The Colgate Scene
Opportunity knocks, students answer
Summer interns contribute locally and globally
|By Tim O'Keeffe|
Bradley Walters '07, Martha Rose '07, Megan Buckley '08, and Ryan Martin '06 (left to right) in front of the parliament building in Georgia's capital, Tbilisi. [Photo by courtesy of Megan Buckley '08]
From Earlville to Italy, Colgate students made a difference this summer while working in a variety of internships. The stories and photos that follow highlight the university's three new summer initiatives.
The Milhomme program, funded by Phil Milhomme '60, allowed three students to spend approximately eight weeks living and working abroad — in England, Germany, and Italy. Each of the internships tied into the students' study group experiences.
A junior, Megan Buckley, had such a great experience working as an intern in Georgia in the summer of 2004 that she developed a program that allowed three other students to return with her to that nation for nine weeks this year. The students worked for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and saw firsthand how the nation is working to rebuild itself after the 2003 Rose Revolution.
Closer to Colgate, 14 students worked on a range of projects under the auspices of the university's Upstate Institute. Organizations such as the Southern Madison Heritage Trust and Earlville Opera House benefited from the students' efforts, as did the Madison County Department of Social Services and the Partnership for Community Development, based in the village of Hamilton.
The three internship programs gave the 20 students new outside-the-classroom options, and added to those sponsored by the Center for Career Services, such as the Colgate on the Cuyahoga initiative, and still others that students found on their own.
Whether they were seven miles from campus (Earlville) or about 4,000 (Santo Stefano Belbo, Italy), Colgate students had opportunities to stretch their imaginations, make substantial contributions, learn valuable skills, and explore new communities.
A new republic
Her love story, though, involves a place, a people, a culture, and an idea that has yet to realize its full potential. Buckley, you see, fell in love with Georgia. The country. The former Soviet republic that just two years ago gave new meaning to "flower power" when the Rose Revolution led to the ouster of Eduard Shevardnadze and his corrupt government.
Working as an intern for an NGO in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi was such an "amazing" experience that Buckley wanted to get other Colgate students involved. She took the initiative, and succeeded.
After returning to campus last fall Buckley crafted a proposal for an internship program and guided it to completion, receiving help from her father, a retired U.S. Army brigadier general who works in Georgia as a military consultant, and several Colgate administrators and faculty members. As a result, three students — Martha Rose '07, Bradley Walters '07, and Ryan Martin '06 — received Colgate funding that allowed them to work as NGO interns in Georgia this summer. Buckley also went back to Tbilisi, working this time as an intern for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
The students spent nine weeks in a nation that is essentially rebuilding itself, mostly through the hard work and energy of its young people. (The country's president, Mikhail Saakashvili, is only 37 years old). The nation's leaders are struggling to install democratic structures, reform the judicial system, improve delivery of electricity and clean water, revive the dismal economy, and negotiate with breakaway regions.
Buckley, a political science major, and the other students got to play a role, albeit a small one, in the unfolding democratic drama.
"They have a one-year-old democracy that I could take part in developing — going to training sessions with parliament members, meeting with governors and advisers . . .," said Buckley.
The sense that they had something tangible to contribute was echoed by Rose, an international relations and biology double major.
"Change was always at our fingertips, and even the suggestions of a college student were taken seriously," said Rose, who interned at the American Bar Association Central European and Eurasian Law Initiative.
The idea that the students could provide some kind of service during their time in Georgia was one of the internships' main attractions for Ken Lewandoski, director of Colgate's international programs, and Marnie Terhune, director of the Center for Outreach, Volunteerism, and Education.
"You have a country pretty much starting from scratch, and our students working at these nongovernmental organizations were contributing to that in a real way," said Lewandoski, who spent several days with the students as they settled into their internships.
The chance to make a difference was what attracted Martin to an internship at the Liberty Institute, an NGO concerned with issues such as prison reform and the status of religious minorities. He applied after talking to his adviser, Professor Nancy Ries, who had provided key support to Buckley as she fine-tuned her proposal.
"I wanted a summer internship where I did something beyond filing papers for a major corporation," said Martin, a peace and conflict studies major. "I wanted to be actively involved in the betterment of people's lives."
Living in Georgia from May to July also provided the students with an opportunity to fully experience the nation's culture. Walters, an international relations and economics double major who interned at the United Nations Association of Georgia, an NGO that works toward strengthening civil participation and democracy, said that was critical.
"In my studies in international relations thus far, everything seemed to be based on economics, so it was incredibly beneficial to see how much culture can affect political and economic decision making," he said. Walters had spent the summer of 2004 working as a merchant marine, visiting Sierra Leone and Ghana, and that experience had fueled his desire to again go abroad.
Living abroad meant becoming accustomed to the rhythms and nuances of another culture. Each of the students cited the limitless hospitality of the Georgian people, many of whom were poor but still insisted on providing meals or picking up checks. The Georgian language has its own alphabet and is unlike anything the students had heard before. They picked up a few words and found that most of the younger people in Tbilisi spoke some English.
While conditions in Tbilisi have improved, poverty and joblessness are still prevalent in the regions just outside the city. But even there, there is a sense of pride and a welcoming attitude among residents. Buckley and Rose were invited to attend a wedding in an outlying region, and they stayed with the family of one of Rose's coworkers in the village of Gurjaani.
"It was an unreal experience. There was a traditional ceremony, a huge , everyone had homemade wine, and we were considered guests of honor," said Buckley.
Buckley's father, Edward, had worked in Romania before moving to Georgia last year. He had helped upgrade the Romanian military so that it would meet standards set by NATO, and is working on a similar project in Georgia. When Buckley visited her dad two summers ago, she expected to spend a couple of weeks and then do some traveling with her mother. Instead, she said she fell in love with Georgia and, on her own, pursued an internship through the U.S. Embassy. She landed at the American Bar Association Central European and Eurasian Law Initiative (where Rose ended up). After that initial experience, Buckley knew that she wanted to give her classmates the same opportunity. She crafted a proposal and spent time with Lewandoski, Terhune, Ries, and Adam Weinberg, dean of the college, in formalizing it. Her father also investigated NGOs in Georgia and did a lot of ground work.
Lewandoski said the internship program, which he was able to fund through a Mellon Foundation grant, fits perfectly into Colgate's strategic plan, which seeks to give students the liberal arts skills needed to become leaders in the 21st century in both local and international communities. He will be assessing the program in the coming year, and is looking for ways to provide future funding.
Buckley, too, hopes the program can continue. For her, it would be the continuation of a love affair that just won't fade away.
While on internships in Georgia, students took in the country's Independence Day parade marking the 2003 Rose Revolution. [Photo by courtesy of Megan Buckley '08]
Milhomme International Internships
The Milhomme International Internship program provides students with opportunities to immerse themselves in the culture of another country while exploring possible career paths. Selected from a pool of applicants, the trio each received up to $5,000 for traveling and living expenses as part of their internships, which ran at least eight weeks.
Mary Acoymo '06 worked at Newsweek magazine's London offices. Her editors gave her a lot of freedom and responsibility — she said she felt "very much like one of the staff." She earned bylines as a contributing reporter, did research for reporters, conducted interviews, covered events, and pitched story ideas.
An English major, Acoymo took part in the London-English Study Group last fall. Jane Pinchin, the Colgate professor who led the group, invited alumni to meet with the students, and Acoymo met Sarah Sennott '02, who worked at Newsweek as a logistics coordinator/reporter.
"She was so open about her own experience with living and working in London directly after college, and she helped me get my foot in the door," explained Acoymo, who followed through with the Milhomme application once she returned to campus.
Lewandoski said he is not aware of any other liberal arts schools offering a similar program.
"It's a wonderful opportunity for students to leverage their study group experience into an international internship that complements or extends that study group," he said.
Besides the real-world experience she gained, Acoymo also said she learned something about Colgate.
"Initially, I was nervous about being thrown right smack into professional journalism," Acoymo said, but the more time she spent on the internship, the more she realized "how much Colgate has prepared me for the social and intellectual challenges I come across. I think my Colgate experiences have given me a polish, or a maturity, to confidently tackle a lot of situations that normally would be overwhelming or daunting to most 20-year-olds."
For Evan Winter '07, working for an Internet startup in Berlin meant a total immersion in the language and culture of Germany.
Winter worked on translating the website (an academic search portal) of a company called Gallileus from German into English. Winter has not yet taken part in an off-campus study program; he'll return to Germany this spring to take part in the Freiburg Study Group.
"I know this experience will make my stay in Freiburg better; I will be more accustomed to living in Germany and using the language," said Winter, who is majoring in political science and will either major or minor in German.
Winter said it was a great experience to be able to use the German he's learned while exploring a "great city like Berlin" and meeting new people. He doubts that he would have been able to take advantage of the internship without the Milhomme program.
Giving Colgate students the opportunity to bolster their awareness of other cultures was one of the primary factors that spurred Phil Milhomme '60 to sponsor the program.
A senior executive in the pharmaceutical industry who traveled around the world for more than 30 years before retiring, Milhomme said it's critical that students get a good appreciation of the world around them before embarking on a career.
"I feel it's very beneficial for them to be exposed to other cultures," he said.
Mark Fuller '06 said the time he spent in the small Italian town of Santo Stefano Belbo, about an hour from Turin, opened his eyes to a completely different way of life, providing an understanding he could not have received in a classroom.
He described last fall's experience with the Venice Study Group as a terrific way to learn about the country and one that offered him a chance to travel from the Alps to Sicily. But coming back and working at a family-owned winery added a new element to his experience.
Fuller said his Italian improved immensely and that he received "a lingual and cultural education I could not have gotten otherwise" while working closely with the Marino family, owners of the Beppe Marino Azienda Agricola winery. He assisted in various aspects of the wine-making process and went on business trips to neighboring communities. He ate lunch and dinner with the Marino family and visited cafˇs frequented by young farmers, factory workers, and others.
Fuller, who is majoring in history and English, said his participation in the Italian community "fit perfectly into the kind of well-rounded and thorough liberal arts education I'm getting at Colgate."
Lewandoski said the internship program is planned to continue for the next few years, at which time he hopes to have enough data collected to see if adjustments need to be made. He worked with the Center for Career Services and the Office of Institutional Advancement to get the program up and running.
O'Keeffe is director of web content at Colgate.
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