Students discover fresh perspectives through old languages at UW-Madison

Johanna Weissing has long felt a special connection to Scandinavian history and mythology. As a young girl, Weissing remembers her father reading Rolf and the Viking Bow aloud. She became caught up in the story world of 11th century Iceland and craved more.

Further inspired by her family’s Swedish heritage and the history she studied in her free time, she found her way to the Department of Scandinavian Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. There, she now enjoys the unique experience of studying sagas and skaldic poems in their original form.

Few universities compare to UW-Madison when it comes to the range of language studies offered, from major modern languages to ancient tongues, such Latin, Ancient Greek, and Old Norse.

Weissing, now a junior majoring in Scandinavian studies with a certificate in Medieval Studies, regards the study of languages as an important part of higher education.

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Returnees provide send-off, advice for new UW Peace Corps invitees

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The latest UW group entering the Peace Corps gather for a send-off brunch.

Like many graduating seniors at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Rebecca Morgan grapples with a feeling of not knowing what to expect this summer. Morgan wakes up every morning feeling either overwhelmed with excitement or overcome with nerves, as she looks ahead to a two-year stint as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

Recently, Morgan and other invitees – including some preparing to leave the country for the first time – had an opportunity to meet with returned volunteers, at a Peace Corps Send-off Brunch at the University Club, which brought together people of various backgrounds and involvement with the Peace Corps.

Invitees looked to those with experience to answer burning questions and ease anxieties about their imminent 27-month terms in such countries as Kosovo and Nicaragua.

Morgan, who leaves June 1 to teach in Uganda, sought advice from Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Mary Ann Feutz, who served 2002-04 in Lesotho.

“It’s hard to know what to pack because you don’t know what you’ll miss until you’re gone,” Feutz tells Morgan. “It’s different for everyone, which is why care packages from home will be so important.”

The send-off event also was important for parents and guests of invitees, who learned about other countries through presentations by RPCVs.

Through Skype sessions, volunteers currently serving in Grenada and Mozambique talked about how to deal with the unexpected once in-country and told invitees to prepare for all of their expectations to be proven wrong.

Dean Jefferson spoke about his Peace Corps experience as a “gringo” in Costa Rica in 1974-77 with Judy Allen, who served in Morocco around the same time. They looked back on the risks they were able to take when they were “young and foolish” and the similarities of their experiences in diverse countries.

“It’s something you just can’t understand unless you’ve been a volunteer,” Allen said.

— by Brianna Maas

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UW Peace Corps recruiter Eric Luckey talks at a send-off brunch for new Peace Corps invitees.

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Writing assignment in UW-Madison class reaches newspaper readers in France

Imagine writing an article as an assignment for a French workshop class and ending up with your prose published in a newspaper in France. Two students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison just added that milestone to their list of undergraduate experiences.

French Class-Journalists 033Juan Fonseca and Zuzanna Sztul are among the 38 students in French 312 (Advanced Oral and Written Expression: Writing Across the Humanities), taught in two sections this spring by Névine El-Nossery and Andrew Irving.

French 312 follows a workshop format in which students read, analyze, present and write texts in different forms, from academic dissertations to professional communication and even satire and over-the-top descriptions.

In the recent unit on La Presse, the students analyzed the sometimes strict format and style of French journalistic writing. As part of this unit, they spoke via Skype on March 11 with writers and editors from La Nouvelle République: Loir-et-Cher (the Loir-et-Cher region’s edition of the Nouvelle République).

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Internship in Ghana gives Kalcic new direction

When Katrina Kalcic enrolled at Columbia College Chicago in 2008, the Kenosha, Wisconsin, native was still reeling after losing her father to esophageal cancer in 2005.

“When I first went to college, it was a lot less about academic achievement and a lot more about struggling to find myself and struggling to redefine my identity without this person in my life,” she says.

“My father was absolutely everything to me,” says Kalcic, whose immediate family consisted of her and her parents. “He raised me and my mom went to work. I loved him completely. He was my best friend.”

Today, the University of Wisconsin–Madison alumna speaks with a strong sense of purpose – a commitment to a mission forged by a personal journey that has taken unforeseen – and decidedly international – twists and turns. During a visit to Madison, she recounts the experiences that fueled her passion for global health and public policy.

Kalcic entered college with plans to study journalism, communications, and international relations. In the spring of 2010, she says, “I had the good fortune to study abroad at Vesalius College in Brussels, Belgium, which was an incredible experience.”

That fall, she transferred to UW–Madison, where, she says, “I started studying genocide and mass atrocities, which was absolutely fascinating.” She also found work on campus as a sexual health educator with University Hospital System.

Then, through UW–Madison’s International Internship Program, she spent the summer of 2012 working with a non-governmental organization in West Africa.

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Project Pengyou aims to build Chinese-American bridges among UW students

After spending four weeks in China as a Global Gateway Scholar last summer, Tammy Tian returned to the University of Wisconsin–Madison, determined to bring some of her experiences back to campus.

Tian, a junior studying journalism and East Asian Studies, wanted to start a student organization that bridged the social gap between Chinese and American students, but she recognized that this required more resources and support than were available on campus.

Tian, a Chinese-American from Milwaukee, became interested in the culture she experienced in China. Although her parents are from China, Tian gained a valuable new perspective during her time as a Global Gateway Scholar that she wished to show fellow UW-Madison students.

So she turned to Project Pengyou. A national organization with more than 300 chapters, Project Pengyou aspires to bring Chinese and domestic students together for conversation and intellectual engagement.

Tian and Hong-En Chen, a Taiwanese-American student from Madison, teamed up to attend a leadership fellow training summit at Harvard University last fall with the national Project Pengyou organization. The four-day summit connected students from across the country who, like Tian and Chen, were eager to bring Project Pengyou to their campuses.

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Ambassadors group helps aspiring Peace Corps volunteers

For decades, the University of Wisconsin–Madison has been among the top institutions for recruiting Peace Corps volunteers. Today, a student group called Peace Corps Ambassadors is helping to sustain that tradition, while providing additional support for prospective volunteers.

“It’s nice to have a small cohort of folks who are going through the same phenomenon, worried about their choices, not sure how to word [their] essays,” says Peace Corps campus recruiter Eric Luckey.

The Peace Corps Ambassadors group was formed before Luckey became the campus recruiter two years ago. Now, he wants to raise the group’s visibility among students, by promoting more Peace Corps networking and hosting small-group bonding activities.

Meetings provide a forum for the 20 to 30 students in the group to talk about the Peace Corps and their future after graduation.

“Having conversations with students about their fears, their concerns, their expectations,” Luckey says, “I think those are all, if not as important, perhaps even more important than the day-to-day recruiting work that I do here on campus.”

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Alumni facilitate internships, opening doors for UW students

The essence of the Wisconsin Idea is that the University of Wisconsin–Madison should improve people’s lives beyond the classroom, throughout the state, across the nation, and around the world.

UW‐Madison seniors Nicolas Bunker and Nicolette Johnson with a group of interns at AbbVie in Puerto Rico.

UW‐Madison seniors Nicolas Bunker and Nicolette Johnson with a group of interns at AbbVie in Puerto Rico.

Last summer, two UW–Madison seniors—Nicolette Johnson, majoring in industrial engineering, and Nicolas Bunker, majoring in chemical engineering—embodied the university’s guiding principle through their participation in internships at AbbVie, a global, research-based biopharmaceutical company, working at the company’s Barceloneta facilities in Puerto Rico.

This opportunity was made possible, in part, by UW–Madison alumni working at AbbVie, who value the importance of giving back to their alma mater and saw this as an opportunity to improve students’ undergraduate experience and fill their company’s talent pipeline with globally capable students.

“As a leader of this organization, there is nothing more wonderful than when people go and work at one of my sites,” says Azita Saleki-Gerhardt, senior vice president and president of AbbVie Operations, and a member of the UW–Madison Division of International Studies Advisory Board.

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AIDS Memorial Quilt frames discussion

A 12’-by-12’ AIDS Memorial Quilt — created to memorialize lives affected by AIDS — served as the backdrop for a discussion about HIV/AID that drew participants from on and off the UW-Madison campus, on December 11, 2014, at UW-Madison’s Red Gym.

The discussion featured Dr. Ryan Westergaard, an assistant professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, talking about his research combating HIV/AIDS and providing care to patients in Dane County.

Rachel Bowers-Sword, an HIV case manager at the AIDS Network in Madison, also spoke. Bowers-Sword served as a community health volunteer with the Peace Corps in Ecuador (2011-13), where she helped a university design and implement a health campaign (starting with a fair for World AIDS Day) and facilitated student training about sexual health and HIV/AIDS prevention.

The event was sponsored by the Division of International Studies, the Global Health Institute, and the UW-Madison Peace Corps Office.

Peace Corps AIDS quilt 017 Dr. Ryan Westergaard talks about providing care to HIV/AIDS patients. Click here to see more photos from the event.

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World Appreciation Day brings middle schoolers to UW-Madison

World Appreciation Day brought 400 middle school students, teachers, and chaperones from nine schools in southern and central Wisconsin to Union South on the UW-Madison campus on  November 17, 2014, for a morning of sessions to introduce the languages, cultures, histories, politics, and traditions of various countries.

The event was sponsored by the Wisconsin International Outreach Consortium (WIOC) and International Reach at UW-Madison, in celebration of International Education Week.

Featured activities included performance/demonstrations of Okinawan-style drumming and Brazilian Capoiera, and concluded with a visit from Bucky Badger.

The program included 24 break-out sessions led by 28 presenters.  These included sessions on Taiwan’s lunar year celebrations, Irish dance, traditional Chinese games, Philippine monsters, German song and dance, Russian fairy tales and music, ancient Tibetan chants, Vietnamese water puppetry, and Hausa language and culture. Other sessions introduced middle schoolers to Japan, Africa, Peru, Persia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, and Bollywood.

Participating schools were: Assumption Middle School, Wisconsin Rapids; Patrick Marsh Middle School, Sun Prairie; Immaculate Heart of Mary, Monona; O’Keefe Middle School, Madison; Bartels Middle School, Portage; Elkhorn Middle School; Belleville Middle School; Glacial Drumlin School, Cottage Grove; Fort Atkinson Middle School.

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Middle school students learn about games in Indonesia. Photo by Kerry G. Hill/UW-Madison Division of International Studies

Click here to view more photos from World Appreciation Day.

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Advisory Board members, UW students talk about international experiences

Advisory Board Oct 2014 061The Advisory Board for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of International Studies heard reports from a variety of students about their recent global experiences during the Board’s fall meeting on Friday, October 24, 2014, at the University Club.

On Thursday, October 23, two of the board members — retired Ambassador John Lange and Anthony Carroll — shared their experiences and advice with a group of students at an information session for the Washington, D.C., Semester in International Affairs. Lange and Carroll are among the UW-Madison alumni closely involved with the 10-year-old program.

Click here to view more photos

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Photos: Kerry G. Hill/UW-Madison Division of International Studies

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