he has counseled individuals facing consumer and farm bankruptcies and foreclosures.

Greg has been in service to many communities by serving as vice chairperson of the North-Central Massachusetts Council for Children, a board member of the Fitchburg Area Advisory Council for the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, official for USA Track and Field, a board member for Amherst Community Television, board member, past president and host parent for the Amherst Committee for A Better Chance, chair for the Town of Amherst Housing Review Board, and a sitting Commissioner for the Town of Amherst Human Rights Commission and Legal Advisor for Crossing the Waters Institute for Cultural Exchange.

Greg’s desire to continue to advocate for the needs of people in Western Massachusetts is fueled by three decades of experience working on education, economic and environmental health, and human rights issues.

Meg Maccini

Board Member
School Change Coach

Margaret Maccini is an education consultant focused on competency-based curriculum, instruction and assessment. She is also a doctoral student studying Education Anthropology. Meg served as a school change coach working in four of the schools in the i3 New England Network for Personalization and Performance. Her coaching focused on instruction, assessment and collaborative strategies using best practices from professional learning communities. She co-founded and facilitated the Performance Assessment Working Group (PAWG) comprised of teachers and administrators from each of the thirteen schools. PAWG guided the vision of the i3 New England Network and provided an opportunity for educators to develop and strengthen collaborative instruction and assessment practices.

As a public school educator, Meg is inspired and motivated by the Coalition of Essential Schools democratic and equitable schools movement.  Her work is driven by a belief that our public education system must offer a “personalized, equitable and academically challenging” education to all students. Under Meg’s leadership as Headmaster of the Boston Day and Evening Academy (1997-2008), BDEA developed an innovative, successful competency-based school, serving students in three shifts over a 12 hour school day who were overage for grade level and at risk of dropping out of high school.

For Meg, the most enduring impact of the i3 New England Network is that students were always considered essential partners in the work. She finds that teachers not only improved their practice, but also now recognize and engage students as partners in their work. Through her coaching role, Meg came to better understand the enormous pressure and challenges that traditional public schools face. As a coach, she was able to help schools problem solve some of these challenges, including by developing collaborative practices skills.

Meg holds a B.A. from UMASS Amherst, a M.Ed. from Harvard University, a CAGS in Education Leadership from Simmons University, and is a proud graduate of the class of 2007 Lead Boston! As a doctoral student at UMASS Amherst, Meg’s research interests include race, class and culture in education; critical and anti-racist pedagogies; resilience/persistence in students; as well as educational ethnography and urban schooling. Meg lives in Western Massachusetts where the coffee is strong, and the traffic is not as bad as in the Boston area.

Nancy Abdalla

Board Member

Nancy Abdalla has spent her life in education and community development.  She worked in filmmaking with Sageworks in NYC, and taught film and video for several years at UMass Amherst.  She developed and directed programs for at-risk youth through the Amherst Public Schools (CAPACIDAD), Hampshire Educational Collaborative (21st Century Community Learning Centers, Northampton, MA), The Community Music School of Springfield, MA, and Roots UP (Nuestras Raices, Holyoke, MA).  For the past ten years, she and her husband have lived in Southern and Eastern Africa, operating an import-export business in African arts and textiles and other entrepreneurial ventures.

Awards and community work:

  • Sustainable Energy Summit 2009 – Co-Presenter: “Asset-Based Community Development”, New Orleans, LA
  • Communities That Care Coalition, 2003 – 2005, Hampshire County Community Action Plan
  • Safe Schools Healthy Students, 2003 - 2005
  • Superintendent’s Special Award for Leadership, Amherst Public Schools, 2004
  • Sonia Wexler Award for Excellence in Multi-Cultural Education, 1990
  • Co-Developer, MOSAIC (Multiple Options for Special Integrated Care) Program, 1990 (integrating children with a wide range of special needs into local recreational programs)