Samantha Bonnel (Bowdoin College) hails from New York City and is a sociology major and religious studies minor. She is a junior at Bowdoin College, where she has taken a number of courses studying Buddhist and Hindu cultures. Outside of the classroom, Samantha is a cheerleader, sings in Bowdoin's Chamber Choir, and DJs. She describes music as something she is very passionate about. Samantha also loves learning new languages, comics, abstract art, and describes herself as an avid cook in her free time.
April Bethea (Macalester), a junior at Macalester College in Minnesota, grew up in Germany, England, Las Vegas, the Florida panhandle, Georgia, and Iowa, before finally settling in Palm Coast, which is on the northeast coast of Florida. She is an Anthropology and Media & Cultural Studies major at Macalester. Outside of the classroom, April works at a non-profit called the African American Registry, conducting and editing video interviews with people from or visiting the Twin Cities with the goal of expanding the representation of African American people available in the media and to provide teaching tools that can be utilized throughout the world. She is also a Mellon-Mays Fellow, doing research on race in film. April spent a year as an exchange student in Hungary and loves to travel. She is looking forward to her long journey to Sri Lanka.
Benjamin Breger (Bates College) is a junior with a strong interest in biology and environmental studies. He grew up in Amherst, Massachusets and describes himself as being "very involved" in the environmental movement at his college. He came to Bates knowing he was interested in environmental issues and the transition of our society towards sustainability. These two interests have stuck with him as he has taken many Environmental Studies courses focusing on economics and policy. Ben hopes to continue his Biology education in Sri Lanka through focusing his independent study on wildlife conservation in Sri Lanka. Ben also plays the guitar.
Aleph Cervo (Bowdoin College) is a junior majoring in Music with a minor in Physics. He was born in Brazil and lived there until about the age of five, when he moved to the United States. He has lived in Washington state and California, and now studies across the country in Maine. His academic interests are varied; some prominent ones include the natural sciences, particularly chemistry and physics, music (both the theoretical and musicological aspects), and Buddhism. He is very much looking forward to his experience in Sri Lanka, both as an opportunity for academic enrichment and social immersion.
Dylan Fisher (Grinnell College) is originally from the suburbs of San Francisco, California and is a third year anthropology major at Grinnell College. He really loves to read and write fiction. Dylan enjoys learning other languages (he has an intermediate level background in German and Spanish and some basic knowledge of Hindi), and also really likes analog photography. When he was younger, Dylan traveled to France and England and in high school he spent several weeks traveling in Cambodia and Indonesia. He is very much looking forward to studying abroad and exploring Sri Lanka.
Christine Hayes (Bowdoin College) is a junior majoring in Biology and minoring in Asian Studies. She is very interested in ecology and conservation biology in addition to international studies. She is fascinated with South Asia, both in terms of the rich history and modern-day culture. She is looking forward to the opportunity to expand her academic interests in Sri Lanka to encompass a broad range of material. She has read much about the wildlife and culture readily available to experience in Sri Lanka and is very excited. Christine traveled to Japan once and worked in Bursa, Turkey at Uludag University researching honeybees in conjunction with the University of Central Oklahoma and the National Science Foundation.
Jessica Ramirez (Macalester College) was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. She is a junior at Macalester College majoring in religious studies and educational studies. In the education field, she is particularly interested in educational equity in the United States and her long-term goal is to work in school administration. In terms of travel experience, Jessica traveled to France for 2 weeks in high school with her French class and has traveled to Mexico to visit family members a few times. In her free time she enjoys reading, watching movies, and running or swimming.
Program Director, Professor Cricket Keating, of Ohio State University, herself an ISLE alumnus, will direct the spring 2013 ISLE program. Professor Keating's research expertise is in the areas of comparative political theory, democratic theory, and gender and politics. She has recently published a book entitled Decolonizing Democracy: Transforming Social Contract in India.
ISLE 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 Executive 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.
Program Assistant Katie Seward first came to Sri Lanka as an ISLE student in the fall of 2006. She decided to study with ISLE after a five-week trip to India through her undergraduate institution, Bates College. After graduating from Bates with a degree in Political Science, Katie has gone on to work for a number of non-profits and advocacy organizations, including The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, and the American Red Cross. She returned to Sri Lanka to work with an election monitoring organization during the first post-conflict parliamentary elections. Her career has taken her to Jordan, India, Senegal, The Gambia, Washington D.C., and Seattle, where she currently resides. Katie will serve as a mentor and guide to students as they adjust to the rythyms of a new and very different culture, and navigate the challenges of spending a semester in Sri Lanka.