Quilting in Celebration of Difference

The UWC-USA class of ‘25 began the new school year with a quilting project that reflects on the relationship between individuality and the collective. Two years ago, Kate Ribeiro started this project for the very first time with her Language and Literature class of 33 students. The goal of this assignment was to introduce students to the concept of authorial intent and exercise their higher order of thinking by analyzing an artistic work. The 2021 quilt was gifted to UWC Movement benefactor, Shelby Davis, for his 85th birthday.

This year, Ribeiro expanded the project to include all 114 first-year students. With creative liberty and a diverse selection of materials, the students explored the intersections and uniqueness of their identities. The quilt mirrors the character of every student through the different fabrics, colors, patterns, and compositions. With the skillful help of Ribeiro and the talented Sewing/Repair CAS (Creativity, Activity, Service) Group, the students were able to visually express a wide range of connections to their cultures, families, memories, and experiences.

The students can easily identify one another from the abstract puzzle piece shapes that make up their postures, hairstyles, smiles, and accessories. Without relying on race or ethnicity to identify an individual, the work of art teaches its spectators to observe in different ways. 

“The cultures, countries, and backgrounds do not separate this class,” one student said of the project.  “On the other hand, the values and principles unite it. Through this quilt, we see that, even with all the gaps that separate us, we are united diversely and incredibly, we are a community, we are a family, we are UWC-USA.”

Alumni Speaker Series: AI and Sustainability

The UWC-USA Office of Alumni Engagement is pleased to announce a UWC Day focused virtual speaker event featuring two remarkable alumni prepared to explore how AI both promises to encourage sustainability while also exploring how it poses a threat to climate efforts.

The speakers are Gina Neff ’89 and Sophia Sennett ’12 who both have spent time exploring AI models and the benefits and dangers of the new technology. Gina is the Executive Director of the Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy at the University of Cambridge and has studied society and technology extensively since graduating from UWC-USA. Sophia has worked as a design strategist, particularly in the field of sustainable architecture with the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Overseas Building Operations.

Some of the questions the panelists might engage include:

  • How do we ensure that the benefits that AI models can so clearly bring will support more people in more places?
  • Can we highlight some ‘wins’ where AI has already helped us solve problems and project where it might solve other problems?
  • Conversely, can we explore how AI might create problems for our efforts to foster sustainability efforts and initiatives?
  • Knowing that we can’t get good AI with technology alone, how are the political, social, and market forces working with (or against) the technology? 

When: September 20, 2023 at 12:00 pm Mountain Time
Where: Online

This session is open to all members of the UWC-USA community and others interested the topic. Please register to receive the zoom link here.

UWC-USA Spanish Teacher Volunteers In Costa Rica

This past summer, UWC-USA Spanish teacher Ty Lewis embarked on a transformative journey to Costa Rica, hoping to break out of his comfort zone and rediscover himself as a student. 

Ty joined Common Ground International as a volunteer teacher, a program featuring a blend of language immersion and volunteering. In collaboration with CEDCAS, an organization supporting the healthcare needs of immigrants, Ty landed in Guayari. Dominated by Nicaraguan immigrants to Costa Rica, in Guayari he experienced daily the harsh realities of poverty. Families inhabited makeshift corrugated tin shelters with no formal access to electricity or plumbing. 

Yet amid these hardships, Ty found warmth. Living with a host family who embraced him wholeheartedly, they introduced him to the entire extended family and welcomed him as one of their own. They shared meals, laughter, and tales and the family’s matriarch, a culinary wizard, bonded with Ty over their mutual love for cooking. “After just one week of living with them I already felt like my host family had my back for anything and that I was part of their family.”

By the end of the summer program Ty realized that he had gained as much or more than he gave. He’s looking forward to sharing what he learned with his students in Montezuma this fall.

Passing of UWC-USA Board Member Marc Blum

Marc Blum, who served on the UWC-USA board of trustees for seventeen years, passed away in Baltimore last week. Marc was one of the longest-serving UWC-USA board members, supporting the school faithfully on the Investment, Finance, Audit, and Advancement Committees. He  brought his skill as an attorney with deep finance experience to bear on the fiduciary management of the school as well as his generosity, optimism, and belief in the mission to our fundraising efforts. Throughout his tenure, Marc, along with members of his family, established four endowed scholarships designated for students from Latin America and from conflict areas. 

“Marc’s sincere interest in our students and our mission, as well as his commitment to serving the needs of the school, made him an exemplary board member,” said UWC-USA President Victoria J. Mora. “He always kept the student experience at the center of his work on the board, was an unfailing supporter of my work as president, and was a dear friend to me and my family. He was also generous in tremendously impactful ways. We will all miss him deeply.”

Marc connected with the students his scholarships supported whenever he was on campus. He formed strong relationships with these students and encouraged them even after they graduated. “Even though he was the one doing me the favor by paying for my scholarship,” said Merissa Peterson ‘16 from Guyana, “he made it seem like I was doing him the favor by furthering my studies and opening new doors for more opportunities. Seeing the love and support Mr. Marc had for all of us at UWC-USA encouraged me to start doing the same. I’m now part of an NGO where we support young girls to provide access and support for their education.” 

Graduating from high school in 1960, Marc attended Columbia School of Law earning his LL.B. in 1967 and continued on to earn a PhD in Business from Columbia Business School in 1969. He went on to serve two years as a captain in the U.S. Army and shortly after began his tenure as an attorney at Gordon Feinblatt, LLC from 1972 until his passing.

Marc is survived by his wife Leonor, who serves on the board at UWC-Costa Rica, and sons Alex and Ari. He is also survived by his brothers Joel and James and his sister Claire Stampfer along with grandchildren Amelie, Asa, Axel, and Aviva.

The family has asked that donations be sent to Adelante Latina! in Marc’s name and UWC-USA is grateful for donations given in Marc’s honor to support scholarships.

Alumni Impact Award: Emma Tucker ‘85

Emma Tucker ‘85 is the recipient of the UWC-USA’s 2023 Giulio Regeni Alumni Impact Award. The award honors a graduate of UWC-USA who demonstrates the values of a UWC education on a local, national, or global scale.

Beginning as a general reporter for the Financial Times in 1990 and up until her appointment as editor-in-chief of the Wall Street Journal last December, Emma has earned a reputation as a thoughtful and determined journalist. She is the first female editor-in-chief of the Wall Street Journal in its history (it was founded in 1889) and previously served as the the editor of the UK Sunday Times.  

She will be the featured speaker at UWC-USA’s graduation on May 20, 2023 at 10:30 am Mountain Time. The event will be open to the public and will be livestreamed.

She returns to the United States to work for the first time since graduating from UWC-USA in 1985. Reed Baumgarten, UWC-USA’s alumni engagement officer, feels that Emma’s accomplishments and skills make her a role model for other UWCers and journalists. “Emma brings her ability to work across cultures and differences to a role that has a significant impact on the media landscape today. A person who has hiked in the Pecos Wilderness stayed up late talking about the world with new friends in a day room, and who helped build the community we love in its earliest days is the kind of person who can continue to extend UWC values in the challenging environment of news media.”

Giulio Regeni ’07 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.

Distinguished Alumni Speaker Series Event: Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Sustainability

Join us for a UWC-USA Distinguished Alumni Speaker Series event on May 10 at 12:00 noon Mountain time that explores the intersection of Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Sustainability.

Two alumni will be sharing their work as leaders in the intersection of sustainability and entrepreneurship.

Lidija Sekaric ‘94 has over 20 years experience in developing technologies and business models for clean energy. She attended Bryn Mawr College after UWC-USA and later earned a PhD in Physics at Cornell University. She has deep experience in clean energy technology and policy.

Gabriel Levie ‘16 worked as an intern for McKinsey and Company for a year and left to launch Wequity, a firm dedicated to leveraging data and AI in the service of funding sustainable startups. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from Oxford University and completed a Masters Degree in Economics from the Economics School of Louvain.

While they have different backgrounds, both Gabriel and Lidija bring a UWC-USA lens to the challenges we face as we seek innovative solutions to sustainability challenges.

What: Distinguished Alumni Speaker Series Event: Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Sustainability
When: May 10, 2023 at 12:00 noon Mountain Time
Where: Online
Register for the session here.

Reducing Plastic – Student Initiative Sees Results

Autinn Au-Yeung ’23 (Hong Kong) saw how many plastic laundry detergent bottles were in the laundry room in her dormitory – and she decided to figure out a way to use less plastic. Along with Freya Clausen ’23 from Germany and Max Sosnowski ’23 from Poland, the three students began searching for solutions and settled on bulk purchasing.

 “I did a major global politics research project on bulk buying and had a connection with a supplier in Santa Fe,” Autinn said. “My passion for sustainability with bulk purchases was what got me started and developed into what it is today.”  Autinn now works with Amy Harmon from Soap and Supply in Santa Fe to procure five-gallon pails of powder detergent for use in the dormitories.

In the end, this effort is a win-win: students pay less for detergent and consume less plastic. Autinn estimates that this year alone students at UWC-USA have used 240 fewer plastic laundry detergent containers. The goal is to add a nominal fee to tuition so that all students can participate in the program. They are seeking grants to support the bulk purchasing initiative and then determine how they can expand to other supplies that currently come in environmentally unfriendly packaging.

For her part, Amy Harmon is eager to help the students expand the program. “This program is experimental but also very replicable with other schools and organizations,” she said. “My challenge right now is finding distributors, local ones if possible, who can send me even larger containers of products to make it even more affordable and sustainable.”

Autinn is graduating shortly and will be attending Minerva or Cornell University in the fall. She is doing all she can to make sure that the program continues. “We have already identified two first-year students who will be continuing the project next year,” she said. “The main goal is to expand to other household products, including dish soap, all-purpose household cleaners, and dish scrubbers. I truly hope that this initiative can go on in the long term – it will not only reduce the plastic pollution we produce but also provide a more economical option for students coming from difficult financial backgrounds.” 

AJ Feeney-Ruiz ‘99: Bringing Global Cuisine to the Midwest

When he was growing up, long before he attended UWC-USA, AJ Feeney-Ruiz ‘99 wanted to be a chef. But it wasn’t until he went to college, earned an MBA and a law degree, and worked for years in politics in Indiana that he finally pivoted to making people happy with food. When he left the political arena he traveled, practiced Shaolin Kung Fu for a year in China, and ended up studying at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and working in French restaurants before moving back to the U.S. in 2020.

Between jobs when the pandemic hit, AJ started making pastries and meals out of his studio apartment in Indianapolis and sharing pictures of the delicacies on Instagram. He developed a following, sold more and more baked goods, and started making a little money. With no real capital, he crowdfunded to purchase and refurbish a food truck (with the help of many of his UWC-USA classmates) and now is the proprietor of Books, Bourbon, & Bacon, a food and bread truck that haunts brewpubs and festivals in and around Indianapolis. 

“We’ve kept our prices the same, even with inflation increasing the cost of our basic ingredients because we want the food experience we create to be accessible to as many people as possible,” AJ said. To that end he deliberately locates the food truck in underserved areas across the city. “We’ve been at Riley’s Children’s Hospital, President Benjamin Harrison’s Home Site, and local schools. I make a point to park in food deserts and underrepresented communities as much as I can along with donating the truck to charities throughout each year.” 

The skills AJ developed at UWC-USA are central to his success. He charts the vision for an enterprise, manages a diverse workforce, and makes partnerships with the establishments where Books, Bourbon, & Bacon parks. But possibly the most compelling impact of a UWC-USA experience, he claims, is a way of thinking and seeing the world. “UWC-USA seems to remap or rewire your brain making you more able to pivot, find and execute on opportunities, and evaluate and take on risk.” 

He plans to add another truck in the near future and feels optimistic about the next steps. “I have hundreds of recipe ideas from all over the world that I can’t wait to bring to Indianapolis.”

Congratulations to the Alumni Impact Award Nominees

The finalists for the 2023 Giulio Regeni Alumni Impact Award this year include three alumni who make a difference in the world daily. Across different professions, all three live the UWC mission as they seek to build a more peaceful world.

Allison West ‘04 works as a legal advocate for people who have been incarcerated or have been victims of human rights abuses. A 2008 graduate of Middlebury College, Allison went on to study law at the University of Galway. She currently serves as a Senior Legal Advisor for the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights. 

Emma Tucker ‘85 was recently named as the Editor in Chief of the Wall Street Journal, one of the most storied newspapers in the world. She is the first woman to lead the Wall Street Journal in its history. Previously Emma served as the Editor of The Sunday Times.

Yessika Moreno Rodriguez ’92 began her career as a physician in rural Costa Rica. More recently as Director of Medical Affairs for Pfizer, Yessika was instrumental in bringing the Pfizer Covid vaccine to Mexico. Additionally she provided critical leadership in the distribution of the vaccine throughout Mexico.

Congratulations to all three finalists! The winner will be announced in mid-April.

UWC-USA Announces New Associate Head of School

UWC-USA is pleased to announce that Andrew Mahlstedt will be joining the school in Montezuma this summer as our associate head of school.

Andrew brings a wide range of experiences to bear on this appointment at UWC-USA. He has served on the U.S. Selection Committee, has worked at other UWCs (Mostar and Mahindra), and currently serves as a senior consultant for global national committee development with the UWC International Office.

“I am so pleased to bring Andrew Mahlstedt forward as our Associate Head of School beginning summer 2023,” said UWC-USA President Victoria Mora. “Andrew’s energy, experience, and understanding of the opportunities and challenges facing UWC-USA promise to make him a wonderful addition to the entire community.”

For his part, a new role at UWC-USA feels like a kind of homecoming for Andrew. “I first visited UWC-USA as a researcher for my M.A. in 2003, and then went annually as a member of the U.S. Selection Committee from 2008 to 2013, but it had been ten years since I had been back. The opportunity to meet different groups of faculty and staff, an always-dynamic group of students, to go for a walk out to the farm, and just to step into the Dwan Light Sanctuary and dip in the hot springs on my way out reminded me of why I wanted so much to be a part of UWC-USA again. Everyone was warm and welcoming, but also sharp and challenging — the balance along that edge is critical to mission-driven, aspirational communities.”

We look forward to welcoming Andrew back to Montezuma in June.