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ISLE Newsletter April 2008

Story posted October 13, 2010

The ISLE Alumni Newsletter

Issue 7: April 16, 2008 * Visit ISLE on the Web    ISLE Banner


Welcome to the spring 2008 issue of the ISLE Alumni Newsletter.  This is a follow up to our fall 2007 issue. This newsletter flourishes mostly on your responses and input.  The more we hear from you, the more news your fellow alumni will also share.  You can write about yourself or the organization you are working for or any other news that would be relevant or interesting to your fellow alumni, reminiscing is encouraged!

Oppadupa: ISLE Activities and News

On the political front, in January, the government of Sri Lanka has withdrawn from its ceasefire with Tamil Tigers. Since then the war in the north has escalated with occasional suicide bombings in and around Colombo spilling at times to some other parts of the island.  To follow the news of Sri Lanka closely we recommend the following websites:




The news that Sri Lanka is making in the western media is not helping the program very much.  Because Kandy continues to be very safe, we decided to run both the fall and spring programs even with the small numbers of students.  Although the numbers are small, these students are very enthusiastic and are having wonderful educational experiences.

As I reported in the last newsletter the fall 2007 program with 12 students was a very good program. If you remember your experience, you know that attitude makes a big difference.  And, the fall group did bring plenty of attitude, all of it good. Please go and see our fall group’s activities.

Prof. Holt and Student

Prof. Holt and a student watch the clouds roll in at Yala National Park

Spring 2008

The spring program, the first of its kind, is going well with John Holt at the helm and Phil Friedrich as the program assistant.  John, having directed the program three times in the past and Phil, guiding the students for the second time in addition to his stint as a Fulbrighter in Sri Lanka, have brought a lot of expertise to this program. 

The student group is finishing up their second session with a dance performance on April 11, just before the Sinhala/Tamil New year. Being a small group, they are receiving a special treatment from Mr. Peter Surasena, who has invited them to his dance school for special sessions on the weekends to practice. Since this is the first spring program, students are about to experience the celebration of SinhalaTamil New Year with their host families and visiting extended family members.  I am sure you have not forgotten what your Sri Lankan host families are like. To get some of the visual details of the spring program please go to the activities page.

 ISLE 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 Shreena Gandhi '00

After I graduated from Swarthmore, I headed to Harvard Divinity for my masters, and right now I am finishing my dissertation at the University of Florida, where I am in the religions of the Americas track.  My dissertation is tentatively titled, "Translating and Commodifying Yoga: From Transcendentalist Musing to Religious Market Staple".  I was lucky enough to snag a position at Kalamazoo College, who were generous enough to give me time to write my dissertation.  I'll start teaching there in the Winter Quarter, and I'll be teaching North and Latin American religious history, as well as several method and theory, Hindu diaspora, and Iranian religion classes.  Recently I attended the Conference on the Study of Religions of India, where I ran into Sunil Goonasekera and Steve Hopkins (who was also one of my undergraduate mentors) - both ISLE alum faculty. It was great seeing them.  Other than that, I'm loving being in Kalamazoo, at a small liberal arts college that privileges teaching and study abroad!

From Adam Mahowald '01

I participated in the ISLE program through Whitman College.  I had the opportunity to return to Sri Lanka with a Japanese NPO-NGO called Peace Boat in March 2007.  Upon receiving the 2007 Fall Newsletter, I was inspired to write down some of my thoughts about the program and my recent visit, and would like to share them with ISLE alumni.

Read Grains of Sand by Adam Mahowold here.

From Margaret Ladner '94

To my ISLE friends, I wanted to be back in touch after many many years.  I participated in the 1994 ISLE program.  I am now actually working on Sri Lanka.  In November 2007, I joined American Jewish World Service as a Program Officer in the Grants Department.  I am responsible for AJWS' partnerships in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, and southern India.

ISLE Alumni news from the grapevine.

Karen Pechilis '82 is NEH Distinguished Teaching Professor in religion at Drew University in New Jersey.

Mary Werntz '83 is head of the ICRC (Red Cross) mission in Nepal.

Laura Barnard '83 practices acupuncture in Rockland, Maine.

Jacob Kinnard '85 is an associate professor of comparative religion at Iliff Theological Seminary in Denver, Colorado.

Jason "Jake" Carbine '92 is an assistant professor of religion at Whittier College in California.

Daniel Bass '93 is an assistant professor of anthropology at Florida Atlantic University.

Ben Schonthal '97 is taking his Ph.D. exams in history of religions at the University of Chicago this spring and hopes to return to Sri Lanka soon thereafter to write his dissertation.

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, 2008.

ISLE Web Site

Be sure to bookmark the ISLE web site for information on 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

To ISLE Web Site


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