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updated March 9, 2008


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Fall 2007 - Spring 2008

Spring 2008

New Degree Candidate for Spring '08

Laureen Pierre    lpierre@educ.umass.edu

My journey to the CIE began in Hosororo, a remote Amerindian village situated in the North West region of Guyana.  At the age of eleven I was awarded a government scholarship to pursue secondary education in Georgetown, Guyana’s capital city.  I became strongly influenced by the educational and cultural dynamics found in the multi-ethnic student population and the city environs, Laureen Pierrebut always maintained consciousness of my identity as an indigenous person.

Prior to starting my undergraduate degree at the University of Guyana (UG), I worked as a high-school teacher among the Macushi and Wapishana peoples in the Rupununi, a broad savannah on the Brazilian frontier and deep in the interior of Guyana.  In 1993, I received a Master’s Degree in History from UG, having completed my dissertation on Guyana’s first Amerindian legislator

During my fourteen years as a researcher in the Amerindian Research Unit at UG, I was mainly engaged in ethnographic research activities that focused on Amerindian life and culture. But I was able to find many opportunities to be involved in development-related work, whether it was in an advisory capacity, or more directly as a project coordinator or trainer.  From 1992 to1998, I served as a regional coordinator and trainer for “The Community-Based Rehabilitation Programme.”  This was an integrated development program that offered knowledge and skills in literacy, numeracy, primary health care, early child development and issues involving disabilities to adults from approximately 40 Amerindian villages in the Rupununi Savannahs.  During 1998-1999, I worked for the Caribbean Center for Development Administration (CARICAD), as a resident coordinator and trainer for a nationwide project on “Public Policy: Regional Administrations” for government administrators and community leaders. Both of these projects required working with adults in non-formal educational settings.

I moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to join my husband in 1999.  There, and until joining the CIE, I worked mainly as researcher on a number of health-related and social research projects in the Collaborative Studies Coordinating Center at the University of North Carolina School of Public Health.  Now, as I contemplate returning to Guyana to continue my work as an educator and community development practitioner, I look forward to the learning and sharing experiences at the CIE.

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Fall 2007

New Students Join CIE

In September, CIE welcomed twelve new students from Afghanistan, China, India, Malawi, Palestine and the U.S. They bring a wide diversity of experience as educators who have worked in Central African Republic, Burkina Faso, Nicaragua, Guinea, Namibia, South Korea, Cote d'Ivoire, Congo as well as in their home countries. There are four Master's candidates and eight Doctoral candidates. Together they bring a wide range of experience in development education that will enrich the learning community here at CIE.

F07 New Students

Kefah Barham     kbarham@educ.umass.edu

Kefah BarhamSalam to all!  I'm from Palestine and I have come to the USA to study in a doctoral program under a program that provides training for faculty members of Palestinian Universities. Actually this is not my first time in the states, I came here ten years ago after finishing high school accompanied my husband "Abdelrahim ."  He was doing his PhD in Statistics at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. I stayed lived three and half years and my two sons were born there. At that time I wasn’t able to start my studies. But all that time I was thinking of education and studying, so when I returned home I enrolled in a B.A. program in methodology of teaching English. Even before finishing my B.A. I was thinking of a master’s degree so I applied for the master program in teaching methodology and curriculum design while I was still in the last semester of my B.A. I worked as an English teacher for elementary and secondary stages for about four years and also I worked as a part-time a lecturer at Al-Quds Open University.

Coming to CIE - I’m thrilled to be in a program with many other international students - will widen my experience through meeting students from different countries and also through taking classes with professors who have long and fruitful experiences. Being at CIE will also enhance my ability and experience in my subject which is curriculum development. When I return home I want to use my knowledge to take part in the curriculum reform process.

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Martha Nyongani     mnyongan@educ.umass.edu

I am happy to be back at CIE. It’s like coming home. I look forward to my doctoral program here. I am still interested in promoting equity in education especially at basic education level with a bias toward promoting inclusive education. Having managed both rural and urban education districts in Malawi, I feel there is a lot that has to be done in theMartha Nyongani education sector in Malawi if we are to achieve the millennium development goals by 2015. This is what made me come back because there are still a lot of skills and knowledge gaps especially in the area of policy, planning and leadership that I feel once filled will assist me in taking education efforts in Malawi to the next level.

As a district education manager, I developed educational plans for the district, preparing yearly budget estimates, appointed Head teachers for the primary schools that were in the district, coordinated educational activities with NGOs and cooperating partners (This was a very exciting duty and one that I enjoyed most). I wrote a lot of project proposals to cooperating partners and most of them got funded. For example in 2005/2006 financial years, I wrote 27 project proposals to various organizations and 23 got funded. This enabled me to carry out activities that were aimed at improving girls’ education and I was able to bring down the dropout rate in Lilongwe Rural East from 28% in 2005 to 17.7 % 2006. I also interpreted government policy to various stakeholders.

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Abdrabu Abu Alyan       aabuealy@educ.umass.edu

Hello-Assalamu Alykum!  I am from Palestine and I have been awarded a Palestinian Faculty Development Program (PFDP) scholarship to pursue my doctoral studies in the USA. I am a teacher in the department of English at the Islamic University of Gaza, where I have taught various courses for English majors. However, my specialty in teaching is “Oral communication skills”. My teaching career has been characterized by dedication, hard work and the ability to work with diverse teams, as well as having skills in problem-solving strategies. In addition, I like to involve others in the decision making process. This communication and collaboration is what has enabled me to achieve success in the department and amongst my students. Through working in the Abdrabu Alyan Abuuniversity, I have gained a deep knowledge in teaching methodologies and state of the art approaches, as well as other teaching strategies and techniques.

I have always adhered to the principle that language and culture are inseparable and that students should have an adequate knowledge of the socio-cultural rules of the target language in use. Therefore, I taught oral communication skills and the basic rules of such linguistic uses in their proper cultural contexts. During my teaching experience, I always assigned my students to conduct research about some aspect of the social life of the target community; for example, values, attitudes, beliefs, holidays, concepts such as privacy, diversity, individuality, etc. Some of my students even invited native speakers to the class to talk about these issues. In their turn, these students are teachers now, and they teach their students with the same methods, and they mediate between the target culture and the national culture.

Now, I am looking forward to doing my doctoral studies at CIE/UMASS in the field of intercultural communicative competence. My research interests include the study of Oral communication skills and the integration of international culture into EFL Palestinian classes. This can help students to challenge and dispel misinformation, stereotypes, and prejudices.  Knowledge of cross-cultural issues can enhance and promote the students’ communication proficiency; moreover, it can also strengthen perspective taking and conflict management skills to ensure understanding, tolerance, and international peace.

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Wendy Wheaton     wwheaton@educ.umass.edu

I am currently, an incoming doctoral candidate at the Center for International Education at the University of Massachusetts.  I grew up in upstate New York and completed an undergraduate degree at Rutgers University and a master’s degree at Columbia University.  More recently, I have spent a Wendi Wheatonnumber of years working in international humanitarian assistance overseas, primarily in emergency and post conflict settings. 

This has included work in Kosovo, Republic of Congo, Southern Sudan, Benin, Senegal, Ethiopia, Cote d’Ivoire and Uganda with a focus on programming and response services that address the education and protection needs of children, women and other vulnerable populations in conflict affected countries. My aim at CIE is to reflect on some of these practical experiences over the years by consolidating lessons learned and taking time to explore the role of education in conflict zones as a means to prevent or mitigate the effects of violence and its impact on the psychosocial well being of child and youth populations.

Along with early teaching experience in English literacy, I have also taught in the international schools system and have worked with international development and relief agencies such as Terre des Hommes, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), the World Bank, the International Foundation for Education and Self Help (IFESH), Christian Children’s Fund (CCF).  More recently, and central to my interests, I have acted as a member of the Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) Task Force on developing guidance for programs in emergency settings and worked closely with the Interagency Network on Education in Emergencies (INEE) by taking part in some of the network’s focus areas on both Fragile States and the Education Cluster formation for education response in emergencies.

I am married and have a 3-year old child.

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Abraham Sineta       asineta@educ.umass.edu

I am from Malawi where I graduated with a Bachelor of Education Degree in 1992 from the University of Malawi Chancellor College. My major was Physics with Mathematics as a minor. I taught physical science at secondary school level for six years before I got promoted to District Education officer in 1998. I came to UMASS CIE in 2001 under the Malawi project to do my masters in international education and simultaneously I got promoted in the same year to be District Education Manager.

Since then my interest has been focused on ways of improving the delivery of education services and linking that to the policies/practices. Now that I Abraham Sinetaam back at CIE as a Doctoral student, I am interested in how different interventions can be formulated or improved to make teaching & learning effective. I also have an interest in how education research and evaluation can help assess education systems to come up appropriate interventions that can work more especially in Africa /Malawi. I feel that the poor pedagogical methods, shortage of teaching & learning materials, ineffective educational leadership and so many problems which some African schools face, are a result not just of mere poverty but inappropriate interventions coming out of inadequate research and evaluation.

Some of the questions at the back of my mind are: Why are the children in my country not learning effectively? Why are the things not happening as required? How can I contribute to improve my country’s educational practices and those of others? Where are the best interventions to employ? How are the policies/practices affecting the classroom practice?

I feel there is much to explore in our education systems to make things happen and educate our children if and only if we can apply the correct, appropriate and lasting solutions. It is not just about more money but right dosage.My challenge is therefore finding ways to arrive at the best options to use through research, policy analysis and evaluations of such educational systems/practices.

I believe CIE offers a great opportunity to look at the diversity of systems and meet people of all walks of life and learn from them. I see potential at CIE having so many international students coming from different educational systems. I look forward to a great time. Cheers! Zikomo Kwambiri (Thank you very much).

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Darren Hertz      dhertz@educ.umass.edu

One of my greatest educational experiences has been working alongside my father.  He is a carpenter as was his father and his father’s father.  Cutting and fitting are the skills and everything else is a medium.  Together, we’ve built and remodeled many houses and the building skills I’ve learned have proved a boon again and again.  What was an even greater lesson, though, was the confidence he instilled in me that most anything could be done if one just got to trying it.  Feeling potential is a powerful feeling.

Upon finishing my undergraduate studies, I left with excitement for the Central African Republic, where I stepped into a very different life.  I was a Math and Science teacher and in the midst of the roller coaster of my first year of teaching, I found myself constantly struggling against the rote learning pedagogy that surrounded me and was expected from me.  Reading, writing and rewriting it word for word from memory was virtually all that was Darren Hertzexpected from students, and many of them were quickly worried when half a class would pass without my writing anything on the chalkboard.  Problem was, I can’t memorize anything, and learning for me relied on my framing things.  So that was how I taught.  Juxtaposed within this same environment was this amazing resourcefulness, where bicycles and cars were kept functioning for decades with a strip or two of rubber, and when their lives finally ended, they were quickly turned into a million other things, such as pots and pans and shovels.  That was what I understood, but found nowhere in the classrooms, and the next four and a half years of teaching and training in CAR, Guinea, and Burkina Faso were about trying to encourage those aptitudes and ways of perceiving. As a result these experiences my current interests are in skills development in Sub-Saharan Africa.

On returning to the United States I was hired by Peace Corps HQ.  With the help of a number of great people I found myself designing financial software solutions and in doing so, increasingly appreciating relationships and the interconnectedness of so many things.  From discovering such complexities, I was sent out for several years to spend time with local Peace Corps staff around the world, trying to demystify the over-complexified computer. 

I most recently have finished building one last house with my father in northern Florida and am excited to be starting up here at the Center.  I feel very fortunate to find myself in such rich and broad learning environment, and very happy to already feel a part of a community of very interesting and interested people. 

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Konda Reddy Chavva      kchavva@educ.umass.edu

I come from India – a land of rich cultural and social heritage. Development in modern India has not been uniform. While on the one end, the country has made great strides in information technology industry, while on the other end we find poverty accompanied by low levels of literacy. There is portion of the population that is upwardly mobile, but there is a greater portion that is trapped by strong belief in India’s traditional social system. The rural communities live their lives as day laborers or subsistence farmers.
Konda-Reddy Chavva
My studies in political science have sensitized me to the dynamics of socio-political structures in the functioning of a society. I believe that education and awareness building help make informed decisions and play a critical role in social change. I started my career in International Development at World Education in 1999. Over the years, I have been working with adult illiterate women, out of school children and farmers to design curricula, develop materials, facilitate trainings, and use nonformal education to support technical sector inputs in development programs.
As I continue working, often questions related to the teaching-learning process, stages in the learning process, ways of engaging various stakeholders and theory of inquiry keep cropping up in my mind. I am at a critical stage of professional development where I need to reflect upon the experiences and learn more about the theory and practice of nonformal and popular education, design and conduct of research, policy advocacy, and policy formulation. I bring with me an experience of working in the field.

I look forward to the opportunity to reflect, gain more conceptual knowledge, and interact with professionals from diverse regions of the world. This I hope would lead to genesis of more creative ideas that I could tryout as I move forward. I am extremely pleased to have made it to CIE. I believe learning is a life-long process!

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Haili Cheng       hcheng@educ.umass.edu

I was born and raised in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Western China. I grew up in a small isolated village surrounded by the Heavenly Mountains close to the Goby desert right on the ancient Silk Road. The province, Xinjiang, shares borders with 8 countries including Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India from the northeast to southwest. It is one of the largest border-trade zones in China. Xinjiang is a province populated by a total of 13 ethnic groups, including a great number of nomadic tribes and nations. I did all my education (Grade 1- Undergraduate) in Xinjiang before I became a teacher of English in Haili ChengUrumqi, capital city of the province and later in Beijing. I worked as a classroom teacher for four years before I left China for the University of Calgary in Canada to pursue my first Master’s degree in Education in 2003.   

After studying at U of C for two years, I applied for and attained a full-time staff position for Strengthening Capacity in Basic Education in Western China which was a Sino-Canadian educational development project in Western China. It was a five year project (2003-2007) with the goal of enhancing the quality of basic education in Western China by building a sustainable distance education system for K-9 teachers. It was an exciting but very challenging experience. Many times I felt lost among different opinions, clashing ideas, and conflict between different stakeholders and cultures. It was a good learning experience for both professional life and the real life.

I have always been interested in learning about education systems in different countries and exploring strengths and weaknesses of the systems from a comparative perspective. I am particularly interested in exploring the transferability of the North American education systems and philosophies in the context of China, and vice versa. In fall 2006 I decided to apply for further studies in international educational development. That eventually brought me here at CIE to meet the wonderful diverse group of professors, colleagues and friends! I am very happy to join CIE for the International Education program. I really love the great diversity of people in the center whom I might otherwise never have had the opportunity to meet, communicate with and learn from.

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Bonnie Sylwester          bsylwest@educ.umass.edu

bonnie SylwesterHello everyone! I am originally from the Washington, DC area. My childhood was divided between DC and Melbourne, Australia, and my experience living in Australia combined with my exposure to the international community in Washington created in me an early desire to learn about different countries, cultures and languages.

As an undergraduate at Miami University of Ohio I studied International Studies and German and took advantage of as many study and travel abroad opportunities as I could. After graduation I decided to try teaching English as a way to travel and earn money. I soon found that I had as much passion for teaching as I did for traveling, and I decided to return to school and obtain a Master’s degree in Instructional Systems Development with a concentration in TESOL/Bilingual Education from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Since then, I have worked as an English language teacher, teacher trainer and curriculum developer in many different countries including Namibia, South Korea, Bolivia, Spain and Mexico. In recent years, I have become increasingly interested in project development. During my time at CIE, I would like to study project design and implementation taking into account the needs of second language learners and cultural minority groups. I am very excited to be at CIE working with colleagues who bring with them so many interesting stories and experiences.

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Habibullah Wajdi        hwajdi@educ.umass.edu

In 1980 when I was eight years old and in grade two of my primary school I had to leave Kabul, Afghanistan and migrated to Pakistan with my family. We had to migrate to Pakistan because my father was a journalist who wrote openly against political activists who later took power by brutal force in 1979. Obviously we had no right to stay under that tyrant regime and migrated with millions of other Afghans to neighboring countries. This undesired and forceful political change ultimately brought complete destruction and wide-scale suffering to Afghan population. This destruction also completely destroyed the slowly and gradually evolved educational system of Afghanistan. 

In Pakistan I was lucky to have access to primary, secondary and tertiary education. The institutions and conditions may have not been very favorable but I still consider myself much luckier than millions of Afghan kids who were without education in those years. Teaching became my first job. Knowing the importance of access and quality eHabibullah Wajdiducation and its impact on the students’ lives was the motivation for my teaching which continued for almost eight years in Quetta, Pakistan. In 2001, after the fall of Taliban I returned to Afghanistan and joined UNICEF education team in southern provinces of Afghanistan.  I used all my abilities trying to provide access opportunities to Afghan children under the well-known Back-to-School campaign.

Working on the development of sound policies and strategies for the education system in Afghanistan became a new chapter of my career when I joined the World Bank in September 2003. The World Bank projects demanded that I maintain regular contacts with administration and leadership of three relevant ministries in the education sector. These contacts revealed to me the problems of Afghanistan’s education system. Besides other major problems Afghanistan seriously lacks technical knowledge and capacity to absorb the streams of uncoordinated strategies and ideas from the many donors, bi-lateral agencies, UN, and NGOs.

The goal of working for the education system of Afghanistan has made me come to the world of CIE.  I know CIE will offer unique opportunities and I am confident I will learn more to overcome my technical deficiencies and gain new ideas and experiences in the field of education. I will take back to Afghanistan with me the knowledge deemed crucial for the development of a strong education system in Afghanistan.

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Erin Myers      emyers@educ.umass.edu

I started as a theater artist and activist in the community garden movement in New York City with South Bronx based, Cherry Tree Association, Inc. I worked with a horticulture program and coordinated a city-wide outreach campaign to collect data on the gardens, gardeners, and communities served by the garden programs for Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund .  The efforts of the community culminated in the creation of a land trust of 119 previously threatened gardens.

Erin MyersShortly after graduation from the University of Iowa in Theater Arts, I traveled to Nicaragua to work as volunteer popular educator for an organization called CANTERA. I trained youth delegates from all departments of Nicaragua to teach theater for social consciousness-raising.  The youth then, in turn, decided to form troupes back in their communities and performed on such days as AIDs Awareness Day to complement the education campaigns of their mother organizations.

I returned to the U.S. for nearly two years, where I taught two multi-grade classrooms (K-2 and 4-6), implementing individualized education plans of students with learning disabilities, behavioral disorders, and emotional disorders and participated in “wrap around” services with parents, social workers, case workers, psychiatrists, and school officials.

At the end of the school year, I was offered an opportunity to return to Nicaragua, as an EFL teacher. While teaching, which was my way to earn my keep, I continued to consult for local Nicaraguan NGOs, such as CISAS, Fe y Alegria, and Fundacion Cocibolca This work allowed me to become part of a dynamic Nicaraguan community.  The work was participatory and critical.  However, the instability of organizations I worked with raised my awareness of the need for organizational capacity building.  To learn more about this, I joined Pact International’s Capacity Building Services Group as a consultant to and member of the Impact Alliance learning community.

I came to CIE to build my development toolkit, to receive formal training as an international educator.  My geographical interests include, but are not limited to, Israel, Palestine, and Latin America, and I dream of contributing to development organizational capacity building by building institutes in these countries run by local people, where they will be the documenters and experts instead of the passive subjects of the developed world’s inquiry.

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