ISLE Program

Fall 2010 Pre-Orientation

The fall 2010 student group comes from Bowdoin, Grinnell, Macalester, Swarthmore, Vassar, and Whittier Colleges. The profiles of these students and other administrators mentioned here are given at the bottom of this page.

Pre-Program Preparations in Sri Lanka:

Ahead of our students' arrival, the ISLE Executive Director Sree Padma Holt and the fall 2010 ISLE Resident Faculty Director Stephen Jenkins went to Sri Lanka to tie up final lose ends for the preparations that have been underway for the past several months. This was also an orientation time for the Faculty Director to get to know program surroundings, staff, and faculty. In addition, Stephen was introduced to the Dean of the Arts faculty at the University of Peradeniya, visited classrooms, computer, and gymnasium facilities at the University. He also visited various religious shrines at the University in order to plan trips to these places for students. During a visit to a Hindu temple on campus, Padma and Steve attended a special initiation ceremony (called Kumbhabisheka) that will continue for fifteen days, some of which students will have a chance to witness. Below you will see pictures taken at the temple and some of the meetings that Padma and Steve have conducted with the staff and faculty.

Professor Stephen Jenkins at the ISLE Center

Professor Stephen Jenkins at the ISLE Center

Tilak, Prof. Jenkins and students at Hindu temple

ISLE Librarian, Tilak Jayatilake, in conversation with a university student whose father is a priest at this Hindu temple, as Program Director Stephen Jenkins looks on.

Hindu temple with bell tower

This Hindu temple has a bell tower, resembling a Christian church.

Sinhala instructors discuss the fall course.

Sinhala instructors Dr. W. A. Liyanage and Ms. Sandamali discuss the fall course.

Prof. Tudor Silva, Dr. Sree Padma Holt and Prof. Stephen Jenkins discuss Prof. Silva's ethnicity course.

Professor Tudor Silva, ISLE Executive Director Sree Padma Holt, and Faculty Director Professor Stephen Jenkins discuss Professor Silva's Ethnicity course.

Profs. Jenkins and Meddegama

Professor Jenkins listens to Professor Udaya Meddegama discuss the rituals that his class on Folklore will be witnessing.

Professor Jenkins and archaeologists

Archaeology instructors Aruna Rajapakse and H. G. Dayasisira sat with Steve Jenkins and Sree Padma Holt to discuss the details of the Northern Tour of archaeological sites.

Prof. Jenkins, Tilak, Prof. Amarasinghe

ISLE Librarian Tilak Jayatilake (seated middle) records details of Professor Ranjith Amarasinghe course on Modern Sri Lankan Politics as he discusses the class with Professor Steve Jenkins.

Prof. Punchi Meegaskumbura, S.P. Holt, Prof. S. Jenkins

Independent Study Project Advisor Professor Punchi Meegaskumbura, Sree Padma Holt, and Stephen Jenkins discuss likely topic venues to be recommended to students to pursure their independent study projects.

ISLE Center staff meeting

ISLE Center Staff Meeting. Left to right: ISLE Librarian Tilak Jayatilake, ISLE cook Violet Perera, Faculty Director Stephen Jenkins, ISLE Center Manager Rosemary Chunchie, and ISLE Transportation Manager Sumanasena.


As part of orientation for their trip to Sri Lanka, students are asked to read the ISLE HANDBOOK that contains practical information about the long flight to Sri Lanka, health and safety issues, tips on how to get around in Sri Lanka and lessons in social and cultural etiquette to follow in the Sri Lankan classroom as well as at homestay families. To give some general background about Sri Lankan history, culture and society, students are given copies of The Insight Guide to Sri Lanka. In addition to these two books, they received three other readings: 1) a novel, When Memory Dies; 2) an autobiography, Life Means Not to Kill; and 3) portions of a Buddhist text, Mahavamsa. Over the summer, students have read and discussed these readings.  Their postings are spirited and impressive.  A packet of Sinhala script and a CD is included in these readings to help the students with their pronunciation of the alphabet and to teach them some basic phrases.

What follows are introductions to the students and some of staff for the fall 2010 program.

Student profiles:

Liza BolesLiza Boles is pursuing a double major in Government and Religion at Bowdoin College, with a focus on Comparative Government. Her academic interests include international relations and Buddhism. She is very focused on sports as well as academics, and enjoys competitive ski racing, running, biking, rowing, soccer, and volleyball. Liza volunteers with the Marin County Search and Rescue team, and she also mentors a local middle school student. This summer, she is doing two internships with San Francisco-based companies. This will be Liza's first journey to Asia, and she is looking forward to learning Sinhala, integrating into Sri Lankan society and learning about the relationship between politics and Buddhism.

Katy ConnorsKaty Connors studies Eastern Religion, Global and Cultual Studies, and Political Science at Whittier College in Southeast Los Angeles. She grew up in northern Arizona and now resides in Los Angeles full time. At Whittier, Katy works in the Study Abroad office, tutors writing and history, works for and participates in Model UN, dances and hikes. She also volunteers at art galleries around Los Angeles that benefit and advocate for humanitarianism and equality, and will be committing a lot of time to the International Rescue Committee this summer. She loves nature, the arts and cooking. Katy is interested in socio-religious identity and the way it influences politics and is looking forward to the ISLE Program.

Chantal CroteauChantal Croteau is a psychology major at Bowdoin College, with many academic interests, including creative writing, clinical psychology, infant and child development, education, and religion She comes from a small town in New Hampshire and enjoys competitive running, reading and writing. She also enjoys baking and other sorts of cooking. At Bowdoin, Chantal mentors a young student. This summer shis is working at a camp and house/dog sitting. Chantal is excited for the experience and the challenge of the ISLE Program.

Emily Dunuwila

Emily Dunuwila, a native of Syracuse, NY, is an Urban Studies major at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY. Emily's academic interests include history, youth empowerment, and community development. Beyond the classroom, she is a member of the Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre, works with various youth organizations within Poughkeepsie, and enjoys cooking and watching documentaries. Emily is of Sri Lankan descent, and chose ISLE because it will provide her with an opportunity to really get to the know the country. Although she has been to Sri Lanka twice before, she has only explored the country as a tourist. She hopes to create a deeper connection with the culture, is confident that ISLE is the perfect way to do that.

Jess EverettJess Everett grew up in Maine and just completed her sophomore at Bowdoin College, where she is pursuing an English major, perhaps with a teaching minor. An active member of the Bowdoin Outing Club, Jess loves to be outside and enjoys hiking, camping, climbing, skiing, biking, canoeing, kayaking, etc. She also enjoys yoga, dancing, and photography. This summer, Jess is apprenticing on an organic farm in Maine, nannying, and preparing for Sri Lanka. This will be Jess's first visit to Asia. She is looking forward to the ISLE Program, to studying Sri Lankan culture, delving into Sri Lankan literature, and to taking Sri Lankan dancing and drumming classes.

Henry Hoagland

Henry Hoagland is a double major in Music Composition and Government (concentration on American government) at Bowdoin. He's also interested in philosophy and literature. He comes from Cape Cod in Massachusetts, and is a major Red Sox fan. Henry has been fortunate enough to have traveled to England, France, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, eastern Canada and the east coast of the United States. He is very excited to get to Kandy and considers the ISLE program a unique opportunity to break out of habits, and challenge himself as he gets to know Sri Lanka.

Caitlin HurwitCaitlin Hurwit is majoring in art history and anthropology (and possibly minoring in psychology) at Bowdoin College. She is spending this summer working for Upward Bound's summer programs on the Bowdoin campus as well as preparing for Sri Lanka. This will be Caitlin's first trip to Asia. Previously, she traveled to Italy and France (where she participated in an exchange program with a family in Toulouse), and last summer she volunteered in South Africa. Caitlin works at the local animal shelter in Brunswick, mentors special needs students in the area, writes a column for the Bowdoin Orient, and is a docent at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art. She is looking forward to studying art history and anthropology in Sri Lanka, to meeting her host family and to learning how to prepare Sri Lankan food.

Rachael PedersonRachael Pederson grew up in Minnesota and currently attends Grinnell College in Iowa, where she is a history major, applying for teacher licensure, and is considering adding a Religious Studies major. At Grinnell, Rachael teaches classes and tutors incarcerated men and women at  local prisons. She insists on spending as much time as possible outside, and loves to go running. In Sri Lanka, Rachael hopes to learn more about the culture and religious practices of ordinary people. She is considering doing her independent study project on a topic related to education. Overall, she is excited to to explore Sri Lanka and to learn more about the country's people, culture, and history.

Josh Tomashek Joshua Tomashek was born in Winona, Minnesota and currently lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. His is a Sociology major Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, with a concentration in Legal Studies/ Law and Socieity. Other academic interests include politics and philosophy. Joshua is fluent in Spanish, having lived in Mexico for five years, and he has traveled to Colombia and Ecuador. He also volunteers and interns at the Minnesota AIDS Project, an AIDS service organization in the Twin Cities, where will be spending the summer designing and implementing an online HIV prevention program. Joshua likes being physically active, being outside, and watching movies. His semester in Sri Lanka will be the first time that Joshua has traveled outside of the Americas, and he is excited for the academic and personal challenges which the ISLE Program will present. 

Justin Justin WedellWedell is currently a sophomore at Grinnell College, where he is a Political Science major, focusing on theoretical approaches to the study of politics. In Sri Lanka, Justin would like to develop a deeper knowledge of the role and use of ethnic nationalism in politics as a continuation of his study of theories concerning the development of nationalism. He also hopes to expand his perspective of religious and philosophical thought through the study of Sri Lankan culture and Buddhist thought. Justin enjoys participating in debate and student government at Grinnell. This summer he is interning at the district office of his congressional representative in Cleveland as well as tutoring kids in calculus and standardized test-taking. He is very excited about studying in Sri Lanka.

Jen Wenz

Jennifer Wenz is a Religion major and Biology minor at Bowdoin College, and is most interested in their application to development and healthcare issues. At Bowdoin, Jen sings in an all-female a cappella group, leads trips for the outing club, plays frisbee, and volunteers in the Portland/Brunswick area. She is happiest being active outside, and loves living in Maine, where she enjoys hiking, sea kayaking, cross-country skiing whitewater rafting. This summer, she is doing coastal studies research in Oregon. Jen is very excited for the coming adventure in Sri Lanka, and is eager to explore Asia for the first time and immerse herself in a new way of thinking about the world.

Sasha Wijeyeratne

Sasha Wijeyeratne, from Southern California, is a student at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, where she is studying Sociology/Anthropology, with a minor in History and Education. Sasha's parents grew up in Sri Lanka and migrated to the U.S. to attend graduate school. She is excited to finally learn Sinhalese, and to learn more about the history of the island, the dynamics of the ongoing ethnic/religious conflict, and the recent political situation. Outside of class, Sasha is interested in issues of social justice, such as local organizing, social movements, youth activism, and community empowerment. She also enjoys being outside, hiking, playing sports (maybe picking up cricket?), and going on all kinds of adventures. She is excited to spend the fall immersed in the culture and traveling/exploring the land of Sri Lanka, and learning more about herself and her own heritage in the process.


Prof. Stephen JenkinsProfessor Stephen Jenkins will direct the program in Fall 2010. He received his doctorate from Harvard in 1999 and is currently Chair of Religious Studies at Humboldt State University. His research has been primarily focused on Buddhist concepts of compassion, their philosophical grounding, and their ethical implications. Since his own life-changing undergraduate experiences in India and China, he has been dedicated to enriching students through study abroad education. He has chaired university and statewide committees for international programs and has led study abroad programs in Tibet, Israel, Japan and twice in India.

Dr. Sree Padma HoltISLE Executive Director, Dr. Sree Padma Holt, works with ISLE faculty and administrators to plan for courses and set up the program calendar for the semester. Dr. Holt also facilitates the orientation and preparation for each group of students, making sure that students follow the steps necessary to address tasks such as acquiring immunizations and passports. She is always available for questions from parents and students. The Administrative Director also acquires the necessary resident visas for students through the Sri Lankan embassy before the group's departure, makes group travel plans, and holds numerous meetings with ISLE students and staff as they prepare for the coming semester.

Sarah LordSarah Lord, the Fall 2010 ISLE Program Assistant, was a student on the 2008 Fall ISLE Program. She graduated from Bowdoin College in May with a major in Religion and a minor in Psychology. Since her return from Sri Lanka, Sarah has focused her studies on South Asia and Hindu traditions. She has completed a senior Honors Project on the goddess Mariamman, whom she initially explored during her Independent Study in Sri Lanka. Sarah considers her time with the ISLE Program to be her most profound intellectual and personal experience to date. She is extremely excited to return to Sri Lanka and will strive to facilitate a unique and transformative experience for each student. Sarah is more than happy to discuss any questions students have as they prepare for their semester in Sri Lanka.

We look forward to bringing you reports and photographs from the Fall 2010 group, including photos and updates about the students' arrival and orientation in Sri Lanka. Once again, we thank the students' families for their support, and hope you enjoy these Web pages.