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ISLE Program

ISLE Newsletter Fall 2004

Story posted October 13, 2010


Issue 1: November 23, 2004


You are reading the inaugural issue of the ISLE Alumni Newsletter, coming to you from the office of Sree Padma Holt, ISLE Administrative Director, at Bowdoin College.

This newsletter has been brewing for some time, and collecting information from program alumni was the first task at hand. Without recipients, a newsletter has no reason to exist! We are happy to report that our database has over 350 names of program alumni, but less happy to report that we are missing email addresses -- and other contact info -- for approximately half of those people.

You can help out, by passing this newsletter/URL on to ANY program participants you may be in touch with – please help spread the word. We’d love to hear from those who are still adventuring to far-flung places, those who are busy building careers or families, and those extending their academic experience. We want, ultimately, to reach everyone who experienced the ISLE program as you did.

ISLE staff
ISLE Center staff.

Do you know that ISLE will be 25 years old in 2007? It might be hard to believe, but it’s true. The Program has seen many changes as it has matured. Nonetheless some things have remained unchanged. For example, Sumansena is getting even better at terrifying our students with his driving methods! And, in spite of some physical set backs, Prof. Kingsley de Silva is teaching for us with renewed enthusiasm, still producing his masterful lectures on colonial history without the aid of any notes! But we also have a lot of new blood injected into the program. We now have eighteen professors who offer eleven different elective courses, in addition to the required courses on intensive Sinhala language and material culture. We have even hired a liaison to promote relations between our students and the students at the University of Peradeniya. We’ve been continuing with dance, drumming, and batik in response to our students’ increasing participation in these activities. You can see how the program has changed by searching our Web site.

Students from the early 1980s would be truly shocked to know how much school fees have arisen. Of course, there has also been an astonishing rise in cost of living in Sri Lanka, too. Kandy is no longer an inexpensive town and has been changing remarkably. In addition to an almost choking number of cars in town, there is a McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Hut! We were happy to move to our new ISLE Center in 2000, closer to the university.

ISLE, in spite of global and local terrorism that has affected both the US and Sri Lanka, has been able in recent years to attract a solid number of students so that the program has become healthy financially after many years of struggle. As a result, we are proud to say that, unlike other study abroad programs, we have continued and expanded our "pay back" activities to Sri Lanka. As a part of our affiliation agreement with the University of Peradeniya, we have started to grow a substantial endowment (the Wilhelm Endowment -- named after the Bowdoin Dean who helped negotiate the first affiliation agreement with the university) which was established in part with an aim to train future potential ISLE faculty through assisting younger Peradeniya faculty to pursue their advanced research degrees at major universities in other Asian countries. But teaching for ISLE in the future is not the only reason for these fellowships. The university is in great need of this kind of assistance, in general, to remain a viable institution of higher learning. Our future is linked to theirs. We are able to provide these fellowships through the annual interest we derive from the endowment. We started with one fellowship lasting for two years back in the mid 1990s. In recent years, we have been able to raise the fellowship amount and the number of fellowships so that we now support four young faculty at a time. Each fellowship is for a two year period. The fellowships are sufficient enough so that living and tuition expenses at Indian or Thai universities can be covered.

We have also helped the International Center for Ethnic Studies (ICES) publish a three volume work on ancient inscriptions in Sri Lanka that will be an invaluable resource for scholarship, including our own current and returning former ISLE students who pursue serious research studies in Sri Lanka. In addition, we have also helped our Peradeniya faculty to publish their own works of scholarship.

Over the years, we have also given donations to various university departments to improve their infrastructure. The Department of Philosophy and Psychology received some funds which they clubbed with another financial resource to set up a computer lab (five computers) with internet access. We have supported faculty appointments in the university’s new fine arts program too. Recently, we donated some 50 books relevant to various athletic activities to start a library collection on physical education at the request of the Department of Physical Education. (In the last few years, our students have been immersed in Sri Lankan university culture more than ever before. They have been participating increasingly in the extracurricular activities at the university: athletic competitions, dramas, music, outing clubs, etc.)

We will keep you informed about various program news, changes, and initiatives in the future. ISLE remains a vibrant and unique educational experiment.

More About You

Back to you. We need YOU to help make this newsletter exciting, entertaining and educational. Sharing glimpses of your own ISLE experience – both while in Sri Lanka and after returning – helps everyone gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the impact that programs such as ISLE can make. Telling a recent graduate, via the newsletter, how the experience guided you, or influenced your decision-making about your education or career is a fantastic way to open doors – and minds.

We intend to run letters and comments, short stories and essays, and help alumni connect (and stay in touch) with each other. We are also interested in the quickest of hellos, with short notes telling us what you are now doing.

You may send any comments, writings, contact information, well-founded rumors, etc. to us at:


The newsletter will be published twice yearly, producing a spring issue and a fall issue. We are planning the next one for March, 2005, when we can include some insights and anecdotes from participants of the 2004 program.

It's All In A Name

The ISLE Alumni Newsletter. Not bad. But we could do better.

How about:

ISLE Be Back? Ok, just kidding.

ISLE-and Paradise?

ISLE-land News?

Are you having a brain surge, right this minute? Write to us! Isle@bowdoin.edu We’ll think of some way to make you a Big Winner, should we choose your title. How about a basket of mangoes or a bottle of Arrack?

Web Site Expansion

We’ve been building out a new section of the ISLE Web site, where we are chronicling the activities of our 2004 students in Sri Lanka. Take a look, and re-visit your own ISLE experience. (We are currently working on Session III reporting.)

"We just returned from a week on the south coast, met lots of Sri Lankans, spoke lots of Sinhala, got some good leads for Independent Study... but managed a fair amount of time at the beach."
-- Maggie and Phil (Bowdoin)

Our idea is to provide a way for prospective ISLE students – as well as parents and friends of current participants – to get a peek at the experiences of students who are in Sri Lanka at the present time. We hope future students will really take charge, and take an interest in providing photos, stories and reports for us to share.

That’s all for this first edition of the ISLE Program Newsletter. Please let us know your thoughts on it, and if you send in comments or writings of any kind, please be clear about whether they are intended for use in the newsletter. We’d love to have the next issue feature a mail section with your letters. (Also, be sure to let us know if your email address should change!)


Content Editor/Production: Lorry Fleming, ISLE Office Assistant
Editor in Chief: Sree Padma Holt


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