No Time Like the Present: Monterey Institute Students Have an Impact While Still in School
People come to the Monterey Institute of International Studies because they want to make a difference. Our students are not bystanders; they are participants. When they see a problem, their first instinct is not to turn away, but to jump in and try to devise a solution.
What never fails to impress those of us who are privileged to interact with Monterey Institute students every day of our working lives is how many of our students don’t wait until they leave the Institute to have an impact. Yes, our graduates head off to destinations near and far to do great things, but many MIIS students manage to accomplish amazing things before they’ve even earned their degrees.
There are hundreds of examples—a list of all the internships and practica our students engage in could fill this page all by itself—but we’re going to highlight just a very small cross-section of accomplishments here that stood out for one reason or another.
This March, Lovely Umayam (MANPTS ’13) was awarded the $5,000 first prize in the Innovation in Arms Control Challenge sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance. The competition invited the public to suggest innovative approaches to using commonly available technologies to support arms control efforts, and drew more than 500 submissions. Lovely developed “Bombshelltoe” (www.bombshelltoe.com), an online education platform that uses social media and popular culture to facilitate better understanding of arms control issues. “In the nonproliferation field I’ve noticed that we take for granted some basic knowledge, like the difference between uranium and plutonium,” said Lovely. “But the public is starting with zero knowledge, and usually they get their knowledge from movies and TV shows and so forth.”
Later in March, students in the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (MATESOL) and Teaching a Foreign Language (MATFL) programs organized the “Celebrating Foreign Language Education” symposium at MIIS, creating a forum to share ideas with local teachers, administrators and other professionals while exploring the real-world practical applications of their classroom learning. This very successful conference offered a particular focus on using technology as a tool to enhance outcomes.
The Institute’s events calendar was full to the brim during Earth Week, and one of the highlights was a public screening of Tierra de Agua (Land of Water), a new documentary film spotlighting the issue of clean water in Nicaragua that was produced by students Manuel Martinez (MPA ’13), Richard Hansen (MPA ’13), and Cristina Lopez (MPA ’13). The film explores the social and economic forces at work in the struggle for access to clean water, and was created by the three students with the support of a volunteer production team from Spain.
Also in April, the TEDxMonterey event (for more on TEDxMonterey click here) offered speaking roles for no less than four Institute students. Qianxi Xiao (MAT ’13) spoke about enjoying every moment of your journey; Shawn Daniel Harris (MPA ’13) exhorted audience members to escape their comfort zone; Charley Ruegger (MBA ’14) explained his invention “The Re-evaporator,” which inexpensively and sustainably improves water infrastructure; and the inimitable Jessy Bradish (MAIEP/MBA ’13) served as conference emcee. Jessy had another moment to shine on May 3 when she won the 2013 Student Innovator Award at the Monterey Bay Regional Business Plan Competition (for full story click here).
Another student collaboration earlier in the semester saw the International Trade Club host the sixth annual student-run MIIS Trade Conference, focusing on “Trade and Conflict.” Club president Sean Manzano (MAIPS ’13) described the theme as encompassing “the dynamics between economic viability and social stability.” The club assembled an impressive lineup of academics and international trade, and opened the conference with a lively student debate on the subject of China’s trade in Africa.
Finally, students from a wide range of degree programs and backgrounds banded together to create a powerful inspirational video supporting International Women’s Day on March 8. The video, which showcases our students’ cultural diversity and the many languages spoken on campus every day, has received more than 1,500 views on the MIIS YouTube channel.
The message here is simple: our amazing Monterey Institute alumni start out as amazing Monterey Institute students, committed to making a difference, whether in a faraway land or right in our own backyard.