Faculty and Staff
Heidi Baer-Postigo, MS, Academic Director
Heidi received her MS in counseling from the University of Oregon in 1995 and her BA in psychology from Occidental College in 1991. She has been an academic director for SIT in Bolivia since spring 1999. Her previous experience includes working for NGOs in La Paz, as a school counselor for S.O.S. Children's Villages, and as a volunteer for the Center for Development and Promotion of Self-Help. Her interviews with Aymara women participants of the Centro Femenino Machaq Q'hantati were published in Women: Stories of an Experience (1993) by Silvia Salinas Mulder. From 1995 to 1998, Heidi worked at the University of Oregon as an international student advisor and overseas study program coordinator. She also worked as a counselor at Lane Community College in Oregon, where she founded and coordinated a Latino outreach project for English as a Second Language students. In 2008, she created Kids’ Books Bolivia, a project that contributes to the production of affordable bilingual books written by SIT Bolivia students. This book collection celebrates Bolivian reality and raises international awareness about Bolivia’s diverse cultures and pressing social issues.
View Heidi Baer-Postigo’s full CV.
Patricia Parra, Program Assistant
Patricia has worked as program assistant for the SIT Study Abroad program in Cochabamba since 1996. She studied sociology at the Universidad Mayor de San Simon and has been trained in project evaluation, union organizing, and NGO fundraising. She has more than 30 years of experience working for international organizations in Bolivia, including as the coordinator of a youth leadership project. She was invited to China and Canada to give presentations about alternative economies, and she started the first international union for local employees. As project coordinator and analyst for the Canadian NGO CUSO, she also worked with regional development projects directly supporting grassroots social organizations.
Noemi Baptista Villegas, MA, Academic Assistant
Noemi has been the academic assistant of the SIT program in Bolivia since 2014. She holds a master’s degree (thesis defense pending) in democracy and political administration and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the Universidad Mayor de San Simón in Cochabamba. In 2006, she studied abroad for a semester at the National University of Santiago del Estero in Argentina. She worked for the NGO Center for Services and Technical Accompaniment on the municipal development plan for the rural town of Pojo. She also worked as a social technician in the area of human development for the state government of Cochabamba and as an assistant on a commission of the Cochabamba state legislative assembly. With the NGO Infante she designed a baseline for measuring gender and generational violence, traveling to three municipalities in all but one of Bolivia’s nine states.
Gladys Arandia de Palomino, Language Coordinator / Spanish Instructor
Gladys has been a language instructor for the SIT Study Abroad program in Cochabamba since 1994. She has more than 35 years of teaching experience and has been invited to the United States and Switzerland to teach Spanish as a second language.
Martha Coca, MA, Spanish Language Instructor
Martha has been an SIT Spanish language instructor since 1991. She holds master’s degrees from both Bolivia and France. Since 1987, she has been a professor at the Universidad Mayor de San Simon, where she also served as director of Languages and Linguistics and dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Educational Sciences. From 2004 to 2005, she was rector of the Universidad Privada Abierta Latinoamericana.
Mercedes Pérez, Language Instructor
Mercedes has been a language instructor for the SIT Study Abroad program in Cochabamba since 2000. She studied anthropology at the Universidad Católica de Cochabamba and has more than 30 years of experience teaching Spanish and English as a second language. She is also an artist and musician and sang for many years in a rock band.
Pochi Salinas, Homestay Coordinator
Pochi has served as homestay coordinator since 2005. She studied agricultural sciences at the Universidad Mayor de San Simon and education at the National Institute of Alternative Education “Pacifico Feletti.” She has worked at an educational foundation called the Cigarra, outside of Cochabamba, which has a center for creativity and expression, a program for pedagogical assistance, and workshops on topics such as ecological agriculture, conflict resolution, women in local development, climate change, justice, and more.
Alejandra Aguilar, Homestay Coordinator
Alejandra has served as homestay coordinator since 2006. She holds a BS in social communication and has worked on numerous television, film, and publishing projects in Bolivia and Chile. She sings in a Bolivian choral group and has been in involved in numerous musical and cultural activities.
Calixto Quispe Huanca, Village Stay Coordinator
Calixto is an Aymara yatiri (natural healer and spiritual leader) and a deacon in the Catholic Church, the only Bolivian to hold both of these titles. He is president of the Ecumenical Commission of Inter-religious Dialogue and dedicates much of his time working to build respect and understanding between religious groups in Bolivia. He has co-authored four books from the collection Indigenous Spirituality, published by Editorial Verbo Divino.
Aliya Ellenby, MA, Kids’ Books Bolivia Project Coordinator
Aliya holds an MA in performance studies and a BA in theater and community-based performance, both from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Aliya is a 2006 SIT Bolivia alum, and during her ISP she started her longstanding work with Títeres Elwaky, part of a larger collective of independent artists called Colectivo Katari. From 2009 to 2013, she was an integral member of the collective, organizing and participating in international theater and puppetry festivals, creating, performing, writing, and teaching. From 2013 to 2016, she worked as a public middle school language arts teacher in Miami. In 2016, she moved back to Bolivia and is currently the project coordinator of Kids’ Books Bolivia, a project she has been supporting since 2009.
Faculty and lecturers typically include:
Valentina is a Bolivian artist who has worked in Guarani, Chiquitano, and Ayoreo communities and, in 1999, founded Kunaymana, a totora paper-making cooperative for Aymara women from Copacabana. Her Siembra de Mamalas painting series—depicting harvest rituals, the role of women in Andean cosmovisión, and the importance of biodiversity—has been exhibited internationally. She has worked at Uywana Wasi, a center for cultural affirmation in Cochabamba, and for the Where There Be Dragons program in Cochabamba, and she has illustrated/authored a children’s book called Que Florecen Las Ayllus.
Gaby Vallejo Canedo
Gaby is a well-known author and the recipient of numerous national and international awards. She is the author of four novels, a book of short stories, seven essays, and 12 children’s books. Her novel Hijo de Opa, set during the 1952 Bolivian Revolution, was made into a well-known movie, Los Hermanos Cartagena. Gaby has been a professor of literature and language for more than 18 years at the Universidad Mayor de San Simon in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and also teaches at the Catholic University of Cochabamba. She is founder of Th’uruchapitas, Bolivia’s first children’s library, and has represented Bolivia at numerous international conferences, served as president of the Bolivian National Union of Poets and Writers, and been the president of Bolivia’s branch of the World Association of Writers.
Walter Sanchez Canedo, PhD
Walter holds a doctorate in archaeology from the University of Uppsala, Sweden; a master’s degree in development from the Universidad Mayor de San Simon (UMSS) in Cochabamba; and postgraduate degrees in geographic information systems, administration and evaluation of social projects, and Bolivian Andean ethnic studies. He is a professor and researcher at UMSS and the Archaeology Museum of the Institute of Anthropological Studies in Cochabamba. In 2009, he won a national award for an essay about culture. He is one of Bolivia’s most prominent ethno-musicologists, has conducted many research studies, and has published numerous articles in the field of ethno-musicology.
Kathryn studied Andean history at FLACSO in Quito, Ecuador. She has collaborated with human rights and drug policy organizations in the United States and Latin America. Since 1997, she has worked at the Andean Information Network (AIN), an organization dedicated to investigation, analysis, education, and dialogue on the impacts of US-funded counterdrug policy in Cochabamba, and has been AIN’s director since 1999. She is the author of numerous articles and the chapter on Bolivia in the book Drugs and Democracy in Latin America (2003).
Dan Moriarty, MA
Born and raised in the United States, Dan received his BA from the College of William and Mary, majoring in sociology and minoring in religion, and his MA from the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame. He first came to Bolivia in 1996 as a Catholic lay missioner with Maryknoll. He worked with prison inmates and youth in La Paz and Cochabamba as the national coordinator of prison ministry for the Catholic Church, and he participated in Cochabamba's Water War in 2000. He later returned to Cochabamba to start the Maryknoll Bolivia Mission Immersion Program, which he still runs. He was a member of a Bolivian working group on active nonviolence and has taught conflict transformation as an adjunct professor in the Centro de Estudios Superiores Universitarios of the Universidad Mayor de San Simon.
Sonia Virginia Matijasevic Mostajo, MS
Sonia is a zoological veterinarian with master’s degrees in natural environment management and conservation. She has been a professor in Santa Cruz at the Universidad Ecologica and La Escuela Militar de Ingenieria since 2012. She has worked on sustainable development projects with indigenous groups including the Chiquitano and Guaranie Pueblos and has been the director of protected areas in Bolivia since 2010.
Karina Mariaca Olivera, MS
Karina holds a master’s degree in environmental management and ecotourism from the University of Costa Rica. She is co-director of Quinta Consciencia, an experimental permaculture and ecotourism farm in Paradones, Bolivia. She is currently in charge of strategic planning for the municipality of Samaipata.
Felix Muruchi leads a team researching indigenous community justice systems in Bolivia. He studied law at the Public University of El Alto. He was born near one of Bolivia’s major tin mining centers in 1946, began work in the mines as a teenager, and rose to become a union leader. He was imprisoned and twice forced into exile before returning to Bolivia in 1985, where he continues to be an activist as well as a social science researcher. He is the co-author of two books: Pochos Rojos and an autobiography.
Leny is a graduate of the University of San Simon in Cochabamba. Since 2000, she has been an activist with Bolivian youth organizations and social movements, in particular with the efforts of Bolivians to address issues related to water, gas, and natural resources. She has been active in international exchanges related to popular education in Bolivia, Sweden, and Tanzania. More recently she has been working to challenge the oppression experienced by young women.
Activist and former shoe factory worker Oscar Olivera was one of the main protagonists in Cochabamba’s Water War of 2000, one of Latin America’s first and most important victories against corporate globalization. The protests of ordinary Bolivian citizens during the Water War pressured the Bolivian government to cancel Cochabamba’s water privatization contract with the Bechtel Corporation. Oscar has been executive secretary of the Cochabamba Federation of Factory Workers since 2000 and is the spokesperson for the Coordinating Committee for the Defense of Water and Life. He was awarded the Letelier-Moffit Human Rights Award in 2000 and the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in 2001. He is the author of the book Cochabamba!: Water Rebellion in Bolivia.
William has worked for two decades in development aid and conservation in Latin America, Africa, and North America. He managed the community components of a project in the Bolivian Amazon that won a 2003 prize for environmental innovation from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. His essays and commentaries on global issues have appeared in The New York Times and the International Herald Tribune and on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air. He has worked at the World Bank and holds international relations degrees from Brown and Georgetown. He is a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute and an adjunct faculty member at New York University.
One of the most prominent figures in Bolivia’s intellectual, educational, and political arenas, Rafael was selected by President Evo Morales to serve as interim governor of Cochabamba in 2008 and as vice minister of the government in 2006. From 1989 to 1992, he was a national congressman for the department of Cochabamba. He has over 40 years of experience as an educator in formal and informal settings. He has served as professor, advisor, and evaluator for prestigious institutions and organizations in Bolivia and abroad. He has written several books and has led many research projects, including founding and directing CIPCA, one of Bolivia’s most prominent centers for the research and promotion of campesinos in Santa Cruz. He is an active and passionate promoter of popular rural education and is currently responsible for the MAS government’s “Mobile School” for the political formation of social organizations.
Cecilia is a Cochabamba native who grew up in various cities in the US and decided to move back to Bolivia to study Quechua and deepen her connection to the land. She received her degree in architecture at Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. Currently, she teaches middle school at Kusikuna Communidad Ecoactiva and is founder of Bike Art Tour. Her work in education focuses in intercultural communication and bridge building. She believes life is the best teacher and that politics, spirituality, and art have everything to do with each other.
Alejandra Ramírez Soruco, PhD
Alejandra is a sociologist with two master’s degrees, two postgraduate degrees, and a PhD in sustainable human development from the Universidad Bolivariana de Santiago de Chile. She has served as an SIT Study Abroad ISP advisor and co-instructor of SIT Bolivia’s Research Methods and Ethics course and is a member of the program’s ISP Local Ethics Review Board. She heads the Development Studies Center for Higher Education at the University of San Simon in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and teaches undergraduate and graduate level classes at three universities. Her areas of academic interest/research include human development, interculturality, cultural policy, and citizenship. Her most recent co-authored book is Brave Women: Women’s Citizenship and Sustainable Quality of Life in Cochabamba.
Ismael Saavedra, JD
Ismael’s experience and knowledge of his native country was formed through his careers as an Air Force pilot, a law student and professor, and eventually through his film career. He received an undergraduate degree in law at the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, La Paz, in 1977, and a JD in law in 1980. He was an academic director for SIT in Bolivia from 1999 to 2013. Currently, he is a PhD candidate in security, defense, and development. After leaving Bolivia in 1980, he dedicated himself to his work in ethnographic and documentary film. Among his many credits are Panama Deception (Academy Award winner, 1992), Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo (Academy Award nominee, 1984), Chuquiago (a classic ethnographic film, 1976), and Landscapes of Memory (prizes at the Sundance and Berlin film festivals, 1997). He produced a trilogy of documentaries about Bolivia’s process of change, focusing on identity and memory.
Roberto is the founder and director of the award-winning Bolivian folklore music group Los Masis, and of Centro Cultural Los Masis, an organization in Sucre that promotes the education of marginalized children through traditional music. Los Masis was named by the National Bicentennial Committee as cultural ambassador to Europe, where they performed in Germany, Austria, France, and Switzerland. The group regularly tours throughout Bolivia, Europe, and the United States.
Vivian Schwarz, PhD
Vivian Schwarz, a native Bolivian, has a PhD in political science from Vanderbilt University and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the Universidad Mayor de San Simon. She is research coordinator at the Cochabamba NGO Ciudadania, a community of social science studies and public action. She also coordinates a women’s project called Free without Violence and conducts research on themes of violence, violence against women, citizen security, and access to justice. She has numerous publications and has done extensive research in the social sciences and on public opinion and political participation.
Gustavo Deheza Ugarte, PhD
Gustavo holds master’s and doctoral degrees in sociology from the Catholic University of Lovaina, Belgium, where he was also a professor. His previous positions include rector of Universidad Privada Abierta Latinoamericana; director of Universidad Católica Boliviana’s Sociology Department; doctoral dissertation advisor at Universidad de Lanús, Argentina; professor at private universities in Bolivia; evaluator for Canadian University Services Overseas; coordinator of the Intermón-Oxfam (Spain-England) program in Bolivia; and external consultant of graduate studies for Bolivia’s Ministry of Education. Gustavo has worked in rural development projects and has published extensively on and lectures in sociology, rural development, education, culture, and research methodology. He is currently president of the MARES Foundation. Gustavo has been an advisor for many SIT students over the past 15 years. He is currently co-instructor of the Research Methods and Ethics course and is a member of SIT Bolivia’s Local Ethics Review Board.
Andrés Visinoni, PhD
Andrés has a PhD in ecology with a specialization in tropical forests from the University of Venice, Italy, and a postgraduate degree and master’s degrees from universities in Central America and Bolivia. He has collaborated with SIT Bolivia since 1996 as ISP advisor, lecturer, and coordinator of educational excursions. He has worked with academic and research institutions in Bolivia on topics including the environment, sustainable natural resource management, and indigenous groups in the Amazon and the Chaco. He was coordinator of the Center for Environmental Studies in San Rafael de Amboró in Santa Cruz and has led many projects initiated by international organizations. He is currently the international technical assistant for a European Union program supporting national conservation.
Criteria for Alumni Scholarship
1. The applicant must be a descendant of an alumnus (child or grandchild).
2. The applicant must have applied for federal aid using the Free Application
for Federal Student Aid for the award year in which the scholarship applies.
3. The student must have maintained a cumulative GPA of 2.5
4. The applicant must be enrolled as a full-time student (taking at least 12 hours).
5.The applicant must stay in school the entire semester in order to receive the scholarship. (The scholarship will be applied to the student’s account just prior to the final exams that semester.)
6. Application and all references must be postmarked by May 31st in order to be considered.
The Application Process
1. Fill out the Bert and Dianne Tippett Alumni Scholarship application.
2. Download and print the “Request for Reference Letter” and send it to your three references.
- Church Life: Pastor, Deacon, Sunday School Teacher, Youth Worker
- Academic Life: Teacher, Principal, Coach, Counselor, or other school official
- Other: Your choice, such as Employer, Community Leader, or a Friend
3. Write a personal essay (typed, 12pt font, double-spaced, 1-3 pages) and send it to the Alumni Scholarship Committee.
The Essay should include:
- Personal History – (salvation experience, family composition, and work experiences.
- Reasons for Coming to Welch College
- Current Involvement in Ministry – Include information on your Christian service, church and community involvement, and ther volunteer activities.
- Future Plans – Include your specific goals in life and/or ministry.
Please take note of the following:
- Failure to submit the application and Reference letters by the deadline will result in disqualification.
- The personal essay and reference letters must be postmarked by May 31st.
- It is the applicant’s responsibility to be sure all references are submitted by the deadline.
- The most current GPA should be reported at the time application is made.
Mail essay and reference forms to:
Tippett Alumni Scholarship Committee
P. O. Box 479
Gallatin, TN 37066