SIT has created its own tradition—and a visual image—to represent the international and intercultural aspects of the institution’s participants and mission. As an alternative to the customary black robes, graduates may choose to wear one of 120 robes specially crafted in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
Thirty of the robes were stitched by hand by Lahu hill tribe women as part of a project coordinated by WEAVE (Women’s Education for Advancement and Empowerment), a nongovernmental organization working in Thailand with hill tribe communities and refugees from Burma. Those involved with these extraordinary efforts included Ampown, who became the leader of the women’s handicraft group at the age of 16, and SIT alumna Veronika Martin (PIM 53).
The Ecumenical Women’s Centre in Cape Coast, Ghana, produced 30 robes that display the Adinkra designs symbolizing humility, strength, wisdom, learning, excellence, bravery, fearlessness, democracy, and unity in diversity. The center had its beginnings as a meeting place for elderly women of the community and currently operates the Rising Sun Batik Vocational School, a lending library, and a full-service restaurant. Julialynne Walker, A former SIT Study Abroad academic director, was instrumental in obtaining these robes.
The remaining 60 robes were crafted by Nahuit, a women's cooperative in El Salvador that purchased the materials from a weaving cooperative in Guatemala. The 14 members of the sewing and embroidery cooperative produce handcrafted clothing and household items, representing both Guatemalan and Salvadoran cultures, for local and international customers. The purchase of these robes was facilitated by SIT alumna Cathie Chilson (PIM 48), who worked with Pueblo to People, a Houston-based alternative trade organization.