It's been awhile since we published our newsletter.  Our sincerest apologies. We are still here and doing great work! We will continue to publish "Civic Happenings" on a quarterly basis. Please read on!

Civic Happenings
from the UMass Civic Initiative                                              December  2018

Backyard BBQ, June 2018

2018 so far has been a busy year for the Civic Initiative, both with much international travel by our staff and hosting groups from all over the world in Amherst.   Here's our recap and some news about what we're up to in the near future. 

The team in Islamabad, 2018
Our 2018 started with a trip to Islamabad for a reunion of alumni from Instructional Leadership Institute for Pakistani Educators (ILIPE). Rebecca Woodland and Becky Mazur from the UMass Amherst College of Education led the leadership training and we saw many old friends. Becky Howland also visited Peshawar. 

The summer was busy with four visiting groups: ILIPE (we've run this program every other year since 2014), the Argentina Fulbright program (yearly since 2009), SUSI Pakistan (yearly since 2010) and the international professor group (Study of the U.S. Institute on American Politics and Political Thought, run yearly since 2005). These groups of nearly 100 participants coming from 20 different countries kept us busy. That's how we do summers at Civic! 

The bus!
One of the many fringe benefits of our Pakistan programs is the friendship we've built with an artist group in Karachi
. We invited the "Phool Patti" group to Amherst in June during their U.S. tour and they painted a local bus owned by the Amherst Business Improvement District.  The project was finished while parked at a local food festival and it gave the artists an opportunity to teach the public about both their art and a softer side of Pakistan. 
Check out photos and videos here.

With YSEALI alumni in Vietnam
This fall, we visited Vietnam and Thailand to visit alumni from the 
Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) program. Our trip  signified the end of our last year of our involvement with YSEALI.

We are currently preparing for a multi-city trip to Pakistan. While there, we'll connect with program alumni, run a training as part of a new program working nonprofit professionals, and hold a conference as part of our entrepreneurship education program with three universities in Quetta, Pakistan. 

Finally, on a sad note...Myrt Wright, a friend of many who stayed at the Kappa Kappa Gamma house, passed away on September 22. She was 87 years old and had retired just last year. Myrt was a force of her own and ran an orderly house, as many of you can attest, but she was also an inspiration and motherly/grandmother figure to many program participants who were far from their families. In 2016, Myrt was featured in the local news. You can also read her  obituary.

We  dearly  miss Myrt!
Civic Participant Showcase
Fernando Liz√°rraga
Program Title and Year: SUSI on American Politics and Political Thought, 2014

What have you been up to since the program?
I took part of the professors' program in 2014. Upon my return to Argentina, I resumed my teaching and research at my home university. But now my understanding of the main trends of American political thought was deeper and much better informed. All the seminars I took during the program were absolutely relevant to broaden my perspective on American politics, society and culture. So, I decided to go back to the UMass and so I did thanks to a Fulbright grant in 2017. I stayed in Amherst for three months, doing research on American egalitarianism. Of course, I was in touch with the Civic Initiative during that time and it was my privilege to be invited to give a presentation on my research to the participants of the international professors program.
What was the most influential experience you had while in the U.S. with the Civic Initiative?
Though it is hard to single out the most influential experience, I can say the most rewarding experience flows from a combination of three elements of the program: the first-class academic activities, the atmosphere of international friendship that builds up among the participants, and the many opportunities to get engaged with American people, culture and places. The whole program is so well designed and managed by fantastic people that there is not one day like the other, and every minute offers an opportunity for learning and enjoying.
If you could spend another day in Amherst, how would you spend it?
I would take an early stroll into town to enjoy the quiet beauty of Pleasant Street. Then I would spend some hours at the fabulous W.E.B. Du Bois Library on campus, where one can find endless resources for all types of research. I would certainly have lunch or dinner in one of the commons or other facilities, since campus food is absolutely great. And in the evening, I would choose among several cultural activities, ranging from jazz festivals and gigs, to the cool Amherst Cinema where they mostly show arthouse movies, or I would just chill out in some of the many friendly pubs in town. And if I had one extra day, I would surely go to Lenox, in the Berkshires, to watch a Shakespeare play.
What is one piece of advice you would give to a person chosen to participate in this program?
My first advice would be to leave aside any prejudices and fears, and be sure that the Civic Initiative, the UMass and the town of Amherst have many interesting and one-of-a-kind experiences to offer. Participants should know that each minute counts and that there are unique opportunities for learning, making new friends and acquiring personal experiences that will certainly have a major impact on everyone's careers and future endeavors.
What is next on your To Do List?
As of the very near future, I expect to complete and publish a couple of articles resulting from the research I did last year on American egalitarianism and utopianism, particularly on the works of a great Massachusetts writer named Edward Bellamy. In the meantime, I will keep on teaching and doing research at my university. I teach Political Theory and some key American thinkers are included in my syllabus. My participation in the professors program of the Civic Initiative was decisive to improve my teaching and research, so I plan to carry on this path, taking advantage, also, of the resources available from the website of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
Where Are They Now? 
Chris Sluter
(interviewed in 2017)
Program Titles and Years: Fulbright Argentina Young Leaders Program,  SUSI Pakistan Fellow,  2011 & 2012 and  APD Team Leader, 2013

What have you been up to since Civic?
After the summer of 2013, I moved to Washington DC and began my career with World Learning, the same organization I work for today. My initial position was a program associate on the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program, a semester and year long exchange for international students to study in the U.S. After two years of working on that program, I was prompted to run the Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program (IYLEP), which I had first encountered during my Civic years. As the program officer, I oversee the IYLEP undergraduate program and was fortunate enough to partner with the Civic Initiative again last summer. So, in essence, it has come full circle.  I've had the good fortune during this time to travel extensively, both for work and vacation. This desire to travel certainly was amplified with my years during Civic, as getting to meet so many amazing people from across the globe has inspired me to never stop exploring.

What is your favorite Civic memory?
That is certainly a hard question, as each summer I worked with Civic was filled with great memories. I would have to say that getting to travel to Pakistan in 2013 for the International Young Alumni Conference was one of the best, however. Getting to see so many of my friends from years past while simultaneously getting to travel to a country that few Americans, let alone students, had traveled to was a deeply rewarding experience. It was an eye opening trip and was filled with a collection of really great moments. The history, culture and natural environment of Pakistan made me wanting more, so I will certainly return one day.  My second favorite memory was every fourth of July with the Civic groups. Always a lot of fun.

What do you miss most about working with the Civic Initiative?
The camaraderie among staff. Civic is a lot of fun, but it is a 24-7 job that takes a lot of energy and work. Having great co-workers who are also your friends makes that much easier. 

What advice would you give a first time Civic Fellow on their first day?
Don't ever pass up a chance to talk to someone from another country. Engage in as many conversations as possible. You'll learn more from that conversation than you will from any classroom.

What is next on your To Do List?
Travel! Heading to Iraq  in February (2018) and Costa Rica in March (2018), and that's just the start.

Do You Remember?
Being out and about
2015 Pakistan SUSI at the Chesterfield 4th of July Parade
Becky Howland and some of the 2016 Argentina Fulbright group
Closing ceremony for 2017 Iraq Young Leaders at Bistro 63
What were your favorite memories from your program? 
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Michael Hannahan, Director                                                                        

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