The Magazine of the University of Minnesota Duluth
One year ago, UMD's University Singers performed in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. The trip, led by director Stan Wold, was an unforgettable experience for the UMD student singers.
During their tour of Africa, the group stayed with Kenya's Muungani National Choir host families. For participating students Mindy Swanson and Dan Kernler, the experience of living with a host family highlighted the differences between cultures. Most of the host families were middle class professionals, yet they lived in houses with tin roofs and no running hot water. A little girl in Swanson's host family had never seen a white person before and rubbed Swanson's white skin with curiosity.
Three years ago, University Singers decided to go to Africa. Vernon Opheim, Wold's predecessor and presently a tour operator, met with the University Singers to plan for the trip. "The students had to foot most of the bill themselves," commented Wold. To raise a portion of the $3,200 dollars needed by each student, the singers held a banquet, sold food at choir festivals, and sold poinsettias.
The trip to Africa had its difficulties. Thanks to the rain El Nino brought to Africa, the group had vehicle trouble. Traveling short distances sometimes took hours. The steep slopes were so muddy the vehicles would start sliding down backwards. One performance was canceled even though a church full of people was waiting to hear them sing.
Kenyan national elections also made the trip difficult for the singers. "We thought the elections were over, but because of the rain they had to be extended," said Kernler. This left the group with lower standard vehicles while the more reliable vehicles transported voting officials to the provinces.
The singers bussed to north central Tanzania, where they spent several days performing. They performed at the Dar Es Salaam cultural center, and at the University of Dar Es Salaam. During this time, the University Singers participated in music and theatre workshops. The group visited a hospital in Tanzania where 30 percent of the patients suffered from AIDS. They also spent a day at an elementary school where 100 students were packed into one classroom. Only one third of the children had desks; some sat on the dirt floor or on rocks.
Wold remembered, "In Nairobi, the host families were also choir members, and together we performed two numbers that the University Singers had rehearsed in Swahili." In Nairobi the performance included a 25-minute long 'curtain raiser' by the host choir. "Standing on stage with people who had become international friends was an incredible experience," said Wold. "It was an intense way to experience music, especially with a non-eurocentric music culture. Making a true connection by simply stepping into another culture is a powerful way to learn."
- Jessica Schneider
Thirty people sat on the floor in a studio on the fifth floor, sweating and breathing hard. Light streamed into the space from windows at the top of the room; a wall of mirrors reflected the students. One young Hungarian student lifted up his eyes and proclaimed, "In this moment, we are not in this room, we are not in Budapest, we are not in Hungary, the outside world does not exist..." The students had just completed a three-hour movement workshop with UMD theater associate professor, Ann Bergeron. Without words in common, they used movement, balance and rhythm to communicate. Over three hours, they tossed each other in the air, held each other's arms, legs, and bodies, and began to trust their partners.
This was one of the unforgettable experiences shared by Ann Bergeron and Matthias Anderson, Nelson Andrewz, Brad Bone, Valerie Buel, Shana Croll, Amy Eicher and Kourtney Kaas. The group spent ten days in March of 1998 with some of the world's finest student theater performers at the Academy of Drama and Film International Theatre School Festival in Budapest, Hungary.
UMD's relationship with the Academy of Drama and Film began seven years ago when the former School of Fine Arts Dean, Dick Durst, established a connection with the Hungarian Cultural Attache at the American College Theater Festival Competition in Washington D.C. His contacts sent the theater group on its first tour in 1992. This year, for the third time, the academy provided UMD students with housing, food and transportation in Hungary. Chancellor Kathryn A. Martin and the School of Fine Arts funded the students' air fare.
Bergeron said, "Bringing students together from around the world teaches them how different cultures interpreted a theater piece in unique ways."
Last year only two schools from the United States attended the festival: the graduate program at the University of Tennessee Knoxville and UMD. The academy only invites the best of the best. For Bergeron it was "spectacular to have been picked out of the middle of the United States to come and perform in the festival." She said, "We all felt privileged to be invited."
Each school gave a performance. UMD's theater students performed Jean Claude Van Ittallie's The Serpent, a movement theater piece, loosely based on stories from the book of Genesis. Bergeron chose the piece because the stories are common to many countries, and it is easy to "read" across a variety of cultures. Violence as a universal theme was acted out in the story of Cain and Abel and in JFK's assassination. Bergeron chose simple effects to get the message across, again without words. A female student tossed a scarf around her neck, a male student walked beside her, and they both slowly waved. Shots rang out and the male student slumped. The 1963 event which was broadcast on television stations around the world came to life on the Hungarian stage. Using simple movement, the UMD students were able to project information to the international audience.
Each school participated in workshops. UMD students Kourtney Kaas and Matt Anderson described a workshop that was given in English and then translated into Russian, German, Romanian, Hungarian, Finnish, Slovakian, and Yugoslavian.
Kaas said, "During the workshops we connected eye-to-eye and I felt like we connected soul-to-soul as well." She said their movements were built on trust. "Only trust could allow us to put our safety in a stranger's hands and complete incredibly difficult and beautiful moves."
Ann Bergeron has gained a better understanding of why she teaches. "I know that 95% of our communication does not come from language, but it is hard to test that in Duluth. When I saw these young students communicating using only movement, it was truly exciting."
- Jessica Schneider
The Alworth Institute Brown Bag Lunch series is, without doubt, one of the most successful continuous lecture series at UMD. It is also how most people in the community know of the Alworth Institute. Almost every Thursday when UMD is in session, a faculty member, staff member, student or guest gives an international presentation. Carol Michealson, who runs the program, says there have been "brown bags" on British Architecture, Japanese Universities, the International Women's Movement, the Isle of Wight, Chinese Piano Music, Aids in Kenya, and much much more. Between five and 60 people show up for these lunch hour talks, dipping into their yogurts and unwrapping their sandwiches, while viewing slides and listening to presentations on other cultures.
The Alworth Institute, which was established thanks to the generosity of the Alworth family and the foresight of the University of Minnesota, is much more than "brown bags." In line with its mandate to bring the world to Duluth and Duluth to the world, it offers an occasional lecture series in which experts comment on current international topics of pressing concern, be it the problems of rural development in South America, the crisis in Central Africa, the future of the Balkans, or the role of the United Nations. The keystone of this series is the annual Royal D. Alworth Memorial lecture presented by a distinguished speaker. This year Judith Kipper from the Council on Foreign Relations' Middle East Forum will speak at UMD on May 5.
Aside from speakers programs and sponsoring the efforts of others, for example, the annual Baeumler-Kaplan Holocaust Lecture, the Alworth Institute is also developing as an institute in the more conventional sense of being a source of expertise on international affairs. Every Monday at 8.15 a.m., while school is in session, the director of the institute, Paul Sharp, can be heard surveying the international events of the previous week with Stephanie Hemphill on the radio station, KUMD. Local media outlets regard the Institute as a useful source of local "spin" when rockets are launched, economies collapse, or princesses die somewhere around the world. Finally, the Institute is developing as a nationally and internationally recognized center for the study of diplomacy, enjoying links with similar programs in places like Athens, Leicester and Moscow, while contributing to the organization of conferences on international affairs in places as far apart as Washington DC, Vienna and Malta.
International programs at UMD take ever greater strides with (l-r) the former International Student Advisor Bruce Rutherford; International Studies Program Director Gordon Levine; International Student Advisor Karin Robbins; Linda Agola, a student from Kenya; Carolina Hernandez, a student from Columbia; Xu Chen, a student from China; Kristine Ramirez, a student from the Phillipines; Swagato Bhatta, a student from Bangladesh; Alworth Institute Program Assocaite Carol Michealson; and Study Abroad Advisor Deb Good.
For many young people, college means traveling to broaden their horizons, and explore new vistas. For nineteen years, UMD's Study Abroad Program in England has been providing students with an opportunity to spread their wings and still earn full academic credit. The program's long running success speaks well for the experience. International studies program associate, Deb Good, said that the Study Abroad programs at UMD teach "students to value and respect cultural differences in a world that is increasingly multi-cultural and multinational."
Beginning in 1980-81 with program director Jim Grant, originally from Scotland, the appreciation for multicultural education made UMD a launch-pad for international study. Now about 55 students study abroad in England each year. They study at Westhill College in Birmingham, England, living with a British family or in a student residence hall. Students attend school Monday through Thursday in courses taught by UMD and British faculty for UMD credit. Quarter breaks and long weekends allow time for travel.
The International Education Office also offers a liberal arts oriented study in Sweden program for spring quarter. About seventeen students spend the quarter in Växjö University in Växjö, Sweden; a sister city of Duluth. Courses are taught in English by Swedish professors. Students have the opportunity to learn Swedish, enroll in elementary education programs, and take a variety of courses in Scandinavian cultures.
For almost a decade, students from UMD have been participating in exchange programs with Swedish and Finnish universities that concentrate on science, political science, business and engineering for UMD credit. Students live in apartments shared with six to ten other students and they are immersed directly into the Swedish or Finnish school system where they study in English. They can spend a year or a semester in Finland at Joensuu University or at one of the three schools in Sweden: Luleå University, Växjö University, or Umeå University. As of 1998, 89,000 students in the U.S.A. have received academic credit for studying abroad. Most students describe the experience as life-changing. Perhaps UMD student Ken Nystom said it best, "My trip to Sweden opened my eyes, my mind, and my heart to a world that I now perceive as much smaller."
The flip side of this phenomenon is the opportunity for UMD students to take classes here in Duluth with over 112 international students. Karen Robbins, the International Student Advisor says that currently a record number of students from 30 countries are represented at UMD. Faculty members often take advantage of the situation. For instance, linguistics professor Mike Linn uses a novel assignment in some of his classes. He asks each of his students to fill out a brief questionnaire by interviewing one international student. The stories his students share highlight diverse cultural backgrounds and allow North American students to compare our country's rich language, colloquialisms, and dialects with those of other countries.
- Chris Fortin
Chancellor Kathryn A. Martin, School of Business and Economics Dean Kjell Knudsen and Duluth Soft Center Director Alan Yelsey share an uncommon vision.
They see a revolutionary campus where computer software entrepreneurs, research teams, UMD faculty and students work and learn together.
Martin, Knudsen and Yelsey are busy making a place for the University of Minnesota Duluth in a new technology center situated in downtown Duluth. At its most expansive, it will be a campus complex incorporating businesses of all sizes, meeting spaces, gathering spaces, entertainment, advanced technology laboratories, classrooms, and even housing. In its most modest role, the Soft Center will develop programs to train area residents as technology workers.
There are only a few prototypes in the world for this unique creative and learning environment including Sophia Antipolis near Nice, France and the Soft Center in Ronneby, Sweden.
In order to learn more about this marriage of academia and private business, a delegation led by UMD representatives visited Ronneby, Sweden this summer. There they saw a ten-year-old Soft Center that links 60 companies with about 1,500 students, all working to create software for the world market. Ronneby has produced a network of contacts, knowledge sources, and business opportunities. Officials from Soft Center Ronneby are very enthusiastic about the Duluth Soft Center/ Technology Village.
In addition to this partnership commitment from Soft Center Ronneby, the Duluth delegation brought back a giant-sized dream: hundreds of high-paying jobs in Duluth.
The UMD School of Business and Economics and the College of Science and Engineering are jumping on board. CSE Dean Sabra Anderson said that her computer science graduates "land jobs paying $40,000 - $50,000, but they have never been able to stay in the area." She is looking forward to the jobs, internships, research and development opportunities for students and faculty. She said, "There are a number of departments that will benefit from the relationship: computer science, electrical and computer engineering, and mathematics are at the top of the list."
Lake Superior College will join UMD as one of the first Technology Village tenants. Knudsen hopes that the University of Wisconsin Superior, Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College, the College of St. Scholastica, and Fond Du Lac Community College will join the group soon. "One of the greatest strengths that this area holds is its fine institutions of higher learning. When more of us become partners, more businesses will want to participate."
DMR Consulting Group Inc., a Montreal, Canada-based firm, was first to announce its plans to be one of the Soft Center's first business tenants. DMR didn't wait for the complex to be built. They moved to Duluth and hired 12 workers in the spring of 1998.
The Duluth Technology Village will be located in a perfect spot to take advantage of a high-speed, high-capacity network that is being installed by MP Telecom, a subsidiary of Minnesota Power. The first stages of the telecommunication infrastructure project connects Duluth with Grand Rapids, Hibbing, Virginia, Eveleth and Brainerd. The second phase, to be completed in 1999, connects those cities with Minneapolis and St. Paul. The network will support high tech companies with 2.5 gigabits of capacity, enough to handle 32,000 phone calls or internet users at once. "The capabilities will put Duluth in the front of the pack compared to other communities of its size," said Yelsey. This much capacity or band-width will make video conferences and long-distance office communication instantaneous. This backbone, a pipeline that carries information, will be as good as any major metropolitan area.
Yelsey, a former Honeywell executive, is working to package some loan monies for the new Duluth enterprises. He wants to put together funds from sources like Northeast Ventures and state grant monies with other entrepreneurial funding sources to help businesses in the Technology Village to secure appropriate capital.
Knudsen says that the UMD Center for Economic Development will play a leading role in the Technology Village. Their work to assist businesses with market strategy, market plans and product feasibility will dovetail with Yelsey's funding packages to create stronger, healthier companies.
The project is not without controversy. Some Duluthians oppose the destruction of historic buildings to make way for the 190,000 square foot building. Others contest the Tax Increment Financing district designation because of the perceived loss of city revenue for basic services. Still others are concerned about cost overruns and poor communication from DEDA, the Duluth Economic Development Authority, which is controlling funding for the project. In spite of these concerns, the project is moving forward on a fast track; the expected completion date for the first phase is June 1999.
A recent study released by the Business Software Alliance cites software as the fastest growing economic sector. Because software development has risen to become the third largest industry in the country, the stakes for the project are high but the City of Duluth and UMD believe the gamble is worth the risk.
As Knudsen and Yelsey speak about the project, they hope to garner a favorable response from UMD alumni. Yelsey said, "We want alumni to bring their businesses back to Duluth."
This vision goes farther than a small business incubation center. It goes farther than internships and faculty/entrepreneurial collaboration. Knudsen said, "We want the lines to blur between student and professor, between employer and employee. We are looking for the pure pursuit of knowledge and creativity. When that happens, we know we have succeeded."
- Cheryl Reitan