ISLE Program

Meet the Students

Maja BlackMaja Black (Carleton College) is from a rural town in Iowa. She currently attends Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. As a current freshman, She has not declared a major, and her academic interests are varied. Maja is very interested in the humanities, with an emphasis on religion and where it overlaps with science and other disciplines. Additionally, she is very much looking forward to the archeology component of this program, as archeology combines a lot of her interests (i.e. the outdoors, geology, art history, anthropology). Maja is fascinated by how people work and how they relate to a place as a spiritual and physical entity. As a student, Maja identifies her academic strengths as writing and creative thought, and thinks that she has good observational skills and a relatable personality.  Maja's travel experience, while so far limited to within North America, includes yearly trips to a fairly rural island in the Bahamas, and extended road trips and canoe trips in Canada.


Hannah DurhamHannah Durham (Bard College) is from Connecticut and is a Religion major at Bard College. She enjoys reading, hiking, knitting, running, and playing lacrosse at school. This summer Hannah will continue studying Mandarin Chinese in Qingdao, China for two months. Hannah is interested in South Asian culture and is excited to study Theravada Buddhism, among other religions, extensively while in Sri Lanka.


Derek GrabhornDerek Grabhorn (Holy Cross), is a history major at Holy Cross. He lives in Plymouth, Massachusetts with his older brother and parents, but was born in Los Angeles and also lived in Vermont and Germany. Derek plays tennis, is an editor for a school newspaper, and works on campus. Derek will spend the spring semester in DC, so he is pretty psyched to begin next year and get to Sri Lanka.


Robin JonesRobin Jones (Bates College) is a sophomore at Bates College, and is originally from Hamilton, Ontario. Robin is a Politics major and an Anthropology and Sociology double minor. His academic interests include political theory, socioeconomic systems, and cultural anthropology.  In his spare time, Robin enjoys playing ultimate Frisbee and soccer, DJing, and playing jazz guitar. Robin likes watching English Premier League games and listening to hip hop and indie music. He also likes to read about politics and current events. Robin chose the ISLE Program because of the fascinating cultural setting, the independent study component, and the unique homestay experience.


Andrew LauAndrew Lau (Colby College) is an anthropology major and a classics minor at Colby College. He is from a small town in the woods of New Hampshire on Lake Winnipesaukee. Andrew loves swimming, skiing, hiking, and playing soccer, but what he really loves is doing nothing for extended periods of time. I enjoy listening to OddFuture and MF DOOM, as well as Modest Mouse, Fleet Foxes, and Sublime. Andrew's life goal is to open a brewery/maple syrup farm. He can’t wait to explore the most glorious nation of Sri Lanka with you.

Eli PeirceElias Peirce (Bowdoin College) grew up in Portland, ME, and now attends Bowdoin college, where I am majoring in Philosophy and Environmental Studies.  His favorite thing in the world is rock climbing, but he also likes playing guitar and writing poetry.  Eli sings in a coed a capella group that takes up too much time but is generally worth it.  He is new to chess and looking to improve.  Elias also really likes doing nothing—especially outside—which can be difficult at college.  When Elias came to Bowdoin he was quite set on going into scientific research, but now is much more focused on the humanities and education.  His decsion to go to Sri Lanka is probably a reflection of this shift.  Elias especially looks forward to the things in Sri Lanka that are especially different from things here.  


Sam PowellSam Powell (Carleton College) is a sophomore religion major at Carleton College in the small town of Northfield Minnesota. He is originally from Larchmont, New York, which is a suburb of New York City. Sam enjoys Minnesota but is looking forward to the warm weather of Sri Lanka. Sam is interested in religious philosophy, specifically pertaining to Buddhism. He enjoys playing sports, drinking tea, cooking and eating, and talking with friends.  This summer, Sam is living in western Massachusetts with a few friends and working on a farm, and experimenting in collective living. I am excited to travel and get to know everyone in Kandy.

Meet the Staff

Professor Mat Schmalz Professor Mat Schmalz of The College of the Holy Cross will direct the Fall 2013 Program. Mat has taught at HolyCross since 1998 and specializes in South Asian Studies and Modern Religious Movements. For more about Professor Schmalz, visit his web page.


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.


Malik NealISLE Program Assistant, Malik Neal originally from Philadelphia, PA, is majoring in History with a minor in Asian Studies. He is also interested in philosophy, literature, music, religion, politics, etc., and enjoys reading, writing, traveling, and spending time with friends. Malik was a member of the Fall 2011 ISLE Program and has continued to engage with Sri Lanka through his studies in the U.S. He recently won an essay contest held by The Center for South Asian Studies at the University of California-Berkely for a paper titled "Sybolic Politics and the Roots of Ethnic Conflict: The Case for Sri Lanka." Following his work as Program Assistant, Malik will continue his research in Sri Lanka through a Fulbright Scholarship.