Jacob Reiner with teammates from the Israel Premier Lacrosse League on the field.

7 Continents, 1 Summer: Clarkies travel around the world – and back again

September 8, 2016

Over three months this summer, we took you on a journey across the world, from the streets of Haiti to the railways of Russia; from Antarctica’s Clark Mountains to the Arctic’s Wrangel Island. Along the way, we met Clark University undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, alumni and staff who, among other things, studied tree death in Australia, examined the stigmas experienced by non-heterosexuals in Sri Lanka, and joined a team discovering a tunnel dug by Lithuanian Jews to escape the horrors of the Holocaust.

Seven Continents, One Summer 2016

This story the last in our 7 Continents, 1 Summer series, which highlights the interesting work that Clark students, faculty, alumni and staff are doing all over the world.

Our series, “7 Continents, 1 Summer,” ran from June 1 through Labor Day. If you’re interested in catching up on our stories, they are all published online.

But we didn’t get to tell every story. Over the summer, we heard from a number of Clarkies who described their far-flung travels. Here’s what they were up to:

  • Work and play in Israel: Jacob Reiner ’17 (pictured) exercised his mind and body this summer. He secured an internship in Israel with OurCrowd, a top-ranked financial technology firm. “I was able to dive head first into the world of start-ups in Israel and see the country in a way many people don’t get to,” he said. In addition, he played in the Israel Premier Lacrosse League, helping the team win a league title, but, more importantly, bringing together “both Jewish and Palestinian kids through the power of sport, and watching differences be left on the sidelines as the kids were playing the game.” The economics and geography major is a member of Clark’s lacrosse team and receives Jonas Clark and LEEP scholarships.
  • Family connections in India: Krithi Vachaspati ’18 gained 36 new “sisters” this summer during an internship in India. Through a family connection, the international development and social change major found herself teaching English in an orphanage for girls in Kharar, a small town in the Punjab state. “At first all the girls were quite nervous to speak, but eventually, they opened up and became some of the most loving people I’ve had the privilege of meeting,” she says. “These girls also were some of the most driven people I’ve ever seen.”
  • An American in Austria: Music Professor Benjamin Korstvedt of the Visual and Performing Arts Department discovered more than notes and chords at an Austrian festival at which he spoke. He says the St. Florianer Brucknertage festival, centered on a historically significant abbey in a small town off the beaten path, entertained a diverse audience. “The festival involved an excellent youth orchestra, hundreds of local people in the audience as well as folks from the United States, England, Scotland, Germany, France and more,” he says. “It was pleasure and an honor to be invited to take part, especially as an American.”

Russell D. Greaves meets with Mayan women in the Yucatan
Russell D. Greaves meets with Mayan women in the
Yucatán (photo by Karen Kramer).

  • Anthropology in the Yucatán: Russell D. Greaves ’83 spent part of the summer in a Mayan village on the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, “continuing long-term research on demography, health and economic changes as well as looking at the modern and past importance of water holes (cenotes) in structuring settlement and economic activities in this limestone environment without any rivers, lakes, or other kinds of surface water.” Greaves, who has master’s and doctoral degrees in anthropology from the University of New Mexico, is an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Utah, a research associate with the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University and a consulting scholar with the American Section of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. In Mexico, he worked with Karen Kramer, an anthropologist at the University of Utah. Meanwhile, in Venezuela, Greaves has conducted ethnoarchaeological research with Pume hunter-gatherers in the savannas.
  • Benefiting Bangladesh: Muhammad Islam ’19 put his computer and IT skills to work to benefit his home country of Bangladesh. He spent three months interning as an operations and computer systems analyst — maintaining the computer system, developing a new database system, increasing the center’s social media presence and tracking and analyzing those metrics — at the United Nations Information Center in Dhaka. Outside of work, Islam began a “project that aims to provide free computer literacy and programming training to underserved high schoolers of rural Bangladesh,” in Delduar, an Upazila (geographical district) with more than 200,000 people, many of whom have little or no computer access. He plans to continue working on the project.
  • Global warming in Peru: Shirin Esmaeili Chinchilla ’17, a Clark Global Scholar and cultural studies and communications/geography major from El Salvador, spent 10 weeks conducting research on Parque de la Papa (Potato Park), in southeastern Peru. The project focused on using NASA Earth observations — such as Landsat 8 satellites — to study shifting land cover and vegetation on earth. “The research was special because we were studying a biocultural heritage area where seven Inca communities have preserved very traditional ways of growing and harvesting. Therefore, we combined both qualitative (local knowledge of farmers) and more quantitative data (climatic models) to create maps that would visibly show areas  suitable for cultivation now and those  areas at risk in the future,” Esmaeili says.

Sabrina Taveras in Comoros

  • Where in the world is Comoros? Alumna Sabrina Taveras ’16, could have been specific when she filled out her Peace Corps application. “I chose Swaziland, Fiji and anywhere,” she says. Taveras had preferences, but was open to wherever the organization thought she’d fit best. “They chose Comoros, which was a country I had never heard of before,” she says. After a lot of research in a short time about the island nation located between Mozambique and Madagascar, she was ready to go. Her interest in joining the Peace Corps was piqued after she completed a LEEP project with the group during her junior year. “I learned the ins and outs of the organization, met returned Peace Corps volunteers and got to shadow at different networking events,” she says. For the next two years, Taveras, who majored in international development and social change, will be teaching English to students between ages 13 and 20 in the village of Koimbani. She’s paired with a mentor who who will be able to help her adjust to teaching and the community. “I am definitely excited to take on Koimbani because I know that people there are excited to welcome me to their region,” she says.
  • Doing good work in Thailand: As he has done for several years, Dan Brook '88, a lecturer in the Sociology and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences department at San Jose State University, led a group of high school students to Chiang Mai, Thailand, for a three-week service-learning sociology course in June. “The students volunteer for one or more nonprofit organizations — a boarding school for disadvantaged youth, a Buddhist temple, a sex worker-owned bar, an organic garden, an animal sanctuary,” Brooks notes. “My students do good and useful work, yet they always get more than they give. The students journal about their experiences, and we meet as a group to put those experiences in cultural context.” Brook has taught sociology at San Jose State since 2005 — and at other universities previously — and also has taught English in Thailand. He has written several e-books.

Josephine Munene in Scotland
Josephine Munene in Scotland

  • Sustainability, from Kenya to Scotland: Josephine Munene plans to graduate this December with dual M.B.A./ES&P degrees, but meanwhile she’s keeping busy. In July, she spoke at an international Teddinet Energy-Feedback Symposium in Edinburgh, Scotland, that drew more than 80 participants and 40 speakers in academia, industry and policy. Her first year at Clark, she interned with National Grid and completed a capstone project examining household use of smart grid technologies as well as communication between customers and the utility. Munene has been interested in sustainability issues since elementary school. “I come from Kenya, where the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai did a wonderful job of sensitizing the communities about the importance of re-establishing our diminishing forest cover,” she explains. “The world is coming to realize that we need to conserve our resources as they are finite.”

You may be wondering whether we managed to find stories on all seven continents. We did. Clarkies, we discovered, not only travel far and wide, but a global perspective is par for the course.

At top: Jacob Reiner and his lacrosse teammates win a division league title in the Israel Premier Lacrosse League. Reiner also helped Israeli and Palestinian children connect through the sport.