Connecting, Acting and Understanding – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Connecting, Acting and Understanding

Meet Ew (pronounced E-W, as in the letters)-activist, actor, theatre guru, and educator.

Last fall, Ew Quimbaya-Winship came to Hobart and William Smith from Rochester Institute of Technology, where he served as the Educational Program Coordinator for the Women’s Center.  Prior to that, he was the Education Coordinator for Alternatives for Battered Women, a domestic violence shelter in Rochester, N.Y.

Now, with those experiences under his belt, Quimbaya-Winship continues his role in education as the director of the HWS Peer Education in Human Relations (PEHR) program, which explores the issues of diversity and oppression in the myriad institutions-schools, corporations, the media, etc.-of 21st century life. The courses are designed to help students function effectively by providing them with a deep, personally grounded understanding of such issues, as well as experience in linking that analysis to action.

“‘PEHR is the best thing going at HWS.’  ‘Everyone needs to enroll in Making Connections.’  These are just a couple of the comments I heard when I first arrived at Hobart and William Smith in August,” says Quimbaya-Winship.

Many students first experience PEHR in the Making Connections class, in which students explore issues such as racism, anti-Semitism, classism, sexism, ageism and more.

“What’s unique about Making Connections,” says Quimbaya-Winship, “is that students in the class explore how these issues impact them personally. Making Connections students learn to talk with others about these issues in an effort to build understanding and mutual support.  And the class is co-facilitated by other students.  Making Connections is about students working with students to face sometimes challenging and difficult issues directly and honestly.”

In addition to his work with diversity and oppression education, Quimbaya-Winship has a background rich with interests and specializations that complement and enhance the work he does, particularly in the “analysis to action” component of PEHR.

“My background and education are in theatre,” he says, “specifically in interactive educational and social-political theatre — based most directly in something called the Theatre of the Oppressed.”

Quimbaya-Winship, who received from Missouri State University his B.F.A. in technical theatre and his M.A. in theatre, says, “As I look back over the work I’ve been a part of-from before grad school (but certainly more consciously during grad school) to present-my work has revolved around ending violence.  More often than not, the projects I’ve worked with have focused on ending gender violence and violence against women and girls.”

He says, “With the theatre work as a foundation, I am provided a set of instructions, a means by which I can engage the world, and space to play and work through the issues of violence we all face.”

Using various theatrical techniques, such as the Theatre of the Oppressed, which is based in oppression and liberation theories, Quimbaya-Winship activates the audience to explore sometimes difficult to discuss issues.  Audience members are challenged to discover tactics that can be used in everyday life to address these issues.

But Quimbaya-Winship says that “while this form of theatre sounds serious (and it is), it is also a great deal of fun. And this work informs how I work; I seek to build community, create dialogue, learn from others and celebrate the riches we all have to offer.”