We are a group of Americans and Chinese dedicated to promoting education and sustainable development in Liangshan, China. The Cool Mountain Education Fund is made possible solely through the efforts of unpaid volunteers. Meet our Board of Directors.
Tami Blumenfield, President
Tami, a founding member of the CMEF board, has been visiting the mountains of Southwest China since she was a Fulbright scholar in 2001-02. She entered graduate school in Sociocultural Anthropology at the University of Washington in 2003, and received her Ph.D. in 2010 for a study of media and tourism among the Na, the Nuosu’s neighbors to the west, along with a Certificate in International Development Policy and Management. She became active at Yangjuan School while in graduate school, returning several times including conducting two teacher training sessions on using local knowledge in the school curriculum. She has served as treasurer, secretary, and vice president of the CMEF board. She spent 2015-2016 as a Fulbright Scholar, and is now an affiliated researcher with the University of New Mexico and Kuige Scholar of Ethnology at Yunnan University. During her 2016 visit to Yangjuan, she supervised filming for “‘Our Future Came from the School’: The Story of the Yangjuan Primary School.” The film was an official selection at the Society of Cultural Anthropology’s 2018 Displacements Film Festival.
Steve Harrell, Vice-President
Steve is a founding member of the CMEF Board of Directors, and served as President from its inception in 2005 until 2018. He is a retired University of Washington anthropologist who has worked in Taiwan and China for over 45 years, and in Liangshan for over 25 years. He and his wife Barbara live in Bellingham, Washington. He retired in June, 2017 after teaching for 43 years at the University of Washington. He will be transitioning to a role as senior adviser over the next two years. Read more about Steve’s history in Yangjuan and the history of CMEF.
Kaitlin Banfill, Artistic and Social Media Coordinator
Kaitlin graduated in Anthropology from the University of Washington in 2012, where her research focused on rural migrants living in Shanghai and their strategies for social mobility through employment and skill-training in the city. Through this research, she became curious about skill training education for rural people in China. She spent a year as a Fulbright scholar in Chengdu, researching the experience of Yangjuan graduates at vocational and technical colleges. She is also interested in Nuosu language and Nuosu fashion (both old and new). Kaitlin is currently an Anthropology Ph.D. student at Emory University, continuing ethnographic study of Nuosu Yi students from various rural regions in Liangshan who are attending college and university. As more rural students are beginning to receive higher education rather than pursue migrant labor, she is interested in how this is impacting these students’ lives and the rural communities where they come from. She hopes her research will help facilitate education for more rural students in the future!
Sara first visited Yangjuan School as an exchange student at Sichuan University in 2004-05. For her senior anthropology project, she made a video of Nuosu women’s traditional needlework skills. She returned in 2006 to teach kindergartners finger-painting and hand-washing. Sara spent so much time at the University of Washington that she earned a BA in Anthropology, a MEd in Special Education, and became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She is a special education teacher in Seattle Public Schools. Sara loves teaching her middle school students who have autism. While work is fun and fulfilling, she also enjoys spending time with her Chengdu born terrier, Baozi.
Chase Conrad, Treasurer
Chase first visited Yangjuan in 2016 while he was a student at Davidson college. After spending the summer filming and conducting interviews across Liangshan, he developed a deep affection for the region and all the friends he made there. It was the learning and relationships developed among Nuosu friends that Chase took with him as he studied Indigenous rights and bilingual education across a variety of countries for the next two years. Chase graduated from Davidson in 2018 with a degree in political science. He has since moved back to South Dakota to work with affordable housing and support indigenous organizing in his home.
He Wenhai, or Yyhxo Vuqie, joined the CMEF board in September, 2015. He is a Nuosu scholar, native of Mianning County in Liangshan. He earned his doctorate in Ethnology from Southwest Nationalities University in 2016 and is now Assistant Professor in the College of Yi Studies at Xichang College in Xichang, the capital of the Cool Mountains. He has interested in society, culture, and social change among minority ethnic groups in Southwest China. He has visited Yangjuan many times and now handles local finances and scholarships for CMEF in Sichuan.
Rachel Meyer, Development Coordinator
Rachel graduated from the University of Washington in 2006 with a B.S. in Plant Biology and a B.A. in Visual Art. At UW she spent a year at Sichuan University in the UW Worldwide program and worked with the Yi communities in and around Yangjuan on two projects: 1) to catalogue the local uses of plants for food, fodder, medicine, and construction, and 2) to test the water quality of agricultural streams and drinking water sources. These experiences in Yangjuan that showcased innovative plant uses in marginalized communities inspired Rachel to study the uses, history, and evolution of food crop landraces. She wanted to combine molecular laboratory research with fieldwork as much as possible, so pursued a PhD at the City University of New York and New York Botanical Garden joint Biology Program, studying Asian eggplants, followed by a postdoc at New York University, studying African rice. She is now executive director of the University of California Consortium for Genomic Conservation. Grateful to the Yi people, who guided her education, Rachel seeks to improve educational opportunities for students in these communities.
Aga Rehamo joined the CMEF board in July 2018. She is Associate Professor of Educational Science at Sichuan Normal University in Chengdu. A native of Ganluo County in Liangshan and a member of the Nuosu Yi ethnic group, she worked as a village and township school teacher for several years beginning in 2000. She received her Ph.D. in pedagogy from Beijing Normal University in 2013, for a dissertation on the predicament of Nuosu Yi education. From 2015 through 2017 she was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Washington, Seattle.
Givens Parr joined our board in January, 2019. Givens studied ancient and modern Chinese language and civilization at Brown University, receiving a B.A. in 2016. She also maintained a painting practice as an undergraduate, and was working as a studio artist when she met CMEF President Tami Blumenfield in 2017. Givens began assisting Tami in processing interview footage and other records related to the Yangjuan Primary School, resulting in the documentary “Our Future Came from the School,” which highlights the voices of the Yangjuan teachers, villagers, and students to tell the story of the school and raise questions regarding broader patterns of intergenerational changes, foreign support, and education in rural China. Givens spent two years in Taipei, Taiwan, where she pursued projects at the intersection of media, art, cultural diplomacy, and international education. She is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree through the School of Advanced International Studies at John Hopkins University.