Several Oglethorpe alumni have put their passion into action in an effort to positively influence the lives of middle and high school youth in metro Atlanta.
ChopArt, a nonprofit organization founded by Malika Whitley ’11, provides homeless youth with a means of expression via art exploration. The organization strives to encourage positive values and enhance participants’ abilities by discovering therapy and release in poetry, photography and painting.
Five other Oglethorpe alumni also support ChopArt. Serving on the Board of Directors are Jewel Thompson ’10 (Chair), Kyle Parker ’09 (Secretary), Christopher Harvin ’08 (Treasurer) and Ashlee Brown ’10. Many of these alumni were actively involved in campus service projects, including alternative breaks planned by the Center for Civic Engagement.
Malika believes that “Oglethorpe breeds a certain type of person” and finding other students that share a passion for service are not hard to find on campus. Her Oglethorpe experience, she says, provided her with the tools and opportunities to absorb other cultures and learn from those interactions.
Malika’s passion for art and helping others was evident while she was attending OU. She interned with the National Black Arts Festival during her senior year summer and traveled to Cape Town, South Africa where she completed an internship with the city’s Special Events Department. While in Cape Town, Malika observed the theory and practice of art exploration—and the impact it was having on the children in South Africa.
After realizing its effectiveness, she used this technique in India where she served as an IDEX Fellow for Social Enterprise ’11-’12. There, Malika introduced art as a confidant for children who were afraid to speak about their daily struggles, providing them with coping and life skills for better handling those struggles. She encountered young girls who were taught to be afraid to speak out, and empathizing with their insecurity, provided them a voice through art.
Malika learned something else on that trip—she wanted to dedicate her life to serving others. “I cannot do anything else with my life but serve other people, because otherwise, I would be doing a disservice to my parents and to the people who believe in me.” said Malika. As a result, the idea for ChopArt was born, and then became reality in 2012.
Current students and alumni are encouraged to volunteer with ChopArt! Opportunities include mentoring and helping to prepare students for an upcoming “professional” art show, “Dual Concepts,” on August 1, 2013. Even if you lack those creative juices, your time and support would be appreciated. For more information about ChopArt and ways to get involved, visit the ChopArt website.
If you looked at the list of colleges I considered going to, Oglethorpe was number eight…out of a list of eight that included St. John’s University, Gonzaga University, Wabash College, Guilford College and Earlham College. I chose to come to Oglethorpe because of its proximity to Atlanta and its small classes. And, living up to its motto, Oglethorpe has helped me figure out how to make a life, make a living, and make a difference in society.
When I came to Oglethorpe my freshman year, all I wanted to do was “fast-forward” through the next four years. I wasn’t expecting to begin the process of starting a nonprofit called Oglethorpe’s Tiny Homes, and to work at Pegasus Creative, an on-campus student communications agency.
Two friends and I were sitting around a table during lunch, and after telling them that I wanted to build prototype tiny house that was sustainable, their response shocked me: “Yeah,” they said, “Let’s do it. We can help!” We went to the university administration about our idea and they asked us how they could help us. Oglethorpe shocked me with its spirit of encouragement.
Although I knew that I wanted to build a house, and had an idea of how it would look, I was lost on what purpose the house would serve. Some of my classes in my major (politics) and minor (nonprofit management) actually helped me realize the purpose of Oglethorpe’s Tiny Homes.
It’s not about building houses, but rather, reinventing the philosophy and people’s perception of what a house should be. One of my politics classes, “New American City,” was focused on the political history of the city of Atlanta. Without this class, I would not have understood the dire need for affordable housing in Atlanta. Many of my politics classes have helped me understand who gets what, when and how in society. Oglethorpe’s Tiny Homes is all about creating affordable homes that increase people’s self worth without jeopardizing their net worth.
One of the most important things I have learned at Oglethorpe is that if you want to make a difference you must take risks and not be afraid of failure. Working at Pegasus Creative, Oglethorpe’s student communications agency, has helped me get better at taking risks and learning from my mistakes. At Pegasus, you are given responsibilities and tasks that the whole Oglethorpe community (and everyone else) can see and be affected by it. For example, I have helped build websites for Oglethorpe that potential students and current students will use. My responsibilities and the risks I’ve taken at Pegasus have helped me not be as afraid of failure.
Coming to Oglethorpe has helped me figure out how I want to live and what I want to do. Looks like my lucky number is eight.
Editor’s note: Both Mon Baroi ’15 and Jacob Tadych ’14 were recently selected to attend the Clinton Global Initiative University conference in recognition of the Oglethorpe Tiny Homes project. Read about it here.
Last year, Awet Woldegebriel ’14 was selected to be a presenter at the prestigious Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU), founded by President Clinton to bring together students, youth organizations, topic experts, and celebrities to discuss and develop innovative solutions to pressing global challenges. Awet, an international studies major, was invited to attend CGIU again this year to discuss his nonprofit Knowledge Aid—this time accompanied by three more Oglethorpe students: Mon Baroi ’15, Jacob Tadych ’14, and Carolina Duque ’13, selected to attend based on their own impressive projects.
Mon, a politics major and nonprofit management minor, and Jacob, a business major, have been working on Oglethorpe’s Tiny Homes Project since September 2011, with the help of other members of the Oglethorpe community. “The mission of Oglethorpe’s Tiny Homes Project is to build a $400 home that is sustainable and environmentally-conscious on the campus of Oglethorpe in 2013,” explained Mon. “After we build the prototype, our first home, our plan is to raise $5,000 so that we can build five homes that are endorsed by the city of Atlanta for homeless or low-income individuals.”
The team plans to share their plans and research online, so that it may be improved upon and replicated around the world.
“I’m excited (to attend CGIU),” Jacob said. “I’m hoping we can get networks, get more people involved… plus we get to hear all the ideas from other people.”
One of those ideas is Carolina’s nonprofit, Mas Luz, which provides services and aid to help women in Colombia who have been physically and mentally abused.
“I’m looking forward to show everybody what we are doing in Colombia to help,” said Carolina, who is from Colombia and is studying business at Oglethorpe. “I wasn’t expecting (CGIU) to choose me. I am stunned.”
Carolina also hopes to network and to hear about other people’s projects. As Awet experienced last year, CGIU gives students the chance to grow their ideas and to make them a reality.
“The thing about (Tiny Homes) is that a lot of people think that it’s just about a house,” said Mon, “and the thing is, it’s not just about a house, it’s about a state of mind and a lifestyle. We’re advocates of a certain type of lifestyle, a lifestyle of lifelong learning.”
Hawaii is home to some of the rarest flora and fauna in the world, and a trip there can be as exciting as it is eye-opening.
“It has everything,” said Dona Kioseff ’14. “Waterfalls, rainforests, coral reefs… but the native species in Hawaii are going fast, and it’s a fight to keep them alive. “
Over winter break, Dona was one of eight students to venture to Hawaii as part of the class “Conservation Biology in Hawaii.” Led by Dr. Roarke Donnelly and Heather Staniszewski ’02, assistant director of the Center for Civic Engagement, the students learned about the island’s culture and rare wildlife, and questioned what could be done to protect its endangered species.
“The point is to give biology majors a chance to study biology in the field,” Dr. Donnelly explained. “I’m a conservation biologist, and a lot of my friends work there… I drum up research with them, (and) published an article with Chris Lepczyk, a professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, in order to teach junior scientists how to do peer reviews.”
Students participated in everything from hiking to snorkeling, and were given the chance to see endangered animals, including the monk seal and several species of birds. Dona, who celebrated her 21st birthday on the island, fondly recalled the day that she swam with dolphins. Heather shared a notebook that she had filled with facts about ecotours and Hawaiian wildlife.
“We went for 13 days, which originally seemed overwhelming,” said Heather. “But it felt shorter and shorter the longer we were there… the island is so different from anything I’ve ever seen before.”
Thanks to Dr. Donnelly’s efforts, along with the assistance of Dr. Jeffrey Collins, the tour managed to be informative and entertaining while maintaining its eco-friendliness.
“When I go to Hawaii, I try to be as low impact as I can,” said Dr. Donnelly. “We go to places that do not provide luxury accommodations, very old facilities that require minimal maintenance.”
“Any biology major that has the chance to go should definitely go,” said Dona. “On our way back (to Georgia), we were already talking about our reunion trip back to Hawaii… it was definitely beautiful and a trip of a lifetime for sure, but at the same time, it’s sad… (Hawaii) needs us.”
An Oglethorpe education seeks to bring together classroom learning with real world experiences. The Art Department provides such an opportunity with short-term study trips, during which students can experience in person the art that many have only seen in textbooks. Their most recent trip to New York City provided students the chance to see, sketch and photograph pieces by some of the world’s most famous artists.
In January 2013, Oglethorpe’s Art Department conducted its annual trip to New York. This 48-hour trip, led by Associate Professor of Art Alan Loehle, took students from the classroom environment and immersed them into the art world of New York.
“This year’s trip was beyond successful,” says Loehle, a former NYC resident. “Despite the unpredictable weather, we covered a lot of ground in two days.” Starting at The Frick Collection, students observed 18th-century French decorative arts, Chinese Porcelain vases, Italian bronzes and masterpiece paintings executed by Titian, El Greco, Goya, Van Dyck, and of course, one of the most striking paintings by Hans Holbein the Younger, Sir Thomas More.
At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, they viewed the ancient art of Greece, Sumeria, Egypt, and Roman antiquities while discovering the masks, textiles and weaponry of Africa and Oceania. “Matisse: In Search of True Painting,” a featured exhibit of modern art, was a special treat. Making their way through rainy weather to Little Italy, the group brought day one to a close with a fabulous Italian dinner and an open discussion about exhibit highlights.
The last day for the group was even more invigorating than the first as they navigated NYC’s museum and modern architecture circuit like the Contubernium marching to Cannae. From Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim, to Bunshaft’s Lever House and to modern art and architecture at MOMA, this vibrant group of 14 absorbed the city’s art world in just two days.
The students who participated in this year’s trip created a diverse group. Not all students were art majors and for a few students, this was their first trip to New York. Student Holly Bostick reflected on her first New York experience while sitting in the LaGuardia Airport. “This was my first time in New York. Though the weather was not what I’m used to and the train system was more complex, as an art history major I know that this is where I need to be. In two intense days, I have seen almost half of what I have learned in the classroom.”
As a woman who has been “blessed” with two left feet, butter fingers, and a penchant for laziness, I can honestly say that sports intimidate me. I have always associated sports with winning and being “the best,” two things that are not easily accomplished without the aid of hand-eye coordination. But last week, thanks to the women athletes of OU, I learned something extraordinary about sports and what they have to offer: the real winners in sports are not rewarded with trophies (… though yes, winning trophies can be really great, too!), but with confidence, good health, and friendships that will last a lifetime.
Tennis, lacrosse, basketball and soccer were only a few of the women’s sports teams that came out last week to celebrate the 27th National Girls and Women in Sports Day. This annual event is meant to commend women athletes for their perseverance and excellence in athletics, as well as to encourage other women (and men) to participate in sports.
Tori Van Wyen ’14, a member of the women’s golf team, explained that “it’s a great opportunity for all kinds of kids to be introduced to sports… it’s a great thing for OU and the community.” Coach Cindy Vaios, who organized the event, expressed hope that it would introduce sports to elementary and middle school students, while attracting the interest of OU students.
Area children showed up to the event, all eagerly awaiting their chance to try out the track and field obstacle course, or to throw around a basketball. Oglethorpe athletes were in attendance to help these children learn the ins and outs of playing, and to encourage them to participate on future teams.
“It’s not just about the players,” said Tori. “It’s about involving the community… These kids might see those female athletes and think, ‘hey, this might be me one day.’”
Athletic Director Becky Hall agrees, admitting that there are some sports that she is just “not good at,” but that it doesn’t stop her from loving sports. This idea, that there is something for everyone in sports, seemed to be the consensus of all in attendance.
“All of my best friends are on my team,” added Caitlin Hollis ’16, a freshman on the women’s soccer team. “Sports gives you a way to be with other competitive, driven people… (my team) is like a family to me.”
A similar sentiment was expressed many times throughout the day by others. Lacrosse player Sydney Sparks ’16 added that the lacrosse team was “like a sisterhood,” and that “playing at the collegiate level is really exciting… I’m excited to be part of a brand new tradition at OU.”
Paolette Matute ’16, a member of the tennis team, referred to tennis as “an empowering princess sport,” before enthusing that “the most important thing, even if you’re not an athlete, is (to) go out and exercise… Get those endorphins running!”
The message of the day was clear, and based on the excited looks on children’s faces, that message was well received: sports are something that everyone should consider trying, as they can offer something worthwhile for everyone. Being active is not solely for athletes, nor are sports enthusiasts solely concerned with winning. Sports are about camaraderie, growing, and thriving, and the women athletes of OU are not simply looking for teammates; they are looking for friends to join their family through the bond that only sports can offer.
The Oglethorpe University Museum of Art is now hosting “Beta Israel: Ethiopian Jews and the Promised Land,” an exhibition that explores the mass migration of Ethiopian Jews into modern Israeli society and the integration difficulties they faced. The exhibition features 100 photographs by South African photojournalist Ilan Ossendryver, who lived in Israel for 20 years. The exhibit runs through Sunday, April 21, 2013.
Over the past 30 years, nearly 100,000 Jews have migrated from Ethiopia to settle in Israel. In the 1970s, there were approximately 100 Ethiopian Jews living in Israel and today there are more than 130,000. As many as 5,000 from this community perished during the early years of this exodus when they were forced to escape on foot and wait for months in disease-prone refugee camps. Others made the journey with assistance during several covert airlift operations, including the 1991 airlift Operation Solomon during which 14,000 Ethiopian Jews made the journey or “aliyah,” a purposeful ascent or going up to the promised land of Israel, during a 36-hour period.
This exhibition explores the mass migration and the incredible challenge of integration in modern Israeli society faced by the Ethiopian Jews, once known as Falasha but more properly called “Beta Israel,” or “House of Israel.” Most were practicing a pre-rabbinic, ancient form of Judaism in which they had no awareness of the Talmud’s existence and so knew nothing of post-biblical holidays such as Hanukkah and Purim. They lived for centuries in isolation in a Third World country and were suddenly thrust into modern life in Israel.
The following lecture and event series will be hosted at the museum in conjunction with the exhibition:
Wednesday, February 13, 7:00 p.m. “The Last of the Ethiopian Jews – Reaching Their Dream of Living in the Holy Land,” a lecture by featured exhibition artist Ilan Ossendryver, photojournalist based in South Africa, Israel and Ethiopia, and photographer for the book The Ethiopian Jews of Israel: Personal Stories of Life in the Promised Land.
Wednesday, February 20, 7:00 p.m. “Refugee Resettlement in Georgia: Part of a Durable Solution to the Crisis in the Horn of Africa,” a lecture by Paedia Mixon, executive director, and Safia Jama, resettlement manager, Refugee Resettlement & Immigration Services of Atlanta. Mixon will lead the discussion which will address refugee camps in the Horn of Africa and the challenges facing refugees upon their arrival in Georgia.
Wednesday, February 27, 7:00 p.m. “Act II: With a Rose Between Our Teeth,” presented by The Thoroughly Modern Senior Ensemble of the Academy Theatre. Refreshing, upbeat, musical and moving, The Thoroughly Modern Senior Ensemble offers honest and entertaining views of living, loving and aging. A one-hour collection of short scenes and songs, Act II: With a Rose Between Our Teeth is thoroughly real, poignant, heartbreaking… and thoroughly hilarious.
Wednesday, March 6, 7:00 p.m. “The Arts and Peacebuilding,” a lecture by Frank Dominguez, vice president for Arts for Peace, Ltd. Mr. Dominguez has managed major economic and trade development programs in Russia and Western Europe, held a series of senior international management positions, and worked with leading and newly starting nonprofits and groups in developing high profile events, initiatives and organizations in support of social justice and peace. Arts For Peace is a nonprofit that develops new and innovative programs and events in the areas of music, visual arts, performance, dance and communications, and is committed to establishing bridges between the arts community and the work of the UN, the aims of the UN Charter and the realization of a Culture of Peace.
Wednesday, March 13, 7:00 p.m. “Knowledge, Cognition and Cultural Capital Among Non- and Semi-literate Populations,” a lecture by Dr. Yarden Fanta-Vagenshtein, post-doctoral fellow at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, Department of Human Development and Psychology. In 1985, when she emigrated from Ethiopia to Israel, Dr. Fanta-Vagenshtein did not know how to read or write. In 2005, she completed her Ph.D. in education, becoming the first Ethiopian woman to earn a doctorate in Israel. Dr. Fanta-Vagenshtein was a teaching fellow at Tel Aviv’s School of Education, Science and Technology (2002-2007); presented key Israeli educational and political issues to world leaders as Emissary for the State of Israel, the Jewish Agency for Israel (1997-2005); and served on the board of directors overseeing Israel’s Community Centers for the Ministry of Education (1994- 2000). Her field of research examines how illiterate immigrants’ adapt to modern societies, specifically Ethiopian assimilation in Israel. Dr. Fanta-Vagenshtein’s lecture is sponsored by the Consulate General of Israel to the Southeastern United States.
Wednesday, March 27, 7:00 p.m. “The Nightmare Inside the Dream,” a lecture by Morghan Brandon, Oglethorpe University student. To mark the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Brandon will explore the hopes and dreams of the Civil Rights movement and the sometimes harsh realities of where we are today. Her talk accompanies her independent film/performance project. Brandon is also a founding member of OU’s first black sorority, Epsilon Iota Psi.
Wednesday, April 3, 7:00 p.m. “The Remarkable Unfinished Exodus of the Ethiopian Jews,” a lecture by Len Lyons, author of The Ethiopian Jews of Israel: Personal Stories of Life in the Promised Land. Dr. Lyons, Ph.D. in Philosophy (Brown University), is the author of six books on a variety of subjects, including jazz (three titles published by William Morrow & Co.) and computers (two titles published by Addison-Wesley). Through hosting Ethiopian Israeli students visiting Boston in 2004, he became fascinated with the story of the Ethiopian Jews and their struggle for acceptance in the country that rescued them. He serves on the Ethiopian Jewry Committee of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Boston.
Wednesday, April 17, 7:00 p.m. “Found in Translation,” a lecture by Rahwa Amha, Oglethorpe University student. Amha discusses her experiences in the U.S. and abroad as an Ethiopian American. Amha, who was born in Atlanta, has also lived for an extended period of time in Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia and explores the cultural shift and adjustment which has become second nature to her.
Admission: $5; free for OUMA members or with a Petrel Pass. More information: museum.oglethorpe.edu. OUMA will host an open house for Oglethorpe students, faculty and staff on Thursday, February 7, 5 – 7 p.m.
Oglethorpe junior Joseph White was recently awarded a GAIN Scholarship by the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) to study abroad. He’ll use the award to spend his spring semester in Seoul studying South Korea’s culture, language and politics. Joe will be the first Oglethorpe student to study abroad in the politically tumultuous country.
GAIN scholars are selected for their dedication to internationalizing their education. While in South Korea, Joe will fulfill the study abroad requirement for his international studies major, and will study North Korean politics as part of his politics minor. He plans to work in politics with an emphasis on Korean affairs, an interest that began several years ago.
Joe first got the opportunity to travel the summer after he graduated from Stars Mill High School. Most of his friends visited Europe for their pre-college travels, but he wanted to try something a little more adventurous.
“I went to Korea for about two weeks to visit a friend that was teaching English there. I toured around the area, didn’t do a whole lot of stuff I wanted to do, but did some of the major tourist highlights. But now I really want to get involved with their culture, their language, and even potentially some of their history.”
When he got the opportunity to study abroad at Oglethorpe, it was this location that called to him. As assistant to OU Study Abroad Director Dr. Jeffrey Collins, Joe spent this semester helping other students abroad.
“I make sure that their classes are going well, that they’re integrating into society, stuff like that. If there’s something wrong personally with them it’s easier to talk to a student than it is to talk to a teacher. I’m that buffer between student and teacher.” Now, though, he’s ready to be in their shoes.
“The school [in Korea] is ranked one of the ivy league in the Asian Pacific. And it’s the only one that offers North Korean politics. That’s the reason I want to go there– to study Korea’s relationship with its fellow Koreans up north and how North Korea affects everything in that area. Especially because, South Korea being one of our main allies, if anything happens to (them) we’re obligated to engage and support them.”
He’s been preparing for the trip by studying the language on his own and working with his martial arts master, a fluent Korean speaker. His study of martial arts influenced his study abroad decisions tremendously. “I’ve been doing [Taekwondo], which is the Korean national martial art, for over 11 years now. When I went to Korea the first time, I got to visit the place where it all started. I want to spend more time understanding the theory and philosophy of Taekwondo.” It’s this familiar, but exotic, culture that Joseph is excited to immerse himself in.
Joseph’s course load will be heavy on Korean language, which he hopes to speak by the time he graduates. His language classes will have a cultural immersion element that will give him the chance to speak, write and read Korean as well as visit with native speakers. “I want to work with the State Department with Korean affairs, because I love the country and I love the people and I respect them very much. So wherever I go, either DC or a national hub like Atlanta, I want to be able to work closely with Korean culture and maybe even business…and possibly be an ambassador to South Korea for the United States.”
“Joe White winning this scholarship to study in Seoul is a great honor for both to our university and to Joe,” said Dr. Collins. “The program is highly competitive, and it is the first time for an OU student to win a CIEE scholarship to study in Seoul. It only indicates how global OU has become, and how we are now known and respected across the world for our academics and student engagement. I am terrifically proud of him.”
Joseph will leave for South Korea in the spring, and wants to encourage all interested OU students to consider having a study abroad experience of their own!
Exciting things are happening at Oglethorpe this year! In addition to the new scene shop and developing track and field and campus center, Oglethorpe just established a great partnership with Education First, or EF. As both an OU alum and an EF employee, I’m very excited to watch this partnership evolve! If you don’t know what EF is, we’re an international education company that aims to break down barriers of language, culture, and geography. We have more than 40 schools around the world, including sites in Boston, London, Rome, Paris, and Sydney, just to name a few.
Our site at Oglethorpe, referred to as EF Atlanta, is the newest EF school. Currently, our students come from a wide range of countries, such as France, Taiwan, Japan, and Colombia. Most students live on campus in the recently reopened Schmidt Residence Hall. Though our students live on campus and come abroad, they are different than the traditional OU international students. Unlike traditional international students, our students do not take OU classes; instead, they take English classes with our EF teachers. However, our students are almost identical to OU students in other ways: they eat in the cafeteria, pay activity and facility fees, and want to meet other students and make friendships while they are here.
In addition to occupying Schmidt, most of our classrooms and offices are located in the newly renovated lower level of Robinson Hall. If you haven’t checked out the new area, I highly encourage you to drop by! It’s incredible that a storage area can be transformed into such a beautiful spot in just a few short months!
Going forward, EF Atlanta aims to have 150-200 students, both on campus and with nearby host families. We also aspire to unite with existing groups on campus, so that EF and OU students can benefit from the combined resources and innovations of two amazing schools. Students can expect more co-planned activities with EF and OU, like our upcoming trip to Cirque du Soleil on October 26th. In the future, we hope to work with Oglethorpe’s study abroad program to offer a more comprehensive and diverse experience for OU students looking to learn another language while immersing themselves in another culture.
Current students can help us and OU out by showing our students the famous Oglethorpe hospitality, attending our many events, and introducing yourselves to our students! If you’re a local alum with an open room, you can help out by hosting one of our students. I think that this partnership is amazing for Oglethorpe, and I hope that yOU want to be a part of it with me. (Even as an alum, I can hardly resist the urge to underline or capitalize every consecutive “OU” that I come across!)
For more information, contact Justin at 404-547-0419 or email justin.sabree@EF.com.