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Fellows bond with recrafting of Principles of Community

By Amy Agronis on February 11, 2005 in University

The Humphrey Fellowship program seemed to need something more when Paul Marcotte and Sasha Ferreira came aboard as director and assistant coordinator, respectively. Their first class of Humphrey Fellows in 2002-03 wasn't as cohesive as they expected.

"We had difficulties with that group," says Ferreira of the diverse group of accomplished mid-career professionals who had come from around the globe to study under faculty mentorship. "There was no community feeling."

So the two put their heads together and came up with that extra something: why not adopt a document like UC Davis' Principles of Community on which the next year's group could model their actions?

"At our retreat the next September at Lake Tahoe we laid the university's Principles of Community on the table and said, 'what do you think of this?'" Marcotte said. "We spent the next couple days negotiating. We had some debates over single words that lasted for half an hour or an hour."

What the fellows created, as Marcotte describes it, is a document "modeled on the principles of the university but uniquely theirs." The group that first year became so close that they continue to correspond with each other by e-mail from their home countries and several have even made international trips to visit each other.

This year's group continued the Principles of Community tradition, and will go a step further in the spring as they lead a freshman seminar to connect with incoming students.

"In the past the fellows have attended classes, but they are usually passive participants," Ferreira says. "This is a great opportunity for them to share their perspectives."

UC Davis, which hosted Humphrey Fellows from 1986 to 1996 and started again in 2001, is one of only two host universities to accept fellows involved with agriculture. The program also hosts fellows in the fields of law, economics, engineering and the environment. Fellows attend classes, a weekly seminar and participate in a six-week professional affiliation with an organization related to their field.

National recognition

By the time this year's fellows presented a commemorative, framed version of their principles to Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef on Jan. 24, they had already presented the document to Humphrey Fellows from 14 other universities during a fall conference in Washington D.C., where they received high praise. Humphrey Fellows programs at several other schools expressed interest in forming their own Principles of Community, including the fellows at American University.

Other fellows wanted to sign the UC Davis Humphrey Fellows' document, says Marcotte, "But our fellows said, 'No, you have to negotiate your own.'"

"I was surprised at the lively response," said Czech Geological Survey director Zdenek Venera, one of the nine fellows at UC Davis this year. "I think other groups took it as an inspiration to themselves."

But hashing out the principles is a key part of the process, he said. "When you have to formulate it yourselves, it's a lot deeper than just reading something and signing it."

For example, that first year, the fellows had a long debate over including the goal that they would build a true community based on, among other things, "love" of one another. Ferreira said. "One fellow felt very strongly that love should be included, while others thought it was a bit inappropriate." Ultimately, though, "they all agreed after hearing her reasons," Ferreira said. This year the group decided to leave "love" in as well.

Much like the 2003-04 group, this year's Humphrey Fellows have used their Principles of Community to maintain a sense of camaraderie.

"We came from different backgrounds and cultures, and we had our own opinions at the beginning," said Wondemneh, a senior marketing manager at a private agricultural company back in Ethiopia. "But after the discussions at the retreat, we better understand each other."

Marcotte credits the lack of conflict within the group to the spirit of respect and understanding created by the principles. "We have agreed that we can learn from one another, and that our conversations are about the issues, not the egos of the individuals. So, in effect, personal conflict is nonexistent."

Coming from around the globe

Venera is the lone European in this year's group. He is researching natural hazard technologies and making connections with the U.S. Geological Survey. Four other fellows are also primarily studying the environment: Malick Souleymane Diene of Senegal is focusing on sustainable energy and environmental impact assessments; Leungo Kelebopile of Botswana is studying solar water heaters; Suman Sijapati of Nepal is involved in irrigation research; and China's Di Yu is learning about environmental protection management and policy.

The remaining four fellows come from agricultural backgrounds: Farid Ahmad of Afghanistan and Ethiopia's Tahsas Wondemneh are gaining agricultural marketing skills; Khaing Wah Wah Maw of Myanmar is studying sustainable agriculture and natural resource management; and Francois Njomo of Cameroon is learning about agricultural policy.

Each fellow is an accomplished mid-career professional, and each will implement their new knowledge and experience when they return home in June.

Taking the next step

Meanwhile, the next task for Marcotte, Fer-reira and the group is organizing a freshman seminar for spring quarter called "International Development: The Human Dimension." Several fellows will lecture on their countries' cultures and their professional work. For example, Di, a solid waste management expert, will give a tour of the campus's waste management research facilities one week, and Venera will lead a trip to Cold Canyon Preserve to observe geological formations.

About 20 students will have the opportunity to take the weekly class and will be introduced to international programs and those who participate in them. Those that enroll will be exposed to an unfamiliar international scene.

"Not everyone knows who Senator Fulbright and Senator Humphrey were," Ferreira said. "This class will communicate their ideas of peace and internationalism to the younger generation."

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The Humphrey Fellows Principles of Community ...

The UC Davis Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program is dedicated to professional development and cultural exchange, and is committed to serving our global community.

Our group of Fellows reflects and is a part of a community comprising all races, creeds, cultures and social backgrounds. The successful conduct of the Humphrey Fellowship Program requires that Fellows acknowledge and practice the following basic principles:

We affirm the inherent dignity in all of us, and we strive to maintain a climate of justice and peace marked by respect, open-mindedness, love, friendship and care for each other. We acknowledge that our Fellows come from different cultures and regions of the world, and therefore we will endeavor to foster mutual understanding and tolerance among ourselves and within the global community.

We affirm the right of freedom of expression among our members. We recognize the right of every Fellow to think and speak based on personal belief, and to express any idea within the highest standards of civility and decency towards all. We promote open expression of our individuality and our diversity within the bounds of courtesy, sensitivity and respect.

We confront and reject all manifestations of discrimination, including those based on race, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, religious or political beliefs, status within or outside the Humphrey Fellowship Program, or any of the differences among people which have been excuses for misunderstanding, dissension or hatred. We recognize and cherish the richness contributed to our lives by our diversity. We take pride in our various achievements, and we celebrate our differences and complementarities.

We recognize that each of us has an obligation to the community of which we have chosen to be a part. We each appreciate the opportunity that we have been given by the Humphrey Fellowship Program and the University of California, Davis as our hosts. We will strive, as Humphrey Fellows, to build a true community of spirit and purpose based on mutual respect, love, caring and support of one another.

Media contact(s)

Amy Agronis, Dateline, (530) 752-1932, abagronis@ucdavis.edu

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