Document 37189

Magazine of American University
Fall/December 2009
Two Oceans Marathon Lebanon Civilizations of Africa Fulbright scholarly globe-trotters
Sahara International Rescue Committee global classroom Uganda Indian Ocean
study abroad scholarships Cambodia Panama Canal The Global Guru Amman, Jordan
State Department Bangladesh Libyan Challenge Master Trek Cambodia Kurds
Somalia Panama City, Panama Great Wall of China Boren Fellows Mongolian Olympics
Istanbul, Turkey State Department Critical Language Scholarship Guinea
Thousands of journeys start at AU
Italy practice language Tasmanian devil Chinese
Language Club England to India
Phnom Penh, Cambodia Kuwait City, Kuwait Liberia adventure Peace Corps
rigor in research Kashmir Tokyo, Japan Made in Mexico
Harbin, China global classroom
Guinea Inshallah, Bukra, Ma’alesh Norway Tinker-Walker Fellowships global
NOW on PBS make lasting friendships 20-miles along the Nile Japan England to India
Academic road map Sierra Leone practice patience Washington, D.C.
climate change refugees
National Geographic Sphinx Pleasant Garden, North Carolina
science of global warming economic inequality realistic perspective Harbin, China
Lebanon Civilizations of Africa Two Oceans Marathon Fulbright scholarly globe-trotters
Sahara International Rescue Committee global classroom Uganda Indian Ocean
study abroad scholarships Cambodia Panama Canal The Global Guru Amman, Jordan
State Department Bangladesh Libyan Challenge Master Trek Cambodia Kurds
Somalia Panama City, Panama Great Wall of China Boren Fellows Mongolian Olympics
adventure Istanbul, Turkey State Department Critical Language Scholarshi
Italy practice language India Tasmanian devil Chinese Language Club Sierra Leone
Phnom Penh, Cambodia Kuwait City, Kuwait Liberia adventure Peace Corps Uganda
Turkey rigor in research Kashmir Tokyo, Japan Made in Mexico
Harbin, China
Guinea Inshallah, Bukra, Ma’alesh Norway Tinker-Walker Fellowships NOW
to the world
Peace and quiet: a Washingtonian has
the Potomac all to himself as he sculls
near the Kennedy Center at twilight.
Photo by Jeff Watts
Magazine of American University
Volume 60 No. 3
gateway to the world
a lens on climate change
living the story
traveling for denim
Students and scholars need an academic home
that encourages them to follow their passions.
AU points the way for thousands.
Think climate change is a far-off problem?
As SOC’s Larry Engel found this summer in
Bangladesh, it’s already here; its consequences
are dire; its victims real.
Runner and adventure journalist Rebecca Byerly
measures success not by miles run but by the interactions she’s had and the culture she’s absorbed.
John Cleese and the Monty Python could have
written the global trade rules for garments, writes
lit professor Rachel Louise Snyder in Fugitive
Denim, the book she travelled the world to write.
passport to your dreams
into africa
If you’re willing to give it your all, there may be a
travel award waiting for you.
AU experts are heading to an Africa that is coming
into scholarly prominence.
• • •
On the Quad
Only in Washington
Alumni News
46 Class Notables
48 American Web
American, the official magazine of American
University, is written and designed by the University Publications office within University
Communications and Marketing. Personal
views on subjects of public interest expressed
in the magazine do not necessarily reflect
official policies of the university.
Executive Director, Communications
and Marketing
Teresa Flannery
Director, University Publications
Kevin Grasty
Executive Editor
Linda McHugh
Managing Editor
Catherine Bahl
On the Quad Editor
Adrienne Frank
Staff Writers
Sally Acharya, Adrienne Frank, Mike Unger
Art Director/Designer
Wendy Beckerman
Contributing Designers
Maria Jackson, Juana Merlo, Evangeline
Montoya-A. Reed, Natalie Taylor
Jeff Watts
Class Notes
Melissa Reichley and Josephine Williams,
editors; Ken O’Regan, editorial assistant
American is published three times a year by American
University. With a circulation of about 107,000,
American is sent to alumni and other constituents of
the university community. Copyright © 2009.
American University is an equal opportunity and affirmative action university and employer. American University
does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion,
national origin, sex, age, marital status, personal appearance,
sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, family
responsibilities, political affiliation, disability, source of
income, place of residence or business, or certain veteran status in its programs and activities. For information, contact
the Dean of Students ([email protected]), Director of
Policy & Regulatory Affairs ([email protected]
edu) or Dean of Academic Affairs, ([email protected]
edu), or at American University, 4400 Massachusetts Ave.,
N.W., Washington, D.C. 20016, 202-885-1000.
Send address changes to:
Alumni Programs
American University
4400 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington, D.C.
e-mail: [email protected]
From the
ebster’s Dictionary was my guide as I searched for the words to
summarize for you this adventure-filled issue of American that
boldly states—
Gateway to the World: thousands of journeys start at AU.
I was delighted (humor me, I’m an editor!) to find the definitions of those
common words were so rich in meaning. Here, read them:
Gate, n. a moveable barrier
Gateway, n. an opening
Educate, v. to develop mentally, morally, or aesthetically
Journey, n. travel or passage from one place to another
World, n. the earth with its inhabitants and all things upon it
I think there are few of us who did not experience all those things during
our time at AU.
Remember when you first walked through Glover Gate onto campus?
That action symbolically removed all barriers to discovery.
That gateway opened to you the majesty and power of
the capital city.
To remind you of that exciting experience, we’ve
reprinted some of photographer Jeff ’s Watts’s favorite
photos of D.C. He’s been snapping the city’s unique
locations for our inside cover for nearly a decade. Now
they’re available at
for you to download for your personal use.
Also, in these pages you can read how filmmaker and
SOC professor Larry Engel used his lens to view firsthand
to the World
the human impact of climate change in Asia. Meet adventure journalist Rebecca Byerly who, after running with
SIS professor Joe Clapper during her AU years, decided to
discover the world on her feet. Or you can catch the enthusiasm of ambitious
students who found equally energetic AU counselors to guide them to merit
awards that enable them to study and learn all around the world.
This is the world you entered when you came to AU. This is the world we
live in, and AU is the world we want you to remain connected with as your
life’s discoveries unfold.
Enjoy the journey through our issue, and let me know about yours!
We’ve posted more of Jeff ’s photos and additional stories of faculty and
student discoveries on our American magazine Web site, www.american.
edu/americanmagazine. I’m eager to post your photos and world discoveries
there as well. Please write me at: [email protected] and send your jpeg
photo at 300 dpi resolution. I’ll consider posting any clear photograph and
exciting learning journey. Happy travels.
Cover: photo illustration by Maria Jackson
 american
On the Quad
photos courtesy of wamu
Linda McHugh
Executive Editor
A Familiar Voice
Diane Rehm’s voice is among the most singular in radio. At 73,
the WAMU personality is as magnetic as ever, and after three
decades on the air, The Diane Rehm Show is as well.
“People know when they tune in, they’re not going to hear
people yelling at each other,” says Rehm, who celebrates her
30th anniversary this year. “They’re going to hear thoughtful
Rehm’s ascension to media stardom was an unlikely one. She
was a 37-year-old wife and mother when she started volunteering
at WAMU in 1973. Six years later she was on the air.
Diagnosed in 1998 with spasmodic dysphonia, a neurological
condition that constricts her vocal chords, Rehm feared her career
was over. But injections of botulinum toxin every few months
allow her to speak freely, and while she still shudders at the sound
of her own voice, listeners continue to take comfort in it.
“What’s wonderful about that show is she has never changed
the format because it works,” says author Neil Sheehan, both a
listener and a recent guest on the show. “She’s extremely bright;
she thoroughly familiarizes herself with a subject before you’re
on so you’re not talking to someone who’s totally ignorant about
what you’ve got to say. The callers and listeners enjoy her for the
same reasons you enjoy being interviewed by her. She’s a very
articulate woman who has this wonderful power of conversation.”
Diane Rehm, center, with WAMU 88.5 general
manager Caryn Mathes and AU president Neil
Kerwin at Rehm’s 30th anniversary bash.
To read what AU Facebook fans thought about this story, see page 48.
december 2009 
active citizenship
On the Quad
web 2.0
Above: Mia Breidenbach and Ryan Hunter
survey Mount Pleasant residents for the
Latino Federation of Greater Washington.
Below: Anthony Kakoyannis helps a young
member of Life Pieces to Masterpieces work
in the butterfly garden.
 american
bill petros
Rick Reinhard
On the Quad
Public Works
Tweet, Tweet
This fall, a record 640 incoming students lent a helping hand during the
19th annual Freshman Service Experience (FSE). The students planted,
painted, and played with youngsters at 46 sites across the Washington area,
putting in more than 14,000 hours of hard work before the start of classes.
But for a few freshmen, that wasn’t enough. In October, seven groups
received $500 grants from the student-run Eagle Endowment to continue
their volunteer work in the community. The 2009 FSE grants will fund the
following ventures:
• At Bancroft Elementary School in Mt. Pleasant, students will plant a
vegetable and butterfly garden and teach kids about sustainability.
• Students will mentor youngsters through City Gate, a community
organization that serves Washington’s Trinidad neighborhood.
• At Brookland’s Damien Ministries, students will create a “pride garden”
and a food bank.
• Grant recipients will revitalize Emergence Community Arts Collective’s
Pleasant Plains headquarters and create a butterfly garden.
• Students working with Facilitating Leadership in Youth (FLY) in Barry
Farm in Southeast will build a studio where kids can express themselves
through poetry and dance.
• In Columbia Heights, students will help the Latino Federation of
Greater Washington manage gentrification through grassroots activities.
• Students working with Life Pieces to Masterpieces in Fairmont Heights
will organize educational field trips throughout the D.C. community.
“@davidgregory About to speak at AU’s American Forum on
Obama and young people.”
With that tweet heard round the ’Net, Meet the Press
moderator David Gregory, SIS/BA ’92, signaled that a new kind
of American Forum was set to begin.
For more than two decades, the School of Communication
series has delved into political and social issues; for the last eight
years, it’s been broadcast on WAMU 88.5.
But for the first time, questions for this year’s debut event
were submitted via an American Forum Facebook group, and
people in the audience—and on stage—posted their thoughts
using a dedicated Twitter hashtag (#amforum).
While moderator and SOC professor Jane Hall directed a
panel discussion about young voters and President Obama, a soft
symphony of fingers tapping keys filled the Abramson Family
Recital Hall at the Katzen Arts Center. More than 100 Tweets
were posted throughout the night.
The young people, both physically in the packed theatre
and in the virtual audience online, were engaged, but some had
multiple issues on their minds—“The real question for this forum
is whether my battery’s going to last,” Tweeted @amySwhitelaw.
Above: More than 100 Tweets were posted during the
forum “Change Plus One,” October 13.
Below: The November 13 forum “Teens, Sexuality,
and the Media” was part of the National High School
Journalism Convention.
Curious about tweets posted from this American Forum? See page 48.
december 2009 
On the Quad
vote of confidence
On the Quad
Strong Bonds
AU is one of two private universities to see its credit rating
upgraded this year by Standard and Poor’s Ratings Services.
The September upgrade “is a reflection of the university’s
overall strength and confidence in the direction the university is
taking,” says Gary Cohn, president and chief operating officer
of Goldman Sachs. Cohn, Kogod/BSBA ’82, is chairman of the
AU Board of Trustees’ Finance and Investment Committee. “An
upgrade is an extraordinary accomplishment for the university in
this economic and credit climate.”
For more than 20 years, AU has practiced conservative
financial management. Sensing deteriorating conditions in the
credit markets at the end of 2007, the Office of Finance and
Treasurer launched an overhaul of outstanding debt in an effort to
reduce AU’s market exposure. This debt restructuring will enable
the university to borrow at favorable rates, hire new faculty, and
continue construction and renovation projects in a challenging
economic environment.
Standard and Poor’s upgraded AU’s revenue bonds and its
issuer credit rating from “A” to “A+.”
Hand Picked
Jonathan Baker and Diane Orentlicher
The Obama administration has turned to the Washington
College of Law to fill two key positions.
Diane Orentlicher is the new deputy, Office of War Crimes
Issues, for the U.S. Department of State.
She will work with Ambassador-at-Large Stephen Rapp, who
leads the Office of War Crimes Issues, which advises the secretary
of state directly and formulates U.S. policy responses to atrocities
committed in areas of conflict and elsewhere.
The Washington Diplomat described her as “one of the
world’s leading authorities on human rights law and war crimes
Jonathan Baker will join the FCC’s Office of Strategic
Planning. He served as the top economist for the Federal Trade
Commission during the Clinton administration from 1995 to
1998. In 1999, he joined the WCL faculty, where his teaching
and scholarship focuses primarily on antitrust law, law and
economics, and economic regulation.
WCL dean Claudio Grossman hailed both appointments.
“Diane’s pioneering contributions to the law of accountability
and war crimes make her a perfect choice for the Office of War
Crimes Issues. We are certain that her appointment will further
an important agenda for the rule of law in U.S. foreign policy,”
he said. “We are thrilled that Professor Baker has been appointed
to this critical position [at the FCC]. His extensive experience in
antitrust and economic regulation will greatly enrich the decisionmaking process of the administration.”
Eagles Vision TV, AU’s
package, broadcasts
games online and can
now show both men’s
and women’s action
from Reeves Field.
The large “hero”
image is a vibrant
photo paired with
a story about one
of AU’s teams or
the people that
comprise them.
Game footage and
features are available
for fans.
Eight photos and
stories continuously
scroll by.
Sports Central
American University Athletics has a
new online arena.
Featuring increased video
capabilities and a sleek, compact
look, the new
launched September 9.
“The real highlight of the site is
that it’s compact and user friendly,”
says David Bierwirth, senior
associate athletic director.
Video plays a prominent role.
“Our ultimate goal with video is
to have our own channel; someplace
you can go night and day yearround for all the games and behindthe-scenes footage of American
athletics,” says Bierwirth.
“It also gives our alumni another
way to connect to our studentathletes.”
Men’s Basketball
Women’s Basketball
January 2010
at Lehigh, 7 p.m.
Lehigh, 7 p.m.
at Bucknell, 7 p.m.
at Colgate, 2 p.m.
Bucknell, 7 p.m.
Colgate, 2 p.m.
at Army, 7 p.m.
CBS College Sports
Holy Cross, 2 p.m.
Army, 7 p.m.
at Holy Cross, 2 p.m.
at Navy, 7 p.m.
at Lafayette, 1 p.m.
Lafayette, 2 p.m.
Lehigh, 2 p.m.*
at Lehigh, 7 p.m.
at Bucknell, 7 p.m.
CBS College Sports
at Colgate, 2 p.m.
Bucknell, 7 p.m.
Colgate, 2 p.m.
Army, 7:30 p.m.
Holy Cross, 2 p.m.
at Army, 7 p.m.
at Holy
2 p.m.
Navy, 7 p.m.
Lafayette, 4 p.m.
at Navy, 7 p.m.
at Lafayette, 1 p.m.
*Cassell Hall of Fame Induction
 american
december 2009 
On the Quad
picture perfect
Only in Washington
Over the last eight years, AU photographer Jeff
Watts has trained his camera on some of the city’s
most magnificent sights. From the Potomac to
the pandas, Jeff and his Nikon have captured the
wonder of Washington—and now you can, too.
Download Jeff ’s favorite photos for your personal
use at
Jefferson Memorial, fall 2006
 american
december 2009 
On the Quad
picture perfect
Clockwise from right: pandas, spring
2001; Iwo Jima Memorial, summer
2009; and Library of Congress Reading
Room, summer 2005
 american
december 2009 
picture perfect
On the Quad
photos courtesy of National Gallery of Australia
On the Quad
Left: Awakening, summer 2004 and Lincoln Memorial, fall 2001
Below: Great Falls, Potomac River, summer 2002
Outback Art
Australian Indigenous Art Triennial: Culture Warriors is the
largest exhibit of indigenous art ever to leave Australia, and the
AU Museum was its only venue on this side of the Pacific Ocean.
Australians have been making art for 60,000 years, but the
show was not a history of that art or an anthropological study
of the first Australians. Rather, it revealed how some of the
best artists from that tradition—from elders who once lived in
the outback to contemporary painters—have been grappling
artistically with what it means to be aboriginal in Australia.
“People expected nice decorative things,” says AU Museum
director Jack Rasmussen. “But there’s really great political art
here, as well as wonderful traditional things, and the quality is
so high. It’s the kind of show where art can finally make you
understand the humanity of another people.”
Culture Warriors, which ran from September to early
December, is in keeping with AU’s mission: to highlight
provocative and thought-provoking contemporary art from
around the globe.
Above: Taking the Land Away, 2006. For
many of Australia’s indigenous artists, to be
aboriginal means to come face-to-face with
poverty, social ills, and a history of oppression. H.J. Wedge of the Wiradjuri peoples
uses bold colors, graphic images, and images
of a dreamtime that has become a nightmare to express the anger and alienation of
life on the margins.
Right: Apu Kaz (Mother and
Baby Dugong), 2007. Traditional
storytelling and realism come
together in the masterful bronze
sculptures of Dennis Nona of the
Kala Lagaw Ya peoples.
 american
december 2009 
An AU education is a
gateway to the world,
and not just in a figurative
sense. A university education
does, of course, open the mind
to a new world. But those of us
drawn to AU are also drawn to
action. We take it for granted
that the pursuit of knowledge
and real-world change may be
grounded in our work on campus,
but will also take us far from
4400 Massachusetts Avenue.
t to you
pa s
Opportunities are everywhere, giving rise to thousands
of journeys.
Alumni, faculty, and students have been on the go in
recent months to places like Bangladesh, Libya, Sierra
Leone, and Cambodia. Come along and find out what
they’ve learned.
c l i m at
a Le
 american
to th
december 2009 
Far Off Campus
o matter what
direction he pointed
his camera, Larry Engel
saw water.
xxxx In many parts of
Bangladesh, where the School
of Communication professor
spent two weeks in August working as director of photography for
a documentary on climate change
refugees, it is impossible to discern
where the sea stops and land begins.
“Anyone who thinks that climate
change isn’t real, or it’s something that’s in
the future, just go to Bangladesh,” Engel
says. “Wherever you look, there’s water. If
there’s a home off one of the main roads,
instead of a front and back yard, you basically have two ponds.”
In this Water World, the title of the
film that aired on NOW on PBS, water is
omnipresent. Working in the south Asian
By Mike Unger
 american
country was among the most enlightening, challenging, educational, and
uncomfortable experiences of his career,
says Engel.
The documentary focuses not on
the science of global warming, or the
controversy that surrounds it. Rather, it
explores the effect climate change already
is having on the impoverished people
of Bangladesh, a country the size of
Wisconsin with 150 million people—
roughly half the U. S. population.
“The idea was to see how people were
coping,” says Engel, who worked with his
longtime friend, director Amy Bucher, on
the project. “Instead of trying to fight the
water, people are trying to live with it.”
Engel and the crew travelled throughout
Bangladesh—the world’s most densely
populated country, according to the
United Nations—speaking to climate
change experts, architects and engineers
trying to devise solutions to the rising water, and the people whose lives are impacted
by it firsthand.
“The country is mostly at sea level, and
several major rivers come through it from
China and India,” Engel says. “It’s sort of
like a drainage area for the Himalayas. It’s
not just sea water that can be a problem.
Rain and runoff from these massive rivers
cause flooding.”
Maria Hinojosa, NOW senior correspondent on the project, reported that the
earth’s rising temperature is increasing the
frequency and strength of monsoons, one
of which devastated the country earlier this
year, causing the displacement of 35,000
In one segment, she visits a makeshift
village of tin and wood huts perched on a
narrow strip of land. Children must wade
through water to reach boats that transport
them to the nearest source of clean drinking water two to three times a day.
“It was a real eye opener for me,” Engel
says. “The people who become refugees are
in some ways complacent. They seem to be
accepting of their fate. Many of them said,
Alex Thorp and Noah Chutz traveled
to the Arctic, thanks to a new partnership between AU and the Royal
Norwegian Embassy.
A highlight: trekking across a
“Anyone who thinks
that climate change
isn’t real, or it’s
something that’s in
the future, just go to
‘What can we do?’ They don’t think in
terms of greenhouse gases or the developed countries being the main contributors to the problem that they deal with
on a day-to-day basis. They just know
the flooding’s getting worse, they’re
displaced more frequently and for longer
periods. They live and die with it.”
Capturing the story on film was a
challenge in many different ways for
Engel, who previously has won an
Emmy for best cinematography. Simple
tasks like finding electricity to charge
camera batteries turned into gargantuan ones, and the oppressive heat and
humidity took a physical toll both on the
crew and its equipment.
“I worked on the Amazon before,
but this was in some ways worse because
there was no relief from the humidity
or temperatures,” Engel says. “Every
single person on the crew got traveler’s
diarrhea and a cold. We had to take care
to secure the equipment on incredibly
rough roads. While it didn’t rain a lot,
there was water everywhere and it was
Photo courtesy of Knut Espen Solberg and the Royal Norwegian Embassy
A Lens
Tromso, Norway
August 2009
extremely humid, so we had to protect
the cameras and sound gear. We faced a
lot of personal challenges.”
Yet those obstacles and temporary
hardships were a small price to pay,
Engel says, in order to bring light to the
magnitude of the problem.
“We talked to an expert on climate
change refugees who said in the near
future there’s going to be migrations
of people away from land being lost to
the water,” he says. “They will move to
higher ground, and that means more
and more people will be moving across
borders. When you’re talking about tens
or hundreds of millions of people, there
aren’t any forces on earth that will stop
“Our hope is the film will have an
afterlife that helps create change in the
United States and other countries around
the world.”
Photos courtesy of Larry Engel
Thorp, now an SIS sophomore,
entered an essay on climate change
in a contest judged by the embassy,
and ended up with a ticket to the
Norwegian Polar Institute in the arctic
city of Tromso.
His fellow essay winner Chutz, an
SIS graduate student, was in Costa
Rica when he got the news. Thorp calls it one of the best trips
of his life. He’s now on his way to
Canada for a Killam Fellowship, and is
thinking of concentrating his studies
on the environmental challenges
facing the world’s northern regions.
Kyoto, Japan
September 2009
When Erik Jensen gave a speech in
Japanese, the entire student body
listened. The School of International
Service graduate student gave the
welcome address at the fall opening
ceremony at Ritsumeikan University
in Kyoto, where the SIS-Ritsumeikan
dual degree student told his classmates: “I’m humbled and excited to
begin studies.”
december 2009 
Byerly ’06
the stories
she reports.
Rebecca Byerly
was alone in the
Sahara with nothing
but a GPS and her
own resolve, yet
there was no place
on earth she would
have rather been.
“The other runners were hours ahead
of me, but I knew it was worth it,” the
26-year-old adventure journalist says. “I
thought, ‘I could be totally terrified right
now, but I have never felt a greater sense
of peace.’”
Ever since leaving her small North
Carolina hometown for American
University, Byerly, SIS/BA ’06,
has gravitated toward places many
Americans fear. A peace and conflict
resolution major, Byerly has transformed
herself through sheer determination into
a globe-trotting journalist living—not
just telling—the stories she writes.
 american
By Mike Unger
In March she assembled the first-ever
U.S. team to compete in the Libyan
Challenge Master Trek, a 200-kilometer
foot race through the Sahara desert.
“There were hundreds of kilometers to
cover, but for me, success in this race was
not measured by distance,” she wrote
on, for which she reported
her experience. “It was measured by the
human interactions I had, the culture I
absorbed and shared, and each person
I met.”
When Byerly crossed the finish line
58 hours after her odyssey began, she
immediately started thinking about
the next stop on the whirlwind race
she calls her life. She’s now in Kashmir
reporting on climate change for National
“I have this incredible passion to tell
stories about people from parts of the
world you don’t hear from,” she says.
“When I wake up in the morning, the
first thing I think about is how I’m going
to make that happen.”
Discovering the World
Growing up in tiny Pleasant Garden,
North Carolina, Byerly was “detached
from the world.” She rode horses, ran
cross country and played two other
sports, and was president of her class in
high school, but didn’t travel much.
She applied to AU and knew she had
found her school when she toured
the campus.
“For the first time in my life I saw people
who didn’t all look like me,” she says.
“Just seeing the diversity, in everything
from clothing to [skin] color, I knew it
was where I wanted to be.”
A week into her college career Byerly was
introduced to School of International
Service assistant dean Joe Clapper, an ultramarathoner who took her on a six-mile run
through trails in northwest Washington.
“I thought I was going to have a heart
attack,” says Byerly, who ran 3.2-mile
courses in high school. It was the
beginning of a relationship with running
and SIS that would shape her life. “It
was the most interesting first meeting
I’ve ever had with an undergraduate,”
Clapper says. “She’s incredibly personable
and inquisitive. She cares about people
who are underprivileged and not doing
well. She’s got a big heart, but she’s tough
as nails and pretty much fearless.”
Byerly spent her junior year studying
in Egypt, and it was in northern Africa
that her wanderlust really set in. “Every
opportunity I had to travel, I traveled,”
she says. “The first trip was hitchhiking
through Lebanon. I was studying the
Kurds, so I went to eastern Turkey for two
weeks. I stayed with a family in a place
where very few Americans ever venture.
From there I went to the Sudan. I stayed
with a Muslim family I’m still friends
with. The most difficult part of this drive,
this sense of adventure, was not having an
outlet to tell my stories.”
december 2009 
Photos courtesy of Rebecca Byerly
“I have this incredible
passion to tell stories
about people from parts
of the world you don’t
hear from.”
After returning to Cairo, Byerly, seemingly
out of the blue, decided to run three ultramarathons in six weeks. She believes it
was a coping mechanism to deal with the
personal difficulties she was experiencing at
the time.
“I hooked up with a running group and
we would run to the pyramids and the
Sphinx on Friday nights,” she says. “It
was 20 miles along the Nile, through the
desert. Absolutely mind-blowing stuff.”
Just a few weeks later Byerly completed
the 36-mile Two Oceans Marathon,
which winds from the Pacific to the
Indian Ocean coasts in South Africa.
“It was really a need for exploration
and to push myself into another place,”
she says of the endurance races. “There
is a high you get from running. I will
remember being on top of this mountain
looking at the beach in South Africa.
You can see that scene a million times,
 american
but when you’re in the middle of a 36mile race, all your senses are heightened.”
After backpacking alone through Jordan
and visiting Palestine, Byerly returned to
AU for her senior year. Her first job postgraduation was in Afghanistan, before a
Rotary Scholarship took her to India. It
was there, during a trip to Kashmir, that
she decided journalism was her calling.
“You’ve got the Indian army, you’ve got
backpackers and snowboarders from all
over the world, but there really isn’t as
much tension as you would think,” she
says. “I realized this was going to be my
next story. I just decided whatever it
takes, I’m going to be a journalist.”
Perhaps it was that desire to prove her
inner being wrong that drove Byerly to
pitch a story about running the Great
Wall of China Marathon to a half-dozen
media outlets ranging from the Charlotte
Observer to the Wall Street Journal. Only bit.
“Mao Zedong once said, ‘He who has
not climbed the Great Wall is not a
true man,’” the lead to her 2008 story
on reads. “Mao likely never
anticipated the scene on May 17, when
more than 1,600 athletes from 49
countries not only climbed but ran the
Great Wall of China Marathon.”
It was a curious decision for a woman
Byerly found fascinating characters, like
85-year-old Margaret Hagerty, the oldest
woman to run a marathon on all seven
continents, to highlight in her story.
who’s “terrified” of writing. “I’d rather
run 100 miles than write,” she says. “It’s
overcoming my biggest fear.”
“She has the knack of pulling
information out of people, not in a
confrontational way, but in a friendly
‘Realistic Perspective’
way,” Clapper says. “In 15 minutes, she
knows everything about you.” As usual,
Byerly discovered much about herself
during the writing and reporting process.
“I learned I could run a marathon, take
pictures, and write a story all in the same
day,” she says. “I can tell if a runner writes
an article or if someone is just writing an
article on running. I just feel like it’s a
much more realistic perspective.”
Byerly went on to run 155 miles over
six days in the Gobi Desert, report on
the Mongolian Olympics, and uncover
the downtrodden state of a Cambodian
Olympic marathon runner for CNN.
com. After returning to the United
States, she worked as a waitress, saving
up money to finance her trip to Kashmir.
“I’m the only one of my friends that’s not
engaged or married,” she said in May.
“That’s just not the path I’ve chosen.
All I can think about right now is
somehow getting myself to Kashmir.
There’s a reason so few people make it in
journalism—it’s easy to give up. There
are other jobs that pay, that you get
benefits with. I’m just not going to do
that. A lot of sweat and tears go
into these stories, but they’re really,
really exciting.”
Byerly might not have health insurance
or a 401(k), but how many people have
experienced the euphoria of crossing the
finish line of a 200-kilometer race in Libya?
“For me, this race was an opportunity
to grow as a person,” Byerly wrote in
her piece. “To explore a
country I knew little about, and make
lasting friendships.”
december 2009 
Photos courtesy of Rachel Snyder
Her research on globalization—as illustrated
in what it takes to
create and sell denim
jeans—led Rachel
Snyder to a factory in
Thailand, right, and
a trade show in Italy,
far right.
by Sally Acharya
for Denim
The rules are dizzying. You can, for
example, use a label that says ‘Made
in Bangladesh’ even if the shirt is sitting
on a hanger at a factory in China. If the
back and front panels of the shirt and the
sleeves were sewn in Bangladesh, then
shipped off to China to have the cuffs,
collars, and finishing done, you can
circumvent the fact that China has perhaps
used up all of its shirt quota, and under
current trade law you’ll be allowed to use
the ‘Made in Bangladesh’ label.
It’s as if John Cleese and the Monty
Python gang got together and wrote the
global trade rules for garments. A sleeve
in Turkey! A fly in Laos! A rivet and button
in Kenya! And a label in Suriname!
­ Rachel Louise Snyder
in Fugitive Denim:
A Moving Story of People
and Pants in the Borderless
World of Global Trade
 american
Take a look at the jeans
you’re wearing. If the label says
“Made in Mexico,” you might
logically assume they were made
in Mexico. But when literature
professor Rachel Louise Snyder
went on the trail of the pants
we wear, it took her around
the world: Azerbaijan, Italy,
Cambodia, New York City.
Much like the global path our
jeans take from the cotton fields
to our closets.
Snyder comes to AU from
Phnom Penh, Cambodia, her
home base for six years as she
wrote stories for magazines and
radio and researched the book
on an industry in which “a
single foot of thread might contain fibers from farms in Texas,
India, Turkey, and Pakistan.”
As she followed the denim
trail, she met people whose lives
are a part of globalization: the
seamstress in Cambodia, the
cotton grower in Azerbaijan, the
New York City designer who is
trying to create a line of socially
conscious jeans. At its heart, the
book tells the human story of
globalization—not as a tirade
against sweat shops, but as
a nuanced and often startling
report of the way lives are
bound together with goods.
The longtime global freelancer has written for the
world’s top magazines (a small
list: Slate, Salon, Redbook, New
Republic, New York Times
Magazine) and is a regular voice
on PRI’s This American Life,
APM’s Marketplace, and the
NPR shows Morning Edition
and All Things Considered.
In a new NPR radio show
that begins airing soon, The
Global Guru, she gives twominute answers to questions
such as “How do Ethiopians use
butter?” and “How do you track
a Tasmanian devil in the wild?”
At AU, the global guru is a
professor of creative nonfiction
and literary journalism in the
Department of Literature,
College of Arts and Sciences.
“I love it when poets come and
say, ‘Nonfiction isn’t really my
thing,’” she says. “I try to win
them over.”
She shared some thoughts
with American magazine on
her book, her writing, and the
difference it has made for her
to live and work abroad.
Q. How did the idea for
the book come about?
I learned Cambodia was the only
Third World country that had
negotiated a trade deal, under
the Clinton administration, to
eradicate sweat shops in exchange
for trade advantages. I got even
more interested when Cambodia
joined the World Trade Organization and under WTO had to
get rid of that trade incentive. So
the question became, Gosh, will
they survive? And if they won’t,
what does it say?
Q. The garment trade is a
complicated web, yet you
were able to tell it through
personal stories spread
across the world. How did
you find those stories?
I found the country first. I
wanted it to be emblematic of a
struggle, and the people in the
country to be narratives of that
struggle. I wanted to show how
Bono could be connected to a
seamstress in Cambodia. I often
started with places where I had
friends. In Azerbaijan, I had
friends who lived there, and one
thing would lead to another.
Q. The book shows
how hard it is to produce
a pair of socially conscious
jeans. After what you’ve
learned, do you try to be
socially conscious when
you buy jeans?
I do, but more importantly,
I try to define the difference
between want and need. I don’t
need more than one or two
pairs of jeans.
Q. You lived in Cambodia
while writing the book.
Why did you choose to
live abroad for an extensive
time? Did it make a difference to base yourself
abroad rather than traveling
for work?
I’d lived in London, I had
traveled a lot, and I’d started to
do thematic long trips, so I’d go
away for two to three months.
But I got to a point where I
realized traveling gives one sort
of specific kind of experience,
and I was only going to repeat
that experience again and again
if I just kept traveling somewhere but didn’t have to actually
negotiate a life.
When you just travel, you
are always dancing around the
periphery. You’re not forced
to negotiate things that are
extremely difficult to negotiate.
When you’re living somewhere,
you have to have electricity, you
have to figure out how to get
a driver’s license, you’re forced
into situations where you have
to have a little humility—which
is very hard for someone from
an individualistic culture—
and you have to see your own
shortcomings in ways you
don’t otherwise. When you see
how people confront problems
in other places, it gives you a
context for ways you confront
problems yourself, and in your
own country.
Q. Has travel influenced
or changed your understanding of yourself?
I feel like you don’t actually
know what parts of you are
from your culture until you can
define your culture, and I feel
you can’t define your culture
until you can parallel it or
juxtapose it to other cultures.
I think you can only get that
from travel—from on-theground experience.
Q. What does writing
fulfill for you?
It calms me down. It’s exactly
what I hope for my students—
a place to go to think about
things, a way to stop and take
a deep breath and define the
world and the way we see it.
Q. How do you see your
role as a professor?
Not everybody is going to go on
to be a professional writer. But if
I can create for them a place for
self-discovery, I see that as my
role—to guide them to a place
where writing fulfills them.
december 2009 
in, Chi
E ssential ite m s : Hand sanitizer and
your favorite American snack foods.
Awar d :
L o cati o n :
Harbin, China
Ethan Meick can trace his interest in
China back to his freshman year at AU.
An introductory course in international
relations piqued his interest in the Asian
nation and U.S. foreign relations. He
began studying Chinese, founded AU’s
Chinese Language Club, and studied
abroad in Beijing and Yantai during his
junior year. The summer after graduation,
the New Hampshire native returned to
China on a State Department Scholarship
to polish his language skills.
Cultivate relationships with
professors—and keep in touch. “Professors
or the mentors you consult in preparing the
essays involved in the application are really the
most important people in the process. They
are an invaluable resource.”
H elpful hint:
The highlight of the trip
was climbing Tai Shan, the most famous
mountain in China. “It was cold and
Best m e m o ry:
P r o fessi o nal pursuits : Meick has his
sights set on the State Department’s
Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
“I want to be at the forefront of the policymaking process to advance U.S. interests
in creating a better, more cooperative
international community.”
Sarah Fischer
SPA, PhD candidate,
comparative politics
State Department’s Critical
Language Scholarship,
which funds intensive
summer study of Arabic,
Chinese, Russian, and Farsi
Flexibility is
important. “Living in another country is
different from taking a vacation; you have
to adapt to the schedule of a new country,
whether that means grocery stores that
close at 6 p.m. or restaurants that don’t
serve dinner until 9 p.m.”
S urv i v in g an d thri v in g :
SIS/MA ’10, U.S.
foreign policy
in, Chi
 american
White recommends
applicants get an early start on the
merit awards process. “You would
not believe how many drafts you’ll go
through, and unfortunately, you don’t
get to put the rest of your life on hold.
Give yourself enough time to write
a clear, passionate application—and
then delete it all and start again.”
H elpful hint:
Ethan Meick
Read more stories online at
After graduating from AU in May, Meg
White needed some time to contemplate
her future. A year-long stint as an
English teacher in Austria provided the
Tennessee native with the perfect opportunity to mull over the future while basking in the present. White loves practicing
her German, exploring a different culture,
and cultivating new friendships. “I have
actually become part of the community
here,” she says. As for the future, White’s
optimistic. “Before I traveled abroad, I
had no idea how many different opportunities for international work really exist.”
“I learned to be adventurous and try as many new things as
possible. I ate fried scorpion, cicada, and
locusts. You have to be respectful
[of the culture] and give it a try!”
L ess o n learne d :
Here and online, AU students and alumni share their
tips for landing a study abroad scholarship, and for living
and learning overseas.
L o cati o n : Kirchdorf an der
Krema, Austria
White also studied
abroad in Berlin, Germany, and
Santiago, Chile.
Gl o b e - tr o ttin g :
rainy during the hike up, but when I
finally reached the top it was one of the
most amazing sights I’ve ever seen: a
temple amidst the clouds. Just to think
that all of the emperors of China had
made the same trek, including Chairman
Mao, I was in awe.”
Last year, more than 50 American University students landed
merit awards that will take them around the world. For AU’s
scholarly globe-trotters, these prestigious scholarships will
help advance their research, broaden their understanding of
the world, shape their values and ideas, and introduce them
to rich cultural traditions. But more than that, a merit award
is the passport to their dreams—their ticket to the world.
Language Teaching
Assistantship, during which
recipients spend eight months teaching
English in Austrian secondary schools
Awar d :
E ssential ite m : A local cell phone is
a must-have, says White. “Using an
American cell phone is much more
expensive, if it works at all, and you can’t
expect that your friends and colleagues
will check their e-mail regularly.”
It’s one thing to learn about a foreign country. It’s another
thing, entirely, to live abroad, soaking up all the culture,
history, and knowledge the global classroom has to offer.
CAS/BA ’09, German
and Spanish studies
sarah fischer
to your dreams
by Adrienne Frank
How to win
a merit award
that will take you
around the world
Meg White
ethan meick
meg white
Boren graduate
fellowship, which
requires students to focus
on less commonly taught
languages and cultures
L o cati o n :
Istanbul, Turkey
Sarah Fischer’s academic interest in the
headscarf has led the Iowa native halfway
around the world. Over the next year,
Fischer will interview Turkish politicians,
bureaucrats, and citizens to examine how
the headscarf—banned in Turkey—
affects women’s political participation.
In addition to shedding light on the
complex role of women in politics, White
aims to educate others about the country
december 2009 
that first sparked her interest on a backpacking trip in 2003. “Turkey lies at an
important juncture geographically; it has
a large, growing economy, and it’s been
an important ally for the United States.
I hope to help better educate others on
Turkey, its people, and its politics.”
“My best memory in Turkey
thus far comes from last summer, when I
was on a critical language scholarship in
Ankara. I lived with a Turkish family and
the mother was a fabulous cook. Every
morning, she would make breakfast and
we’d sit and eat together, which was
sometimes hard, because I was in beginning Turkish at the time and she didn’t
speak any English. Before I left to return
to the States, I made an American-style
Sunday brunch: pancakes, eggs, and
mimosas. I made chocolate chip cookies,
too, and my host mom tried to eat them
with a fork and knife! (It was her first
American-sized cookie; Turkish cookies are
bite-size.) It was so nice to be able to repay
a little of their kindness by sharing a little
about America.”
a n n e h am i lt o n ( L e f t )
Best m e m o ry:
“Be thankful for
the opportunity, and be grateful to the
people who helped you get there and the
people who help you once you are there.
Gratefulness overcomes both language
and cultural barriers.”
L ess o n learne d :
Sturdy luggage.
SIS/MA ’09, comparative
and regional studies
t c i t y, k
Anne Hamilton
E ssential ite m :
Fulbright grant
and the Critical Language
Enhancement Award, which provides
three to six months of intensive language
study to Fulbright recipients
Awar d :
Amman, Jordan, followed
by Kuwait City, Kuwait
L o cati o n :
Seek out merit awards
that mesh with your goals and research
interests. “Don’t pick a scholarship just
because it offers a lot of money. You have
to find something that really fits you.”
H elpful hint:
Best memory: “My best memories thus far
are all related to the generosity of complete
strangers: a friendly taxi driver refusing
payment and welcoming me to his country;
a young boy offering to show me the way
to a store while carrying large cartons of
pomegranates; and elderly Armenian men
walking me through the tiny alleyways of
the Old City of Damascus to show me to
my hotel.”
“Understand that
you have a lot to learn about the country,
even if you’ve been there before. Learn to
enjoy the unknown.” Also, be patient and
tolerant, and trust your instincts.
S urv i v in g an d thri v in g :
In 2007, Hamilton
received an SIS graduate summer research
award to work with an Arab women’s development organization in northern Israel.
Gl o b e - tr o ttin g :
Karun Tilak
international studies
and economics
 american
the U.S. and about Americans, and I have
the opportunity to represent the side of
America that many people in this region
don’t see often.”
Anne Hamilton will spend the next
14 months in the Middle East, exploring
the recent alliance between Nationalist
and Islamist political blocs in Kuwait’s
parliament. But the former Peace Corps
volunteer sees her mission as more than
academic. “What intrigues me about
the region is the cavernous gap of
understanding that continues to exist
between the U.S. and the Middle East.
There are loads of misconceptions about
karun tilak
Language Scholarship
Awar d :
L o cati o n :
Amman, Jordan
After studying Arabic for two years at
AU, Karun Tilak took his education on
the road. “I felt that learning a language
within the context of a country would be
an excellent way of furthering my skills,”
he says. In addition to honing his Arabic,
Tilak learned about pressing issues facing
Jordan, including an influx of Iraqi refugees and a water shortage. And while the
Oklahoma native is bound for law school,
he looks forward to traveling throughout
the region and developing an even better
grasp of the language.
Jordanians have an
expression: “Inshallah, Bukra, Ma’alesh
(God willing, tomorrow, no problem).”
Tilak quickly discovered “that not everything—in fact, very little—happened on
time. I realized that if I was going to
enjoy myself and become comfortable
in the culture, I would have to relax my
regimented [schedule].”
L ess o n learne d :
“Don’t be
shy! No matter what you do, at one
point or another, you are probably going
to look stupid. But, nine times out of ten,
those embarrassing experiences will be
the best learning tools and perhaps your
fondest memories.”
S urv i v in g an d thri v in g :
E ssential ite m : “A voracious appetite.
Try the food, the drink, the dancing, the
music; see the sights; talk to people. You’re
only going to be there for a short period
of time, and limiting yourself to class and
home only gets you so far. In order to really
‘learn,’ you have to get out there and absorb
as much as you can.”
Tilak’s currently studying abroad at the London School of
Peace building in Morocco.
Human trafficking in Bangladesh.
Renewable energy in Germany.
Financial stability in Japan.
For study abroad
scholarship winners,
the world is their
AU’s Office of Merit Awards
kicked off its 20th anniversary
with a bang this year, helping more
than 50 students land prestigious
scholarships that will take them to
23 countries in search of knowledge and adventure.
And while these merit award
winners represent a range of
majors and interests, they all
have one thing in common: they
successfully navigated what can be
a long, stressful, and trying
application process.
According to Paula Warrick,
director of the Office of Merit
Awards, a study abroad scholarship is truly a passport to the
world. The following are Warrick’s
keys to landing an award that will
enable you to take your education
on the road:
The application process averages three
to four months, but can stretch as long as six to ten months. “It’s like adding another
class to your schedule,” says Warrick. The Office of Merit Awards is busiest in September, October, January, and February, so students should begin gathering information early: from March to August.
• P r a c t i c e g o o d t i m e m a n a g e m e n t s k i l l s :
“Committees look for demonstrated rigor
in research,” explains Warrick. “They want to know that you have a road map
to take advantage of the opportunity they’re presenting.” Research is a great
way to solidify your interests and convey your commitment.
• D o u n d e r g r a d u at e r e s e a r c h :
Even if you’re making As in your
classes, you should still go to office hours. “It’s important that you get to know your
professors—and that they get to know you,” says Warrick. The more face time you
get with your professors, the stronger their letters of recommendation will be—
letters, Warrick points out, “that can be used for other purposes, like job or grad
school applications.”
• C u lt i vat e r e l at i o n s h i p s w i t h fa c u lt y:
Since academic achievement among applicants is high—the
average scholarship winner boasts a 3.8 GPA—students need to stand out in other
ways. Language skills can give students an edge, as will a commitment to volunteerism and public service. Diversity can also be important. Warrick says her office
is working closely with Multicultural Affairs to increase applications among first
generation college students and students of color.
• B e w e l l r o u n d e d :
A study abroad scholarship is an opportunity to advance your goals—not a time to define them. “Students are trying to persuade
a committee to invest in them,” Warrick explains. “They should have a clear
sense of purpose, and it should be reflected in their transcripts.” She encourages students to craft an “academic road map” to ensure that each course, internship, and extracurricular activity helps them hone their professional passions.
• F o c u s , f o c u s , f o c u s :
Successful applicants must be open to criticism. Essays and statements of purpose often go through five or six drafts before
students get the words just right, says Warrick. As it can be a stressful and challenging process, she recommends students only apply for one or two scholarships at a
time. “Better to focus very intently on two rather than spread yourself too thin with
four or five.”
• P r a c t i c e pat i e n c e a n d h u m i l i t y:
december 2009 
Africa, even in the last decade, was not a place where many students went to study abroad
or intern. A tough place to research, it was always a bit in the scholarly shadows.
That’s no longer the case, particularly at AU, where a growing number of courses and faculty
members focus on aspects of the complex continent.
Youth haul water around Freetown,
Sierra Leone, on carts built of scrap
wood. In an upcoming publication,
Susan Shepler looks at the “bearing
boy” phenomenon and how it fits into
the economy. Photo courtesy of Betty Press
 american
arl LeVan, who studies Africa and teaches at the School of International Service, thinks it’s no accident that the
boom in interest coincides with a wealth of new data. “We have information about Africa, and access to people and
politicians and histories and data, that were inaccessible even 10 years ago,” he says. “We’re better equipped at a
scholarly level to answer the questions we’ve always been asking.”
Faculty have done research all over the continent, including Malawi, Senegal, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea,
Ghana, Namibia, and South Africa. The Council on African Studies, chaired by LeVan, has identified at least 20 faculty
members across AU with research interests in Africa.
There are alternative breaks to Africa, study abroad programs, and an increasing number of internships. LeVan’s undergraduate course, Civilizations of Africa, collaborated across the miles with a class at ABTI-American University of Nigeria,
with students reading the same assignments, posting homework on a joint blog, and engaging in lively debates.
At a recent organizing meeting on Africa studies, some 50 students packed the room. Many had traveled or worked in
Africa already; others planned to go. “That’s momentum,” says LeVan. “That’s excitement. That’s energy.”
The people in the next pages are contributing to the momentum as scholars, students, and alumni. They know
what it is to work, travel and do research in the vast, diverse and changing continent. For more on Africa’s stories visit
december 2009 
the Lead
[Uganda, Somalia]
“Through a combination
of photography, text, and
audio recordings, I hope
to illustrate broader
issues through
individual stories.”
—Pete Mueller
 american
or journalist Pete Muller,
CAS/BA ’05, it’s all about
the story. And that pursuit
has already taken him far from
AU. Just days after receiving
his degree in history, Muller
took a job as a journalist for
a Palestinian news agency.
“Journalism and documentary work seemed like the
logical thing for me to do,”
Muller says.
Most recently, Muller’s work led him
to Uganda and Somalia. As a correspondent for Glimpse, a magazine and Web
site supported by National Geographic,
Muller traveled to Uganda to document
the return of millions of refugees to their
homes after more than a decade of internment at internally displaced persons
Muller covered a group of refugees in
northern Uganda. Their backgrounds
differed: some had been fighters in the
rebel army, some members of the government’s army, and some apolitical refugees.
But they had one thing in common:
billiards. This eclectic group had banded
together to form a billiard team. Unexpectedly, the refugee teammates
also developed deep bonds, looking out
for one another by dividing winnings
and resources.
“I’d go and take photographs of these
guys,” says Muller, “but I spent 75 percent
of my time getting to know them, interviewing them formally and informally,
[getting] a sense of their personalities,
background, and circumstances—finding
out what led them to this pool hall.”
Muller’s work with the refugees led
to a contract with the Danish Demining Group to document traditional and
alternative mine clearance programs
in Uganda and Somalia. In addition
to removing mines and unexploded
ordinances, these programs provide
locked storage devices for weapons and
implement social programs to diminish
the status of firearms in the culture.
Muller says his study of history informs his work. “The topics of war, uprising, social movements, and sexuality
defined my course of historical study at
AU and generated a deep curiosity in the
modern aspects of these issues,” he says.
“Through a combination of photography,
text, and audio recordings, I hope to illustrate broader issues through individual
stories.”—Anne Lacy CAS/MFA, ’09
Lost and
Found in
Adapted from CONNECTIONS, Fall 2009,
College of Arts and Science. Photos courtesy of
Pete Mueller
[Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia]
West Africa
is rough terrain for a
A frica
It’s not just the sketchy roads, sweltering heat, or threat of disease in much of
the continent. It’s also the comparative lack
of data. Information is hard to come by.
Records are often minimal and unreliable.
Susan Shepler knows this well. Back
in the 1980s, she was a Peace Corps math
teacher in Sierra Leone, and developed
a love for the region that turned into an
academic passion. She has logged many
miles in West Africa as a scholar and program evaluator, often spending months at
a time in the field.
Her most recent project is a window
into the challenges of studying Africa and
a glimpse into how it’s changing.
The SIS professor took a half-year
research sabbatical to travel across Guinea,
Sierra Leone, and Liberia in pursuit of an
answer to the question often posed by those
who work in international development.
What is the long-term result of a program
in which an international nonprofit invested significant time and resources?
In the 1980s and 1990s the International Rescue Committee had trained
hundreds of teachers living in refugee
camps in Guinea after fleeing violence
in Sierra Leone and Liberia. With the
conflicts over and the teachers gone from
the camps, the IRC wanted to know
what became of them and whether their
training in teaching methods, health, and
conflict resolution had been useful.
Yet no one quite knew where they’d gone.
In Shepler’s hands were the names
of about a hundred teachers last seen in
Guinea. The best places to look for them,
she reasoned, would be the countries
they’d fled. That narrowed the search—to
some 139,000 square miles.
Shepler’s academic research had taken
her past armed checkpoints in the back
country of Sierra Leone, so she was game
for the challenge of riding motorbikes
through Sierra Leone and Liberia and
joining the crowds on local buses as she
hunted for the former refugees in countries that were now at peace.
This time she worked with a team
of six research assistants—some of them
former refugee teachers in Guinea, some
of them teacher trainers—who knew the
region and its issues well. They fanned
out across Sierra Leone and Liberia, tracing leads, calling each other with tips, and
meeting up regularly with Shepler, who
crisscrossed the two countries to oversee
the team and, along the way, conduct her
own interviews.
How did they fare on their hunt?
“Cell phones have made a huge difference. Everyone has a cell phone now,”
Shepler says. Community ties were also
still strong so friends and neighbors were
keeping in touch across the miles. “One
person would say, ‘Oh, this guy Sam? I
think he went to Monrovia. I think this is
his number.’ At the end of each interview,
we’d ask for more names. But sometimes it
was just a wild goose chase.”
In the end, Shepler and her team
tracked down over 600 people, many of
whom were still teaching.
Were the onetime refugees still using
their teacher training?
In some cases, the answer was ‘yes.’
Health training had proved to be useful,
as did conflict resolution training, which
they were applying in everyday conflicts
over things like land disputes.
Implementing the training in teaching
methods was more difficult. Teachers in
schools with several IRC-trained teachers
had some luck in bringing about change,
december 2009 
“Our findings highlighted
the motivation that we too
often take for granted
—people teach out of a
love of teaching, and a
love of their community
and country.”
but for many, it proved too difficult for a
single teacher to buck the system.
“The assumption is you train somebody and supply them with tools [so]
they can be an agent of social change, but
it’s not just knowledge that allows you to
do it. There are barriers at all levels, from
the ministry to the local level.”
What stood out in the interviews
though, says Shepler, is the commitment
the former refugees felt toward their
careers. “Our findings highlighted the
motivation that we too often take for
granted—people teach out of a love of
teaching, and a love of their community
and country.”—sa
—Susan Shepler
Finding Herself in
Sierra Leone
Sylvia Kalley
or Sylvia Kalley, AU has
been a gateway back to a
world that has always been
a part of her life, but which,
in many ways, she barely
knew. When the graduate student won
a Tinker-Walker Fellowship from the
School of International Service to travel
to Sierra Leone this summer and arranged
field work with the help of professor
Susan Shepler, she was returning to her
parents’ homeland. Kalley was born in
Texas, but her parents are both from
Sierra Leone. She’d visited before, and
had lived in nearby Mali as a Peace Corps
volunteer, but working in Sierra Leone
opened the way to surprising
opportunities and insights.
What is it about Sierra Leone and
your work there that led you to extend
your stay?
Susan Shepler and her research assistants spent months traversing countries in West
Africa. That team consisted of, from left, Shepler, Wusu Kargbo, Sia Mani, David
Mackieu, Nathaniel Boakai, and Fertiku Harris. Photo courtesy of Susan Shepler
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Funding the
Susan [Shepler] had the idea for an
internship program where AU students
could carry out their graduate field work
there. We discussed my spearheading the
project and establishing the program as
my practicum, and she introduced me
to the coordinator of the Sierra Leone
Association of NGOs (SLANGO). I am
partnering with them in setting up the
internship program for their headquarters
and sub-offices.
At the end of my initial 10 weeks with
SLANGO, I was offered a short-term
contract with the U.N. Special Court,
Sylvia Kalley got to know her parents’ homeland, and a lot about herself, as a graduate
student whose internship in Sierra Leone was so productive she extended it. Photo courtesy
of Sylvia Kalley
which tries war criminals. I assist the
finance and administrative officer for the
Defense Office. The extension has given
me the chance to explore possibilities for
starting a postgraduate life here.
I am attracted to the slower pace of
life. I like the relaxed atmosphere and the
fact that there are very few distractions,
which affords me the opportunity to
really spend time with people.
I have also noticed during my stay
how very American I am. I see it in
my work ethic, my personal views on
relationships, and the way I communicate
with people.
What intrigues you the most about
passion in laughter, sadness, arguments,
and love. I am intrigued by Africa because
I see the potential for greatness, although
that perspective requires an unbelievable
amount of optimism.
How do you envision using your
Because I hope to focus on social entrepreneurship, I want to either consult on
private sector development with a large
organization or with the government of a
developing country. My long-term goal is
to start my own business in Sierra Leone
that will provide jobs for the unemployed
while contributing to economic development. —SA
Traveling abroad for research
was far from common,
particularly for a woman,
when Irene Tinker drove from
London to India in 1951 with
three friends. When she drove
back in 1953, she had a new
companion: her husband,
Millidge Walker, an officer in
the U.S. Embassy whom she
met on that adventurous trip.
Tinker and Walker both
went on to academic careers
that brought them to AU’s
School of International
Service, where Walker, an
early faculty member, was
founder of the Southeast Asia
Area Studies Program and a
professor in the International
Development program. Tinker,
a pioneer in gender studies, is
a prolific writer and researcher
who is now professor emerita
at the University of California
at Berkeley.
The Tinker-Walker Fellowship—endowed by the couple
—encourages students to
include overseas field experience in their research, internship, or practicum. Recent
fellowship winners have used
the funds to offset the cost of
travel to countries including
Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan,
Vietnam, Cambodia, India,
Egypt, Lebanon, BosniaHerzegovina, and Fiji.
I love Africa because of the people and
the liberty everyone has to express their
emotions. Everywhere you go, you see the
december 2009 
Class notables
“We work with historically underserved youth in Seattle,”
he says. “The world is getting smaller and smaller and smaller,
and people from vastly different social identities are coming
together more rapidly now. We want to create more intercultural
Siler’s ultimate goal is to return to Appalachia, the place he
once so pined to flee, and continue working with youth. His
dream is to one day open a charter school.
“Growing up my personality didn’t fit the culture,” Siler says.
“I rejected bluegrass music; I rejected my family’s experiences in
the coal mines. But I’ve come to really embrace that part of me,
and understand that it’s important where I come from. I want to
create a place where you learn about your heritage but also think
globally. Thinking globally and acting locally.” —MU
Amanda Quinones, SIS/BA ’08
Nick Siler, SPA/BA ’01
he tiny town of Pineville sits about as far southeast
in Kentucky as you can get in Appalachia, and as a
boy, Nick Siler couldn’t wait to get as far away from it
as possible.
His journey took him first, against all probability, to American
University, then around the world, before a curious thing happened: Siler began yearning for home.
“I was on the twelfth day of a 16-day hike in western Nepal,
and I had this revelation,” Siler, 31, says. “We have to go back to
Kentucky. Growing up I didn’t have the institutional support of
anyone else in the area. Going away to college wasn’t culturally a
thing you do. I wanted to come back and be supportive for the
youth there. My idea was to create an organization that would
revitalize Pineville.”
Siler was the first member of his family to go to college, and
one of only two students in his high school graduating class of
216 to leave the state to attend a university. He desperately wants
others in Appalachia to experience what he did at AU, so when he
returned to his hometown, he took over Downtown Pineville, a
dormant nonprofit, and began working to effect change there.
Siler was the first member of his family to go
to college, and one of only two students in his
high school graduating class of 216 to leave
Kentucky to attend a university.
The organization began holding workshops for middle- and
high-school students to educate them about college. It also
reopened a community theater, where it sponsored performances
and showed films about social justice.
But after three successful years, Siler began thinking he
needed more experience in the nonprofit world. He went to
Vermont where he earned a master’s degree in social justice and
intercultural relations from the School for International Training. That led him to Seattle, where he now works as curriculum
development manager for OneWorld Now!, a global leadership
after-school program.
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manda Quinones volunteered more hours of her time
last year than many people do in a lifetime. And at 23
years old, she’s just getting started.
In May, Quinones was awarded the President’s Volunteer
Service Award for her work with the Hispanic College Fund
(HCF) where she volunteered more than 100 hours on the
committee that planned the organization’s Hispanic Youth
“She takes her volunteer service as seriously as she does her professional job,” said Rosa Castillo, HCF’s volunteer programs manager. “She’s always willing to do whatever it takes to get the job
done—from delivering water to making name tags to doing a
presentation on public service. That’s rare in a volunteer.”
Quinones began working on HCF’s youth symposium—
basically, a one-stop college preparation boot camp for
Hispanic high school students—in 2007 while interning at the
Department of Labor.
“I fell in love with the symposium,” Quinones says. “I love seeing the students come together. On that first day, some of them are
closed off. They had that usual high school attitude. But by the end
of the third day, you see that they have completely changed. Our
work helps them change their opinions on going to college.”
The Brooklyn-born daughter of Italian and Puerto Rican
parents—“Only in New York!” she jests—volunteered throughout
her growing years. As an AU member of APO, a community service fraternity, she helped resurrect Latinas Promoviendo Comunidad–Lambda Pi Chi Sorority, a Latina community service group.
“She’s very disciplined, very focused, and so connected
with the community. She’s done more community service than
anybody I know,” says Lorenley Baez, AU’s assistant director of
multicultural affairs.
Quinones joined the Department of Energy full time after
graduating from AU in December 2008. As a program analyst for
In May, Quinones was awarded the President’s
Volunteer Service Award for her work with
the Hispanic College Fund (HCF) where she
volunteered more than 100 hours on the
committee that planned the organization’s
Hispanic Youth Symposium.
DOE’s Office of Economic Impact and Diversity, she helps
manage a minority student internship program.
Next year she plans to attend graduate school, where she
hopes to study public health.
It’s a natural extension of her life’s work. “I’ve always been
interested in disease prevention, especially looking at the
communities I’m involved with,” she says. “Puerto Ricans and
Latinas are very affected when it comes to diabetes and heart
Whatever her future holds, Quinones knows volunteering will
remain a big part of her life.
“I always encourage people to volunteer and engage in their
communities,” she says. “As much as you put in and give back to
others, you get so much more out of it. Knowing that you can
make a difference in somebody’s life does volumes.”
december 2009 
Non-Profit Org.
U.S. Postage PAID
Permit No. 451
Dulles, V.A.
Washington, DC 20016-8002
Address Service Requested
SIS faculty and students made their mark
during International Education Week,
November 16–21, with push pins marking
the places around the world where they’ve
lived, studied, or conducted research.
White pinheads represent faculty; colors
represent students.
Photo: Jeff Watts