The 2012 SAIL program includes 11 energetic SAILers who are ready to immerse themselves in Lao society (pictures and bios below). This year we are excited to have four Fulbrighters, one Luce Scholar, and one SAILer who received financial support from the Gilman and Freeman-Asia Foundations. Please follow their blog as they embark on their month-long journey.
TO READ THE SAILERS' BLOG AND VIEW CURRENT PHOTOS OF THEIR LAO EXPERIENCE, CLICK HERE
Jordan Antonio, 24, recently earned his B.A. in Psychology from California State University, Stanislaus. During his undergraduate years he started working with the Lao community as a volunteer at The Bridge, a Southeast Asian community center in Central California. There he gained an understanding of the complexities of the immigrant/refugee experience and the generational gap that many of the younger children encounter. Most of his work at The Bridge was directed toward helping these young people achieve academic success.
Bounsue Fongthavisay, who likes to go by “Kerry,” is a Lao American, born and raised in Minnesota. She has been to Laos one time, spending three weeks there, and looks forward to the SAIL program to learn the language and experience the culture firsthand – something she has lacked while growing up in the U.S.
Reid Magdanz, 22, grew up in the Iñupiat Eskimo town of Kotzebue, perched on a gravel spit in Northwest Alaska. With only 3,000 people and no roads, it had few of city life’s amenities, but offered unparalleled opportunity for learning about and living on the land. He spent much of his childhood in open-air boats, behind snowmobile handlebars, in wood-heated cabins, and camped out on sandbars watching for caribou or simply enjoying the great outdoors. Reid learned from and with the Iñupiat, who have called the area home for generations.
RYAN MAXRyan Max, 24, grew up in Columbia, MD. He attended the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where he received a B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology with a minor in French Language. He spent 5 months studying in Nancy, France as an undergrad at the Faculté de Lettres at the Université de Nancy II.
Ryan has never visited Laos, and is very excited to participate in the SAIL program and learn about Lao language and culture. Ryan states, “I am a Fulbright ETA recipient to Laos, and I am interested in studying in Laos because it has held itself as a distinct culture during a period of global homogenization. Laos has maintained its identity to a greater extent than any country I have had the privilege to visit, and I find the prospect of learning a tonal language and living in a traditionally Buddhist country extremely exciting. Eventually I would like to use my training in science and languages to travel abroad and study the potential public health issues associated with interaction between human populations and animal habitats. Many of the areas I hope to study are in the same region as Laos.”
Ryan has worked as a chef, a summer intern at Goddard Space Flight Center, a rock climbing instructor, a student researcher and chemistry laboratory teaching assistant, and as a teacher for an after-school program for elementary school students interested in science. His long-term career interests lie in biological research, particularly in zoonotic diseases, which transfer from animal populations to humans, and other issues relating to public health concerns in the developing world. His hobbies include rock climbing, cooking, judo, and playing guitar.
Click here to read Ryan's blog
Samantha Noh, 20, was born in Takoma Park, Maryland and has split her time between Seoul, South Korea and the U.S. for most of her life. Her first trip to Laos was in 2006 with her father, a computer science professor at Hongik University in Korea who chaperoned an AVAN trip (Asian Volunteer Action Network) in Vang Vieng. Her family made great friendships in Vang Vieng, and she has returned three more times to visit and continue to help develop the community center and teach English classes at the local elementary school.
Born in Olympia, WA, Blaine Nonthaveth was the first American-born child to Lao parents. Outside his family, Blaine was not exposed to much Lao culture growing up. He didn’t live near a Lao community and was the only Lao American in school. Inspired by the history he learned from his parents, and relatives living in Laos, he decided to travel to Laos to learn more. He has returned every year since 2005 to his family’s village in the South.
Born in Long Beach, California, Susan Phay, 26, is a first generation Lao born in the U.S. Her family came to the U.S. in 1980 after their escape from the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Her family is ethnically Lao, but her parents and grandparents were born in Cambodia. Her great great-grandparents emigrated from Laos to escape political persecution roughly 200 years ago. As a young child, Susan slowly began to learn of her family’s ancestry, history and survival from the genocide in Cambodia. Here grew her desire to visit both her homelands, to learn more about the countries and their cultures. Susan sees SAIL as a great way to learn about her heritage and hopes to share what she has learned in Laos with her community. She hopes to become fluent in Lao, learning how to read and write so she can communicate better with her elders, help bridge the gap between generations, and teach the younger generation about Lao culture. Susan is one of four Fulbright scholars joining the SAIL program for the first time, and will be teaching English in Laos until 2013.
David Pick, a 22-year old Florida native, is interested in agricultural pest management and learning about biological interconnections that can be used to develop strategies for growing food faster, healthier, and safer. David believes that the U.S. needs to be proactive in protecting its food and water sources by finding other ways of producing crops that best protect these resources, and preventing or being prepared for new exotic pests that may come to the U.S. David states, “One way we can do this is to have scientists and students who will learn the language, agricultural practices, pest management strategies, and natural enemies from people of other countries who have successfully dealt with these ‘new’ pests for thousands of years.”
David’s goal is to have a research career in applied entomology, and will be applying to Ph.D. programs in the Fall. He also plans to apply for graduate fellowships to go back to Laos in graduate school. David enjoys hiking, canoeing, camping, gardening, herbology, photography, and insect collecting, and if possible, hopes to add some new specimens to his collection from Laos!
Santi Soumpholphakdy, 38, was born in Savannakhet, Laos and raised in Savannakhet and Vientiane. At the age of 7, Santi’s entire family immigrated to Utah. Santi was briefly taught to read and write Lao but it was never consistent. Growing up in Utah and being Lao was challenging because learning English and acculturating to Western culture took precedent. Furthermore, minimal contact with family in Laos resulted in Santi yearning for a deeper connection to Laos and what it meant to be a Lao person living in the U.S.
Anna Yacovone, 22, grew up at the foothills of the Smokey Mountains in East Tennessee. She recently graduated from Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) with degrees in Global Studies and Organizational Communication, and volunteered for the Honors Students’ Association, Rotaract and Global. She is currently the Post-Graduate Advisor for MTSU’s Office of Education Abroad. Anna is one of four Fulbright Scholarship recipients joining the SAIL program to Laos.
Born in Laos, Victor Yang, 52, came to the U.S. in 1976 with his older brother, and settled in Omaha, Nebraska where he grew up and eventually graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha with a B.A. in Industrial Technology. When his family relocated to Fresno, Victor followed and later attended California State University, Fresno and National University, where he received an M.A. in Educational Counseling. He also received a Certificate of Completion in Police Academy training from Fresno City College's Police Academy. In Laos, Victor’s father had only attended school for two months, while Victor completed 7th grade prior coming to the U.S., and was the first person in his family to go to college – something he has felt very blessed and honored about.
MS. DAOSAVANH PHOUANGKHAMSAO (2012 SAIL Program Leader)
A native of Vientiane, Laos, Daosavanh Phouangkhamsao or "Dao", 32, will be the in-country Program Leader for the 2012 SAIL program. Dao has nearly 10 years experience managing offices and financial processes for non-government and private companies, where she has had experience working with foreigners and using her English. The Center for Lao Studies is excited to have Dao as the Program Leader this year, as she will be an excellent resource for participants through cultural and language translation.