Indiana Núñez Sharer '20 will travel to three countries to study motherhood as part of her Th... Indiana Núñez Sharer '20 will travel to three countries to study motherhood as part of her Thomas J. Watson Fellowship.Núñez Sharer, a dual citizen of Costa Rica and the U.S. who grew up in the rural Costa Rican town of Montezuma, joins 47 Watson fellows from colleges and universities across the country with a $30,000 stipend for her project.

“The fellowship is a way for me to explore some of my deepest interests through the perspectives of mothers and to do so without a certain project outcome that needs to be met. The only outcome is the process itself, the process of listening and learning how maternal communities function,” Núñez Sharer said. “I’m really excited about this.”

Núñez Sharer will engage with four communities in three countries where mothers and women have organized to help each other heal from personal, often intergenerational trauma and violence. She plans to travel to Colombia, Ghana, and New Zealand in order to spend time with mothers to learn how motherhood has impacted their lives.

Indiana Núñez Sharer '20 studies in the COA Thorndike Library with her dog, Lexi. Lexi is a rescu... Indiana Núñez Sharer ’20 studies in the COA Thorndike Library with her dog, Lexi. Lexi is a rescue dog that Núñez Sharer ’20 brought from Costa Rica to COA during her senior year.“I will use my Watson year to learn how mothers reclaim their voices, advocate for their communities, and create supportive networks of healing,” she said.

The major inspiration for her project, Núñez Sharer said, is the relationship she shares with her single mother and other single mothers she grew up around in Montezuma.

“The mothers I grew up with were, by choice or by circumstance, responsible for raising their children because most fathers were absent,” she said. “In this sense, mothers were my community, and because of my upbringing with them, I want to learn from the resilience of mothers.”

Núñez Sharer came to COA after graduating from United World College Costa Rica and spending a gap year in India volunteering with the NGO Teach for India. Her studies at COA have been made possible by the Davis United World College Scholars Program, which supports US college education for 3,113 UWC students from 164 countries. In her work at COA she has grappled with ideas of ethics, politics, and community. Experiences during an internship at Maternidad La Luz, a midwife-run birth center on the American-Mexican border, turned her focus to women’s studies, showing her how trauma can affect motherhood, and how healing may occur in the right settings.

“Indi is keenly aware of how living within and between geographical boundaries affect people, and her sensitivity to the implications that national boundaries can have on everyday life will be of the utmost importance as she negotiates her way into culturally distinct communities,” said COA lecturer Blake Cass, who nominated Núñez Sharer for the fellowship.

Núñez Sharer’s travel plans are somewhat up in the air due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but as her trip is mapped out, she is scheduled to stop first in Buenaventura, Colombia. Here, she will spend two months with the midwives group Asociación de Parteras Unidas del Pacifico where she plans to forge friendships with mothers and hopes to learn about what the implications of colonial and postcolonial histories may have on their lives.

Indiana Núñez Sharer '20 enjoys playing guitar and spending time with friends on the Red Bricks, ... Indiana Núñez Sharer ’20 enjoys playing guitar and spending time with friends on the Red Bricks, the center of College of the Atlantic campus.

She will then travel to Santa Marta, Colombia, for two months. Here, she is interested in learning from Kogi mothers. During the time of colonization, four indigenous groups, one of those being the Kogi, fled to the Sierra Nevada, a place that offered them geographical isolation. To this day, these groups continue to live high in the Sierras, though now some Kogi families have chosen to come down to live among their “younger brothers,” their term for people living in modern society. Indiana will seek the help of a close friend of hers, Aya María Maldonado, who is a Colombian activist that has spent months living in close relationships with some of these families, to begin making connections. Kogi society is traditionally matrilineal, so Núñez Sharer hopes to learn about how motherhood has shaped their society and how in turn mothers are shaped by their society.

Later, she will travel to the North Island of New Zealand where she will spend her time with Māori mothers. The Māori people are the original inhabitants of New Zealand. Here, she is interested in understanding the hybridization of culture in communities that hold both old and new values. She hopes to connect with the author and academic Naomi Simmonds, who has an interest in the relationship between decolonization and Māori maternity. Additionally, she will connect with an organization, My Birth Story, that helps mothers heal trauma by rewriting their birth stories.

Indiana Núñez Sharer '20, second from left, takes part in a Shine A Light event held at COA in co... Indiana Núñez Sharer ’20, second from left, takes part in a Shine A Light event held at COA in collaboration with The Next Step Domestic Violence Project. Núñez Sharer will study how mothers help each other heal from intergenerational trauma and violence while on her Watson Fellowship.Lastly, Núñez Sharer will travel to Ghana where she will learn from mothers of the Ashanti region. The Ashanti society is traditionally a matrilineal one. Before the time of colonization, some Ashanti women had the role of Queen Mothers and these were positions of power held alongside the chief. During colonization, the shared responsibility of power was replaced with a patriarchal society. Modern Queen Mothers are now rising to reclaim power in and for their communities.

“The Watson Fellowship requires that students both possess and cultivate a sense of adventure and reflection,” said COA President Darron Collins ’92, “especially in these times of the COVID-19 virus. What that means is especially dynamic and requires fellows to be even more creative and adaptable. Indi is the perfect candidate for such times.”

Núñez Sharer has spent her time at COA exploring what it means to responsibly make change in communities. She says she set out on a journey to better understand what it means to do this in order to trust herself in the work she wants to do, taking classes such as Psychoanalysis and Postcolonialism, as well as an independent study about communicating across differences.

For her senior project, Núñez Sharer is building a body of artwork that is about how to understand the intergenerational trauma in her own family, specifically in the women.

“When cycles of violence aren’t spoken about or addressed, they tend to repeat themselves. If I want to do work that helps others work through the cycles that affect them, I first need to address these in myself and see how cycles of violence affect me and the people around me. In trying to understand this, I hope to be able to contribute to my communities more responsibly” she said.

Indiana Núñez Sharer '20 will work with mothers in Colombia, Ghana, and New Zealand to learn ... Indiana Núñez Sharer '20 will work with mothers in Colombia, Ghana, and New Zealand to learn about their lives.The Watson Fellowship offers a window after college and pre-career for young people to engage with their deepest interests on a global scale. Fellows conceive original projects, execute them outside of the United States for one year and embrace the ensuing journey. They decide where to go, who to meet and when to change course. They do not affiliate with academic institutions and may not hold formal employment.

The program produces a year of personal insight, perspective and confidence that shapes the arc of fellows’ lives. Started in 1968, Watson Fellows comprise leaders in every field. In addition to the stipend, the foundation provides health insurance reimbursements and the equivalent of 12-months of payments on outstanding institutional and federally guaranteed loans. There are just 40 colleges and universities, including COA, who may nominate students.

College of the Atlantic believes that education should go beyond understanding the world as it is to enable students to actively shape the future. COA is a leader in experiential learning and environmental stewardship, and is the Princeton Review’s #1 Green College. Every COA student designs their own major in human ecology—which integrates knowledge from across academic disciplines and seeks to understand and improve the relationships between humans and their natural, built, and social environments—and sets their own path toward a degree. The intentionally small school of 350 students and 35 faculty members was founded in 1969 and offers Bachelor of Arts and Master of Philosophy degrees.