Friday, March 16, 2018

My Experience as a “Student Upstander” at the Lemkin Summit to End Genocide and Mass Atrocities 2018

By Ricardo Pierre '18

With Honor Society high schoolers from Asbury Park, NJ
Genocide is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as, the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation. The neologism was first coined by Raphael Lemkin, a lawyer of Polish and Jewish decent. Lemkin devised genocide from genos a Greek word for tribe or race and -cide a Latin word that means killing.

On Saturday, February 10 through Monday, February 12, 2018, I attended the Lemkin Summit to End Genocide and Mass Atrocities, a conference named in Raphael Lemkin’s honor. The conference took place at American University and featured a panel of experts who spoke on topics ranging from tools the U.S. government can use to prevent and respond to genocide and mass atrocities, to financial tools to counter the nexus of conflict and corruption, and the current dynamics in various conflicts areas. The Lemkin Summit allowed me the opportunity to venture into a topic about which I was previously not privy.

While at the conference, a Congolese woman named Neema Namadamu spoke about how the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo have experienced the phenomenon of the resource curse known as the paradox of plenty. The paradox of plenty refers to resource-rich countries that fail to reap the full benefits of their natural resource wealth. Countries that have an abundance of natural resources tend to engage in conflict at a higher rate and are largely authoritarianist nations. Issues like this and many more where discussed at the conference. I also heard chilling stories from citizens of Darfur, Sudan recalling the sounds of gunshots as they were falling asleep and when they would rise in morning, stories that were all too familiar to citizens of fellow conflict nations.

With Enough Project founder, John Prendergast
During my time at the conference, I also had a one-on-one conversation with John Prendergast, the founder of the Enough Project, which is an initiative to end genocide and crimes against humanity. The Enough Project was the program that provided me the opportunity to attend the Summit as a Student Upstander. John told me about the indefinable horrors he’s seen with his own eyes and relayed to me the massive role the United States can play in helping countries like Congo.

My final day in Washington, D.C. was spent lobbying to Senators and Congressmen from my home state of New Jersey. As a group leader, I was accompanied by a group of Honor Society high schoolers from Asbury Park, NJ, and we worked to get cosponsors on two policies. The U.S. is regarded as the most influential nation in the world. By taking a tougher stance against countries that engage in mass atrocities, America can help put an end to corruption and human rights violations. My weekend at the Lemkin Summit gave me an immense knowledge on the past and continuing political climate that African nations are in and I look forward to engaging in philanthropic efforts in the future.

My group at NJ Representative Chris Smith's Office in Washington, D.C.

Friday, March 2, 2018

"Breakfast Buddies" Mentoring Program Encourages Academic Excellence and Good Citizenship for Fifth Grade Boys

By Tom Steele, Director of Academic Initiatives for Athletics

Ferrum College students (back row, left to right) Justyn Forbes, Lawrence Baranski, and Ricardo Pierre, are "Breakfast Buddies" for this group of fifth grade boys at Lee M. Waid Elementary School.
It’s Thursday morning, 7:00 AM. Most Ferrum College students are just stirring or still asleep. However, members of Ferrum’s Brother4Brother mentoring program are on their way to Lee M. Waid Elementary School in Rocky Mount to be “Breakfast Buddies” with a group of 5th grade boys.

Now in its third year, the Breakfast Buddies program is designed to provide a positive, male role model for the fifth graders and encourage them to excel in academics and as school citizens. “The Breakfast Buddies program has been an integral component in developing social skills for our fifth grade students,” said Sheree Thomas, the school counselor at Lee M. Waid who hosts Breakfast Buddies. “The positive interaction brought to the table by Ferrum's highly motivated and well-mannered men of standards leaves a positive impression on our youth,” continued Thomas.

During each Breakfast Buddies program, the College students share breakfast with the fifth graders, talk about the topics of the day, and spend positive time together. Sometimes, the Brother4Brother mentors help the young men who get into trouble at school get back on track. According to Ferrum senior Ricardo Pierre, the outreach is important because, “I am able to offer them a judgement-free ear and share with the guys things I wish I knew at their age.”

Breakfast Buddies is focused on men learning to share with each other and holding each other accountable. “Breakfast Buddies is a great chance to uplift young men and to be someone they can talk to,” said junior Lawrence Baranski.

In addition, encouragement is always a focus at the breakfast meetings. Junior Justyn Forbes said, “I think that it is good to give these kids some encouragement from college students to do well in school.”

As a bonus, some of the fifth graders in the Breakfast Buddies program are now serving as mentors for kindergarteners at Lee M. Waid. This is a point of pride for Baranski. “We are showing them that even they can become a mentor to younger men,” he said.

Not self, but others. This is the Ferrum College way.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Ferrum College: A place full of magical experiences. A place where I have found a family.

By Angela Patricia Velasquez Hoyos, Fulbright Spanish Language Assistant 2017-2018

Angela Patricia Velasquez Hoyos
My name is Angela P. Velasquez Hoyos. I was born in Anserma Caldas, Colombia, but during the last 10 years, I have lived in Pereira, Risaralda which is located in the coffee region in Colombia.

I hold a Bachelor degree in English language Teaching from Technological University of Pereira and a Master Degree from Caldas University in Manizales Caldas Colombia. I have spent six years teaching English and research which is something that I really enjoy doing. I am a curious person who loves reading, hiking, listening to music, traveling, and talking to people.

When I first knew I was going to Ferrum College, I got very excited because I heard great comments about people from Virginia. To be honest, the comments were not enough to describe what I have experienced in this wonderful campus - love, kindness, and true friendship - this is my international family I will never forget. It has been five months since my arrival to Ferrum and I have not had any day in which I have not felt excitement to explore the campus.

In the fall semester 2017, I had great students in my Spanish 101 class. It was very rewarding to see the progress they made throughout the semester. In this spring semester, I am teaching Spanish 102, and conversation. I hope that my students enjoy the classes as much as I do.

Regarding my experience at Ferrum, I think it has been amazing. I am surprised because I am doing some sports that I never did in Colombia. I have played racquetball, I have joined the Zumba and the yoga classes in the YMCA, and I have gone hiking with Ferrum Outdoors. I definitely won’t be the same person when I travel back to Colombia. There are many things I have learned, thanks to this experience.

This semester, I am looking forward to showing you some cultural aspects of my country. You may see more of my photographs here.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Helping Produce Successful Outdoor Recreation and Education Conference Results in Lasting Partnerships

By Aaron Conover '93
Director of Ferrum Outdoors

Aaron Conover '93
In the summer of 2015, I was asked by the Roanoke City Parks and Recreation Department to be a host team committee member and the volunteer coordinator for the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education (AORE) Annual Conference, which was to be held in Roanoke in November 2017.

AORE supports the needs of outdoor educators and recreation professionals who are affiliated with non-profit organizations and actively engages in issues and policies that impact the outdoor industry and its members. AORE also provides opportunities to exchange information, network and support other colleagues and students who are in the outdoor recreation field. The culmination of the AORE mission and goals is the AORE Annual Conference, which is held in different locations in the United States. Past host cities have included Portland, Atlanta, Seattle, and Minneapolis; having Roanoke selected as the location for the 2017 conference was extraordinary.

As an AORE member representing Ferrum College, I agreed to join the host team committee and became one the key players in bringing the 2017 AORE Annual Conference to Roanoke. We had a large amount of work to do to highlight how amazing our region is and to put on an awesome conference that would equal or surpass previous gatherings. This was also the first year that host team committee members where from multiple agencies and organizations. The dedicated crew of fourteen consisted of representatives from three different parks and recreation departments - Roanoke City, Roanoke County, and the Town of Blacksburg; five regional colleges and universities - Hollins University, Roanoke College, Radford University, James Madison University, and Ferrum College; and the Boy Scouts of America.

Volunteerism is the tradition of AORE and is necessary for the onsite operation of the annual conference. I was tasked with coordinating the promotion, registration, training, and scheduling of over 150 attendees who needed to fill 325 volunteer spots during the four days of the conference. The 2017 AORE Annual Conference drew 640 attendees from across the country. It was a team effort, for sure, between the Host Committee, AORE and Event Garde, LLC, the agency managing logistics.
Some Host Team Members
The biggest reward for the time and effort it took to serve on the host team committee and as volunteer coordinator was being able to represent Ferrum College and our outdoor community in such an integral and prominent way. The day to day interactions with the volunteers and many of the other attendees while stationed at the registration desk allowed me to really highlight the positive attributes of the region as well as Ferrum College. The conference may have lasted only four days but the partnerships and network developed between the host team and AORE members will be long lasting. The conference truly lived up to its theme of “Shaping a Community of Adventure”.

Monday, October 9, 2017

The Washington Semester Program: A Semester-long "Study Abroad" at American University

By Dorothy Carroll '18

The Washington Semester Program (WSP) is a semester-long “study abroad” at American University in Washington D.C. WSP students have the opportunity to take internship and concentration-specific seminar courses two days a week and intern three days a week. There are several concentration options: American Politics, Global Economics, Sustainable Development, Foreign Policy, Justice and Law, and Journalism/News Media. I am in the Justice and Law Concentration, and am interning at the Department of Justice (DOJ), Justice Management Division (JMD).

WSP takes advantage of the D.C setting and is a very experiential learning program. “Class” days consist of visiting different places like The National Museum of American History, The Drug Enforcement Administration Museum, The Newseum, House and Senate Hearings, The Capitol, The United States Supreme Court, Quantico, and many more. We also hear from guest speakers, attend internship fairs, and are given the opportunity to join additional LinkedIn and other career development sessions.

Each WSP student has a different internship experience, but mine has been great so far. I have been able to network with people from components outside of JMD, attend professional development workshops, learn about the accomplishments of DOJ employees, and even meet the Attorney General.

Outside of WSP courses, and interning, D.C. has so much to offer to students. For example, I have been able to go to festivals on the weekends and hear a variation of music, see different groups with tents advocating for their cause, taste new food, look at local artwork, and interact with other people at the festivals. I have also been “monumenting” several times, toured the Supreme Court, visited the Library of Congress, explored Arlington Cemetery, walked around Georgetown, etc.

This program has already offered invaluable experience to my undergraduate study of political science and I have only been here for a few weeks. See additional photographs here.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Study Abroad 2017: Joshua Sanders '18 in China

By Joshua Sanders '18

Study Abroad 2017: Joshua Sanders '18 in China

August 9, 2017: Hello all, this time from America! I’ve finally settled back in and gotten used to the time difference (and I’m almost over how sad I am about not being able to get awesome Chinese food every day). For the last two weeks of my China trip, I left the research laboratory and joined up with the United Nations Academic Impact “Incredible Three Gorges” Summer School for classes such as Chinese culture, mythology, songs, dance, language, and calligraphy (to name a few). Unfortunately, I passed all of my classes so I won’t be heading back next summer to re-take any of them (ha-ha). I got a Chinese name during the summer school classes, “成河人” (Chéng Hé Rén) meaning to become like a person of the river. I helped choose this name because of a traditional Chinese idea about water and rivers, “上善若水” (Shang shan ruo shi) meaning “the highest virtue is to become like water”. In Chinese culture rivers and water are seen calm and gentle, bending and giving way to stronger forces when needed but also being strong and carving through rock and tackling obstacles.

Throughout our time in the summer school program, each of the foreign students (two from Korea, three from Italy, and two other Americans plus myself) were assigned a volunteer who was a student at CTGU to help us and guide us. My volunteer, Jiang Nan, was incredible and was always happy to help us out or go out shopping, eating, or to KTV with us. She even helped me online shop for some gifts for others (and myself) online, and is shipping one to me that arrived after I’d left! All of the other volunteers were amazing as well, and at the closing ceremony before everybody left there were tears and hugs all around.

During the summer school, in addition to classes we went out on cultural outings, such as visits to the Three Gorges Dam (the world’s largest hydroelectric power facility), Zigui and Jiangxi for white water rafting (yes, white water rafting!), a tea factory to learn how to pick and process green tea, and a trip to a bijou factory. (Bijou is a traditional Chinese alcohol, the translation into English is “wine” however bijou is not wine, it is most certainly liquor… very strong liquor.) I have been and will continue sifting through all of the pictures I have to post some more to the Flickr album, but I took a lot of pictures and the volunteers took many as well and were kind enough to put them on a flash drive for me, so I’ve got hundreds of pictures and movies to go through.

My last night in China, I went out with several friends from the research lab I had worked in, and we ate dinner then went out singing KTV. Karaoke, which is “KTV” in China, is incredibly popular. In America, when someone says “karaoke” the mental image often conjured up is someone in a bar who got drunk and decided that karaoke was a good idea, but in China this isn’t the case at all. There are very nice KTV places with lots of individual rooms, and you and your friends can rent the room for a few hours. In the room, there’s often a disco ball or some laser lights, and a really nice tv set-up with a little tablet/display to pick songs to sing; KTV is comparable to making plans and going out bowling or to play mini-golf with friends.

Now that I’m back stateside (which almost didn’t happen on time because my flight from Yichang to Shanghai sat on the tarmac for two hours before take-off, yikes) I definitely want to stay for a while and finish my schooling but after I graduate from grad school (hopefully with a Ph.D) I definitely want to go back to Yichang and teach for a year at CTGU. I’ve spoken with some of the instructors at the school and with Dr. Johnson about it, and I’ve been told that it’s relatively certain that I’d be able to teach for a year, so that is definitely on my horizon. Until then, I’ll keep in touch with all of the friends I made in China and study hard so that I can graduate on time and get back to Yichang.

Thanks for reading and keeping up with all of my adventures in China, and more pics are on the way when I find the time to get through all of them! And again, I am incredibly thankful that I’m a Ferrum Panther, and that I’m in the Boone Honors Program. The professors, advisors, and everyone else in my Ferrum family help me be the student I am and do the amazing things I have been given chances to do. Without the support of my fellow Ferrum students and the professors and advisors I emailed and Skype called, I wouldn’t have made it through my time in China. It’s a great day to be a Panther.

Read my other blog posts shared in June 2017 and July 2017.