Thursday, April 21, 2011

Summer, Kind of Wonderful

The grass is green and the sun is undeniable. There are less than three weeks left in the second semester of my junior year. I am finding this very hard believe, but what I find even more unbelievable is that in less than two months I will be boarding a plane to Ecuador. I will be conducting research about the United Nations Millennium Development Goals there with another student. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), are the UN's attempt to combat some of the world's biggest problems like hunger, poverty, gender inequality and HIV/AIDS by 2015. There are eight MDGs, and some have had greater success than others.

We received a Provost Grant from St. Michael's that will allow us to research the effectiveness of these goals in much greater depth. The Provost Grants were created a few years ago in order to give students and professors an outlet for conducting research together. Students, with help from their professors, can apply for these summer grants in March. Examples of Provost-grant funded research varies from studying water scarcity in Jordan to the circulatory systems of North American leeches.

With the help of my professor, friend and fellow blogger, Trish Siplon, Jerry and I have begun the planning process for Ecuador. Our tickets have been bought, and I will be headed back to the southern hemisphere on June 13! First off, I am looking forward to being able to spend a few more weeks in Burlington, doing some pre-research before leaving. And then I will be back in South America, eating mangoes and close to the Andes. I am so grateful to have this amazing opportunity to independently research the things that I think are important (and to be paid for it!).

Monday, April 11, 2011

Showing up for the shut down

On Thursday 55 members of the St. Michael's College community (myself included) left the lofty mountains of Vermont to protest in front of the state department in Washington D.C. Joined by some of Burlington's Congolese community, we held signs advocating for increased attention to the violent conflict in the Congo. Some of the signs read, "Peace in the Congo," and one of my favorite Martin Luther King Jr. quotes: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." The Burlington Free Press covered the Dear Hillary for the Congo event. Here is a photo of the rally taken from fellow blogger Trish Siplon:

Here I am with Alexsis and Sam, fellow SGACers:

Besides the rally, some members of the Student Global AIDS Campaign were in Washington to lobby on behalf of global health funding. Eight of us met with staff members representing Senator Patrick Leahy (VT, and a graduate of St. Michael's College), Senator John Kerry (MA), Senator Susan Collins (ME), and Senator Jeanne Shaheen (NH). During these meetings we discussed the importance of global health initiatives that would fight world AIDS.

However, we were told that global AIDS was not really a priority at that moment. That is because Friday April 8th was an especially strange day to be in the capital. Congressmen and women were trying to come to an agreement on 2011 fiscal year budget. All major news channels were warning of a complete government shutdown, and there we were, sitting amidst the decision making. Just a few of the ramifications of a government shutdown include- the closing of the Social Security office, tax refund would be delayed, passports would not be expedited, and National Parks and the Smithsonian museums would close. The last time this happened was in 1995.

Every open door in the Senate buildings showed meetings that were in progress. Staffers appeared frazzled while watching CNN reiterate what they already knew. Fortunately, the government shutdown was averted, at least for this week. We will see what happens on Wednesday, when the new-new deadline comes.