Gene Garcia – One of Our Heroes

Eugene Garcia serves as UWC-USA’s head of security. More importantly, over the last two weeks he has been the incident commander for the UWC-USA wildfire command team. He has provided leadership for our school, supervised the evacuation, and has been the liaison with state and local fire officials – and he has also evacuated from his own property north of Montezuma.

Gene owns 45 acres in El Oro, NM which has been threatened by the Calf Canyon Fire since late April. With a background in law enforcement, Gene gets updates on his property from friends who are firefighters. He has heard that the fire has come within about a half a mile of his home. The area is under a mandatory evacuation order and he was able to evacuate along with his chickens and goats safely.

He is still deeply concerned that the buildings may not survive the next few days as the wind continues to shift direction almost daily.

At this point there are no more measures he can take to save his property and he understands that his buildings may be a total loss.  Coming to work every day, supporting the students and staff, and working with local fire officials has been helpful for Gene – it keeps him from dwelling on concerns for his ranch.

The entire community is deeply grateful to Gene for his dedication to the school and our students.

Students Treated by Trader Joe’s After Evacuation

After evacuating from the UWC-USA campus last week, students have been studying for exams and focusing on helping others at the Glorieta Retreat center near Santa Fe. Evacuating is stressful under normal circumstances but even more so as the second-year students face the International Baccalaureate exams they have been working toward for two years. Intent on bringing a little cheer back to his students, IB History teacher Alfonso Leon planned to treat them to a special pre-exam meal. He went to Trader Joe’s in Santa Fe to pick up the ingredients including cheeses, artisan breads, and other treats for a delicious brunch. Little did Alfonso know, Trader Joe’s would be treating him and his displaced students to their meal. While chatting with the cashiers, they learned that UWC-USA students had been evacuated from their campus because of the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon Fire. The cashiers stopped him before he could pay, went and spoke to the manager, and came back telling him that the food was free with their thanks and encouragement. “They talked between themselves quietly,” Alfonso explained, “and came back and said ‘We’ve got this.'” Alfonso was touched by this “incredible act of spontaneous and completely unsolicited generosity toward UWC-USA and our students.”

Ashindi Maxton ‘93 Committed to Racial Justice: Recipient of Impact Award

UWC-USA is pleased to announce that Ashindi Maxton ‘93 is the recipient of the 2022 Giulio Regeni Alumni Impact Award.  Ashindi is the Co-Founder of the Donors of Color Network, a first of its kind philanthropic community of Black, Indigenous, Asian-American, Latino and Arab-American donors committed to systemic racial justice. As the founding Executive Director, Ashindi co-led the Climate Funders Justice Campaign which has helped move tens of millions of dollars to organizations at the intersection of climate and racial justice and has just been named a “World-Changing Idea” by Fast Company.  Ashindi also co-authored two widely distributed research reports: “The Apparitional Donor: Understanding and Engaging High Net Worth Donors of Color” and “Philanthropy Always Sounds like Someone Else: A Portrait of High Net Worth Donors of Color”.

Ashindi has developed funding strategies informing more than $100 million in investments from foundations and individual donors towards racial justice and a more inclusive democracy. Projects she created or co-created to support power building in traditionally marginalized communities include the Reflective Democracy Campaign, the Youth Engagement Fund, and New Media Ventures.

In addition to her work in philanthropy, Ashindi served as the National Policy Director of the NAACP where she created the first Policy Handbook synthesizing one hundred years of civil rights policy. As the National Director of Political Partnerships for SEIU she developed projects to support Asian-American civic participation in 5 states, to register low-income voters in health centers nationally, and to collect data that was critical to overturning a Pennsylvania Voter ID law that stood to disenfranchise 750,000 voters during a presidential election year. 

In another life, Ashindi also served as the principal of an arts charter school and as a very happy bilingual Spanish 4th and 5th grade teacher. She was also a Fulbright Scholar to the Dominican Republic researching race consciousness in young children.

Ashindi currently serves on the boards of the Way to Win and Voqal USA. She was recognized by Inside Philanthropy as “Donor Organizer of the Year” as a member of the co-founding team of the Donors of Color Network. She has also been listed three times to Washington Magazine’s “Young and the Guest List” of “forty and under geniuses, visionaries, crusaders and innovators shaping Washington’s future” and the “NAACP Power 40” list of most influential African-Americans under forty.

Hall of Fame NBA Player Vlade Divac Shares His Journey With UWC-USA Students

Basketball Hall-of-Famer Vlade Divac visited UWC-USA as a guest speaker of the school’s Bartos Institute for the Constructive Engagement of Conflict, one of the school’s signature programs.

Divac reflected on his personal journey as the country he grew up in became embroiled in a war that pitted neighbors against each other and deepened ethnic divisions. Vlade’s story is important for all students considering paths to peace and the role of personal responsibility in making a difference for our communities. Students from active conflict zones like Ukraine, Nicaragua, Afghanistan, and Ethiopia attended the presentation to learn about Vlade’s commitment to dialogue, reflection and giving back.

“We should all do our part to make this world a better place,” Divac said to the students. “What’s happening now in the world – I don’t like it at all, I’m sure all people feel the same way. It’s hard to see when innocent people suffer, and usually that’s what happens during war.”

The Bartos Institute, an intellectual, educational, and experiential community committed to developing personal character, ethical leadership, and constructive approaches to conflict, seeks to provide role models from a wide variety of callings for students to learn from. 

Naomi Swinton, the director of the Bartos Institute, was deeply appreciative of Vlade’s visit and message. “His journey and story as an athlete and a citizen of the world demonstrate that there are different paths toward a life dedicated to justice and peace,” she said. “We want our students to see that there are many ways that our lives can promote and act on values central to the UWC mission, and that over time, profound changes can and do occur to transform conflicts at the personal level and beyond.

Ethics Bowl Team Wins Third Place in National Championship

The UWC-USA Ethics Bowl Team won third place in the National High School Ethics Bowl Championships in North Carolina after several rounds of structured ethical debates with 23 other regional teams. The competition promotes ethical debate among thousands of high school students throughout the nation – encouraging respectful, supportive and rigorous discussion. To prepare, the team met several times a week and twice a day as the competition got closer. During practices, they debated with other students outside of the team, the Debate Team and even with President Victoria Mora, who offered additional advice and perspectives. 

With the support of their sponsors, Maria Weinrich(IB English Teacher) and An Nguyen (Student Support Specialist) 2nd year student coach, Ruta Rupeikyte led six first-year teammates through discussion of 16 different cases involving ethical dilemmas. Ethical dilemmas they themselves have faced are a daily discussion topic for students at UWC-USA. Georgia Howell, a first-year on the team says of the school’s Constructive Engagement of Conflict and Capstone Classes, “we’re forced to put ourselves into other people’s shoes, and see the way that others may view our situations.” She says this allowed the team to build stronger counter arguments and deliver well-rounded debates. 

Georgia feels students at the school are privileged to be surrounded by such culturally diverse peers with different backgrounds and perceptions of the world. She says that the knowledge and skills they’ve gained throughout this whole experience, such as public speaking and quick critical thinking will help them in any career they choose to pursue in the future.

Photo credit: Alex Berenfeld

Model UN Wins Best Large Delegation at Conference

Students in Model UN attended the MUN Conference in Canyon Texas where they won Best Large Delegation among 10 other schools. The conference consisted of several delegations with multiple committees, each committee representing a different country. The students in Model UN replicate the United Nations General Assembly and its other multilateral bodies in which they perform ambassador roles while debating gender equality, climate action, global health, among other topics. In preparation for the conference, students began mock trials as early as January. 

One mock trial was the discussion of the curfew on campus – one student represented faculty, another, the student body, dorm residents, security and other entities on campus. Students had to research and interview the people they represented beforehand. All of the students’ mock trials equipped them with the knowledge and pace they needed to win a majority of the awards at the conference, for which the group won Best Large Delegation. Student leader, Jason Bouramia (top center) and Delia Benitez (front right)  won Best Delegate Awards, with other awards including Outstanding Delegate Awards, won by Matyas Wagner, Khoi Ngo, Anna Abad and Felicitas Busse, and Honorable Mentions. 

In order to participate in the conference, students must have excellent academic performance, and efficient time management skills, as our students have numerous obligations at any given time. Gianvi Figari (IB Spanish Teacher and trip sponsor) says another challenge is also learning how to fail, or at least not being prepared to not win every challenge. He says this experience will prepare them to successfully face challenges and failures in their future. The conference, he says, challenges the students to make a clear and concise argument in 30 seconds or less. Because students at UWC live in an international and culturally diverse community, they took the lead over other schools when it came to knowledge of the countries of the world. The students had fun celebrating their wins by going out for a meal together after the competition. 

Alumni Speaker Series Event – Sustainability

Update: This previously scheduled event is more timely today given the challenges our campus and community face that are connected to global warming.  The speakers will provide suggestions for the way forward and Victoria Mora, UWC-USA’s president, will provide a brief update on the “State of the School” at the beginning of the session.

UWC-USA is sponsoring a distinguished Alumni Speaker Series event focused on sustainability featuring two alumni with deep experience in sustainability policy and practice. Aurelio Ramos ’91 is senior vice president for Audubon Americas where he oversees partnerships and conservation teams throughout the Americas and Caribbean. Bhushan Tuladhar ’87 is an environmental engineer with wide experience implementing sustainable policy and projects in his native Nepal.

UWC-USA president Victoria Mora and Katrin Scholz-Barth, UWC-USA’s new sustainability manager, will facilitate a conversation that features the work of these remarkable alumni and that explores the ways the UWC mission calls all of us – from Montezuma to Cape Town – to live more sustainably.

This online event is free and open to the public.

Date: May 10, 2022
Time: 7:00 pm

Register for the event below:

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Internship/Fellowship Opportunities at UWC-USA

UWC-USA is pleased to announce a number of opportunities for alumni and others to become members of the UWC-USA community and bring their talents to bear on projects on campus in the coming months.

The Wilderness program is seeking applicants for our Wilderness Fellows program. Learn more and apply here: Wilderness Fellow- Call for Applicants.

UWC-USA’s Agroecology Research Center (The Farm) is seeking to fill both farm internships and an agroecology fellowship position.

The alumni office is seeking alumni who have graduated before 2015 to share their experiences with students on campus as part of the Alumni-in-Residence program. Learn more about the program here.

UWC-USA Announces Finalists for Alumni Impact Award

UWC-USA is pleased to announce the three finalists for this year’s Giulio Regeni Alumni Impact Award. The award recognizes alumni who have made substantial contributions and created impact in the local, national, or global community, and whose accomplishments, affiliations, and professional career honor the UWC mission. This year’s finalists include Catia Lopes ‘04, Ashindi Maxton ‘93, and Allison West ‘04.

Originally from Portugal, Catia Lopes has spent the last year working in Yemen on one of today’s greatest humanitarian crises – the refugees stemming from the ongoing war. She is particularly dedicated to helping children who are the most vulnerable refugees.

Ashindi Maxton is from the U.S. and has been an advocate for racial justice working from organizations such as the NAACP, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and most recently the Donors of Color Network. She is particularly focused on voter suppression and voting rights.

Allison West is also from the U.S. and has worked as a human rights lawyer who has worked as an advocate for those who have been tortured or been victims of crimes against humanity. One of her recent projects has been an “anthology” comprised of art, interviews, and documentation around the detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Giulio Regeni ’07, for whom this annual prize is named, was an Italian citizen and a doctoral student at Cambridge University in the UK. He was conducting his Ph.D. research on the formation of independent trade unions, specifically the street vendors’ union, in Egypt after the fall of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. He was in Cairo conducting field research when on January 25, 2016, the fifth anniversary of the “25 January Revolution,” he disappeared. His body was found nine days later.

Growing Empathy: Amy Sullivan ‘86 and Her Book Opioid Reckoning

Amy Sullivan ‘86 recently published a book comprised of the stories of people whose lives have been impacted by the opioid epidemic in the U.S. Opioid Reckoning: Love, Loss, and Redemption in the Rehab State seeks to put human faces – and human stories – at the heart of an epidemic that has claimed more than half a million lives in the U.S. since the 1990s. 

A history professor at Macalester College, Amy began collecting oral histories of addiction when her family was touched by opioid use disorder. “My life as a parent and a scholar collided and I began asking questions about the availability of opioids and addiction treatment,” she said. The collection of stories is interwoven with data, facts, and research to provide a more complete understanding of addiction, treatment, families coping with addiction, and the criminalization of substance use disorders. “People were so generous with their stories which gave me a chance to create more empathy,” Amy said. “My goal in writing this book was to humanize something that has become statistics oriented and that is mostly inaccessible to many in the U.S.”

Historians look at a series of events and ask the question “what changed?” Amy interviewed over 60 people and selected 25 stories to help explore how opioid addiction and treatment have changed and to begin looking ahead at more effective treatments and attitudes toward addiction. 

Opioid Reckoning, Amy explained, is a book that is useful for anyone who wants to learn more about the opioid crisis and for people who want to understand how they can help change it. The desire to make change lies at the heart of Amy’s reflections on her two years in Montezuma. 

“My UWC-USA education was transformative and is something I think about so often,” Amy said. “It shaped how I look at the world and how I think proactively about peace and how we can understand each other. That basis, in a global context, set the stage for me to be a writer and historian who approaches people and problems with an open mind and open heart.”   

Opioid Reckoning, published by the University of Minnesota Press, is available at booksellers.