December 2016
Alumna begins volunteer work with the Peace Corps
It wasn't until Meaghan Koudelka '16 applied and was accepted to a Master's of International Development program did she realize that something was missing.
As an Economics and Political Science alumna, Koudelka thought the best way to kick start her way into the field of International Development was to pursue her longtime goal of joining the Peace Corps. "I had been contemplating the Peace Corps for a couple of years and thought it would be the best way to see if I really wanted to pursue a career in International Development," said Koudelka.

Stationed in Ouarzazate, Morocco as a Youth Development Volunteer, Koudelka utilizes the skills and tools she's gained during her undergraduate career to seamlessly integrate into a foreign community. She's learned a new language, taught productive workplace skills, and worked to help foster sustainable development in an area that is underdeveloped and lacking resources.  "I understand how hard it is to implement sustainable development and making sure that your work is carried out once you leave the country," said Koudelka. "Through my studies in Economics, I've become able to measure the success of my work and the effectiveness it has on the development of my town."

During her time at UMass Dartmouth, Koudelka completed several internships that helped prepare her for the path towards International Development such as the Salvation Army's Emergency Disaster Services, environmental nonprofits, and solar companies.  Koudelka's studies gave her the necessary elements she needed to thrive in a career that values leadership, cultural sensitivity, and a strong commitment to service.  "My degree taught me how the world works, how businesses work, and what effects successful development," said Koudelka. "I'm able to understand what volunteer work entails because of my degree."

By: Chelsea Cabral '18
History Professor Brian Williams arranges NYC trip to commemorate anniversary of 9/11
This semester UMass Dartmouth History Professor Brian Williams led more than 40 students and alumni on an excursion to Ground Zero in New York City. Williams wanted to help engage his students from his Warfare and Terrorism class.  They've been intensely studying 9/11, its causes and ramifications, and its connections to the violent and political turbulence that has arisen in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.  "I think this journey will help show that our students are not impervious to larger events or past tragedies," said Williams. "On the contrary, they are vitally involved and linked to them."

Williams led his students to several different sites, the first being the America's Response Monument. The monument was dedicated to the elite Green Beret Special Forces, who led the operations in Afghanistan that overthrew the Taliban in 2001.  Students were able to meet a Green Baret who toured in Afghanistan, as well as the fire chief who was inside of the burning buildings at the time of the tragedy. "Meeting people who were there gives so many levels of depth, truth, and understanding that no textbook can give," said biology major Lance Rufino '18. 

The group also visited the massive underground 9/11 museum-vault which preserves items related to the tragic event, including parts of the original World Trade Center and personal items belonging to the victims killed.  "The further we trekked in to the museum, the more difficult it became to hold back tears," said Justin McKinney '18, a crime and justice studies major. "We saw engines from planes that were downed by hijackers, entire fire trucks ripped to shreds by the debris from the falling tower, and maybe most powerfully, the pictures of all the people who did not make it out of the towers."

After a stop by the reflection pool-which sits at the site of where the old World Trade Center had once stood-Professor Williams and his students stopped to discuss everything they'd observed.  The trip served as a defining moment for Williams' students to connect to their studies in the classroom but also to immerse themselves in one of the most defining moments of the 21st century. "I wanted to transform 9/11 from a distantly remembered abstract event to something real and human," said Williams.

For Lance Rufino, the trip helped turn history into a reality. He was able to gain a perspective that only a few of his peers can actually say they have.
"Reading about the events of 9/11 gives you an in-depth explanation, but it can never portray the painted picture with the immense detail and perspective of the people who experienced that dark day," said Rufino. "Being able to meet these veterans with completely uncensored histories was an experience that very few are honored of being able to receive."

By: Chelsea Cabral '18
The Living Literature Series helps foster creativity and dialogue
Thanks to the efforts of English Professors Lucas Mann and Caitlin O'Neil, the English Department's Living Literature Series has come to life and built an innovative community for students and creative writers alike.
The series works to bring nationally recognized creative writers to campus to share their work and talk to students about their writing experiences.  "Concepts and ideas that may seem abstract during discussions or readings take detailed form and shape in the setting of a reading, where students can hear from authors directly, ask questions, and start a real dialogue," said O'Neil.

Born alongside the English Department's new creative writing minor, the series has helped Professors Mann and O'Neil connect what they are teaching in the classroom to the real world and how contemporary literature is created in terms of its style, topic, and background.  "What might be dismissed by some as mere storytelling is actually the development of deep critical thinking skills that can give students better means of understanding why the world works the way it does, and how they might make it work better," said O'Neil. "We want students to know that what they're learning is relevant to the real world."

With the series only in its infancy, Mann and O'Neil hope that both the series and the creative writing minor inspire students and budding creative writers to test their skills and refine their craft.  "The reading series is another way to ensure that students can find a writing community to help push them in their own work," said Mann. "My happiest moments at our events so far have come at the end, when students stick around to talk about their own work and their own ambitions."

The readings have been met with great enthusiasm from visiting writers and students alike, and it has promoted a great level of insight and inspiration for students. The Living Literature Series continues this spring semester, and the English department will welcome bestselling essayist and novelist Leslie Jamison, author of The Gin Closetand The Empathy Exams, on February 1 at the University Club. "We want to give students from all majors who love to write the chance to do so within a challenging, supportive curriculum," said Mann. "Nothing helps a fledgling writer more than knowing that they're not alone." 

By: Chelsea Cabral '18

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