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2012 Scholarship Challenge

Our experience at MIIS has been a unique one! We have polished our aptitude for cultivating change in the world, and developed friendships that will last a lifetime. Now we are lucky to have the chance to help future students experience this as well through the 2012 Scholarship Challenge.

The Challenge was set forth by Alumnus and Board Member, Andrea Gabrielle (MBA ’88). For every $20 gifted by a student, Gabrielle will match it with $100, up to $5,000! Special thanks to Bowen Teuscher (NPTS ’12), who was the first of this graduating class to give.

To learn more, you can visit the class challenge table on December 6, between 12-1:30pm in front of Samson Center. There is $1,520 left on the thermometer. Join me and fellow classmates to complete the challenge before the end of this year by making a gift online at 

Best of luck with the end of the semester and congratulations on your accomplishment!

Reply required from all grads for Graduation Ceremony


Check your email for the Reply required for Graduation Ceremony email, which was sent with HIGH IMPORTANCE on November 2nd. 

TO HAVE A DIPLOMA and/or CERTIFICATE PRINTED YOU MUST REPLY TO THIS EMAIL. Deadline for your reply is Friday, November 16, 2012.

If you did not receive an email please write to immediately.

Thank you ,

Pamela Ventura

Assistant Registrar

Monterey Institute of International Studies

A Graduate School of Middlebury College

460 Pierce St, Monterey, CA 93940 USA

Tel:  831.647.4121 or 831.647.4682

Fax:  831.647.3532

Announcements available on Monday (11/5)

Paper commencement announcements will be available for pick up at Student Services beginning on Monday, November 5th. Each grad will receive 7 announcements. Please be sure to get yours on Monday! All announcements must be picked up by November 16th. After that date, your announcements will be released to other graduates, so if you need additional announcements, you may pick them up beginning November 19th.

Video of Graduating Student Information Meeting held on 10/18

For those of you who missed the Graduating Student Information Meeting held on 10/18, please view the video below to learn about everything you need to do before commencement:

Sorry this took a while to post. Please contact me directly with any questions.


Linae Ishii-Devine, CMP


Jessica Bufford – Bio/Speech

Jessica Bufford is a MANPTS student also pursuing a certificate in conflict resolution.  While at MIIS she has been a member of Student Council, the Outdoor Recreational Club, and the local student chapter of the Institute of Nuclear Material Management.  Outside of class she relaxes by biking, hanging out at the beach and spending time with friends.  After graduation she hopes to work for the U.S. government on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament issues.


President Ramaswamy, professors, parents, family, friends, guests and fellow graduates- we made it!

Two years ago when we started, I remember thinking “Two years is a long time”.  But the time has flown by, and it seems like each semester has gone faster.  It was just yesterday that we were sitting through orientation, and now today we are sitting at graduation, ready to transition to the next adventure.

As we look forward to the next stage of our lives, I want to take a moment and remember our time here in Monterey. Of course, there have been ups and downs.  Moving to Monterey I was struck by its beauty and was thrilled to think I could go for a walk on the beach every day if I wanted to.  In a few days I was also struck by the cold, and went out and bought some more sweaters! I think about the good memories we made here- bonfires on the beach, watching otters out by the pier, and having dinner with friends. I also think of waking up to the racket of sea lions at 1am, wishing for a better place to go for dancing than the Mucky Duck, and realizing that past 10pm there really isn’t much open here in Monterey.

Now parents, professors, before you get too worried- we did work, I promise.  I remember the long hours in the library, staying until it closed at 11pm. I remember working late in Samson on a group project for policy analysis surrounded by T&I students practicing their different languages, as well as sitting in Lumiere downing cups of coffee and chomping popcorn trying to finish a seminar paper.

But most of all, I remember the friendships we formed here, banding together to survive classes, blow off steam, and just laugh. The people have been the greatest part of being here at MIIS, and those memories will last long after we leave this room today.

Whatever may come next, the future is exciting, even if we don’t exactly have a job lined up yet.  Think about it: never again will we do group projects, problem trees, or spend long hours in the booth straining to hear mumbling speakers for a grade.  No, we’1l do these things for a job. At least this time we’ll get paid…we hope.

Yet I believe that what we carry with us today runs deeper than just how to do well in the office.  Our professors and our friends have taught us valuable lessons that go beyond the classroom and into our daily lives.  All of us have learned different lessons; I want to share a few of mine.

It’s not what you know but who you know.  Usually we say this about finding a job, but I have learned here that it’s relevant to all of life.  MIIS draws an extraordinary diversity of students from all over the world, as you saw during the flag parade at the beginning of the ceremony.  Yet more importantly, we have a great diversity in thinking and perspectives.  In many of the groups on campus, you can find MPA, IEP, IPS, MBA and NPTS students all tackling policy problems together, while the TI students make sure it can be understood in any language.  These different perspectives help us see life from all angles, which is incredibly enriching.  Thanks to my classmates and friends my understanding of the world has grown in scope and in depth, and I am grateful for what I have learned from the people here, so thank you.

Another lesson is that you can’t do it on your own.  The motto of MIIS is “Be the Solution.” Through all of the group meetings and projects, I realized that my ideas were not as good as I thought they were. Ideas become much better when they are ripped apart, studied, and reassembled with other ideas to create a more developed, refined solution.  If we really want to “be the solution”, we have to draw others in and make them part of it, too.

I’m excited to look around at this class and know that this isn’t the last time we’ll see each other.  We are going to different jobs and cities, but as MIIS alumns we’ll see each other at conferences, meetings, and maybe even in the office someday.  We are now members of the MIIS mafia, and once a member, always a member.

So, class of 2012, have courage, share what you have, clean up your own messes, hold on tight to all that is good, honor all people, and be the change that you want to see in the world.  Rather than say goodbye, I’d like to say good luck until next time.

Thank you.



Sasha Sleiman – Bio/Speech


Sasha Sleiman is pursuing her Master’s Degree in International Policy Studies with a concentration in Conflict Resolution.  Her specific interests lie in a variety of issues related to gender and conflict including women’s role in conflict, conflict resolution, post-war reconstruction and peacebuilding; and the role of the United Nations in conflict resolution and peacebuilding.  She graduated from Western Washington University in 2009 with a B.A. in Comparative Politics.


When was the last time you asked yourself: ‘why am I here?’ ‘What brought me to MIIS?’  “What truly motivates me?” These are questions that I’ve asked myself over and over again since stepping foot into Monterey and especially over the last semester. We must have a clear understanding of these things at this point…right? Or maybe not? These are huge life questions that don’t have to be answered today but are good to explore constantly throughout different stages in our lives. When it comes down to it, I think really the question that needs to be answered first among this slew of very important life changing questions is ‘what makes us different’? Regardless of the degree you are about to receive from TESOL to MBA to Human Security and Development, I feel like this question will impact how you do your future work and how you see yourself in the context of the greater world around you.  For me two themes arise from this question; optimism and the ideal that we are not alone.

When I ask myself what makes me different from someone else optimism first thing I think of.  Not because I am so vain to think that no one else around me is an optimist, but rather because this is my default setting and I try to look at everything with an optimistic lens. You may roll your eyes at this or think I am naïve. It is fine. A lot of people do.  But let me make this argument, I think we as a generation, as a graduating class, as the newest additions to the MIIS Mafia, need to be optimistic. The global economy continues to be in a downward spiral, people in the workforce we are about to enter are jaded and tired, the world is ridden with conflict and despair.  As we face these increasingly insurmountable challenges in our work and personal decisions, it is optimism that will keep us moving forward and fighting for the cause that most motivates.

To give you an idea of where this stems from as my innate, go to perspective, I want to share a little bit about my father as an immigrant from Lebanon.  He left the country after fighting in the Lebanese Civil War in the late 70s.  After fleeing the civil war to try to make something of himself he moved to the Gulf to work and make a living to help his family back home and met my mom. Since his arrival to the US shortly before I was born, he has done nothing but work hard to make it in this ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ America.  Typically, I come up with 101 arguments why this doesn’t work and why this mentality is painful for America-but lets not get political here- but really my dad is that American Dream.  This is what inspires me everyday.  When my day gets down and I get upset and stressed, this is what provides me with a light at the end of the tunnel, that “I can make it here” attitude my dad brought when he left his homeland.  From a young child he always told me, “we made sure you were born here so you can be the President of the United States.” That hope and optimism he had for my future was instilled in me as a child and gives me great pride to this day.

We have so many opportunities in front of us.  All of us do. This makes any choice we make extremely difficult, as I am sure all of us in this room looking for jobs, internships, fellowships, what have you, know this better than anyone.  These choices and opportunities must be attributed to those who came before us.  To our parents, grand parents, great grand parents…well you get it.  Our current circumstance is about a world much larger than ourselves.  I think when we make our next huge life choice we need to consider how we can be apart of a larger solution and make a positive impact in the world, but maybe not expect to be the only or complete solution.  As we take the next steps in our lives and begin our careers in our respective fields I think we can contribute most to the world by working together and utilizing the skills and resources we have earned here at MIIS.  This won’t be an easy feat by any means, the complex and changing nature of this world and the abundant choices that lie in front of us makes our coming choices very complex indeed.

What is beautiful about this, see that is the optimist in me coming out, is that we have our very own mafia!  We have a family here in this room.  Each of our respective fields has shortages and needs, which I believe our working together can bridge, even after we leave this campus.

Giovanna Kha Marino – Bio/Speech

Giovanna was born in Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu, Vietnam. She is Vietnamese Chinese American. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Washington. She will complete her International M.B.A with a specialization in International Finance and Economics. She is fluent in Vietnamese and proficient in Spanish. Giovanna is a military spouse and her husband’s Navy career will allow her to embark on a new journey in Yokosuka, Japan following graduation. She hopes to work as a business development analyst. Her professional background includes work experience at an intellectual property law firm, Bank of America, and the Naval Postgraduate School Foundation. She has been fortunate to participate in 2011 Student Council and MIIS Food Drive. She enjoys running marathons, road cycling, hiking, cooking, travelling, spending time with family and friends, and volunteering.


Congratulations Class of 2012 and Class of 2013.

Look around today, certainly there are many benchmarks you have achieved as a MIIS graduate, but one of the greatest achievements is how many of us will be friends in 10 years or even 30 years. I am certain that each of us and collectively (since we can all recall the numerous MIIS group work), we have learned a great deal about how to approach critical issues affecting our precious environment and natural resources, business, domestic and international policy, and conflict resolution. But I am sure you have also learned of how little you know. To borrow Dr. Seuss’ wise words, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”

My friends,

Think not in terms of maximizing value for the firm or organization you will work for, but maximize your potential and don’t waste. As MIIS graduates, we understand that we should use our scarce and limited resources wisely. By don’t waste, I mean don’t waste the love, time, energy, inspiration, hope, health, friendship, support, and success you have surrounded yourself with. Use it, every ounce of it to fuel your passions to make a difference in the world. And always remember that you are more than just a title, more than just a bank routing number. Don’t sit around daydreaming or watch YouTube all morning thinking that Passion will come knocking at your door at 1130 for a walk to Ambrosia for a scrumptious, lunch buffet date. You have to get up, get out there to grab Life and your reusable water bottle to hit the ground running at full speed, get out there and explore your world. And please, don’t chase your dreams, but live them as solutions to the problems you want to fix.

I’m not here to tell you typical over-optimistic words of commencement speeches. Dr. Seuss also said, “I’m sorry to say so But, sadly, it’s true That Bang-ups And Hang-ups Can happen to you.”  In hindsight, when I graduated from the University of Washington, I wished someone told me that some of the worse days lie ahead. I married my best friend…Uh oh, you’re thinking what happened to your marriage, Gi? No, it’s not like that, my marriage to Dave is one of the most rewarding friendships I could have ever asked for in multiple lifetimes. But last November, Dave broke his neck. The amazing support network from my Student Council colleagues was tremendous. The love, support and prayers from the MIIS community helped me through my darkest hours. Thank you. Today is only the beginning of the next chapter for you, and I’m here to remind you again, that when the going gets tough, you must believe in yourself, persevere, and know that there are angels amongst us, our friends, family, and yes, even strangers will help guide us to better times.

Everyday I look forward to getting up and living my life fueled with hunger to make a difference in the world because I want my nieces nephews, our future kids, grandkids, and great grandkids to live, play, and work in a more sustainable, more peaceful world. As a military spouse, I endure the numerous relocations to support my husband, our country, and we both give 110% to find ways to create a better world. In your personal journeys to develop and be the solutions to environmental issues, better management practices, and promote sustainable development, just don’t make the world worse. The skills and assets you have obtained will allow you to do great things, but don’t use it to your advantage to take short cuts or not follow GAAP regulations and end up in the headlines. Just don’t make the world worse. I’m not asking you to find a cure for the common cold or AIDS, just don’t spread it.

So, MIIS graduates, don’t waste, find your inner fuel, be passionate, have grit and persevere, and just have at it to Be the Solution.

Again, Dr. Seuss said, “YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS! So. . . You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So. . .get on your way!”

Again, congratulations to my friends and graduating Class of 2012 and Class of 2013.


Maria Luisa Olavarria – Bio and Speech

Maria Luisa Olavarria was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela. She arrived at the Monterey Institute of International Studies for the BA/MA program having began her bachelors degree at the Universidad Metropolitana in her hometown, having played a leading role in driving political discussions in Caracas. Maria Luisa received her Bachelor of Arts in International Relations in May, and is graduating with a Master of Arts in International Policy Studies in December, with a concentration in Human Security and Development. She has dedicated her studies in understanding armed violence, peacebuilding initiatives, and disarmament and nonproliferation issues. Throughout her time at MIIS, she has been President for the Conflict Resolution Association, attended a J-Term Peacebuilding Course in Nepal, and has successfully completed two internships at the United Nations in New York, including being involved in negotiations of UN disarmament meetings as a political advisor in the Venezuelan Delegation.



I was born in Caracas, Venezuela. Now, Venezuela is a beautiful country in South America with the potential to thrive. In Caracas I lived an amazing life, and I have to thank my family for that. I was protected and loved, and taken care of. My father was a politician, and his involvement in this arena was an intense one to say the least. When I was about 8 or 9 years old, we had to come to the United States as political refugees, because my fathers life and our safety was in danger. We spent two wonderful years in Hanover, NH – and I even at the young aged I realized that what many children had here, I didn’t have back home. The luxury of walking or biking to school was unknown to me.

Two years passed and the day the government changed, we packed our bags and returned to our beloved home. What a shock. Things had gotten worse, but that didn’t mean my father would step back. He continued with his political career with the same energy and passion as ever, until the end of his days. Before my father passed away, he managed to convince me that I was blessed with inspiration, that I was bound for a better future.

The day came when my political rights and freedoms were in danger. I was in college at that point, starting my bachelor in Universidad Metropolitana in Caracas.  I started to become involved in what is called the Venezuelan Student Movement; an effort made by students who wanted to express their feelings and opinions against the actions of an oppressive government. We educated, marched and protested; we breathed in tear gas, got beat up by the police – but we had managed to open a space to be heard. People were listening to us express our anger, but also express our hopes for the future.

After three years of involvement I must acknowledge, I got tired. I felt I had the drive in me… but the hundreds of thousands of deaths created by the armed violence in Caracas was daunting. Violence became an element of the economy in my country, an element of power. I wanted to continue my fight, but I was afraid I would become just one more number in the death toll, one more case that would go unsolved. Packing my bags and leaving my country was one of the hardest things I’ve done. Seeing my mom and friends wave goodbye in the airport made me feel as if though I was the one giving up; I was the one abandoning. Now I look back and realize that I not only lived Caracas – I survived it.

That – is why I came to MIIS. Yes, I came because I was afraid, but I saw a better future here. Simon Bolivar once said: “We must innovate or fail”. This means that we need to develop solutions that meet new needs, sometimes inarticulate needs or silenced needs. In my country those needs are silenced with bullets.

What I found in MIIS was so much more than I expected. First and foremost: DIVERSITY! What a pleasure to share a classroom with people from around the world, with different experiences. Surrounding yourself with people that think differently makes you respect differences, and embrace them… And the last two years have taught me not merely the importance of appreciating other cultures, but also the need to realize the inevitable reality of unequal living standards amongst different countries. I quickly saw that what had been obvious in my life in Caracas was far from the realities in Kathmandu or Bujumbura. Makes you put yourself in their shoes and look at things from a different perspective.


Enough about me now; because you know that diversity I was talking about that I found? Well some of the best individuals I met are sitting right in front of me, and they deserve the spotlight too.

Amongst you is a survivor of the Croatian war. She witnessed atrocities and evils most of us only see on movie screens. Having survived, she was aware of what she had experienced yet never understood how people can be driven to perpetrate such horrible things. She came to MIIS to understand the roots of her past; to better understand conflict and the dynamics of war. At MIIS, not only was she able to answer these pressing questions, but also found what she calls, a ‘Plan B’: the option of working for the United States government as a Foreign Service Officer. How marvelous it is to know that somebody who has given up so much now finds absolute pleasure in serving others.

Another graduate sitting amongst you decided to join the Peace Corps after college. He was motivated by a desire to be a part of something bigger than himself. He was assigned a rural health assignment in a village of just 300 in the mountains of El Salvador, at a time when the country’s murder rate had reached the highest it’s ever been since their civil war of the 80’s. During those two years he saw how poverty and violence sequestered an entire country in fear and uncertainty. He met teenage boys killed by gang violence, young girls who were kept from earning and education; Knowing that he would leave it all behind at the end of his service bothered him, and became overwhelmed with the moral obligation to make his life’s work about others. That obligation brought him to MIIS.

 It makes you think… if these minds were able to achieve so much on their own, imagine what we could achieve collectively.

 We’ll be graduating in December and each of us will take our own path. What I can tell you now, is that these past five semesters at MIIS have been a true honor. It has been an honor to share a classroom or a coffee with you, it has been an honor to see you achieve your goals and dreams. Most importantly, it will be an honor when I open the newspaper fifteen years from now and see your ideas, your innovations, change the world.

Thank you.



Sky Lantz-Wagner – Bio and Speech


Sky is a TESOL Peace Corps Master’s International (PCMI) candidate who has recently returned from his Peace Corps service in China where he worked at Tongren Univeristy in the Guizhou Province. Before leaving for China, Sky was actively involved at MIIS participating in student council, adopting a bed in Our Green Thumb community garden, and starting B.U.I.L.D., a language learning and teaching club. During his two years in China he taught a variety of English courses including business English, speaking, listening, and writing, started an English language newspaper on campus, and volunteered at a local orphanage. Upon graduation he hopes to pursue a career in language education in the United States.


Dear classmates, friends, and colleagues. It is my honor to stand here, together with you, as we graduate from one of the finest, most forward-thinking graduate schools in the country. We have come a long way since we started. Give yourselves an applause! I would like to thank all the family members, friends, and loved ones who have traveled or made sacrifices to be here to share this celebration. Your presence is the best graduation gift any of us could ask for.

I remember my first trip to Monterey in the spring of 2009. Dr. Kathi Bailey, the advisor to the TESOL peace corps master’s international program that I was applying for let me borrow her aquarium passes with one simple set of instructions: Don’t lose these. Well, guess what … I lost them. I have no idea what happened only that when I left the aquarium they weren’t in my pocket. The first thought that crossed my mind was “It is a lovely town, too bad I’m an idiot.” Before leaving the aquarium I went to the help desk and had them reissue Dr. Bailey’s cards and send them to her house. I came back to school, apologized for losing the passes and tried my best to enjoy what I was sure would be my last trip to Monterey for a long time. Fortunately, I was accepted to MIIS. Not only that, after I started classes, Dr. Bailey offered me a job as her graduate assistant. I took it as a sign she had forgiven me. After we had worked together for some time, Dr. Bailey confessed that she hired me because she valued the ability to creatively solve problems, which my small mistake with the aquarium tickets allowed me to show I could do.

It didn’t take long before I realized that everyone at MIIS is dedicated to solving problems, not only at our school, but in the real world. Our slogan to “Be the Solution” reflects this dedication. However, being the solution is not always as easy as it sounds. The problems that face our generation are serious: water security, global warming, human trafficking, nuclear proliferation, discrimination and marginalization are a few among many. Dealing with these issues is daunting and sometimes even depressing. It takes a special kind of person, a special kind of school to tackle these problems head on. Our students are those people. MIIS is that school.

That we believe we can be the solution is evident in every program: TESOL/TFL, MBA, IEP, IPS, TNI, TLM, make it easy for students to travel around world to gain degree-relevant experience and bring invaluable insights back to their classrooms. Many of the programs are connected to the Peace Corps, whose goals are closely aligned with that of the Institute. There are also new, cutting-edge degree programs such as IEM, NTS that address the ever-changing needs of a globalized society. There are also joint degrees that allow students to study mutually supportive fields as environmental policy and business administration or public administration and international education.

Thinking about being the solution reminds me of a quote by Minor Myers, Jr., the former president of Illinois Wesleyan University who willed the graduates from that school to, “Go out into the world and do well, but more importantly go out into the world and do good.” We are all here because we share a common desire to “do good.” Doing good means motivating, inspiring, empowering, and changing. Doing good is not always easy, but it means that our children and future generations can inherit a world that is free from hate and harm and where people are free to think, feel, and believe as the please.