Alumni profile: Coming to UW-Madison, going abroad opens up new worlds for Lopez

Daniella Lopez learned early on how it feels to be different, to be in the minority. But Lopez grew up with a fierce determination to push forward, which has carried her from a small Wisconsin town to the University of Wisconsin–Madison, to Europe, and now in China.

“My family was one of two minority families in Westfield, Wisconsin, a small farming and chicken factory community,” says Lopez, the oldest of four children.

“In high school, I wanted to go to a big liberal city for college and I applied only to UW–Madison. I was the only one from my graduating class to be accepted,” she says. “My mother was thrilled, since that would make me the first person in our family to go to college.”

Daniella Lopez, second from right, with friends at UW-Madison.

Daniella Lopez, second from right, with friends at UW-Madison.

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Peace Corps: Reed sees service as investment

His studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison fostered Patrick Reed’s interest in exploring different cultures and perspectives. Add to that a desire to serve others.

Since receiving his B.A. in history and international studies from UW–Madison in 2011, Reed has followed a path of service.

“I traveled the country for two years, volunteering in impacted communities helping with recovery and capacity building,” says Reed, who served with AmeriCorps NCCC and FEMA Corps.

Next, his call to serve will carry the 26-year-old from Grayslake, Illinois, overseas. As one of the latest UW–Madison alumni to sign with the Peace Corps, he reports in mid-June 2016 as a community health extension volunteer in Swaziland, a small, landlocked country in southern Africa.

“My time at UW–Madison was a great first step in my pursuit of Peace Corps,” he says.

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Cullinane receives distinguished honor for accomplishments, service

For the past 25 years, Michael Cullinane has stood at the heart of Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Cullinane has taught the introductory course in Southeast Asian Studies since 1991 and, in 2009, added a class on Southeast Asian Refugees of the Cold War. He has taught these courses for 48 semesters, with an average of 80 students per semester. Since 2006, the highly rated introductory course has been included in the programs for five First-year Interest Groups (FIGs).

Also since 1991, Cullinane has served as associate director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS), one of UW–Madison’s seven U.S. Department of Education National Resource Centers (Title VI). He has been the primary author and manager of nine Title VI grants that have brought more than $11.7 million in program and fellowship funds to the university, as well as five Henry Luce Foundation grants totaling more than $1.8 million.

In addition, he is an internationally respected historian of Southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines – where his connection dates back to the late 1960s, as a teacher with the Peace Corps in Cebu City. His research has focused on 19th and 20th-century Philippine social, political, and demographic history.

For his accomplishments and long record of service, Cullinane has received numerous tributes, including being named an “Adopted Son of Cebu City” (2014) and receiving the Judith Craig Distinguished Service Award from UW–Madison’s College of Letters and Science (2015). This year, the UW–Madison campus has further honored him by adding the “distinguished” prefix to his faculty associate title.

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‘Experience Languages!’ brings pre-college students into UW-Madison classrooms

Wisconsin middle and high school students are getting a taste of world languages at the University of Wisconsin–Madison through Experience Languages!

The outreach initiative, organized by the Language Institute, also introduces visiting students to related opportunities, such as study abroad, international internships, and residential language communities.

On April 12, 2016, approximately 60 students from Monroe High School were introduced to Portuguese, Finnish, Mandarin, Swahili, Ancient Greek, and Yucatec Mayan. Each student was introduced to two languages.

The Experience Languages! initiative began in the fall 2015. Schools that participated include Madison East and LaFollette, Plymouth, Kimberly, Fort Atkinson, Cedarburg, Sauk Prairie, Verona, and Waterford.

UW Language Experience 033Wendy Johnson, assistant director of the Language Institute, welcomes the Monroe students and gives an overview of languages at UW–Madison.

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2016 Day in Africa brings 185 high school students to campus

The University of Wisconsin–Madison welcomed 185 juniors and seniors from eight Wisconsin high schools on April 13 for the 2016 Day in Africa program at Union South, sponsored by the African Studies Program.

The high school students explored the languages and cultures of Africa through a variety of sessions led by UW-Madison faculty, students, and staff. Many sessions incorporate the theme of health and healing in Africa and beyond.

The participating high schools were: Madison West, Madison East, Beloit Memorial, Pardeeville, Westosha Central, SAPAR, Oregon, and Kettle Moraine Global.

UW Day in Africa 2016 012Neil Kodesh, associate professor of history and director of the African Studies Program, gives the keynote remarks on Global Health in Africa to open the day’s program.

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Alumni profile: When opportunities called, Sternberg learned to say yes

Thomas Sternberg emphasizes the importance of saying yes.

“If opportunities arise, while there may be risks, the benefits may far outweigh them,” he says.

As an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Sternberg said yes in 1969 to an opportunity to study in Taiwan. While there, this Jewish kid from New York said yes to an invitation to help out an American Jesuit priest who was legally blind.

Thomas Sternberg

Thomas Sternberg

“He wanted to take a group of his students on a trip around Taiwan, but was afraid because of his eyesight,” recalls Sternberg. “He asked if I were interested in accompanying him and the group to be his eyes.  I said yes and we embarked on a one-week journey in a 1956 Ford station wagon, with a driver and five students around the island of Taiwan.”

Sternberg, who went on to become CEO of his own independent insurance agency, muses, “Escorting a blind priest and five of his students around a far-off island in Asia in a ’56 Ford … priceless.”

To make such “priceless” opportunities available to future generations, he established a scholarship, named in honor of Chou Kuo-ping, the professor who arranged for him to go to Taiwan. Since 2004, this scholarship has provided support for 177 UW–Madison students to study in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

“It was important to me that the scholarship focus on Chinese-speaking countries,” says Sternberg, who chairs the UW–Madison International Division’s Advisory Board. “After all, a person who speaks both English and Chinese can communicate with a majority of the people on the planet.  And think of how much better the planet is when people talk to each other.”

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Wisconsin Idea: UW–Madison language learners assist high school students

Morgan Haefner, of Appleton, and Marcus Amato, of Oshkosh, both studied Spanish in middle and high school. Both arrived at the University of Wisconsin–Madison looking for a new language to learn, and both chose Arabic.

Haefner says she “simply went down the list of languages and landed on Arabic. Little did I know what studying the language would mean to me.”

“When I first started, I was interested in Arabic because it seemed vastly different from anything I had studied before,” Amato say, “but after learning the alphabet and the writing system, all of that opacity fell away, revealing a language that is very approachable and fun to learn.”

Gaochsia Xiong and Aiyzah Javaid started studying Japanese as high school students in Eau Claire, and continued their language studies at UW–Madison.

“I had always been interested in the Japanese culture due to watching anime (Japanese cartoons) during my childhood, so I decided to learn it,” says Javaid, who is originally from Pakistan. “Then once I started learning it, I realized I loved it, and I was hooked.”

Xiong took up Japanese to follow in the footsteps of her older sisters. “I thought I would be able to take it and ease through it with the help and knowledge of my sisters.”

Cheyenne Vaughn, of Jackson, Missouri, also had developed an interest in Japanese culture. So, for her freshman year at UW–Madison, she enrolled in a First-year Interest Group (FIG) “about Japanese pop culture and one of the classes was first-semester Japanese. I fell in love with the language.”

This year, these five language learners are sharing their knowledge and passion by tutoring students in three Wisconsin high schools, through videoconferencing and in person. They are among eight UW–Madison undergraduates involved connected through UW–Madison’s Language Institute with language programs at Madison East, Manitowoc Lincoln, and Plymouth high schools.

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Faculty profile: Anthropologist Bowie ‘embraces the unpredictable’

The story of Katherine Bowie’s life and career might be titled “The Accidental Anthropologist” or perhaps “The Serendipitous Scholar.”

Bowie has followed a winding path guided by her constant curiosity and an openness to pursue unanticipated opportunities. As she explains, “Being a good anthropologist involves being well-prepared to embrace the unpredictable, just ready to go with the flow.” This philosophy has served her well.

This daughter of a Mayo Clinic doctor was once on a track to the medical profession herself, but instead opted for an odyssey that has taken her halfway around the world and back many times. Her journey led to her current position, as a professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Here, she also has been affiliated with and served as director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, one of UW–Madison’s federally supported National Resource Centers.

Katherine Bowie

Katherine Bowie

In her research, Bowie has focused on Thailand, living in-country for over eight years over the past 40 years.  Exploring Thai peasant history, political economy, social movements, electoral politics, gender and Theravada Buddhism, her publications range from serious topics like counterinsurgency and vote-buying to the bawdy humor of “joking monks.” (For a list of publications, go to Bowie’s faculty webpage.)

In recognition of her standing, she was elected last fall as vice president of the Association of Asian Studies (AAS), which places her in line to become president of the organization in 2017. With over 7,000 members drawn from a wide range of disciplines in the Humanities and the Social Sciences, the AAS, founded in 1941, is the largest organization in the world of scholars specializing in the study of Asia.

Asked about her career journey, Bowie tells a series of what she calls “shaggy dog stories,” often punctuated with laughter.

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Kasai’s journey: From UW student to chairman of Central Japan Railway

“Since you never know when your life will end,” Yoshiyuki Kasai says, “it is not meaningful to draw up a whole life plan that assumes you will enjoy a long life.”

Instead, Kasai says, “What is important is to hold convictions and try to aim for the summit of a high mountain in the distance. While you are trying to get there, your life will be filled with uncertainties, and what you should be doing is to do your very best, day in and day out.”

Kasai offers this bit of advice in a book he wrote recently to help guide the next generation of leaders. He draws on the experiences of climbing his own mountain.


Yoshiyuki Kasai

He began his journey in 1963 when he joined the Japanese National Railways, where he held a variety of positions including corporate planning and labor management.

After the privatization of Japan National Railways in 1987, he became president in 1995 and chairman in 2004 of Central Japan Railway Company (JR Central), the country’s leading high-speed-rail operator. Now he serves as the Chairman Emeritus of JR Central, but his journey to the summit is still en route.

Along the way, his path brought him to the American Midwest, when the Japanese government sent him to UW–Madison to study economics in the late 1960s.

Kasai recently sat down with Lora Klenke, managing director for international alumni relations with the UW–Madison International Division and the Wisconsin Alumni Association, to talk about his Wisconsin connections and his successful career.

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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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