UWC-USA Alumni Win $1M Grand Prize Advancing Drone Technology

Saïf-Deen Akanni ’85 and four other UWC-USA alumni are behind a company that is revolutionizing the drone (UAV) industry by increasing the flight time of UAVs from about 30 minutes to up to four hours. Saïf, CEO and Chief Technology Officer of Sentient Blue, accepted a $1M grand prize from the GENIUS NY business accelerator competition in early April.

“When the U.S. government opened the use of drones to commercial applications in 2016, I realized there was a great opportunity to improve the performance of drones,” Saïf explained. Lithium batteries could only support flight for about 30 minutes with a recharging time of up to 80 minutes. And in cold weather flight time was often reduced to 10 minutes.

Saïf and the team at Sentient Blue developed a hybrid propulsion system using a microturbine which is essentially a very small jet engine that can increase flight time up to 4 hours.

Saïf gained important experiences and developed valuable skills in his two years at UWC-USA. “I came to UWC-USA in 1982 with very few skills and left two years later with new experiences that were instrumental in making me the person I am today.” When pressed for further clarification, he explained that UWC-USA encourages students to go outside their comfort zones while pushing themselves – and the organizations they come into contact with – to do more.

Saïf also contends that his ability to speak six languages has been instrumental in his ability to build a company that works in a highly international field. “The applications for drones with longer flight times can help both industry and humanitarian efforts,” Saïf said. “We’ve been in conversations with non-profits and foundations about using drones to deliver medicines or vaccines to remote areas. I’m an aerospace engineer but my work can be used to improve the lives of others and support the UWC mission.”

Saïf is the only member of the class of 1985 who has been part of this project but is pleased that four other alumni from his time at UWC-USA are investors or advisors. Bertrand Kan ’84, Amit Mohindra ’84, Charles Wong ’84, and Eugenio Ruggiero ’84 are also involved.

Since winning the award, Saïf and Sentient Blue have been inundated with calls from investors and media inquiring about their plans. “The recognition this prize affords us is nothing short of amazing,” Saïf further explained. And the prize money will help them hire more employees and get their product to market more quickly.

Community Partner Recognition Event

UWC-USA is hosting an event and dinner, both open to the public, to recognize the partners who are a big part of every student’s experience.

While UWC-USA students and faculty perform over 17,000 hours of community service each year, it would not be possible to do so without the help of tremendous community partners in schools, non-profits, and churches. Naomi Swinton, Director of the Bartos Institute for the Constructive Engagement of Conflict, has worked with community leaders for over thirteen years. “Building partnerships is a very UWC thing,” Naomi explains. “At the heart of the UWC mission is a belief that, while individuals can make a difference, creative partnerships are critical to making the world more peaceful and sustainable.”

The event also serves as an opportunity to recognize and thank the families in Northern New Mexico who have shared their homes with our students as part of the Get-Away Family Program. Get-Away Families open their homes to students on weekends or even over school holidays. “The Get-Away Family Program provides our students with a break from the hectic campus experience and provides local families with a chance to learn about the cultures of our students,” says Alex Curtiss who directs the Get-Away Family program. “The UWC mission is about building bridges and this is a way that we can build bridges between our students and families in the area.” UWC-USA is always looking for more Get-Away Families. Interested families can learn more about the program and the application process here.

While Get-Away Families and community partners are invited, the event and dinner are both open to the public. Members of the community interested in being a Get-Away Family or others simply interested in learning more about UWC-USA are welcome.

What: Community Partner  Program Recognition and Thanks Event and Dinner
When: Thursday, May 9
4:30 – 5:00 Recognition Event
5:00 – 6:00 Dinner with partners, Get-Away Families, and community members
Where: Kluge Auditorium on the UWC-USA campus (please arrive early and stop at the Welcome Center for parking and directions)

Please RSVP below:

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2019 Alumni Impact Award Winner Announced

Congratulations to Len Necefer ‘07 the recipient of the 2019 Giulio Regeni Alumni Impact Award. Len has been a strong advocate for Native nations and the environment since graduating from UWC-USA. Congratulations are also in order for finalists Rick Rowley ‘94 and Shiva Gurung ‘84.

Len Necefer ‘07 (2019 Winner) is an assistant professor with joint appointments with the American Indian Studies program and the Udall Center for Public Policy. He is also the CEO of NativesOutdoors, a Colorado-based outdoor apparel company. Len has worked with Allegheny Science & Technology as an energy manager and the Department of Energy’s Office of Indian Energy in Golden, Colorado. Len has become a strong young voice in the debate about public lands and national monuments, as well as an enthusiastic advocate for native communities. He regularly consults and serves on panels for the outdoor and native communities. Len participated in the 2016 Annual Conference on campus. Len is passionate about the environment, the land we inhabit and has, throughout his years as an alumnus, fought to protect and represent the voice of Native Nations.

Rick Rowley ‘94 (2019 Finalist) is a filmmaker devoted to telling the stories of people who fight for truth, for freedom, and against war. Rick also uses film to tell stories about those who struggle against unfair capitalistic systems in developing countries. His work not only shows commitment to the UWC mission but also shows how important it is to engage the public and to share the stories that Giulio Regeni was exploring at the time of his death. Through his art, Rick is able to help change the way we see the world by humanizing the stories of real people. All his films, from Zapatista up until Dirty Wars, focus on unveiling atrocities while celebrating the power that we all have to fight back.

Shiva Gurung ‘84 (2019 Finalist) comes from a very small village in Northern Nepal (Badagun, Besisahar). When he graduated from UWC-USA, he chose to return to Nepal, refusing a scholarship for university study, in order to “give back” to his country the fantastic opportunity he had acquired through his UWC education. Shiva started his career in Kathmandu as a successful computer scientist in one of the biggest banks in Nepal. While working there he became an inspirational leader for his team members. In time he also became an inspirational leader of his village Badagun, taking over from his father’s leadership. He created a new vision for the valley that led the 22 villages to form an agricultural cooperative. Shiva has been a tremendous supporter of Badegun’s initiatives including promoting sustainability and encouraging the involvement of women in village projects.

The Giulio Regeni Alumni Impact Award is conferred annually on a UWC-USA alumna/us whose work and life are exemplars of the UWC mission. The winner each year is a featured speaker at graduation. Learn more about the Giulio Regeni Alumni Impact Award here.

Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro to Speak at 2019 Graduation

Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro, chairwoman of the United World College International Board who is globally recognized for initiatives that advance health, development and human rights, will be the keynote speaker for the UWC-USA graduation at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, May 25, on the Montezuma campus.

Kanyoro served as the president and chief executive officer of the Global Fund for Women, a foundation that invests in and advocates for women and girls. With more than 30 years of experience mobilizing and managing international non-governmental organizations at both the global and grassroots levels, Kanyoro’s early work focused on the self-determination of African peoples and the abolition of apartheid in South Africa.

Born in Kenya, she has travelled all over the world and lived for extended periods in Africa, Europe and United States. Kanyoro is passionate about using philanthropy, education, media and technology to drive social change

particularly amongst youth, women and marginalized people of the world.

Kanyoro has doctorates in linguistics from the University of Texas, Austin, and feminist theology from San Francisco Theological Seminary.

The UWC-USA Class of 2019 will have 106 graduates from 65 countries.

Mark Hodde ’89 Returns as New Chief Advancement Officer

Mark Hodde, a UWC-USA alumnus from the class of 1989, has recently joined the school as Chief Advancement Officer. Mark will manage all aspects of our giving, alumni, and communications efforts as we work to fulfill the Davis Family Challenge Grant and build the foundation for a future capital campaign. The five-year grant from the family of Shelby M. C. Davis provides a match if the school is able to raise $2M in the Annual Fund.

UWC-USA President Victoria Mora is thrilled that Mark will share his considerable leadership and fundraising experience with the school that means so much to him.

“Mark impressed us with his data-driven approach to fundraising, his passion for UWC-USA and our mission, and his proactive thinking about how to take our advancement efforts to the next level.”

Mark has more than 25 years of experience in fundraising, marketing and communications with international humanitarian relief organizations in the United States and abroad.  He holds a master’s in public administration from the University of Southern California.

Mark counts the experiences he had as a student among the most formative in his life. “As a second-year student, I organized a project to Matamoros, Mexico to assist a single mother and her children rebuild a home that was damaged in Hurricane Gilbert,” he said.

Mark had to raise money to support travel for the international construction crew (pictured left) and supplies for the project. As it happened, Ray Hankamer, the father of Gabrielle (Hankamer) Welch ’90, was visiting campus and learned about the trip. He provided the students with a place to stay at a hotel he owned in Brownsville.

“As I look back, this experience helped shape my career path working for international humanitarian agencies, building partnerships, and raising funds for urgent causes. And, best of all, this year I’ll celebrate with Ildiko (Jekl) Hodde ’90, one of the participants in that project, as we mark our 25th wedding anniversary!”

Mark is eager to tackle the challenges he faces. “UWC-USA is a unique place in so many respects. It is an international school tucked away in the remote Southwest, and a school with a 37-year history that is still relatively unknown. The mission remains relevant, but we need to be more visible in expressing our values and inviting people to participate in the work of the school.”

Alumnus, Veteran, and Author Matt Farwell ’02 Speaks About His Book on Afghan War

Matt Farwell ’02 presented a fireside chat on Wednesday evening at President Victoria Mora’s campus home. Fireside chats are opportunities for UWC-USA students to meet alumni or other thought leaders in an informal setting. Matt, who is a veteran of the U.S. War in Afghanistan, shared insights about his recently published book, American Cipher, which is a narrative of the life, captivity, and trial of Bowe Bergdahl, a U.S. soldier who was in Taliban captivity for five years after he deserted. Bergdahl’s story, and Matt’s book, provide some surprising insights on the U.S. War in Afghanistan that began in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks and continues today.

Read an excerpt of American Cipher published in Vanity Fair.

National Book Award Nominee, Andrés Reséndez ’85, Shares Research With Students

Andrés Reséndez ’85 led a Fireside Chat at UWC-USA president Victoria Mora’s home on his 2016 book The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America. Nominated for a National Book Award, winner of the 2017 California Book Awards in nonfiction, and the 2017 Bancroft Prize from Columbia University, The Other Slavery recounts the historical, economic, and cultural issues surrounding Indian enslavement in the Southwest and Northern Mexico.

A Fireside Chat is an opportunity for UWC-USA alumni or other thought leaders connected to the UWC-USA community to share their research or perspective in an informal setting.

Andrés introduced himself to the gathering of students and faculty and then shared key elements of his book. He concluded with a question and answer sessions where students asked about his work.

In the introduction to The Other Slavery, Andrés explains how his research shaped his understanding of the topic. “The more I learned, the more I became convinced that the other slavery had been a defining aspect of North American societies. And yet it has been almost completely erased from our historical memory. At last count there were more than fifteen thousand books on African slavery, whereas only a couple of dozen specialized monographs were devoted to Indian slavery.”

Andrés, who was born in Mexico City, was a member of one of the very first UWC-USA graduating classes and was pleased to return to campus to share his journey and research with the UWC-USA community.

Women in Science ExEd Provides STEM Instruction and Role Models in Local Schools

The Women in Science program is one of seven ExEds (Experiential Education programs) engaged with local Las Vegas schools. The students in these ExEds work with over 500 young people every week and provide an important way for UWC-USA students to share language, culture, and skills with local children. 

It’s also an important part of the UWC mission and the students understand that responsibility.

Ayala Levi ’19, who hails from Israel, has been a key leader in one of these programs: Women in Science. One of the primary goals of the program is to build closer ties with the community of Las Vegas through empowering young women’s participation in STEM. The ExEd includes boys and girls alike, as the student leaders believe that fostering collaboration helps diminish obstacles mounted purely on the basis of gender prejudice.

Ayala feels that she is learning from the experience as well. “I’ve learned to use different methods of explanation along with being aware of when I need extra patience and when the students need more encouragement. Moreover, I’ve been reminded how important it is to dream and aspire every day.”

The biggest role for our students is mentoring,” says faculty advisor Leslie Miller. Ayala, for example, is working with students in a science class on projects in preparation for a science fair. “Our students also work with this class in other ways. They will be doing presentations centered around women in science and women in general.”

The Women in Science ExEd already has a number of first-year UWC-USA students engaged so the program will more easily be able to build on the foundation that Ayala and the other student leaders have established.


Dean of Academics, Alexis Mamaux, Publishes Textbook

Alexis Mamaux, Dean of Academics at UWC-USA, recently published a textbook focused on the Cold War for Oxford University Press.  Oxford AQA History for A Level: The Cold War 1945-1991 Revision Guide is one of several books Alexis has published in recent years showcasing her deep subject knowledge and teaching experience. The book provides exam practice strategies, example student answers, and contents checklists to help students prepare for exams.

Founding President of UWC-USA Passes at Age 94

A gentleman, educator and visionary, founding United World College-USA President Theodore “Ted” Lockwood was committed to building a community that shared the passion to make a difference.

Lockwood, who served as president at UWC-USA from 1982-1993, passed away Monday, Jan. 21, at his home in Stowe, Vt. He was 94.

Shirleen Lanham, who has taught math at UWC-USA for 30 years, described Lockwood as learned, gracious and eloquent, and committed to the education of young adults based on firmly held philosophical and moral principles.

“He connected with the students, thoroughly enjoying interacting with them through discussion and through shared experience,” Lanham said. “He went on expeditions with them, ‘hung out’ with them after meals in the cafeteria, saw every bus off after graduation to say farewell, and read every student’s report, adding a comment of his own.”

Lockwood’s successor Dr. Phil Geier noted that Lockwood and his wife, Lu, laid the foundation for UWC-USA that Geier and his wife, Amy, were privileged to build on.

“Ted’s rare combination of academic accomplishments and outdoor interests brought just the right spirit to Montezuma, as did the outstanding faculty and staff he hired, influencing many years of UWC students,” Geier said. “We will be forever grateful for Ted and Lu’s leadership and dedication as they established the UWC movement’s only campus in the United States.”

Lockwood was born on Dec. 5, 1924, in Hanover, N.H. He attended private school in Lake Placid, N.Y., and graduated as valedictorian from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., in 1948. Lockwood earned his master’s and doctorate from Princeton University.

He taught at Dartmouth College, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Juniata College in Huntingdon, Penn., before becoming dean of faculty at Concord College in Athens, W.Va, and provost and dean of faculty at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y.

Lockwood was named president of Trinity College in 1967. He helped transform the all-men’s school into a coeducational institution during his second year in office. Today, women make up 50 percent of the student body.

Lockwood wrote a book about being involved with the founding UWC-USA and working on that undertaking with philanthropist, Armand Hammer. UWC-USA is one of 17 high schools around the world, with a mission that education can serve as a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future. Titled “Dreams & Promises: The Story of the Armand Hammer United World College,” the book focuses on the personalities involved, the international perspective and glimpses of all these people. It also offers an inspiration to a public hoping for better educational opportunities.

President of UWC-USA since July 2016, Victoria Mora noted she didn’t have the opportunity to meet Lockwood due to his health issues.

“I was privileged to get to know him through his book,” Mora said.  “Founding a school is no easy task. Add the big personality of Armand Hammer, combined with the complexities of a worldwide educational movement, and you really do have the makings of a book!”

She added that Lockwood was the right leader at the right time, and he couldn’t have been luckier to have his beloved wife Lu at his side, bringing the Montezuma campus to life.

“All of us at UWC-USA, and across the movement, owe Dr. Lockwood a debt of gratitude,” Mora said. “We wish his family peace in this time of loss.”

Lockwood in 1992 hired Ravi Parashar, who continues to teach economics at UWC-USA. Parashar was surprised when Lockwood met Parashar in Santa Fe to drive him to Montezuma.

“But that was him,” Parashar said. “Unassuming and chipping in to help whenever and wherever needed. He had an impressive presence and yet was so humble, possessing a spontaneous old world charm that immediately made you like him and feel comfortable with him as could be observed in any meeting that he attended.”

Lockwood is survived by his wife; daughters from his first marriage, Tamara Jane Quinn, Mavis Ferens Lockwood and Serena Katherine Lockwood; and stepsons Nicholas Abbot and Michael Abbot.

A memorial service is scheduled for 12 p.m. Eastern Time on Saturday, Feb. 9, at St. John’s in the Mountains, an Episcopal Church in Stowe. Lu Lockwood, who had been married to Ted for 38 years, asks that memorial contributions be made to the United World College-USA.

“Montezuma was the closest thing to Ted’s heart,” she said.

To make a contribution, go to www.uwc-usa.org/give. Make checks payable to UWC-USA and mail to UWC-USA Advancement Office, 4 Campus Drive, P.O. Box 248, Montezuma, NM, 87731-0248.

Friends and alumni are also encouraged to share memories of Ted’s generosity and kindness by following this link.