Weinstein International Center Opens Its Doors
The University of Richmond opened the doors to its new Carole Weinstein International Center for the first time to students last week, even as one of its recent graduates in international studies was making headlines around the world for his humanitarian efforts to help victims of violence in the Congo. Charles Fishburne reports.
At the University of Richmond late last week there was news from one of their recent graduates who was in the Congo on a humanitarian mission when he ran into horrific violence.
Craben: We went to the sites and we began to identify survivors. (He works in the north here.) Everyday, as the population returns from the bush, there are more and more of them.
Will Craben, class of 2009, was part of a team providing medical help for victims of the most recent violence in that troubled land.
Gabara: So many people are saying that the villagers are so afraid that they won't even talk about it.
Dr. Kasongo Kapanga taught Will to speak Swahili as part of his curriculum here.
Kapanga: Not very many people, I would say, Europeans, would venture by themselves to go there and this is why 22-, 23-year-old who is going where a lot of people wouldn't go. And this is very important work he is doing because he's kind of sounding like them, because here in Richmond, he was always with refugees who spoke Swahili. He helped them find jobs; he helped them find papers. So, in a sense, it's something that he's been doing through the university, through himself that is continuing on a much bigger scale, better scale.
Dr. Katanga says he was not surprised that one of his students was so active so soon in international affairs.
Gabara: As you found Will in the Congo and got pictures from him the immediate thought we had, we need to arrange a teleconferencing session with Will; some Skype or some other instrument when he goes back to Goma, which is his base, to talk to our students from there. That is one of the crucial things that this building is about. It's about connecting, live, with people around the world that are our partner institutions or our alumni who are all over the world.
Dean Iuliana Gabara is talking about a new building, a new home, for an international studies program already named the hottest in the nation by Newsweek Magazine. It is the Carole Weinstein International Center, whose Gothic exterior conceals high-tech classrooms and a new world mentality.
This class, so everyone knows they're in the right place, is Bombs, Bolsheviks and Ballet: Soviet Culture and Civilization.
This is a German literature class--
The center was a long-time dream of Dr. Gabara and her friend Carole Weinstein, an alumna and benefactor whose gift helped made it possible.
Weinstein: Every time I drive past this building, I just get, I don't know, goosebumps because it changes the landscape of this entire campus. It's right across from the Admissions Center, so every perspective student who comes by walks that path, sees the International Center, sees what a significant purpose it has on this campus.
Sixty percent of the university's students participate in study abroad. About 200 are international students representing about 70 countries. Here they can learn and interact and grow.
Suran: If I had not had this experience I would have just probably stayed on the island and worked with my dad.
Suran is from Curacao.
Suran: I've gotten a pretty good education. I'm looking to branch into management consulting.
Diana: So, people here are amazing. We're really friendly. We're trying to be very diverse.
Diana's parents are Chinese and Vietnamese.
Katherine: I spent 10 days in a rural village in Kenya living with a family who spoke no English.
Katherine spent a semester in Kenya.
Katherine: And, despite the fact that we couldn't really communicate, I spoke a little bit of Swahili, they spoke a little bit of English. We ended up bonding hugely and I remember the last day I was coming home from my work out in the village and my youngest sister, who is five, just came running into my arms.
Gabara: Culture is everything. If you are talking about military sevice, or if you are talking about medical help, or if you are talking about education, culture is the bedrock of doing useful work.
Last week Will Craben, class of 2009, helped to alert the world to mass rape and violence taking place only twenty miles from a U.N. peace keeping force that apparently knew nothing about it.
Craben: It's very humbling, I think, to look people in the face that have just survived such a horrific event like this and it makes me really appreciate where I'm from and how I grew up and the chance I have to maybe make a small change in all this, if that's even possible.