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ISLE Alumni Newsletter October 2010

Story posted October 18, 2010

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Issue 12: October 2010


Welcome to the Fall 2010 issue of the ISLE Alumni Newsletter. This is a follow up to our Spring 2010 Issue.

The focus of my foreword for this edition of the newsletter is to help familiarize you with some newer aspects of our program, because a number of you have volunteered to respond to prospective student questions about the program. In the recent spurt of activity on the ISLE Facebook page, some of you have mentioned that it was quite a while ago that you were on the program and do not know how the program has evolved.

I will start with the learning partners program that we introduced this fall. In this program, ISLE students are paired with senior Peradeniya students from the Sinhala department to practice Sinhala and engage in cultural activities. These learning partners complement our students’ host family experiences in not only learning Sinhala but in understanding the local culture.  In the past couple of years Sinhala classes have been switched to a university classroom to increase our students’ interaction with university students.  We see clear dividends in this change. Unlike in the past, Professor Punchi Meegaskumbura is helping the faculty director in advising the ISLE students about their independent study projects.

Since our library collection has grown to an impressive number of books (there are 4516 book entries and 2310 paper articles), we have hired a librarian who has had experience working with many Fulbrighters, some of whom were ISLE alumni.  As such the librarian also plays an instrumental role in helping students decide about their independent study venues. 

During the first week of orientation, ISLE students are introduced to various student clubs at the University. They are also introduced during this time to places such as orphanages where they can volunteer.  From time to time, students choose these venues also for their independent study.  Some of the alumni, when they return to Sri Lanka as Fulbrighters or on independent projects, continue to pursue volunteer activities. Ruth Manski (ISLE '07, Grinnell '09) is one of those who returned as a Fulbrighter in 2009 and worked with university students who wanted to improve their English speaking skills.  Some of the students from this fall are in contact with Ruth’s students to make themselves available. As far as the curriculum goes, the program is able to continue working with senior and energetic scholars like Kingsley de Silva.

In the last few weeks I have attended study abroad fairs at Bates, Bowdoin and Colby and spoken to a number of prospective students.  One of our alumni, Phil Friedrich, is attending a similar fair at Swarthmore on Monday, October 25. On the following day we have scheduled a live chat session between ISLE Alumni Volunteers and prospective students at 3 PM at this site:

This is a guest URL and it will not ask for any password. Please go ahead and try this now to make sure that it is working for you.  I cannot expect you to be available for the whole duration.  So, it would be helpful for me to know who is available for what duration.  Thank you!

I am sure many of you continue to follow the political news of Sri Lanka. For those who are looking for a good source to get their news, we recommend the following web sites:




Oppadupa: ISLE Alumni Activities and News:

Tom Beer (ISLE '86, Program Assistant '89, Carleton) writes, "I traveled to Sri Lanka in April (my first trip in 15 years) and visited with Cricket Keating ('87) in Kandy where she was living with her family on a Fulbright. One of the real highlights of my trip was meeting up with my original homestay family, Gamini and Indrani Rajapakse and their daughter, Sano -- then a little girl of 5, now a grown-up lawyer practicing in Kandy. We had a wonderful big meal of bat kari and caught up with one another. I also got to spend time in Colombo, Weligama and Kalpitiya, before heading home to New York. I hope to make it back before another 15 years have passed!"

Tom Beer and his host family enjoy a reunion.

 Tom Beer and his host family. From left: Sano, Tom, Gamini and Indrani Rajapakse.

Ben Schlitt (ISLE '98, Colby) is getting married in December 2010.

Shaun Kadlec (ISLE '99, Carleton) writes, "I've been living in Los Angeles for about four and a half years doing documentary film and commercials. I mostly direct and produce, but I also shoot and edit myself when I get the chance. I don't particularly love editing and only do it when there isn't enough money in a budget to hire a real editor--but I do love shooting. There are some pieces on my website if you feel like looking: http://skarmedia.com/work

This fall I'm producing some commercials for work, and I'm directing my first scripted short. It's feeling like time to try serious fiction now. It's all a lot of fun. I'm also looking for topics for a feature-length documentary but haven't found the right one yet.  I haven't been back to Sri Lanka since 2005. I've done several projects in Africa since then. But I'm really starting to miss Sri Lanka again!"

Cynthia  Davies (ISLE '02, Colby) is halfway through a physician assistant program at UNE in Portland, and is spending the month of October as a clinical student near Punta Gorda, Belize. She writes, "It's wild getting some perspective on how health care works here, from the inside."

Paul Hastings (ISLE '03, Bowdoin) started an MA program in Comparative International Education at Teachers College, Columbia University this fall. He will be studying anthropology and education and will be focusing on South Asia as his geographical area of interest. He is particularly interested in examining the growth of higher education in India.

Atavia Whitfield (ISLE '05, Grinnell '06) lives in NYC and in working on a MSSW in administration and management with a minor in public administration at Columbia.

Katie Dearing (ISLE '06, Holy Cross '08) recently joined the development team at a progressive school in Boston, and much of her interview centered around her time in Sri Lanka.

Kathryn Sheriff (ISLE '07, Carleton '09) is in Sri Lanka on a Fulbright and looks forward to visiting the ISLE center.

Maria de la Motte (ISLE fall '08, Holy Cross '10) is currently serving as a Jesuit Volunteer for a year in Detroit, working for the WARM Training Center, an organization which promotes affordable, sustainable housing: http://www.warmtraining.org/

Editor in Chief: Sree Padma Holt


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