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Brave New Worlds
Study abroad is usually about getting a taste for other countries and cultures, not influencing them. Not so with two stories of recent travels by UVM students, who in places as different as a sun-baked Dominican Republic soccer field and a shady Azerbaijani polling station, have made a difference for positive social change.

Futbol and Freedom
The Batey Libertad settlement, outside of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, is home to about 1,000 Haitians and Haitian-Dominicans who are discriminated against within the country and suffer from extreme poverty. The town has a high rate of HIV/AIDS infection and a life expectancy of just less than 50 years.

During a semester abroad, Jeff DeCelles, an Environmental Studies Program major, found his way to and connected with this community through a mutual love of soccer. DeCelles quickly grew from fellow player to coach to soccer general manager for the people in Batey Libertad. Seeing a desperate need for equipment, he worked with Olympia Sports retail stores who responded with donations of socks, shin pads, and cleats.

Beyond the joy of new gear, the equipment opened up new opportunities. “The Dominican teams wouldn’t play against Haitians because they didn’t have shirts or cleats,” DeCelles says. “It was an economic barrier for them until we got the equipment.”

DeCelles returned the following year with fellow UVM student Oriana Campanelli. Not only was the men’s team thriving, but a women’s team had sprung up as well. Soon Campanelli was helping the women with equipment, and other students including varsity soccer players Sara Jablonski, John Antonucci Jr., and Eric Brown also made trips to Batey Libertad to help with the cause.

The ongoing need for equipment prompted the students to create the Batey Libertad Coalition, a non-profit alliance between Haitian, Dominican, and American businesses with a common goal of creating positive social change through soccer.

According to the students, the resources have helped transform the way the community operates and feels about itself. “Many of the players are the leaders of their community,” Brown says. “Through the creation of soccer teams they learn to organize and form committees. It spills over into all areas of society. We just gave them the equipment. It’s amazing what they’ve done.”

All four students say they hope to keep working on the Batey Libertad project well after graduation. “It’s a lifelong commitment for me,” says Campanelli, who was recently told that one of the local soccer players had named his child after her. “Everything I do in school I can relate to the team and our experiences over there.”

Standing up to the Boss
When Angela Sherwood ’04 spins the first-person story of a lone 21-year-old international election monitor in a former Soviet Republic — coping with ruling party bosses, intimidating policemen, and an addled voter declaring himself to be Joseph Stalin and shouting his intention to vote for himself — it seems worth shopping the concept to a few movie studios. At the very least, Sherwood’s honors thesis, an examination of Azerbaijan’s transition to democracy, will make for a well-informed read, rich in detail and personal perspective.

Through a summer 2003 internship at the United States embassy in Baku and a return trip to serve as an international monitor for the presidential election last October, Sherwood has been both close observer and active participant in the former Soviet Republic’s governmental change.

The UVM senior’s powers of observation and a considerable measure of courage were on the line when, together with an interpreter, she was the only Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe official assigned to polling station #2 in Masalli, a small city near Azerbaijan’s border with Iran. The Precinct Election Commission members, the majority of whom were from the ruling YAP party, were determined to test the young woman’s power, including suggesting that they could just take the ballots to a back room to count. She needn’t come along, they said.

“Fed up with the tricks and games of the commission,” Sherwood announced that if the voting procedure manual wasn’t followed, she would declare the precinct’s votes invalid in her report to the OSCE. “Amazingly enough, this captured the attention of the commission, and they immediately started feigning innocence at their past actions, and quickly took out the manual and started following each step in exact detail,” Sherwood says.

When the precinct vote count showed the opposition party candidate, Isa Gambar, prevailing over the ruling party candidate, it was more than a little uncomfortable. “Previously the celebrity of the precinct, I suddenly began to receive looks of hatred as the young American girl who would be responsible for them losing their jobs,” Sherwood recalls. But once all the votes were counted nationwide, the ruling party candidate, Ilham Aliyev, prevailed.

“There’s no better way than foreign travel to find out who you are, what kind of society you live in, and what kind of world you live in beyond that,” Sherwood, a political science major, says. “Placed in a different society where there are some things you love and some things you can’t stand, everything is uncertain. You transcend the idea of nationality and realize you’re part of something greater, and you learn that through friendships and experiences.”


3 Questions
Bob Taylor, longtime UVM professor of political science, is the dean of the new University-wide Honors College, which will welcome its first class of approximately 100 students next fall. A past recipient of UVM’s Kroepsch-Maurice Teaching Award, Taylor will continue teaching a course each semester in addition to his new administrative role. “It would be so easy to give that up and it would be so wrong to give that up,” Taylor says. “You don’t want a dean of the Honors College who is not in the classroom.”

Q. This is a big job you’ve taken on — did anything make you hesitate about this step?

A. With seven undergraduate schools and colleges, it is difficult to imagine a program that can serve and meet the needs of all. That’s a challenge, and it’s a difficult challenge. The good news is that it is a wonderful thing if you can do it, and I think we’re going to make a strong start toward that.

Q.Tell me about the first-year honors seminar planned for next year.

A. Don Loeb from philosophy and Alan Wertheimer from political science put together a course on ethics that really stands out for having both broad appeal and intellectual integrity. The course will bring together faculty members from a whole range of areas — military studies, nursing, genetics, natural resources…

It really opens opportunities for a broad conversation across the University among students and faculty, as well. As an added bonus, we have a course in ethical theory and applied ethics with a world class scholar right here in Alan Wertheimer willing to put it together. We’re using one of our truly outstanding resources.

Q.Beyond the seminar, what sorts of other events will the Honors College be sponsoring next year?

A. Rather than lectures, which everyone assumes we’ll do, I’d like to bring in people for special colloquia where students and faculty really get a chance to interact. I’d like to attract some people like the novelist Russell Banks or the cartoonist Art Spiegelman, who told the Holocaust story in cartoons in his book Maus. Harvard and Yale have their traditions of “Dean’s Teas,” where they may bring in someone like the Dalai Lama. Well, we might not be able to land the Dalai Lama, but there are many wonderful, fascinating people we could bring in for an afternoon.

I’m even more interested in introducing our students to our faculty in ways that they don’t get introduced currently in our classrooms. Every department has people that our students would be amazed to learn about their research and scholarship. In fact, I think the worlds of faculty and students have been artificially separated in the last generation to a degree that is not healthy. If the Honors College can strengthen those connections, I think it would be enriching for the whole University community.


Because of Politics
Most of the time, UVM junior Daniel Akol Aguek is soft-spoken. But as he leans forward to make an important point, he’s given to a sudden shift in tone, his words come lower, louder, faster when he tells you, “I never miss a class!” Never miss a class!” The delivery is the same on less mundane matters, such as when he is unfolding his personal history as one of Sudan’s “Lost Boys,” a generation separated from family and homeland by years of war. Describing the experience of being one of thousands fleeing across hundreds of miles of desert, Aguek makes the circumstances plain: “You are running for your life!”

Aguek’s remarkable journey has brought him to the University of Vermont, where he is at home in the Living/Learning residence hall, sharing a room with fellow Sudanese Abraham Awolich in the Human Rights and Global Perspectives suite.

Aguek isn’t certain of his date of birth, but figures he was about nine years old in 1987 when civil war in Sudan forced him to flee on foot to refugee camps in Ethiopia. When the government of Ethiopia was overthrown in 1991, Aguek was again among the tens of thousands on the run for their lives. Many died crossing the Gilo River; Aguek, who developed his swimming skills crossing the Nile with his father’s cows in Sudan, was among the survivors. He would eventually find his way to another refugee camp in Kenya, where he continued the education begun in Ethiopia and completed high school.

In the summer of 2001, Aguek was among a group of Sudanese refugees who resettled in Vermont. Backed by a strong array of scholarship support, he is an economics and political science double major (who never misses a class) and has his eye on an MBA or law school. Considering his choice of study, Aguek says. “I’m not saying I’m going to be a politician, but I really want to know about politics. It is because of politics that I left my country, lived in refugee camps, and came to the United States.”

Aguek hasn’t seen his parents in 17 years, but they rest assured that their son is safe and well, knowledge that was hard to come by in the lost years. “They know I am doing good work,” he says. “They are very proud of my achievements.”

photo by Sabin Gratz


Quote Unquote
Personal politics ends after New Hampshire. After this it becomes a media show. The name of the course is ‘View from the Grassroots.’ That’s why we’re here.

Jon Margolis, who led 15 UVM students through a five-day political science field class held on-site in New Hampshire prior to the primary. Margolis is former chief national political correspondent with the Chicago Tribune.


Amplifying the Activities
After a week of classes on campus, UVM students have tended to head elsewhere, downtown or to the mountains, with their leisure time. Not the case this year, as many are choosing to stay closer to home thanks to a dramatic increase in on-campus activities.

“We wanted to provide more for the students. Burlington is a great town and we wanted to make UVM an even better place for students to live,” says Pat Brown, director of student life, and a 21-year veteran on the UVM staff. “Seniors approach me and ask, ‘How come I missed all this? This stuff is great. Where were the concerts, the free movies, the games when I was a freshman?’”

The enhancement of UVM student life began to take shape during the 2002-2003 school year, when then-junior and SGA vice-president Shawna Wells met with Brown to discuss students’ feeling that on-campus activities were thin. Student leaders also took their concerns to the Board of Trustees, making their case for a boost in funding that has brought concerts, dances, free movies, and events such as the “Think Tank” movie series, which follows up thought-provoking films with a discussion session.

Funding also supported the means to get the word out, so no one would have to ponder the potential question “If an open mic happens in Billings and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?” Patrick Raymond, a recent UVM graduate who combines communications savvy with a finger on the pulse of student interests, heads this effort. The punchy “bored” website (www.uvm. edu/bored) is an impressive gadget in Raymond’s toolbox. At “bored,” any student tempted to let forth with one of those “there’s nothing to do” sighs can find plenty of counter arguments — varsity games, campus coffeehouses, Royall Tyler performances, Outing Club treks, and a round-up of the best stuff going on beyond campus.

Melisa Dybbro, coordinator of the Campus Activities Team (CATS), is among those giving Raymond plenty to advertise. She says, “Students cannot say they are bored when there are things happening virtually every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Having fun improves life in general, whether you’re in college or not.”


Message from Mosul: Remember Us
Editor’s note: Via e-mail, Cpt. Lydia Battey recently sent us one soldier’s view of life at the front in Iraq.

Fresh snow lays scattered over the partially frozen ground, the mud underneath is thick in places. The February night is crisp, the stars are clear. It feels like a Vermont spring. The boom of mortar fire breaks the stillness. “Bunkers! Bunkers! Bunkers!” squawks a voice on the loudspeaker. Doors open, tent flaps raise, sleepy bodies hurry toward the concrete safety. Flak vests with pajama bottoms no longer look odd here.

Welcome to my world. I never would have dreamed in 1999 when I graduated from UVM that I’d be deployed to northern Iraq for a year with an Army Combat Support Hospital (CSH). As a registered nurse, I am assigned to work in the emergency section of our field hospital. We work out of tents, using generators, oxygen tanks, and basic field medical equipment. Anything too high-tech has long since been defeated by the intense summer heat, sand, and fine dust.

Our home is an old Iraqi Airforce base in the city of Mosul. The airstrip is invaluable for receiving supplies and air-evacuating our patients back to Europe. The city of Mosul surrounding us however, is a huge liability. Mortar and rocket-propelled grenade attacks occur daily here. The Stryker Unit we support suffers frequent ambushes and IEDs (improvised explosive devices), as they attempt to patrol the city and encourage stability.

Such unrest provides plenty of work for my unit, the only field hospital north of Baghdad/Tikrit. Not only do we treat every soldier injured, but we also treat Iraqi civilians injured in crossfire, and captured enemy prisoners of war. Treating trauma is emotionally easy in the moment. You don’t think about the individual’s nationality or the events that brought him/her to you. After the adrenaline is gone and the soldier on the ventilator is lying across from the injured Iraqi who shot him in the chest…it’s then that the caring becomes more of a challenge.

President Bush might have declared the end of major combat operations May 1, 2003, but here we are February 2004 with daily mortar attacks, and soldiers and Iraqis being critically wounded and dying. With every soldier injured the tally in the media becomes more of a number and less of an individual. Here at the front, however, every casualty is an individual I think about and remember.

The face grimacing in pain has a name. The laughter belongs to a soldier playing cards with my medics as he heals. The southern drawl thanks me for that extra blanket as he tells me about his Texas home. A proud wounded father shows me pictures of the new baby he’s never met. The hug and thanks are from a soldier being loaded on the airplane headed to Germany. “You are a good girl, like my daughter,” said the Iraqi P.O.W. whose leg wound I sutured. The pregnant Iraqi woman, whom we treated for a gunshot wound, brings her baby back to show us. The tears belong to the soldier I hug whose buddy arrived to us too late to save. Then there is the Iraqi hand I held when all the surgery and blood transfusions were done and there was nothing we could do but watch him die.

As you watch your news at night, forget the politics and think about the individuals. Think about their challenges and pain. Think about their hopes and fears. Remember their families grieving, celebrating, waiting. Thank them all and wish for peace and safe return.

—CPT Lydia Battey
67th Combat Support Hospital
Mosul, Iraq

[ Linguistics ]
Two-Wheel Talk
air-port (âr’ pôrt) n 1. UVM Cycling Club slang for the campus fitness center in reference to the building’s form, kind of terminal-like, and one of its functions, a place for riders to gather before taking flight out Spear Street.

[ Accounting ]
Number of Catamount all-time leading scorers enrolled in UVM’s College of Medicine, where Karalyn Church ’00 has traded in her green-and-gold basketball uniform for a simple white coat.

Make Yourself Comfortable
An extraordinary array of Asian art has settled into the Fleming Museum’s East Gallery for the next several months. All of the pieces on display are recent acquisitions and promised gifts of South Asian, Southeast Asian, Chinese, and Japanese sculpture, textiles, and decorative arts. “Arts of Asia” is on exhibit through June 27. Parinirvana buddha, Burma, Mandalay period, wood, lacquer, gilt, glass.
Gift of the Doris Duke Southeast Asian Art Collection.

Live from the Green
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet, a celebration of University of Vermont history, and, of course, a momentous morning for the Class of 2004 guests of honor are on the bill for Sunday, May 23. The 200th commencement in University history will return to the historic Green for the first time in decades and big plans are underway in Burlington.

“Few universities are able to commemorate a 200th graduation,” said President Daniel Mark Fogel. “This occasion warrants a true celebration of UVM's long and distinguished history. Commencement also gives us an opportunity to reflect with pride on the great public university we are now, and to look forward with anticipation to the future we have planned."

Fogel will share the podium with Mamet, a part-time Vermont resident and graduate of Goddard College, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his play Glengarry Glen Ross, and has earned acclaim for numerous other plays and screenplays.

For a full schedule of Commencement activities, go to www.uvm.edu/ commencement or call (802) 656-2005.

Poet’s volume delivers
As the millennium anxiously waned in New York City and the baby inside her belly grew, Tina Escaja wrote consistently, and as her personal feelings and outside observations blurred, the intimate became epic and a volume of poetry began to emerge.

After finishing her sabbatical year and returning to Vermont, the associate professor of romance languages continued work on Caida Libre (a Spanish phrase that roughly translates to “free-falling”). The collection of about 60 poems, which was published this winter, recently won the Dulce María Loynaz Poetry Prize, which is given by the Spanish Canary Islands Government. The award, one of the largest for poetry in the Spanish world, has a cash component of about $12,000.

The prize is named for the legendary Cuban-Canarian poet, who died in 1997 at the age of 94. The judging panel described Escaja’s book as using “language full of authenticity and force.” It also lauded her for describing pregnancy with language that is “steely but not cutting.” The judges also called her work “very beautiful” and realistic.

“The book has to do with the strange process of pregnancy and delivery, and describes it in terms of Manhattan at the end of the millennium,” Escaja says. “I wanted to trace those anxieties both in terms of myself and the city.”

Later, back in Vermont, Escaja delivered her second child a month before Sept. 11. The roiling emotions of the moment, her personal joy for her baby and deep sorrow for those lost to violence in a city where she had once lived, compelled her to revise the manuscript, adding reflections on events after 2000.

Escaja is a scholar of literature and has published several books of criticism, but Caida Libre is her first full paper volume of poetry in print. She has written widely under the pseudonym “Alma Perez,” both in print and on the Internet. Her award-winning poetry collection was originally intended to be part of the “Alma Perez” oeuvre, but a clerical mistake led to the manuscript being publicly attributed to Escaja. She decided not to correct the mistake, she says, and “ended up being myself.”

No Basta Tu Chupete
Poem by Tina Escaja
Para dejarte a solas con los astros, para quedarte a solas y no llorar
no bastan
las melodías de otros, los cánticos de las sirenas, habaneras de un bien perdido.
Desasirte quieres,
ejercitarte libre y tú,
alcanzar las olas que no alcanzas.
Esa extraña soledad del ser
que te nombra y me acaba.
Y sigues implorando el imposible afán,
la vuelta del olvido en esta cadena inconsecuente y dura como el vivir,

Your Pacifier is Not Enough
Translation by Helen Wagg
To leave you alone with the stars, for you to be alone and not cry
not enough
are the melodies of others, the sirens’ songs, habaneras of a good lost forever.
You want to tear yourself away,
to practice being you, and free
to catch the waves you cannot reach.
That strange aloneness of the being
who gives you life and takes mine away.
You beg and beg for the impossible desire,
the return from oblivion in this unimportant and harsh chain that is life,
to break it.