Shawn was born in rural Vermont and raised on a dairy farm within walking distance of the Canadian border. Fascinated with crossing borders from an early age, Shawn embarked on a life-long journey of cultural exploration–much of it through West Africa. He currently works as a Senior Program Officer at a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., where he designs professional exchange programs for the U.S. Department of State.
His strong ties to West Africa were forged in the 1990s, during his years as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dogon region of Mali. While his work focused on combating the guinea worm parasite, it was the time spent among friends, in their homes and fields; and their enduring generosity of heart and spirit that have drawn him back to Mali seven times over the past fifteen years. During the civil wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia, Shawn worked for the U.N. World Food Program, managing food distribution in refugee camps established in neighboring Guinea.
Inspired by African storytelling traditions, Shawn directed the Visual Griots project that empowered Malian youth to use photography to tell their stories. He co-curated an exhibition of the students' photographs that debuted at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Shawn has published articles and photo essays related to Visual Griots and Dogon funeral rituals in African Arts magazine.
Among his other adventures, Shawn has served as a nursing assistant at an AIDS hospice. When he’s not dreaming of Dogon Country, Shawn enjoys hiking in West Virginia and singing in a choir.