Archive for Stories From the Field

Thursday, October 1st, 2015

Immersive Learning in Mindanao

Theiline Cramer in the field in Mindanao. Photographed by Maritza Munzon

Theiline McMahon Cramer in the field in Mindanao (Photographed by Maritza Munzón)

Theiline McMahon Cramer (Talie), duel degree candidate in TESOL and IEM, participated in last January’s Center for Conflict Studies field course entitled, Challenges to Peacebuliding in Mindanao led by Dr. Puspha Iyer.

Talie’s blogs speak to the immersive learning experience at MIIS, “I’m basking in the opportunity to reflect on my own experience as I learn a mile-a-minute.  It’s day one and my mind is full of preconceptions and is ready to be filled and sculpted and filled with the knowledge of the people that live in this very foreign world. ”  Her stories from Mindanao are very introspective and humble, “the longer we are here, the more I learn – and more and more I realize I know nothing at all.”

Tylie’s blog posts also highlight profound learning moments, “Going from meeting to meeting, community to community, I’ve begun to zoom in on the details of an individual’s experience, what the meaning behind a certain man or woman’s answer to a question about their experience with peace education may mean on a broader scale.  This trip is so rich with knowledge and experience that, honestly, I had started to focus in on the details – the details that lead you to the broader picture that these international organizations maintain.”

Read more about Tylie’s and her cohorts experiences in Mindanao on the field course blog Challenges to Peacebuilding in Mindanao>>>.

Thursday, September 24th, 2015

Immersive learning in Japan and China

Merideth Bush touring the Japanese Diet in Tokyo.

The Dean of the Graduate School of International Policy and Management, Dr. Kent Glenzer, describes immersive learning as, “flying in a plane while you build it.”  Merideth Bush, duel degree candidate in IPD and MBA, participated in last Spring Break’s East Asia Practicum course, on foreign policy, trade, and security led by Dr. Tsuneo Akaha and Dr. Wei Liang.  During the seminar, Merideth “flew her plane” with a great deal of openness, awareness, and humor.

Thinking back on her experience, Merideth wrote, “I think of a region where I was impacted by the blend of the ancient with the modern, something that for me, as an American and and therefore a citizen of a very young country, was new and fascinating.  –I remember standing in the middle of Tiananmen square trying to imagine the immense plaza 26 years earlier, packed with passionate university students like myself, many of whom would meet tragic deaths in the very place where I stood.”

She also remembers, “a hilarious tutorial on how to eat noodles with chopsticks and a memorable first-experience with a high tech toilet fully equipped with a heat seat, sound effects, and frankly a rather over zealous bidet.”

Merideth concluded, “the political education I received in Tokyo and Beijing was invaluable, but it is the cultural experiences that will stay with me for years to come.”  Read more about Immersive Learning experiences available this January-term 2016 and Spring Break 2016>>>.

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

IEM Practicum-DPMI Plus fellow collaborates with progressive language school in Mexico

Luz Vasquez

Prior to studying at the Institute, Luz served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in El Salvador in the Community Organization and Economic Development Program.

Luz Vazquez-Ramos, candidate for a dual graduate degree in Public Administration and International Education Management, is currently working as a Special Projects Manager for the CETLALIC Institute in Cuernavaca, Mexico for her IEM Practicum and DPMI Plus fellowship.  CETLALIC, self-described as the most politically and socially progressive Spanish language school in Mexico, was founded in 1987 by Salvadorian and Nicaraguan refugees.  Every language course is taught following Paulo Friere methodology, an approach designed to teach Spanish, Mexican culture, and generate a sense of solidarity with Latin America.  The program also offers students an opportunity to participate in a variety of social justice programs.   In a recent exchange with the GSIPM office, Luz wrote, “As a former student of CETLALIC, I have learned about current and past social justice movements through CETLALIC, however I never understood the intentional and direct connection to El Salvador and to Nicaragua.  I am beyond touched and humbled by the work CETLALIC has done.”  This summer and into the fall semester, Luz will be developing a new study abroad program specifically created for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students.

Through her background and work at CETLALIC, Luz has become inspired to develop greater solidarity among undocumented immigrant youth in the United States and the academic community in Mexico.

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

DPMI alumnus puts training to work in food security efforts in Ethiopia

IMG_1772Sitting down with Care Deputy Chief of Party and January 2015 Monterey DPMI Alumnus, Girma Hailu

During a 3-day trip to Addis Ababa after the DPMI Kenya training, I was able to meet-up with January 2015 DPMI Monterey alumnus, Girma Hailu in his hometown of Addis, Ababa, Ethiopia.

Girma has been serving as Deputy Chief of Party, Food Security for Farmers (FSF) for CARE in Ethiopia since last fall.

The CARE Food Sufficiency for Farmers project (FSFP) is a 5 year project funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and executed by CARE Canada through CARE Ethiopia. The project aims at ensuring sustainable food security of chronically food insecure women, men, girls and boys in selected districts of the Oromiya and Amhara regions. The project works in collaboration and builds on the Ethiopian government National Food Security Programs and targets over 34,000 households; among which 13 percent are female-headed. The project will be implemented through 3 main components: i) improving the enabling environment for food security; ii) diversifying economic activities for food insecure households and iii) improving resilience to climate risks.

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Thursday, June 18th, 2015

MIIS Center for the Blue Economy fellow gets surprise visit from MIIS staff at Nairobi UNEP Headquarters

IMG_1707On the day of my departure from Nairobi, I ventured to the Gigiri neighborhood of Nairobi to visit the 140 acre United Nations Office in Nairobi (UNON). The complex houses over 20 UN offices including the headquarters for the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat). Both UNEP and UN-Habitat headquarters were established in Nairobi in the late 1970s.

After you pass through UNON security you are greeted by a beautiful winding walking path lined with international flags ending at life-size bronze elephants and 10 meter high “KaribuUN” letters. The compound offers the chance of observing local wildlife such as red duikers, squirrels, marsh mongoose, vervet monkeys and olive baboons.

As I toured the conference center, I made my way to the new UNEP offices to visit our unsuspecting Center for the Blue Economy Fellow, Emma Tonge, currently serving as an intern on the Marine Litter Project. Emma follows in the footsteps of 2015 CBE fellow, Kelsey Richardson (IEP ’05) whose summer 2014 UNEP Marine Litter Project research is now being used in two published UNEP reports including: “Valuing Plastics: The Business Case for Measuring, Managing and Disclosing Plastic Use in the Consumer Goods Industry” and a second report on the use of microplastics in personal care and cosmetics products. Kelsey is now serving as a MIIS International Professional Service Semester (IPSS) fellow at the Secretariat of Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) in Apia, Samoa.

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Thursday, June 18th, 2015

MIIS IPSS alumnus tracks illicit weapons trading around the world

Information provides governments and policymakers with arms data previously never available.

It was my first year working at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS) at Monterey when I met MIIS IPS ’06 alumnus Jonah Leff. He was studying the effects of conventional and small arms violence under the tutelage of MIIS professor Edward Laurance, a pioneer in the field of small arms and light weapons trade treaties and research. Jonah was also a fellow serving an internship at the United Nations Office for Disarmament Research (UNODA) through the MIIS International Professional Service Semester (IPSS) program. The IPSS program is designed to help students jump-start their careers through junior-level internships in their field during their final semester of graduate schoo.

Jonah currently serves as Director of Operations at Conflict Armament Research and is based out of Nairobi, Kenya (where we recently met). It’s been wonderful reconnecting with Jonah over the years and to see the MIIS and Middlebury College students he has supported in entering the important field of preventing armed violence.

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Monday, June 8th, 2015

DPMI Kenya Course Focuses on Designing Solution Strategies for Local Systems

IMG_0017 IMG_0004 IMG_0014  IMG_0015

Group includes 13 wonderfully diverse participants from seven countries

Update from Nairobi, Kenya: We are halfway through our 8-day certificate training jointly offered by the Locus Network and the Program on Design, Partnering, Management and Innovation (DPMI) at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS).

Participant Profiles

The group includes 13 participants from seven countries (Kenya, Nigeria, Niger, South Africa, the Philippines, Venezuela, and the United States). Participants include Locus Network members from Pact, MIIS graduate students, and other international development practitioners. One Locus participant commented, “I’ve enjoyed meeting others in the group, and it has been a tremendous opportunity to learn from Dr. Beryl Levinger given her decades of experience in international development and teaching.”

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Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

Directed by MIIS Professor and Alumna, Report on World’s Mothers Makes Headlines

Urban Disadvantage

Headed by Professor Beryl Levinger and MIIS alumna Nikki Gillete, along with Professor Fernando De Paolis and Sophie Dresser, MPA ’16, the 2015 Save the Children State of the World’s Mothers Report was recently released, concentrating on urban poverty and those affected by it in their everyday lives. Some of the statistics found in the research are unnerving. At the same time, the report also provides possible solutions for creating a better future for some of the world’s most impoverished, disadvantaged peoples.


The 2015 Save the Children State of the World’s Mothers Report focuses on the “hidden and often neglected plight of the urban poor.” Its many findings have been featured by media around the world, reminding all of us of the true importance of Mother’s Day.

The report shows progress in reducing child death rates in many countries, but also growing disparities. Topping the list of best countries for mothers are Norway, Finland, Iceland, Denmark, and Sweden, with the United States in 33rd place. The ranking of countries, along with alarming statistics about cities in the United States that have some of the highest urban infant mortality rates among high-income countries, made for numerous media headlines in recent days. Washington D.C has by far the highest infant mortality rate among the 25 capital cities of wealthy OECD countries.

“The report, with its wide international audience, pinpoints where mothers and their children are especially at risk and what can be done to create a better future for the world’s most vulnerable populations,” says Professor Beryl Levinger, chair of the Institute’s Development, Practice and Policy program, who co-directed the research for the Report along with alumna Nikki Gillette BAIS ’06 MPA ’07 MBA ’08.

“I have worked closely with Beryl on the State of the World’s Mothers report for nine years now, first as a research assistant and then as research co-director,” shares Gillette. “I have Beryl to thank for the opportunity to do this good and meaningful work. She is brilliant and I have learned so much from her over the years, both personally and professionally.”

“There is nothing more exciting for me than bridging the worlds of academia, policy research and advocacy,” shares Professor Levinger, adding that for each of the last 15 State of the World’s Mothers reports, MIIS students, alumni, and occasionally faculty have contributed to this research. Working with Gillette and Levinger for the 2015 Report were Professor Fernando De Paolis and student Sophie Dresser MPA ’16.

Dresser says she had a great experience working with Gillette, that she found to be the perfect complement to the immersive learning opportunity she took advantage of with MIIS this January. “During DPMI Rwanda I was able to work with a public health-focused NGO and gain knowledge and insight into maternal child health issues globally, and in Rwanda specifically—skills that I built upon working on the State of the World’s Mothers report.”

Monday, May 4th, 2015

Mark Your Calendars: East Asia Presentations this Thursday!

Presentations at Irvine Auditorium this Thursday, May 7th, 6:30-8:30pm, Reception 8:30-9:30pm!

east asia

The students that went on the first ever two-country program through MIIS Immersive Learning Programs, the East Asia: China and Japan trip, will be presenting this Thursday at Irvine, with a wine and hors d’oeuvres reception to follow. The presentations will be very interesting as this program included a semester long seminar which concluded in robust papers, and the feedback from the journey has been very interesting!

The East Asia Practicum was an investigative tour of Tokyo, Japan and Beijing, China, where participants met with and interviewed policymakers, former politicians, and renowned scholars. With unique research topics looking into the the international relations of the region, students were able to seek first-hand information on the dynamics of the two major players: Japan and China. The rise in status of either nation will set the political and economic tone for the region. By experiencing and researching within each nation, students will be able to provide original ideas on the current state of Sino-Japanese relations and the future of region.

Facebook event:

Monday, April 27th, 2015

Immersive Learners Champion Seven Countries through Nine Programs

I sat down with Maritza Munzón (MPA/IEM ’15), and Rafael Hernandez (MPA ’15) at a local coffee shop last week to interview them about MIIS’s Immersive Learning Programs. Maritza has traveled on five trips to six countries through MIIS (Peru, Cuba, Kenya, Mindanao, and East Asia), and Rafael has gone to four (Peru, Cuba, Rwanda, and East Asia). Both had a lot to say, much more than I can fit into this interview; I can’t encourage you enough to talk with your peers about their experiences abroad.

Q: What made you choose the immersive learning programs you chose?

Maritza: For me it’s always about “why not?” It is always a question of “if I don’t go, will I regret it?” And the answer is almost always “Yes”. So I do everything I can to take advantage of the opportunity to travel. MarRafFurthermore, because I am in the IEM degree program and want to conduct these trips myself one day, the best way to learn how to do this is to go on as many as I can!

Rafael: I was eager to begin traveling right away when I got here. That was the reason I picked this school over many other options – the traveling component. Right off the bat I could go on this Peru trip, that had a practical application of policy analysis, – and so I went.

M: I don’t think many people have traveled the way we travel here at MIIS.

There is only so much reading you can do about culture, practice, and so on, but you need to embed it in your muscle memory to learn and understand.

Q: Have you gone on any trips together?

Both went to Peru (but in different communities), as well as Cuba, and East Asia.

M: Peru started my obsession with these trips; the experience got my feet wet and then I wasn’t scared, anymore, to do the others.

Q: Are there any programs you especially wish you could have gone on?

R: I would have liked to go to the Philippines.

M: I would have done the El Salvador trip if I had the time. But I am always torn between what is familiar and what is less accessible. El Salvador is within my reach because of language, so I decided to take the leap and go on trips that I was less likely to do on my own:  Kenya, East Asia, and the Philippines.

Q: How did the programs and learning styles compare?

Both: Cuba was more like learning tourism, while Peru and East Asia where more research based: we did academic research in Asia, and field research in Peru.

M: I was a guinea pig for many of the trips – for example:  Kenya, Peru, and East Asia. Cuba was established. Being on a program in its first incarnation is a valuable experience for someone learning about how these programs are conducted.

R: I learned a lot about different types of intelligence and understanding. You know there is the computer competency type, where you either know it or you don’t. And if you don’t, you can ask help from someone who does – and there are no ego problems associated with that. Cultural competency, on the other hand, and especially at this school, is more complicated in that way. Then there is emotional intelligence (EQ) versus the IQ. When you go to speak to someone in a village, everyone on these trips is so concerned about being politically correct, which makes them all self-conscious. I found that the best way to take to people is honestly and openly.

Q: Since you have gone on so many of these programs, do you have any constructive feedback?

R: Like I said, these trips are one of the reasons why I chose this school. And we are so grateful for these experiences.

M: Growing up the way I did, I would have never been able to do this on my own. And I am grateful, and the best way I can give back is by applying my IEM knowledge and skills and giving constructive feedback. I was able to design a pre-departure training for the Peru trip, which was very well received, but not yet implemented. Based on our experience in Peru, Cortney Copeland and I designed a pre-departure workshop and assessment for that trip through our IEM Design and Assessment Class. In the workshop we wanted students to bond with the people in their groups, learn each other’s working styles and strength, while also getting to practice giving the surveys and entering the data. There are always hiccups with international travel and our goal was to develop cohesive groups before departure to help student better work through some of those unpredictable moments. The assessment consisted of a simple survey that students took before and after the trip to better inform staff and faculty of what is working and what needs improvement.

One of my frustrations with the organization of these trips is that the system that puts these trips together does not value the experience that the students going already have. Because the information isn’t coming from a respected magazine or periodical, but from the mouth of a student, who has had the personal experience or cultural experience growing up – but they didn’t write a paper on it, so…. We don’t get a diploma for growing up bilingual or for living similar lives to that of the people we are studying.

R: So if professors and institutions have a way, for better or worse, of validating those experiences, for example, “here is Maritza, she grew up in a culture that…..” and by doing that, it validates the person, and symbolically validates the peers that have experienced this. People come back like “I was shocked to see this and that”, and that is the only thing that gets the spotlight. But there are people who have lived this their whole lives.

M: Out of the bad comes the good. MIIS is proud of its international diversity on campus, but now there are also conversation on national diversity and socioeconomic diversity as well, which is something that came out of a critique on one of these trips. We go on these trips, and learn, and some things are difficult, but the important thing is to take the bad with the good and make something out of it. For some of us, that meant creating the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, which highlights domestic diversity on campus and is working on assessing the needs of all students, whether international students, first generation college students, student of color, LGBTQ, or second career seekers. We not only wanted to address diversity by identifying the needs of all students on campus but to make sure it is something that continues to be addressed in the institution after we are gone.

Professors should also make a point to make focus groups mandatory. A format of how to measure the trips as a whole, but also each trip individually, so it can be improved upon, but that responsibility also shouldn’t sit solely on the professor’s shoulders.

Q: Any advice for students who will travel on these programs in the future?

M: Some things you can’t prepare for. Keep an open mind, don’t sweat the small stuff. Like dirt, bugs-

R: – and cold showers –

M: – and so on because it distracts from the experience. Don’t fight the discomfort.

R: You don’t need language to communicate with people. You shouldn’t necessarily know a language perfectly – keep the willingness to go at the forefront. Don’t be catered to: we chose to go, to help. Be the one helping, not the helped. Own your decision to go.

Language should not be a barrier to communicating with people. In fact, I learned from my inability to speak the local language, which became a resource of information, connection, and interaction. When I ask you, “how do you say this?”, I become your student and switch the power dynamic. People love to teach you, to speak from authority. There is laughter, and it breaks the ice and opens new things. They think, “Here is a person who wants to know my language.” It helps equalizing the playing field.

Q: Is there something you never travel without?

M: I carry medicine for altitude sickness, headache, nausea, diarrhea, congestion, and allergies; but I also carry hydration salts and EmergenC to try and prevent getting sick as well. You never know how sick you are going to get and might not be able to get to a pharmacy right away or be able to communicate what you need so its good to carry some meds you trust. Oh! and Baby wipes.

R: Baby wipes! Pen and notepad.

*shows us his pen and notepad, which, sure enough, are in his back pocket*

M: That’s what I picked up, now I’ll do that.

R: I like to record sounds from the trips, it brings you back. *plays recording*

M: Learn how to say a greeting, and please and thank you in the local language.

R: So important!


smaller headshotKatya Gamolsky (joint BA/MA ‘17) is a first year student who works for the Immersive Learning Programs Office. She recently went on the Los Angeles trip that focused on Homelessness, with Dr Iyer, and will be attending DPMI DC this summer. If you have any questions, comments, or would like to know more about our Immersive Learning Programs, please email her at

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

Team El Salvador 9 Presentation

Team El Salvador

Please join the members of Team El Salvador 9

in a presentation of their project work during J-Term 2015 in El Salvador

Thursday, April 16, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

Digital Learning Commons (DLC), MIIS

420 Calle Principal, Monterey

Come hear about innovative collaborations in coastal resource management, sustainable fishing, public space design for community empowerment… and plans for future initiatives!

~Light refreshments will be served~

To RSVP and for more information, please contact:


Friday, April 3rd, 2015

News about the East Asia Spring Break Journey!



News from the participants and professors was posted on the front page.east asia

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

IPSS Fellow Blog Featured on LinkedIn

Aileen Yang

Check out current IPSS fellow and International Policy Studies student at MIIS, Aileen Yang’s blog article featured on LinkedIn.  Aileen is spending her last semester at MIIS as an intern at the World Trade Organization (WTO) as a distinguished IPSS fellow.  She is blogging about her experience in Geneva, relevance of MIIS classroom simulations, and life at the WTO.

You can check out the story here,

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

Follow a Current IPSS Fellow’s Blog



Tom Gray, is in the Nonproliferation & Terrorism Studies (NPTS) graduate program here at MIIS.  His final semester at MIIS he is working at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, Austria as an IPSS fellow.  Follow his journey through his blog, Every Wich Way.

Tom’s Blog offers an insightful perspective of what it is like working for a large international organization in the nonproliferation domain.

Enjoy the Blog!


Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

Lets get Sprintensive.



IPS and MPA students

Join us tomorrow evening to learn more about the upcoming change to DPP and the alternative learning semester, Sprintensive!

Wine and Pizza reception will follow! 


Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

USTR Representative to Speak at MIIS



Trade club brings MIIS Alum and Director of Europe and Middle East Affairs of the United States Trade Representative to campus.

Trade club blog

Monday, September 29th, 2014

Trade Club hosts special guest Bryan O’Bryne

Bryan Flyer Final copy (1)

Monday, September 29th, 2014

Apple Pie and Pineapple Sorbet: U.S. and Cuban Nationalism

Why is Cuba such a contradiction? Because Cuba is characterized by everything I was told the world should not be!  Socialist not democratic, communist not capitalist, systemic human rights violations, a dictatorship, inefficient, unproductive; should I continue?  I was able to get a sense of this notorious island during a seven day immersive learning excursion with twenty-seven other MIIS students and the renowned Professor Jan Black.

There was a time when I imagined Cuba as a socialist utopia. I had thought Cuba was going to be the national anthropomorphization of Eugene V. Debs famous quote that is “opposing a social order where it is possible for one man who does absolutely nothing that is useful to amass a fortune of hundreds of millions of dollars, while millions of men and women who work all the days of their lives to secure barely enough for a wretched existence.  But, there is no substitute for actually visiting the country – after seven days in Cuba, I’ve realized that the little island nation, and the United States, are a lot more complex than I was led to believe in the comfort of my Midwest upbringing.

As an American, I grew up on the smell of apple pie; lightly toasted crust, crisscrossed across the top, somehow evoking feelings of liberty, justice…righteous stuff. You see, Cuba, at least for United States citizens, is one gigantic contradiction and trying to digest and make sense of the country through the nationalistic viewpoint from which my mind has been programmed to think, whether I like it or not, is no easy task. Close your eyes and think about apple pie. Now, envision biting into pineapple sorbet.  So, I apologize now if, and that is a big if, you get to the end of this blog and you walk away more confused than you started. That’s fine though. Cuba could be the poster child for the phrase; the more you know the less you think you know.

Our professor and guide Dr. Jan Black told us to experience Cuba using our five senses. I would like to take the liberty of taking you, my reader, along for the ride with the idea of trying to engage your five senses. Unfortunately, I am less likely to engage your sense of smell.  But, here we go:

We met with all different types of people, from Cuban foreign ministers to a diplomat from the U.S. Interest Section. We also met with individual Cubans, both pro-government and oppositionist. We met with U.S. expats working with the Cuban health system and Cuban students studying international relations. What was so trying after listening to all of them was that you could easily pick each one up and place them into two buckets, Cuban Nationals (CN) or U.S. Nationals (USN). Whether we were speaking to Cuban oppositionists or expat sympathizers of the Cuban government their rhetoric fit, nicely, within these two buckets. Their world-views and indeed those of us students had been systematically crafted by the nations from which they grew up and regardless of their support for either side or not they continued to use rhetoric that perpetuated the conflict between the United States and Cuba. What was most contradictory of all was that these two worldviews of the same conflict were like hearing two completely different stories for two completely different historical events told perpetually for generations upon generations without change.

How are these national worldviews constructed within a citizenry? It is often much more subtle than one would assume.  Irrespective of whether we understand nationalism as a positive or negative force, it is generally acknowledged that nationalism places the nation on the highest pedestal and viewed as the supreme agency of meaning, collective identity, and moral justification.  Critically noting that one of the powerful ways in which nationalism becomes historically instated is through its presumption that the nation is sacred, likening it to be equivalent to the church.  Interestingly, if nationalism is being valued as sacred within the population we can see its physical manifestation in the ritualized images of national leaders and national public ceremonies that are underscored by the nations presumed history of greatness. Harry Anastasiou, a professor of Conflict Resolution at Portland State University and world-renowned leader in the settlement process in Cyprus, goes as far to claim nationalism can be a justification for divine election.


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Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

MIIS students meet President Obama’s paternal grandmother in Kenya!

Over the summer, students participating in DPMI Kenya had the opportunity to visit President Barack Obama’s paternal grandmother! She lives in the province of Nyanza, on the eastern edge of Lake Victoria. Nyanza is a Bantu word which means “a large mass of water.” The provincial capital is Kisumu, where the DPMI training is centered in partnership with the Omega Foundation.

Said DPMI Kenya participant Maritza Munzon: “There is lots of natural beauty near town and I feel fortunate to have taken a walk through Kakamega Forest, taken a boat ride on the biggest lake in the world (Lake Victoria) and visited President Obama’s paternal grandmother! I never thought I’d get to do any of it, let alone the last part!”

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Friday, September 12th, 2014

What if your DPMI Plus Assignment was the PEACE CORPS?

michelle in nica


Michelle Zaragoza, IEP, left the United States to begin her Peace Corps service as an Environmental Education Promoter in Nicaragua last month. What follows is an excerpt from her blog: “My Journey as a Peace Corps Master’s International Volunteer”

How it all began (152 days til departure):


March 5th: Just another regular Wednesday morning. I was pacing my living room anxious about the phone call I was about to make to my Peace Corps recruiter. Not having heard from them in more than two months I was more worried than excited.

First try went to voice mail and I thought I would just try tomorrow…I called again and she picked up on the first ring. She started some small talk, and asked what I was up to in my life. The whole time I was hoping she would just get to the point and tell me what ever bad news she had. She asked about the research I was doing in school and I gave her a 30 second description of my Fulbright proposal for an environmental education study in Nicaragua. She laughed…why was she laughing!? After what seemed like for ever she says, “Well we have a slight problem”…here it was! 

She says, “I know we had originally told you you’d leave in September but that has changed. Could you leave earlier?”

Confused I said yes, although a little worried about how much earlier that meant. And she says, “We think you would be perfect for our Environmental Science Education program in Nicaragua that leaves in Aug…” YES!!!! YES and YES. I may have yelled yes about five times into her poor ear! After waiting ten months since I first sent in my application I was being extended an invitation to my top choice! 

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