March 30, 2017

Students Plant Trees with Guatemalan Students

This past spring break, 16 UMW students traveled to Guatemala to learn about agroecology and community development. Students spent several days with elementary school children from two different villages who came to participate in Community Cloud Forest Conservation’s Kids & Birds program. They planted trees with the children, looked for and identified migratory birds, and located tadpoles and other aquatic creatures in the Mestila River.

In addition, all students learned about improving agricultural practices, included the composting of humanure, planting traditional Q’eqchi’ Maya crops that are highly nutritious, and several soil conservation techniques.

While in Guatemala, UMW students took photographs and video for three film projects (Kids & Birds, Reforestation, and the Agroecology Center) that they will complete in the next few weeks. The purpose of the videos is to raise awareness and raise funds for the work being done by Community Cloud Forest Conservation.

Bowen Publishes Article about Field Work in Newfoundland

Dawn Bowen, professor of geography, has published an article, “The Roadside Gardens of Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula,” in the American Geographical Society’s Focus on Geography. This article was a result of her field work in Newfoundland in 2014.

Professor Co-Authors Article with Alum

Dawn Bowen, professor of geography, has co-authored an article, “Deforestation of Montane Cloud Forest in the Central Highlands of Guatemala: Proximate Causes, Underlying Drivers, and Implications for Sustainability in Q’eqchi’ Maya Communities,” with Ian Pope, UMW 2011, in the International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology.  The article draws from Ian’s research with contributions from other UMW alum, Adam Hager, Carl Larsen, and David Chambers, all 2014 graduates, who completed field work under Bowen’s direction.

World Ready

Sequoi Phipps cultivates a love of geography and travel at UMW.

Bowen and Students Visit Guatemala during Spring Break

Jack Humiston '15 and David Chambers '14 measure clearings in the cloud forest using a GPS unit and a laser range finder. This allows them to calculate areas of deforestation.  The students worked on this project with an alum, Ian Pope.

Jack Humiston ’15 and David Chambers ’14 measure clearings in the cloud forest using a GPS unit and a laser range finder. This allows them to calculate areas of deforestation. The students worked on this project with 2011 graduate Ian Pope.

Dawn Bowen, professor of geography, supervised an undergraduate research trip to Guatemala over spring break with University of Mary Washington students.

Jack Humiston ’15 and David Chambers ’14 researched a project titled “Mapping Deforestation in the Sierra Yalijux Mountains of the Alta Verapaz, Guatemala” over a nine-day period.

“This experience is incredibly important because students actually apply the concepts/techniques that they learn in the classroom to a real world setting.  In this case, the students are also helping to produce maps for Community Cloud Forest Conservation, the local NGO that I work with, to show landowners the threats to their property, the consequences of not protecting land, and promoting a preservation plan with the local community,” said Bowen. “These young men can now state that they have done field work and used the data that they collected to produce maps.”

UMW Geographers Gain Accolades

Two University of Mary Washington geographers were honored at the annual meeting of the Southeastern Division of the Association of American Geographers this year in Roanoke, Va.

Ethan Bottone’s, 2014, poster presentation, “Documenting Language Erosion and Preservation Efforts in the Canadian Arctic,” was recognized as the best undergraduate research paper in human geography at the conference.

Professor Dawn Bowen, UMW Simpson Award Winner in 2012, was one of three faculty to win SEDAAG’s Excellence in Teaching Award.

SEDAAG represents geography departments in public and private universities and colleges in 10 southeastern states.  Go to sedaag.org for more information

 

Faculty Receive Top Honors at Commencement

The University of Mary Washington presented its top honors during commencement ceremonies Friday, May 11 and Saturday, May 12.

Dawn S. Bowen, professor of geography, was presented the Grellet C. Simpson Award, the institution’s most prestigious annual award for excellence in undergraduate teaching. The recipient is routinely a senior member of the faculty.

Edward Hegmann, newly-named Director and Professor of Athletics, Health and Physical Education Emeritus, was presented the Washington Medallion, one of the university’s most prestigious awards that recognizes an individual who has served Mary Washington with exceptional dedication.

Rosemary K. Jesionowski, assistant professor of art, received the UMW Alumni Association Outstanding Young Faculty Member Award, which is presented annually to an exceptional member of the faculty who has served the institution for at least two years but no more than five years.

Gary N. Richards, assistant professor of English, received the Mary W. Pinschmidt Award. The winner is selected by the graduating class as the faculty member “whom they will most likely remember as the one who had the greatest impact on their lives.”

Mukesh Srivastava, associate professor of management systems, was recognized with the Graduate Faculty Award, which recognizes an exceptional full-time faculty member who has demonstrated excellence in graduate teaching and professional leadership in a graduate program. The person selected must have served in a full-time position at the university for at least two years.

Dawn Bowen

Bowen, a 1986 graduate of Mary Washington, is an award-winning scholar in the field of human geography and regional geography of Eastern and Western North America. A member of the UMW staff since 1991, Bowen is known for her love of travel and culture.

Dawn Bowen (left) with Interim Provost Ian Newbould

Students say Bowen’s passion for geography and her commitment to teaching are evident in her extensive research trips to Latin America, the Caribbean and North America which she has used to create new courses at UMW. During spring break, she leads students on a week-long trip to Guatemala to visit Maya communities and complete a reforestation project.

The author of more than two dozen publications, Bowen has presented her research at conferences across North America. In 2004, she received Mary Washington’s Richard Palmieri Outstanding Professor Award and the Excellence in Teaching Award given by the Academic Affairs Council.

She has chaired several faculty committees, including the President’s Task Force on Sustainability. She has been a consistent sponsor of the Young Women Leader’s Program, and a Faculty Advisor to the Honor Council. In 2009 she received the Henry Douglas Distinguished Service Award for the Research, Publication, and Teaching of Material Culture from the Association for the Preservations of Artifacts and Landscapes of the Pioneer American Society.

“She is recognized across UMW for the quality and range of her teaching, and for her commitment to the welfare of her students,” said Richard Finkelstein, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “While supervising a large number of honors and independent studies projects, she does well more than her share of one-on-one instruction over and above her regular assignments.”

Edward Hegmann

Longtime UMW Athletic Director Edward Hegmann will retire at the end of May after 36 years at the helm of athletics at Mary Washington. Since 1976, he has overseen the expansion of the program at UMW from six sports to 23, acted as a major catalyst in the development of the facilities at UMW and watched 22 of the school’s 23 programs advance to national championship competition.

Rector Dan Steen presents Ed Hegmann (right) with the Washington Medallion.

Hegmann directed the women’s tennis team for 23 years and led the Eagles to three national championships, including the AIAW national title in 1982 and the NCAA Division III titles in 1988 and 1991. He gained eight Capital Athletic Conference Coach of the Year awards and captured nine straight CAC championships after the league was formed in 1990 through his retirement as coach in 1999. He was named the NCAA Division III National Coach of the Year in 1988 and again in 1999.  In 1999, he was inducted into the MWC/UMW Athletic Hall of Fame, and in 2010 he was inducted into the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Women’s Collegiate Tennis National Hall of Fame.

Hegmann was integral to the planning for several campus athletic facilities, including the Battleground Athletic Complex, the UMW Indoor Tennis Center, the 150,000-square-foot Fitness Center and the newly opened William M. Anderson Center.

“The Washington Medallion is awarded to recognize one who’s extraordinary service to the university has made a lasting an indelible impact on Mary Washington,” said Daniel K. Steen, rector of the Board of Visitors, noting Hegmann’s profound impact on countless students.

Rosemary Jesionowski

Since joining the UMW faculty in 2008, Jesionowski has made distinctive contributions to the Department of Art and Art History while also carrying out projects that have resonated throughout the regional community. She teaches courses in photography, printmaking and digital media and is an active member of the Richmond art community.

Rosemary Jesionowski (center)

Described by her students as a “gifted and dedicated educator,” Jesionowski has brought her students to visual arts conferences, created internships and exhibition opportunities at off-campus locations and rebuilt UMW’s printmaking and photography studios. In addition, she was the curator of UMW’s first digital media exhibition.

An accomplished artist, Jesionowski has exhibited her work in galleries in every region of the country, including New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles. She is the author of “500 Handmade Books: A Celebration of Contemporary Art Forms.”

Jesionowski is a founding member of the Women and Gender Studies program at UMW. She has brought visiting artists to campus and engaged former students through alumni workshops.

“She has strengthened our students’ awareness that the making of art is a rigorous conceptual and technical investigation,” said Richard Finkelstein, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “By promoting a free dialogue between senior artists and students, she has fostered in our emerging artists the development of their own critical vocabulary well-suited to our education in the liberal arts and sciences.”

Gary Richards

Richards, an expert on American literature, Southern literature and culture and sexuality studies, joined the UMW faculty in 2008. His creative and unique approach to teaching paired with his engaging style make courses like American Humor and Sexuality in Southern Literature popular.

Luisa Dispenzirie congratulates Gary Richards (right)

Students cite his dedication, eagerness and passion for teaching students in and outside of the classroom. He is known to keep his office door open for impromptu discussions and meetings and to schedule exam review sessions outside of regular class sessions.

Richards has presented papers and talks on literary topics at numerous scholarly conferences, and he has organized and chaired sessions at various literary festivals, conferences and meetings. His book, “Lovers and Beloveds: Sexual Otherness in Southern Fiction, 1936-1961,” was named Choice Outstanding Academic Title in 2005. He recently served as an expert for the Biography Channel on authors Harper Lee, William Faulkner and Truman Capote.

He has served on the University Curriculum Committee, as faculty advisor of the UMW chapter of PRISM and as president of the Kappa chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.

“His students, advisees, and others who have interacted with him unanimously agree that he is one of the most available professors on campus and someone to whom we can all relate,” said Luisa Dispenzirie, a 2012 graduate.

Mukesh Srivastava

Since 2004, Mukesh Srivastava has developed and taught 14 different courses at UMW, including strategic management in information systems and innovation, knowledge management systems, business intelligence, management of emerging technologies, and enterprise resource planning systems.

Students and colleagues praise Srivastava’s energy and dedication to the College of Business graduate programs, noting his enthusiasm in the classroom and his real-world applications to course material.

Mukesh Srivastava

He is the author of “eLearning Via The Internet: An Empirical Study” as well as numerous articles in peer-reviewed journals and in referred conference proceedings in his field. He founded the Association of Global Management Studies, an international organization that seeks to develop theoretical and practice knowledge in all global business fields. In October 2011, Srivastava spent five weeks at the University of Tunis in Tunisia as part of a prestigious Fulbright Specialist Grant.

In addition to his role as a professor, Srivastava serves as associate dean of the College of Business, focusing on the MBA and MS/MIS programs.

“Srivastava is the complete package – a gifted teacher who wants his students to learn, the most prolific researcher in the College of Business and a servant to his colleagues, both at UMW and in his profession,” said Provost Ian Newbould.

Haitian Development through Home-Grown Capacity Building and Group Organizing

During the first week of April, I undertook a truly transformational journey.  We traveled to the island nation of Haiti, the only country in the world with a last name: “The poorest country in the western hemisphere.”

Despite U.S. government warnings about travel to Haiti (the Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to consider carefully all travel to Haiti), we were neither robbed, raped, or murdered.  In the view of U.S. authorities, this might be considered somewhat miraculous.  Not only did I survive, but I returned with a powerful sense of what Haitians can and have achieved, witnessing their organization and capacity building, as well as the often demoralizing, destabilizing, and dehumanizing influence of NGOs and missionary groups on the Haitian people.  (I make this last comment knowing that I may once again be labeled as the anti-Christ or being in bed with the devil.)

When I planned this trip to Haiti, I left the specifics up to my friend, Carla Bluntschli, who has lived in Haiti for 27 years.  I simply said that I wanted to see and experience Haitian development.  In seven days, I learned more than I ever imagined, and I hope to share some of those lessons here.  Our plan was to visit a number of different organizations, and Carla has a deep network of friends in Haiti.  We visited MCC (Mennonite Central Committee) volunteers and country staff who are working in water, reforestation, and food security; we visited an NGO, Haiti Outreach, which works with communities to create clean water systems; we stayed two nights with Oganizasyon Peyizan 7e Seksyon Kominal Gwomon (OP7G) – the Peasant Organization of the 7th section of the community of Gros Morne, and were astounded by their understanding of their own needs, their organizational skills, and the tasks that they had set for themselves.

Everyday, I was impressed with the Haitian people and their organizations.  OP7G was the most amazing.  We met the first evening with seven of the eleven members of the Executive Committee.  Their definition of development: people working to help others and themselves.  This was a theme that I encountered repeatedly throughout the trip.

OP7G was founded in 2001 and its members received training from PDL (Partenariat pour le Développement Local  – Partnership for Local Development) which works to organize and empower peasants so that they can move forward.  In its first year, OP7G had 47 groups in seven localities serving more than 600 members; ten years on, it has 215 groups working in 28 locations and nearly 2700 members.  Each group meets every week; each month, all groups send representatives to a general meeting.  The goal is for OP7G to look to see what is missing so that they can accompany one another.  They look for what they have and what is missing in their communities.  They undertake an ingenious social mapping program (I have only seen this in Haiti) where every year, they map their communities.  They draw maps that include each household, its members, the type of house, and roof material.  They also determine who has children in school and how many of a family’s children are in school, as well as the number of times a day that a family is able to eat.

There are four economic levels that these data represent, and part of the moving forward is to provide the support so that families can move from the lowest level to the next level.  People are moving up, but as new groups are constantly forming, there are many who are still in level one of economic development.  Groups form around a number of  themes including Health, Agriculture, Education, and Income Generating Activities.

The training that these groups receive from PDL is both simple and complex.  They use simple messages that often take a great deal of time for people to grasp, debate, and come to some conclusion about.  Two examples stand out.  One was a simple diagram of a chicken egg.  If the egg was eaten, it would not hatch.  If, however, the egg hatched, it would produce a chicken which would produce more chickens until such time as people could both eat eggs and see their flocks grow.

Another example emphasizes the need to organize – that there was strength in numbers.  The story was of a big fish who could easily swallow smaller fish.  The small fish decided to organize into small groups, but they were still vulnerable to being consumed by the big fish.  Only when the small groups grew into larger groups were they able to fend off the big fish and ultimately surround it, growing from small fish into larger fish.  The big fish might represent the government, a large landowner, or simply a wealthy person in the community who took advantage of his position.  By working together, groups would be able to grow and expand, and counterbalance the power of the big fish.  PDL’s instructional technique uses large diagrams so that people can easily see and discuss, even if they are not literate.

We met with one NGO, Haiti Outreach, which has progressed dramatically over its nearly 20 years of work.  The organization began by drilling wells and found that a month after the project was finished, the wells no longer worked.  Over the course of a few years and surveys of failed wells, it became clear that without community participation and ownership of the projects, the pumps would continue to fail.  The people had to determine their own needs and their commitment to fulfilling those needs.

Haiti Outreach trains communities for three months and the communities themselves own these projects.  This was a transformation not only on the part of the NGO and how it approached development, but also profound transformation on the part of project participants.  Ownership means paying; if you pay for something it has value and must be cared for.  Today, Haiti Outreach continues to make everyone aware of four points that must be taught, discussed, and committed to before any project is undertaken: authority, responsibility, accountability, and transparency.  It took a decade for this vision to develop and the community has responded remarkably.

In another case, we met a man and woman who had lived for 25 years in the U.S. before returning home to help their community.  Their six children remained in the States and were appalled that their parents were going back to Haiti.  The couple have embarked upon an ambitious program of agroecological development, a field in which neither one of them had any practical experience before returning home.  Their organization, the Association for the Development of Rural Areas, is based on the belief that it is essential that people be able to grown their own food, produce it in an economic and sustainable way, and do so naturally, without the use of chemicals.  This couple now has more than 300 people coming to its demonstration farm for monthly meetings, where they share knowledge and learn about farming techniques.  On the day that we visited, a man from a water organization was discussing ways that communities could develop wells and use the water both for domestic use and for their gardens.  Water availability and conservation are critically important in this far northwestern part of the country where cactus was the dominant vegetation.

At the end of the trip, we were, in my view, used as pawns by a rising politician.  He took us to two different groups and introduced us as development experts who were in the country to see their projects.  That led to some specific questions about what we could do for these organizations.  Even though we repeatedly stated that our goal was simply to learn from Haitians what they were doing themselves to promote development, it was uncomfortable to be put in the situation where we were the “experts” with money to bring.  After we reiterated that we had no money to give to their organizations, there was some awkward silence and some downcast expressions.  Again we tried to talk about what we had seen other groups doing and how successful they had been.  This was a message that we felt compelled to share, but it was the first time that we confronted the expectations of Haitians that “blans” (whites) would give them money.  It was a real learning moment, and demonstrated clearly how dependent that Haitians have become on blans and that we continue to reinforce this dependency with our missions and charity.

In a relocated camp on the last day, as an angry Haitian man asked me why I was taking photos and what I was going to do with them.  When we eventually made clear to him the purpose of our trip, he became a little less angry, but declared that Haitians do not need money.  They need machinery, they need training, they need jobs; they do no need handouts.  Where have the millions of pledged dollars gone?  I don’t know, except that it is yet another example of our flawed development approach to Haiti.

An important lesson of the 2010 Haiti earthquake is that it is far easier to give handouts and create dependency than it is to enable real change and empower peasants to achieve their own objectives. 

Saving the Cloud Forest One Young Woman at a Time

In January, I traveled to Guatemala to interview young Maya women who had received scholarships to continue their secondary education. An organization, Community Cloud Forest Conservation (CCFC), run by Rob and Tara Cahill and several Guatemalans, began providing small scholarships for young women aged 13-24 about seven years ago. Its goal was to accomplish two things: educate young women, thus producing better educated mothers who would raise healthier, fewer and better-educated children, as well as providing them the opportunity to become teachers or nurses, or any other occupation of their choosing; and train them in agroecological techniques that would help directly improve the nutrition of their own families and help conserve the remaining cloud forest.

I spent a week with many of these young women, talking about what they had learned and what they hoped to achieve.  I also saw the end product of their five-week course, where they had developed a proyecto de vida, or life project, a tangible goal that each and every young woman could achieve with dedication and hard work.  In addition, they shared with everyone (about 65 young women were in the session that I observed) what they had learned about conservation and the need to protect the forest, the source of their drinking water, planting vegetables and fruits, nutrition, etc.  Each small group produced a poster and a representative spoke to everyone about it…talk about a way to build self-confidence and self-esteem!

In theory, education through grade 9 is free in Guatemala.  The reality is that the vast majority of the villages (see attached) where these young women live have only a primary school.  In order for them to complete middle and high school, they must leave their villages, sometimes living as boarding students during the week or in special programs that operate on the weekends.  There are costs associated with continuing their education that typically their fathers are unwilling or unable to pay, including transportation, school supplies and tuition.

CCFC offers $150 scholarships for young women who complete 25 days of work at Chiaxha’, an agroecology center that CCFC is developing in Guatemala’s central highlands.  Here girls undertake practical activities, such as planting fruit trees and vegetables, learning about biodiversity conservation and the range of income generating activities from natural resources and acquiring values such as respect for nature and community resources, as well as human rights and the rights of women.

CCFC’s mission is to conserve what remains of the cloud forest in the Alta Verapaz, but they have learned that it is not possible simply to conserve the forest.  Consequently, their approach has, by necessity, become very diversified.  Part of that strategy is to equip young women with the knowledge and skills that they need to help conserve the cloud forest.  It is a very small NGO that is having small but meaningful impacts.  As I became a little discouraged last month, Rob reminded me that I have to focus on the big picture; they are throwing rocks into a fast flowing river in an attempt to find a way across.  Some of the rocks land precisely where they can enable one to walk across; others fall off target.  Nevertheless, many girls are gaining tremendous knowledge that they can take back to their villages and also have the opportunity to continue their education.

As always, my travels to Guatemala involve highs and lows.  It is a beautiful country, with beautiful people, but it is also a country whose people and environment have been ravaged by war, poverty and a population explosion.  What I learned during my most recent trip is that there is hope, even if it seems small.  These girls hold tremendous promise for their families and their communities.  The world is changed most, I believe, not by mega-projects that cost billions of dollars, nor by those which seek to aid hundreds of thousands of people.  Instead, I understand how one person can be transformed and ultimately impact the lives of both current and future generations through her leadership.

– Dawn Bowen, professor of geography

Dawn Bowen

Dawn Bowen, associate professor of geography, had a paper, “Resistance, Acquiescence, and Accommodation: The Establishment of Public Schools in a Conservative Old Colony Community,” published in the Mennonite Quarterly Review in October, as well as two entries published in the Encyclopedia of Geography. In November, at the annual meeting of the Southeastern Division of the Association of American Geographers, she presented a paper, “Experiential Learning in the Field: Short-Term Study Abroad Programs,” and was elected to the organization’s Honors Committee.