The Alabama International Relations Club’s traveling Model United Nations team has continued their dominant performance streak at the McGill Model United Nations Assembly (McMUN) January 23th -26th and the Model United Nations at Emory (MUNE) February 6th-9th.
The 12 delegates selected to represent Alabama at McMUN travelled to Montreal to compete in a wide range of committees ranging from the United Nations Environmental Program to the European Court of Human Rights. Competing against over 1,000 delegates from across the world, the team was successful in securing eight awards over the course of the weekend.
Sophomore Catharine Del Carmen came out on top winning Best Delegate (1st place) representing Kenya in the 2020 African meeting on Science and Technology, advocating for the spread of sustainable methods of technology. Head Delegate (team captain) Andrew Smith also secured a 1st place finish winning Best Delegate in the innovative Formula 1 Committee.
In the divisive International Organization for Migration, junior Madalyn Frazior won Outstanding Delegate (2nd place) debating in the interests of South Africa. Sophomore Camden Lethcoe represented the university in the Furthest Shore space committee earned an Honorable Mention (3rd place). In Moneyval, junior Sarah Conrad was awarded an Honorable
Just two weeks later, the team travelled to Atlanta for the Regional Model United Nations at Emory Conference with 16 delegates, including several first-time competitors. The topics debated included a range of both historical and contemporary committees. Mention for her work on anti-money laundering policy. The Double-Delegation composed of senior Russell Puffer and freshman Brett Bonikowski also awarded with a Verbal Commendation (4th Place) representing Mexico in the 300-person Special Political and Decolonization Agency (SPECPOL). This performance earned the team a top 5 finish at the most competitive conference of the spring semester.
The weekend ended in triumph as the team earned five awards. Senior Russell Puffer was selected as Best Delegate in the OAS Special Mission debating 1982 Honduran Politics and the strengthening of Honduran Institutions. In the fantasy joint crisis committee Morningstar, based of the series of the same name, Alabama Delegates brought home two awards. Sophomore Victoria Carl was awarded Outstanding Delegate, and, in a breakout performance, freshman Alexandra Nabity secured an Honorable Mention. Head Delegate Andrew Smith continued his awards streak with an Honorable Mention in the 24-hour Chernobyl Committee and Sophomore Andrew St. Charles was awarded an Honorable mention in the Crisis of the 3rd Century exploring the tumultuous politics of Ancient Rome.
After finishing the fall 2019 semester ranked Top-50 in the World Division of Collegiate MUN, the team has started the spring semester with two exceptionally strong performances. The goal is to secure a Top-25 ranking by the end of the 2019-2020 school year.
Next up for Model UN team is WorldMUN hosted by Harvard University in Tokyo, Japan from March 16th-20th, the Virginia International Crisis Simulation by the University of Virginia from March 26th-29th, and the University of Chicago Model United Nations Conference from April 9th-12th.
Students interested in learning about Model UN can attend a meeting of the Alabama International Relations Club in 340 Bidgood on Thursday evenings at 7:00pm to learn more about the club and its opportunities. Information can also be found at http://international.ua.edu/airc/.
Chiba University nursing students at a welcome reception held at the Capstone College of Nursing
This spring the ELI welcomed 34 Japanese students from two Chiba University programs.
One of the programs is a two-week English + Nursing Program. The ELI partnered with the Capstone College of Nursing to offer observations of nursing classes, clinical immersion, simulator tutorials, tours of medical facilities, and assistance with the WellBAMA program. The students also take English classes with a focus on medical terminology. It has been 20 years since UA and Chiba University’s School of Nursing established this program.
The other program is a four-week Language & Culture Program offered through the ELI. The students attend three hours of English language classes each day. The classes focus on writing, speaking and American culture. In addition, the students experience university life and activities, as well as visit various southern cities including Atlanta and New Orleans. The ELI has offered this program to Chiba University students for over 25 years.
Before coming to UA, the Japanese students in both programs collaborated online with UA students in the Capstone College of Nursing and with the Applied Linguistics/TESOL program. These are two of four programs between UA and Chiba University which incorporate Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) components.
Later this month, another group of Japanese students from Chiba University will come to Tuscaloosa to visit local schools in coordination with the College of Education’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction.
Chiba University Language and Culture students in front of B.B. Comer
TUSCALOOSA — For the fourth time in five years, The University of Alabama was recognized as a Top Producing Institution for Fulbright U.S. Student Awards.
“The University of Alabama will continue offering transformational educational experiences and innovative education-abroad opportunities for our students,” said UA President Stuart R. Bell. “Through the Fulbright Program, UA’s award winners transcend borders to address critical global issues through teaching and advanced research projects. It’s a shared future we’re shaping, and I’m proud of how UA faculty and staff mentor and influence our students.”
The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is the premier educational exchange program of the United States Department of State. The Fulbright Award offers grants for independent study and research and for English teaching assistantships overseas. The highly competitive program selects about 1,900 award recipients from more than 11,000 applicants each year.
“These Fulbright Award recipients exemplify the results of UA’s commitment to a student-centered education that offers a global perspective to all students during their time at the Capstone, and we take pride in the continued national recognition for our international programs,” said Dr. Teresa Wise, UA associate provost for international education and global outreach.
As a top producer with 11 Fulbrights serving abroad in 2019–2020, Alabama is in company with other top research institutions in the nation.
This year’s Student Fulbright Award winners are Tommie P. Brazie (Germany), Amanda Filardo (Kazakhstan), Courtney Geary (Jordan), Ciara Malaugh (Romania), Larry Monocello (South Korea), Amica Rapadas (Taiwan), Pamela Grace Turner (Colombia), Sophia Warner (Germany), Samantha Wetzel (Germany), Ellery Wiemer (Germany), and Madeline Willoughby (Malaysia).
“Dedicated faculty, staff and administrators across campus work many hours with our students to win these awards, and the Fulbright leadership team at Capstone International Center, Modern Languages and Classics and the Center for Community-Based Partnerships helps students polish applications for success in the Fulbright competition each year,” said Dr. Beverly Hawk, director of global and community engagement.
This fall Korean students from Ansan University moved from the English language classroom to pathology and radiology labs. For a second year, the ELI partnered with Druid City Hospital (DCH) to provide an opportunity for students to improve their English skills and gain volunteer experience with a local hospital.
The students began their journey studying intensive English for 20 hours a week for 8 weeks. They also attended a class designed to introduce them to useful medical terminology and hospital procedures.
After their intensive English study, students volunteered with DCH for 20 hours per week. During this volunteer experience, the students shadowed physical therapists, doctors, nurses, and lab technicians.
This spring a group of Japanese students from Chiba University will also participate in an English + Nursing program. The ELI will partner with UA’s Capstone College of Nursing to provide a 2-week program which includes nursing class observations, clinical immersion, and simulator tutorials, as well as English instruction. It has been 20 years since UA and Chiba University’s School of Nursing established this program.
Fifteen days completely out of their comfort zone with strangers from around the world, students from The University of Alabama consistently overcome a diverse set of challenges at the European Innovation Academy, or EIA.
The European Innovation Academy challenges young professionals to think outside the box, testing their entrepreneurial mindsets. During their stay abroad, students have the ability to network with peers, international faculty and industry-leading professionals from all over the globe, including 90 speakers and mentors from Fortune 50 companies like Amazon and Alphabet, the parent company of Google.
Students from the University of Alabama who attend the program have the ability to receive study abroad course credit for their studies. Applications to attend EIA next summer open up in late 2019.
This past summer, nearly 500 students from 75 countries met in Cascais, Portugal, for the three-week intensive acceleration program centered around entrepreneurship and innovation. At the 2019 convention, EIA challenged 11 Culverhouse College of Business students, including some on the STEM Path to MBA, to build an entire business from concept to company in under three weeks.
“EIA is a global entity that brings together students for start-up businesses in a global environment,” explained Harold Wright, professor in the STEM and CREATE program and faculty advisor for the EIA trip. “It is a great exercise that teaches students to be comfortable with ambiguity.”
This is The University of Alabama’s third trip to EIA –– and each time, students from the Capstone pile on the previous year’s successes. This year’s EIA team traveled to Cascais, Portugal and stayed from July 14 to August 2, 2019.
Every EIA participant begins their trip speed-dating style, meeting with potential team members from all over who have great ideas for the next big startup, like Uber, DoorDash, or Airbnb. Each team includes a chief executive officer, chief business officer, chief marketing officer, chief technical officer and chief development officer. Diversity and international representation are important factors in how teams are composed. For example, Jack Zimmerman a chemical engineering student on the STEM Path to MBA, which is offered through Culverhouse’s Manderson Graduate School of Business, led a team at EIA in 2018 with members from Italy, Russia, Canada and Texas.
The first step from concept to company is creating a solid team with a solid idea. Pivoting, as it’s referred to, is a fundamental change to a business, and, in this case, students often found themselves pivoting on their ideas constantly, fine-tuning them to create a better, more marketable idea.
“Both your team and your idea need to be approved simultaneously within the first 48 hours,” Macey Shirah, a participant from this year’s cohort, explained. “… and even when you think you’ve found your team, where everyone’s committed and you have all five people on board, you go to get approved, there’s a possibility that your idea can be denied. Which also happened to me even after dating almost 12 teams.”
Shirah and her team had several ideas, ranging from pots and pans to wine to, finally, utilizing a NASA patent for maritime transportation.
“It took until the last 20 minutes before the final deadline for my company to finally be approved,” Shirah said.Shirah and her team had several ideas, ranging from pots and pans to wine to, finally, utilizing a NASA patent for maritime transportation.
Once an idea is established and a team is found. Students are faced with the next challenge: validation. Any product or service must have a coinciding market with interested consumers. This led to a few days where teams conducted research on validating the market, testing consumer and product market fit, and making sure their ideas meet consumer needs. To accomplish this, many students conducted deep market research, reached out to top executives at Fortune 50 companies, and met with subject matter experts relevant to their product.
“When my team settled on the maritime transportation idea, I reached out to the director of communications for the European International Shipowners Association of Portugal,” explained Macey. “Through email, we set up a lunch meeting at Apeadeiro in Cascais, Portugal with their technical director and director of communications…. My team and I had just arrived at EIA, but there a couple of us were a few days later, eating lunch with these two directors about our new business idea.”
For Macey and her team, that lunch meeting helped establish their market entry. She received a letter of intent from the shipowners association, allowing her to begin contacting the shipowners.
Idea established. Team found. Market validated. Next was the prototyping process. A prototype is a preliminary model of an idea that leads to future developed forms and, eventually, the final product. Considering most of the ideas at the European Innovation Academy were digital, many teams set up web-based applications.
“Team’s set up fully functioning websites with landing pages that were made available for potential customers,” Madeline Rogers, a two-time past participant and chemical engineering student, explained. “Every team’s product essentially became available online where customers had the chance to get a comprehensive understanding of the product, input their contact information for more information, give feedback and sign up for when the beta testing process begins.”
Idea established. Team found. Market validated. Prototype available. Students are now at a point in the trip where the program becomes more of a competition. During the final week, participants find themselves facing a room full of venture capitalists, fellow students and executive-level professionals. Their next steps include pitching their ideas and asking for funding. Typically, the chief executive officers of these new startups assume the role of lead pitch person, becoming the one who stands in front of the entire room, asking investors to open their checkbooks and invest in their team’s new business idea.
That trend, though, is not always true when there is an Alabama student on the team.
Advisor Harold Wright explains: “Chloe Denorme was not supposed to be the pitch person for her team, but a day before the presentations, she approached me and effectively said ‘I am going to pitch. I am the only one equipped with the knowledge of what we are doing.’”
Denorme had just celebrated her 19th birthday during her time at the program. The other four people on her team were, on average, late twenties to early thirties, all with several years of work experience.
“Following the pitch,” Wright continued. “I went up to the venture capitalist and thanked him for listening to Chloe who had just turned 19 and finished her freshman year. He looked at me and said ‘that was easily the best pitch I have ever heard.’”
Apart from the program rules, there is also a “Wright Rule,” which allows for only one Alabama student per team.
Per the “Wright Rule,” Paige Harris, a chemical engineering major, was the only Alabama student and female on her team. The rest of her team included participants from Switzerland, Denmark, Singapore and Michigan who all voted Harris in as their chief executive officer and lead pitch person for their startup tech company, Bippy, that helps find parking in Europe. In three minutes or less, Harris pitched her entire company from idea to business plan to market strategy to two investors: one who invested a lot of money in Disney and one who is the vice president of Alchemist Accelerator in San Francisco, California.
Harris’s company was selected as a top 10 team and was awarded the HAG Venture Building Program and Expedited Interview with Alchemist Accelerator awards. The Alchemist Accelerator award, which is known as one of the “most prestigious awards” at the program, grants Harris a direct line to an interview with Alchemist Accelerator anytime she submits an application on a potential investment idea.
“The entire three-week experience was incredible,” Harris noted about her time abroad. “When am I ever going to be in another room with 11 venture capitalists that can write me a check for a quarter of a million dollars?”
Harris and her team’s company, that they created in July, recently received stage one funding and are currently up and running.
Zimmerman, who attended EIA in 2018, is still acting chief executive officer for his company, Rottweiler, a security company that protects personal items. Zimmerman and his team received the provisional patent award from Nixon Peabody, covering any and all fees when it comes to filing for a patent.
“The chief technology officer and I are currently in product development,” Zimmerman said. “He is from Italy, but is soon moving to America.”
Shirah, who went through several ideas and found herself on several teams before settling, finished the European Innovation Academy a part of the program’s top team. The company, AME, LLC, creates a biocide-free product for the maritime industry.
“There are new regulations imposed by the International Maritime Organization that have banned most common biocide products that are used in killing off biolife on the ship hulls,” Shirah explained. “Our superhydrophobic, biocide-free product coats ships hulls and repels water at the surface to prevent bioaccumulation as opposed to the current method of relying on harmful chemicals to kill off the biolife after they accumulated.”
Shirah and her team’s idea won them a fully-expensed trip to Greece for the Funny Money Training Course, where they will learn about entrepreneurship, funding and succeeding as a startup.
Whereas, senior chemical engineer, Madeline Rogers, is a featured alum of the EIA Program, leading webinars as a successful student story from the program. She discusses her experiences and what the program offers to faculty and students, answering their questions in hopes that they will register and go.
“The European Innovation Academy is an invaluable experience to any and all participants,” Rogers said. “It’s something you can’t get anywhere else.”
While international students and staff members have their own resources for adjusting to UA life, their spouses have found their own community in B.B. Comer Hall.
The International Spouse Group (ISG) has been serving the partners of foreign students and staff members over recent years. The ISG meets once a week, and faculty advisers are there to answer any questions the members have or just to talk about how their day is going. It is a casual and inviting environment, which is the goal of advisers Melanie Walker and Kay Geno.
Walker, an international staff member herself, noticed the positive attention incoming students and staff members got at the University.
“When I came to UA, I found it welcoming,” Walker said. “The school does a good job with the students and keeps them busy, but I think the spouse gets lost along the way.”
That is why the ISG was formed, Walker said.
“We want to bring people together,” Walker said. “When you come here with your partner, you don’t know anyone. It’s just a way of getting people to meet each other and realize they’re not alone.”
On a typical Wednesday morning, the group gathers at B.B. Comer Hall in a meeting room tucked away in the Capstone International Center. While this intimate setting facilitates conversation, the leaders also like to take things outdoors and give the members a chance to see other parts of the UA campus.
“We’ve done the [Hallowed Grounds] walking tour with Dr. [Hilary] Green, the Gorgas House tour, the Bryant Football museum tour, the Smith Hall History museum, seen the library archives,” Walker said. “We do things quite often.”
While Walker and Geno set up these events and promote the club on Facebook, they say it is all about the members.
“We invite new members all the time and reach back out to people who have already come,” Geno said.
Attendance varies between four to 10 members at a given meeting, but the group is always looking for new people that they can serve.
“Some international students have their own clubs and Facebook pages, like the Bangladeshi students, so we can reach out to new members that way, too,” Walker said. “There are always new students coming into the University, as undergrads or Ph.D. students, so we try to get a hold of them and their partners.”
The ISG currently has members from Nepal, Russia, Sweden, Bangladesh, India, Germany and more. No matter where the spouses are from, the mission of the ISG unites them.
“When people first arrive in the U.S., they find it important to do more than just finding their feet,” Walker said. “They feel lonely and think about what they have left behind. The wives have jobs and careers that their visa does not allow them to practice here. The initial adjustment to the culture can be hard.”
Not only do the members gain support and knowledge from the ISG, but Walker and Geno benefit as well.
“There’s a learning curve for everybody,” Walker said. “No matter where you’re from, you can always teach us something new.”
Antara Das has been a part of the ISG since the spring semester of last year. She moved to Alabama in the summer of 2018, along with her husband, Tonmoy Ghosh, and two-year-old daughter. Ghosh is at The University of Alabama pursuing a Ph.D. in electrical engineering.
“My husband actually gave me a pamphlet about the ISG,” Das said. “He told me about the meetings, and one day I went to one and got added to Facebook group.”
“I came to UA mainly for the scholarship,” Ghosh said. “But I went to the International Coffee Hour event, and that’s where I heard about the ISG. It is a great place to make friends and learn from the different cultures of the people there.”
Since then, Das and her daughter have been frequent attendees to the meetings and events of the ISG. The group helped Das and her family work past the initial growing pains of living in a new country.
“At first, things like transportation were hard,” Das said. “I didn’t know how to drive in the U.S. It was not easy to understand the language and the English accent.”
Das was able to pick up those skills and has since expanded on her involvement with Alabama culture. For this, she thanks the ISG.
“They’ve helped me know America and Tuscaloosa better,” Das said. “We’ve gone on trips to museums, and I have come to know a lot about the culture and history here.”
Das is planning to take the GRE exam and begin studying public health at the University if admitted.
“The people here are very friendly and helpful,” Das said. “My family feels very good here, even though we are far from our country.”
Rona Khadka, another ISG member, has resided in Alabama for approximately two years. Originally from Nepal, Khadka came here alongside her husband, who is pursuing his Ph.D. in data science.
Like Das, Khadka’s husband was the one who told her about the group.
“My favorite part has been getting to know people from the U.S. and making friends with people from other countries,” Khadka said.
Khadka appreciates the practice she has gotten with speaking English in the ISG and says that it has given her confidence to speak it more herself.
“I was worried about that for my medical exams,” Khadka said.
While the members of the ISG are guided through their time at The University of Alabama, they also highlight external opportunities as well, such as job placement. For example, Khadka, 27, obtained her undergraduate degree in nursing while in Nepal. She now has a job lined up in Nebraska and is hoping for a sponsor to secure her green card.
The ISG meets every Wednesday at 10 a.m. in B.B. Comer 105. For more information, visit their Facebook page.
Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Winners are selected by the Institute of International Education through the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in the U.S. Department of State. Recipients receive up to $5,000 to apply toward study abroad or internship program costs, giving them the opportunity to gain a better understanding of other cultures, countries, languages and economies. The Education Abroad office hosts regular workshops to inform students about the Gilman application process and assist students in choosing a country and program that is right for them. Visit the Education Abroad website for more information, or call 205-348-5256 to find out more.
Congratulations to the following UA students who won a Gilman for study abroad:
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Erin Behland, a University of Alabama graduating senior from Chicago, has received a Critical Language Scholarship to study Mandarin in China.
Behland is majoring in international relations, history and anthropology with a minor in Chinese. She previously received a Critical Language Scholarship in 2017. Since her first scholarship, Behland has studied at The University of Glasgow in Scotland and traveled across Greece studying ancient western civilization via the UA in Greece study abroad program.
In the fall, she was selected as an intern at the U.S. State Department in the Bureau of Human Rights, Democracy, and Labor in the Office of East Asia and the Pacific. After graduation, Behland hopes to attend law school and eventually work as an ambassador on U.S.-China relations.
The Critical Language Scholarship program is part of a U.S. government effort to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages. CLS scholars gain critical language and cultural skills that enable them to contribute to U.S. economic competitiveness and national security.
The program provides scholarships to U.S. undergraduate and graduate students to spend eight to 10 weeks overseas studying one of 14 critical languages: Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Swahili, Turkish or Urdu.
The program includes intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences designed to promote rapid language gains. CLS scholars are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship and apply their critical language skills in their future careers.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Two University of Alabama students have received Boren Scholarships for the study of languages in world regions critical to U.S. interests and underrepresented in study abroad.
Michelle DeGeorge, of New Orleans, was selected to study in the Czech Republic; and Nicholas Hayes, of Memphis, Tennessee, was selected to study in Tanzania.
Hayes is a math and German double major with minors in physics, the Randall Research Scholars Program and a self-designed minor titled “Cultural and Philosophical Neuroscience.” Hayes hopes to nourish his passion for language learning and affinity for analytic problem solving into a career in an intelligence or analyst position. One of his hobbies is spending time with his puppies. He is originally from Simsbury, Connecticut.
DeGeorge is a senior majoring in international studies and French with minors in Russian and political science. During the 2019-2020 academic year, she will study Czech language and Central and Eastern European history and politics at Charles University in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. She also studied Russian language and culture in St. Petersburg, Russia, during the 2017-2018 academic year. On her return, she hopes to pursue graduate studies in linguistics and eventually work for the U.S. State Department as a foreign service officer.
In addition, two UA students were named as alternates: Benjamin Jones is an alternate for Hungary; and Jacob Dennis is an alternate for Morocco.
Boren Scholarships, an initiative of the National Security Education Program, provide funding opportunities for U.S. undergraduate students to study less commonly taught language in such regions as Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Middle East.
Boren Scholarship recipients represent a vital pool of highly motivated individuals who wish to work in the federal national security arena. In exchange for funding, Boren Scholarship recipients commit to working in the federal government for at least one year after graduation. Amounts range from $8,000 for a summer program to $20,000 for six-to-12 months of study.
When Melanie Walker’s husband got a job as an associate professor of educational psychology at The University of Alabama in August last year, they packed up and moved from their home in Durham, England, to Tuscaloosa.
But while he worked, she was left alone and unable to pursue her own career because for now the type of visa she was given doesn’t allow international spouses to work.
“As a spouse you’re basically an alien,” Walker said. “Everything you do has to go through the working spouse or the student. That’s possibly the hardest thing that people coming here have to deal with because when you are in your home country your identity and finances are your own, but when you come here as the spouse of a student, your identity and finances are connected to your spouse.”
With this not being her first international move due to her husband’s career, she quickly found ways to occupy her time and get involved. One of those ways she discovered was UA’s International Spouse Group, where she is now a co-leader.
“My husband and I saw the group on the website and I saw where they met and when, and I turned up one day to say hello and I was welcomed in,” she said.
The International Spouse Group brings together the spouses of international students, faculty, staff and scholars for activities and interaction by learning from each other and sharing unique knowledge and experiences, according to its website.
The home countries of current group members include Nepal, Brazil, Uganda, Bangladesh, Japan, England, the Netherlands, Germany and America. The group is open to American spouses who want to make international friends and support those friends in the process of acculturation.
The current American in the group, co-leader Kay Geno, is from south Louisiana and has been a member for a year and a half. She said she joined because she was new to Tuscaloosa and sought fellowship. She also wanted to help non-Americans acclimate.
“What I hope happens is that the camaraderie that they feel makes them understand that they aren’t the only ones who feel like they’re going through this struggle,” she said.
“We try to plug them into other places to volunteer and meet other people. Sometimes people come to our group for a long time and then others come here during their first year, get their footing and then go to other groups.”
Geno said group members generally have a lot of cultural questions, but also questions about how to properly conduct themselves in America.
“They ask things like, ‘how do I address someone in an email?’ ‘How many times should I call someone?’ They want help navigating through health care, purchasing a house, which of the 50 brands of toothpaste to buy, what cleaning supplies.
“So it’s just reassuring them that they were doing the right thing and helping them with next steps.”
The group also visits local and state hot spots.
Geno said the largest contingent in the group are spouses of graduate students.
The group meets each Wednesday during the school year from 10 to 11:30 a.m. in the International Student and Scholar Services offices in 105 BB Comer Hall.