On Business and Boardrooms | Introducing the new Student Liaison to the Board of Trustees: Hawi Tilahune ’16

Photo+courtesy+of+Hawi+Tilahune+16

Photo courtesy of Hawi Tilahune ’16

Photo courtesy of Hawi Tilahune '16
Photo courtesy of Hawi Tilahune ’16

LH: First of all, Hawi — Congratulations. We received very competitive applications from students engaging in necessary work from very diverse communities both on- and off-campus. Let’s start simple: How did you first hear about this position and why did you ultimately apply?

HT: I think I read about it from the student email listserve first and didn’t think much of it. And then I kept getting these email reminders from a friend who thought I might be a good fit. So I looked and became fascinated by the idea of the Board of Trustees, this governing body so committed to Macalester. I wanted to learn more about how they communicate, how to communicate with them — how to act as an intermediary between students and trustees. The role also requires a strong understanding of the student body, which is such an interesting challenge.

LH: Based on those thoughts, what does serving the student body and the Board of Trustees mean to you?

HT: This position is about listening: about really learning to listen to people, to understand their needs and expectations. And from there, what they are wanting to give back. That is being an astute listener. There is a Bible verse I love: “To whom much is given, much is required.” I have been given so much and this is a way for me to give back. That is what being in community means to me. Not just sitting together in community, taking things in and taking things in, but giving back always. That is what gets me up and gets me going each day.

LH: What are some of your involvements both on and off-campus?

HT: Well, I am an international studies and political science double major and African studies concentrator. I am very active in Afrika! as a committed community member, former co-chair. I also work with the Red Cross through Bonner, working to bring international humanitarian law to immigrant populations. I have been involved with MCF through both worship and serving ministries. For my Mellon Mays research, I investigate ethnic federalism in Ethiopia. That work tries to answer: “What is the potential assets and liabilities of a federalism system, especially construed around ethnicity?” Last semester at the Hague, I conducted interviews to understand the Oromo-Ethiopian community and their role in the peacebuilding in Ethiopia.

LH: That is pretty amazing. Do you have a favorite class here at Macalester? Something that left a mark?

HT: One of my favorite classes was actually Cultural Anthropology with Dianna Shandy. I did my research on cheerleading, actually — cheerleading and the moral lessons that come out of cheerleading, since my mentor is a cheerleading coach.

LH: I would never have guessed that. How about something you learned during your time thus far at Macalester?

HT: So, something that influences the way that I do my research now is this simple revelation that everyone has a historical context. What they say is driven by a range of experiences; people have a place from which they speak. So, to be attentive and sensitive to that was my greatest lesson in that peace-building workshop. I had to realize that the movement was shaped this way because of the historical contexts — that we have to engage the past in a productive way to better build the future. The past is always present, after all. That [perspective] has shifted my research.

LH: You work in so many mediums and parts of campus and the world. What is on the horizon for you? Maybe a Ph.D. since you’re a Mellon Fellow?

HT: Yes, but I think first schooling in theology. I want to ask: Where do theology, political science, and conflict resolution studies intersect? And in that intersection, what is the role of the multi-ethnic, multilingual arts, [and] music in particular?

LH: Zooming out of this specific role, what is something you are looking forward to next year?

HT: I am hoping to start a mentorship program at Ramsey, working with a teacher there to intentionally mentor three students. And I am so looking forward to dancing in the Afrikan show and singing — both in MCF and the Afrikan Chorus.

LH: What else would you like other students to know about you?

HT: Something comes to mind from my previous involvement in singing among groups such as the Afrikan Chorus: Everything is much more beautiful in harmony form. When you add more components, we see such beauty in all different voices. So how do we incorporate different people’s voices that brings this beautiful harmony? How do we create that space for people to share their voice to create something bigger, better, more valuable together? That is something I believe.