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ISLE Alumni Newsletter April 2013

Story posted April 08, 2013



Ayubowan!  As we enter into the spring of 2013, I trust this finds you well. Thanks to those of you who sent us news. As we continue the process of increasing the visibility and recognition of the ISLE Program at US colleges, you as ISLE alumni remain our strongest resource

The news from our ISLE Center once again includes some staff changes.  Violet, who served as the cook at the ISLE Center for many years, decided to retire at the end of the Fall 2012 ISLE Program. Like us, we know many former ISLE students are absolutely fond of her.  We are sad to see her leave the ISLE staff.  At the same time we are thankful for her service in keeping ISLE faculty directors, program assistants, staff, students, and families well fed over the many years! We had a small but beautiful party for her. Here is a picture of the celebration when Violet was teary eyed listening to her tribute.

Violet ceremony

Below, Fall 2012 ISLE Faculty director Professor Jason Carbine serves Violet a Sri Lankan latke as ISLE staff look on.


In the new year, we have added two new staff members. Mr. Sisira Leonard Perris has been hired to replace Violet as a cook.  Mr. Chitrananda Wijewickrama has been hired as a driver of ISLE vehicles. We welcome these two new staff members into the ISLE family.

We are happy to announce that we have just admitted eleven talented students, five males and six females, for the Fall 2013 program.  Professor Mat Schmalz of Holy Cross, who is a Professor of Religious Studies, will serve as faculty director for this program. 

We are in the process of recruiting students for the Spring 2013 program.  We have mentioned earlier that the Faculty Director for this program is Phil Friedrich, who is an ISLE alumnus. Phil is the third director in the past four programs to have also been to Sri Lanka as an ISLE student and program assistant.  

We are also very pleased to announce that five of our ISLE students are selected as Fulbright Scholars for the year 2013-14.  This is great news for all those associated with the ISLE Program.  

Currently, ISLE alumni Christopher Neubert (ISLE Fall 2006) and Dan Greiger (ISLE Fall 2009) are living in Kandy and continuing research through Fulbrights.

Below are specific details of those who contacted us:

Emma Cutler, who was a student with ISLE in Fall 2011, received a Fulbright to return to Sri Lanka to build on her research she began during her Independent Field Study Project, "Deforestation, Pesticides, and Compost:  Agriculture in the Hill Country of Sri Lanka and its Environmental Impacts":

“For my project, I will study land use in the hill country of Sri Lanka, focusing on water pollution resulting from deforestation and chemical fertilizers and pesticides used by farmers. I will quantify the use of agrochemicals and analyze these data using GIS software to examine the effects of these chemicals at the watershed scale. I will also survey households about consumption to determine the amount of land a typical household uses to maintain their livelihood and quality of life. Finally, by considering food production, effort required to farm the land, and local and downstream water quality, I plan to develop a mathematical model to determine how to optimize land use in this region. This will hopefully provide information about how to prioritize areas for establishing sustainable agricultural systems. For much of this project, I will be working with environmental science researchers and the NeoSynthesis Research Center, a non-governmental organization that works to protect the water resources of Sri Lanka by promoting the development of forest home gardens, a sustainable and traditional form of cultivation that mimics natural ecosystems.”

Sarah Koehler, also a Fall 2011 ISLE student, received a Fulbright scholarship to return to Kandy and study Kandyan dance:

“I have proposed to study classical Kandyan dance for the 9 month duration of my Fulbright grant.  My project involves both intensively studying the dance technique as well as conducting interviews with dancers and instructors regarding the role of this art form in their communities and in Sri Lanka.  I will spend some time in Colombo with the acclaimed Chitrasena-Vajira Dance Company and will possibly continue my studies with other instructors in Kandy.

We are pleased to announce that Alex Regan, Kelsi Sullivan, and Malik Neal, all ISLE Fall 2011 students, have also been granted Fulbrights.

Below are some updates from ISLE alumni who responded to our request:

Moriah Radin, ISLE Fall 2002:

"I don't often think of writing in with updates because, post ISLE, I haven't maintained a tangible connection to Sri Lanka or that part of the world.  Nonetheless, I always like to see what other people are doing.  Post Swarthmore, I eventually went on to law school and have been doing criminal defense work in Los Angeles since I graduated.  First in juvenile defense, then white collar work, and now at the federal public defenders office.  Life in LA is beautiful and much more enjoyable than I ever anticipated.  I don't travel nearly enough but hope to make it back to Sri Lanka someday.  Of course, so many amazing memories from my participation in ISLE back in 2002."

Alex Szwyd, ISLE Fall 2012:

"I returned to Bard after my semester with ISLE realizing that I needed much more time to process my experience than I had expected at the onset. Instead of jumping right into my senior project, I decided it was best for me to spend an additional semester in preparation for that. 

This semester I have been taking some great courses and one-on-one tutorials with my professors which have continued to add more content to my Asian Studies "repertoire." Currently, I am working on a project that will critically assess the Buddhist notions of Karma/law within the framework of post-modern thought established by notable Western thinkers of the 20th century. This is a further working and development of an idea that I conceived a year ago, which will become a part of my senior project. The aim is to better understand the ethical implications that Karma may have on conventional social justice institutions. 

Aside from my studies, I have been avidly playing bluegrass/jazz mandolin with my friends and have seen my growth curve accelerate quite notably. I've made many good friends this semester, including friendships with teachers, as well as keeping in contact with friends and family in Sri Lanka. No definite plans to go back in the near future, though it is certainly a strong possibility - for now though I have felt the need to keep my feet on the ground and take my time.

This summer I will be living in between my hometown Great Barrington, MA and near Bard in Tivoli, NY. I plan to travel up and down the East coast, will spend some time in Maine, a week in California, and who knows what else. I am eager to meet up with some of my ISLE fellows along the way."

Cythia Davies, ISLE Fall 2002:

“I’m working as a physician assistant at a walk-in clinic for York Hospital in Wells, Maine.”

Flynn Jebb, ISLE 2004:

“I am finishing up the first of two years of a Masters program in Peace Studies at ICU in Tokyo, Japan, under the auspices of the Rotary Peace Fellowship. I am studying public policy and issues of press freedom. My thesis research will bring me to Sri Lanka in the summer of 2013, my first trip back since working as the 2007 Program Assistant. I am excited to break out my (now rusty) Sinhala and eat one of everything.” 

The newsletter is designed to create a space for our alumni to share news with each other. If you would like to be profiled in future newsletters, e-mail us at isle@bowdoin.edu. Remember to follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and keep up to date with current program activities on our Tumblr page!

Warmest wishes,



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