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ISLE Newsletter March 2007

Story posted October 13, 2010



Issue 5: March 19, 2007 * Visit ISLE on the Web


Welcome to the spring 2007 issue of the ISLE Alumni Newsletter. Our last issue came out back in fall, 2006. Response has been wonderful, both to the news we send out, and in hearing from alumni with updates and interesting stories. We appreciate you keeping in touch with us.

I reported in the last issue that the ceasefire between the government and the LTTE was merely confined to the paper and the news of unrest received a lot of media attention in the west. I also thanked the parents and the students for showing confidence in our judgment and for their cooperation to start the 2006 fall program. Throughout the fall the unrest continued in the north and east of the island that are off-limits for the ISLE students. At times the violence spilled into the other parts of the island making us revise our travel restrictions for our students. But the 2006 fall group was very understanding and cooperative with the administration throughout. Since the students were on the island studying various dimensions of the society in the classes taught by the faculty and observing the private and public scene, reading the daily newspapers and paying attention to their host parents comments, they gained a good handle on the political and security situation of the island. So, the students, in fact, were able to supplement and substantiate the frequent updates from the program to reassure their parents in the US about their safety. We thank one and all for helping us run yet another successful program.

Oppadupa: ISLE Activities and News

2006 Program: The enthusiasm we speak of with the 2006 group extended to the faculty director, Professor Kathleen Ryor from Carleton, and the Program assistants, Phil Friedrich (Bowdoin) and Flynn Jebb (Holy Cross), and remained at the same level throughout. (In fact, Phil and Flynn enjoyed their jobs so much so that they expressed interest in returning as program assistants for the two programs we will run next year. See below for further details.) This group was particularly big on volunteering activities. To get a sense of the program activities, see the reports and photos that were posted during last year's program.

"I feel that ISLE has added to my education in more ways than any program at my home college has, or ever will, for that matter."
-- 2006 Student Evaluation Comment

Faculty: We announced in the last newsletter that Carmen Wickramagamage, her husband P. Wickramagamage, and their two children came to the U.S. for the 2006-07 academic year. Both Carmen and Wickrama are teaching this spring at the College of Holy Cross. In the fall, the ISLE Program put together a lecture tour for them to visit some of the ISLE colleges. Carmen visited Bowdoin, Carleton, Colby, Grinnell, Swarthmore, and Whitman to give a lecture on "Bearing Children, Bearing Arms, Bearing Witness: Thoughts on the Unbearable Heaviness of Being 'Woman' in Contemporary Sri Lanka." Wickrama gave lectures on "Nature of Climate Change and its Impact on the Sri Lankan Economy" at Grinnell and Bowdoin this semester.

Whitman College has decided to invite Carmen and Wickrama to teach in the fall of 2007. So, the couple with their two children will move this summer from the east coast to the west coast. This change will not be as dramatic as it was this last fall when they moved from Kandy to Worcester, Massachusetts (just imagine dealing with seven- and nine-year old kids who refuse to wear any layers of clothes but nonetheless, rush outdoors in the middle of New England winter just the way they did in Kandy!). But maybe this sounds familiar to some of you who have hated readjusting to the US winter climate after your fall experience in Kandy! But anyway, let us wish the Wickramagamages for an easier transition to their new place.

Fulbright News: As I reported in the last newsletter, the following ISLE alumni are in Sri Lanka at present on their Fulbright fellowship: Toby David ISLE '04; Delia Kulukundis ISLE '04; Sarah Wright ISLE '02; and Philip Friedrich '04. Also in Sri Lanka on a Fulbright, working on his Ph.D dissertation, is Daniel Kent of ISLE '96. We urged him to write something for the newsletter, and since he's been so busy, he proposed running an article he wrote as a Fulbrighter in 2000. We think you'll like it.

All the Fulbrighters, including Dan Kent and his girlfriend, attended ISLE's Silver Jubilee celebration held in January. (See below for the details.)

Delia Kulukundis wrote a piece for us on the process of applying for Fulbrights. Many ISLE students go on with their studies, returning to Sri Lanka as a Fulbrighter, and the process can be very daunting. Thanks to Delia, aspiring applicants now have some help. We'll keep this document linked to the homepage of the ISLE web site for future reference.

Other ISLE alumni in Sri Lanka: Anne Blackburn of ISLE '86, who is an associate professor at Cornell, is still in Sri Lanka working on a research project. Sarah Buckley of ISLE '96 spent last fall in Hambantota working for an N.G.O. and has some big news! See 'Alumni News and Updates' below for more on Sarah.

Visiting ISLE celebrants get their first taste of tambili fruit enroute to Kandy.

ISLE's Silver Jubilee: I am very glad to report that the Silver Jubilee celebration went wonderfully well. We had representatives from six of our eight consortion colleges attending, and not only did they get to see the ISLE center, the university, Dangolla and Kandy, a dance performance by Peter Surasena and more, but they also had an overnight stay with an ISLE host family. We thought they should have the full range of experiences that ISLE and Sri Lanka have to offer!

You can get the full report, complete with lots of photos, right here. (Also, Phil Friedrich shares some observations with us about the festivities.)

As you will see in the report, a volume of essays written by our ISLE Peradeniya faculty with the title "Identity and Difference" was released during the celebration. The volume is a collection of essays relevant to the courses that the Peradeniya faculty have taught ISLE students over the years. Professor John Holt wrote an introduction and together with Professor Punchi Meegaskumbura he also edited the volume. The essays reflect the interdisciplinary ethos of inquiry that has increasingly marked the ISLE educational experience for the past twenty-five years. Also, each of the essays in this volume in some way addresses the theme of identity and difference in various facets or moments of Sri Lankan culture and society. If you would like to get a copy of the Program’s Silver Jubilee volume, write a check for $10.00, payable to the ISLE Program, and send it along with your name and address to: The ISLE Program, 4400 College Station, Brunswick, Maine, 04011. Your check will be used to cover the shipping costs from Sri Lanka to the USA and then on to you. For non-ISLE alumni, the volume will be sold for $20.00.

Beginning of a New Phase:
As I reported in the last issue, we are getting ready to run two new programs a year beginning this fall and next spring. Our new fall program will begin in the last week of August. As I reported in the last issue, we are hiring only one program assistant for each of the new programs. I am very glad to announce that Flynn will return as the program assistant for the fall 2007 and Phil for the spring 2008. But we do need to look for good-natured and hard working assistants like Phil and Flynn for future programs. If you are interested in applying for fall 2008 and beyond, please do contact me (Sree Padma) at: spadma@bowdoin.edu.

Alumni News and Updates

Thanks to those who send us news and updates about themselves, and who send us leads on people we are trying to find. We welcome your email, whether you're just saying hello or sending news or updates on your whereabouts. Send to us here: Isle@bowdoin.edu. Also, if you see anyone you know on our "missing" list, please let us know!

From Emily Whitcomb (formerly Dworkin), 2000 program:

After graduating from Carleton, I returned to DC, where I worked for 2 years as an assistant teacher at a school for kids with learning disabilities. I then spent a year with AmeriCorps in Minneapolis, at a welfare-to-work program. I wanted to get back into working with kids, so I'm now in a master's program at George Washington University in DC, studying to become a speech/language therapist. I got married in August 2006 in Skaneateles, NY. Travis and I live in Arlington, VA. You can contact me at emily_whitcomb@yahoo.com.

Emily Whitcomb

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From Lucas Birmelin, 1987 program:

I happened to run across the website and was delighted to find that such a thing as the ISLE alumni [program] exists. I was there in 1987 with Prof. Oberdieck. There was quite a lot of civil unrest at that time and the program was almost cancelled that year. I graduated from Bowdoin in 1988, and went on to medical school in Albuquerque, NM some years later.

My contact info:

Lucas A. Birmelin, MD
PO Box 87953
Tucson, AZ 85754
520-971-1196 lucasinas@yahoo.com

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From Sarah Buckley, 1996 program:

I have been working in Sri Lanka for Mercy Corps, www.mercycorps.org, an international humanitarian organization based in Portland, OR. Our office in Hambantota is implementing community and economic deveopment programs as well as tourism development. I got engaged last June and the marriage happened sooner than we thought at the Hambantota kachcheri because my fiance, Jordan, was having visa problems. We drew a big crowd and my staff rented a wedding car to drive up there, fed us kiri bat, had us light the oil lamp, adorned with mal mala, etc. It was lovely. The real thing will be in Central Oregon this September. We leave Sri Lanka in early June to move back to Portland where we are really looking forward to re-connecting with family and friends. Of course we'll miss Sri Lanka, but I have a feeling I'll be back again someday. I can be reached at: sarahsophiabuckley@hotmail.com.

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Get in Touch

We love to hear from our alumni. It is truly amazing what some of you are doing, and reading about how ISLE helped direct or shape our students' lives in downright inspiring. We are interested in the quickest of hellos, with short notes telling us what you are now doing, as well as longer pieces. Please contact us with your ideas!

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


The next issue of the ISLE Alumni Newsletter will come out in Fall, 2007.

ISLE Web Site

Be sure to bookmark the ISLE web site for information on relief fund activities, current news, and more.

That’s all for this 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. Also, be sure to let us know if your email address should change!


Editor in Chief: Sree Padma Holt
Content Editor/Production: Lorry Fleming

To ISLE Web Site


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