Where in the World Are Mary Baldwin Students?

July 10, 2008

UPDATE 8/7/08: Lana Elder ’09 was recently approved to study in Senegal in fall 2008.

Always engaged in exploration right on campus, Mary Baldwin University students may also wish to stretch their wings a bit, with plenty of opportunities to study in other parts of the country and abroad. Nearly 100 students took learning adventures in eight countries during May Term 2008, including Costa Rica, Italy, and Cyprus.

Several students will return this fall from terms in England, Czech Republic, Italy, and Japan, according to Heather Ward, Mary Baldwin director of international programs. Others will embark — or have already — on foreign study trips for the 2008–09 academic year. Read about a few of Mary Baldwin’s international and cross-country ambassadors for the upcoming year:

“The farthest I have traveled is Canada, and Niagara Falls at that!” said rising junior Sarah Firaben about her international experience. A semester-long trip to Valencia will dramatically expand the Staunton native’s passport as she works toward becoming a Spanish teacher or English as a Second Language instructor. Firaben’s plans to study abroad were aided by a $1,600 Dorothy Mulberry scholarship — recently established by alumnae who studied in Spain while they were at Mary Baldwin. Partnering with the University of Virginia (UVA) Hispanic Studies in Valencia program, she will stay with a host family, attend classes taught by UVA professors, and go on organized sight-seeing excursions once a month. “I’ve heard that the best way to learn a language is to go to a country that speaks that language and learn not only the language, but also the culture, food, religions, and daily routine of life,” Firaben said. Firaben and her travel plans were featured in The News Leader.

Just before she entered Mary Baldwin University and the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership — Jael Cooper ’11 climbed in the Andes mountains in summer 2007. Getting to about 16,000 feet would have been challenge enough for most people, but, as a participant with Global Explorers, Cooper was one of several sighted people who helped lead blind students into the mountains as well. She’s at it again, this summer planning a trip to the Grand Canyon with the same group. Cooper and fellow hikers will help the ecosystem by removing non-indigenous plants and protecting the Canyon against more erosion. While there, the group also plans to take a whitewater rafting trip, making it the first group of blind and sighted students to tackle the Canyon’s rapids.

“I’m still figuring out what I want to do in life, but if I could do this kind of thing all the time, I’d be pretty happy,” Cooper said. “I learned so much about myself on the last trip, and I hope to continue to test myself on this one.” The trip to Peru made Cooper aware of the need for education in developing countries and in the United States, and she became involved in the migrant education program through the Spencer Center for Civic and Global Engagement at Mary Baldwin. “I’m not sure what my civic engagement focus will be after the trip this year, but I’m sure something will call to me when I return,” she said.

Their plane departed June 27, the first installment of Mary Baldwin’s student exchange program with Lady Doak College in India. Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership cadets Gretchen Domaleski ’11 and Stephanie Bennett ’11 are continuing to build ties in India — which started with Professor of Philosophy Roderic Owen’s 2005 trip to Lady Doak. Since that time, Mary Baldwin students have volunteered at schools in that country, the college has recruited students (one of whom will enter the Program for the Exceptionally Gifted in 2008), Indian percussionist and music professor Srinivas Krishnan has visited and performed as the college’s new artist-in-residence, and an Indian study abroad company filmed a recruiting video in 2007. The exchange was a perfect opportunity because Lady Doak has an all-female corps of cadets that receives training similar to VWIL students.

Domaleski, a native of Fredericksburg, Virginia, traveled to India with her Girl Scout troop on a sightseeing and service trip before she enrolled at Mary Baldwin. VWIL students were selected for the exchange because Lady Doak is home to an all-female corps of cadets similar to VWIL. “I wanted to study abroad during my time at Mary Baldwin, and I believe that going during my sophomore year will help foster the next two years of international exchanges between the corps,” she said. Domaleski may major in communication or mathematics, or both, and hopes to “gain greater appreciation for Indian tradition and American culture.”

The trip to Madurai is not Bennett’s first time abroad, but she will stay much longer than she has on previous ventures to Greece and Italy. “I am grateful to Mary Baldwin and VWIL for giving me this opportunity,” said Bennett, an international relations and political science dual major from Okeechobee, Florida. “International experience can open minds and increase tolerance. I hope that I will bring back an open-minded view of Indian culture, so I and others become more appreciative of other cultures,” she said.

Cynthia Kirkland ’11
Disney World, U.S.

Rising sophomore Cynthia Kirkland is going to Disney World in Florida, and not just for the day or even a long weekend, but for the entire fall 2008 semester. Kirkland, who is studying marketing communication, will be there to learn and work as a participant in the Disney College Program. Kirkland won’t know the details of her internship until she arrives on site, but she does know she’ll be in an entertainment role and will attend hands-on and classroom sessions in marketing, entertainment, communication, and other subjects. “Working for a Fortune 100 company will be a great experience, and one that can hopefully springboard into another internship,” said Kirkland, who lives in Woodbridge, Virginia.