Kristen Wright – Brazil (2014-2015 Council Scholar)

 To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries. -Aldous Huxley

Prior to my travel, Brazil was under the microscopic view of world news. The 2014 World Cup wrapped up less than a week shy of my visit. The World Cup was a test-piece for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Many asked whether or not Brazil had the infrastructure and economy to host such large events. I was nervous hearing many stories out of Rio, stories of the favelas, police crackdowns, the drug economy, gangs running neighborhoods—it sounded like a scary place, where I would have to be on-guard at all times. As is often the case, things were different when I got there. I found the people in Porto Alegre warm, willing to help, and equally as curious about my life as I was about theirs.

For a couple of months prior to my travels, I used a free online program to learn some Portuguese. I was glad to have prepared, as most people in Brazil do not speak English. I created a study book including simple greetings, conjugated verbs, nouns with pictures; being able to speak a little helped enhance my experience, converse with local folks I would not have otherwise had a chance to speak with.

Program: International Society of Music Education

The program I attended, the International Society of Music Education, was one of the most inspiring events I have attended as a teacher. I attended music performances of traditional Brazilian music. I was able to make connections with music teachers and researchers, and confer with scholars from all over the world. I attended presentations and panel discussions on topics ranging from Darwin’s research from an ethnomusicology perspective, to the effect of forced Chinese nationalist music education curriculum in post-colonial Hong Kong, to social justice issues in music education in the United States.

I also heard a stunning paper asking an important research question: What do we lose when we require that music education research papers be published in English? This concept has made me think about language and communication in a completely different way, including in my classroom. How can I get concepts across to my many students who are just learning English? I also realized how fortunate I am to teach music, often described as a “universal language.” I was able to share these reflections and a general overview of my trip with colleagues at our district in-service in August. Experiencing other cultures makes us more complete beings, allowing us to become more empathetic, aware of, and involved our world. Being a teacher allows me to share these experiences with impressionable young people in hopes that they, too, wish to become worldly knowledge and experience seekers. 

This conference offered information and scholarly commentary a massively wide variety of topics in music education. I have been quite interested in the effect of music brain growth and development. I attended a keynote address devoted to health and wellness of musicians, not solely relying on medicines but brain structure and processes–natural processes to being well while performing.

Dr. Eckart Altenmüller is both a medical doctor and a classically trained flutist who directs the Institute of Music Physiology and Musicians’ Medicine at the Hannover University of Music and Drama in Germany. His research is built upon helping suffering musicians play their instruments as naturally as possible, regaining performance ability and confidence. Dr. Altenmüller’s presentation encapsulated his work in music and medicine, focusing on particular neurological disorders that can be devastating to musicians. I took some of his more specific information about body posture back to my classroom. Health and wellness is a large portion of the instrumental music curriculum. I want my students to be able to play without straining or hurting themselves, as is prone for string players, so Dr. Altenmüller’s presentation was applicable for my classroom.

Another talk I attended presented the idea of Charles Darwin as an ethnomusicologist. We tend to think of him solely in terms of evolution theory, but he was documenting cultural practices the world over. Dr. Nicholas Bannan, PhD, gave many examples of how Darwin documented sonic phenomena and music of other cultures. After discussing Darwin’s travels, Dr. Bannan went on to discuss the process Progressivism, or how European music became “standard” and “superior,” versus Universalism, which holds that cultural musics rise out of language, and that human song is the bridge between animal sounds and speech. Ultimately, Dr. Bannon asks an incredibly relevant question I take back to my classroom: How do you share and create a holistic musical experience? If I have my students perform music from another culture, is that truly an authentic experience?

Tying together the themes of authentic cultural experiences and song/speech music making, I also attended a session given by Brazilian music teacher educator Maura Penna. She began her presentation giving a quick overview of music education in Brazil; she related that most music study focuses on 20th and 21st century European classical music. Looking to bring more native authentic experiences to her students (and their future students), she designed a really neat activity. Students are given a poem, in this case, a Brazilian poem about a train. Students are then to create sounds with bodies to narrate the poem. The final product is a performance, the poem is recited along with the body percussion/sounds to help narrate the story. While this particular activity is aimed more at elementary-age students, it gave me great insight into current practices in Brazilian music classrooms.

Brazilian Music and Cultural Experiences

The first night of the conference featured an amazing opening ceremony concert. Traditional Brazilian musics, musical instruments, and cultural phenomena of import were featured in this special presentation. Folk instruments seemed to be most common, guitars, accordions, and simple percussion instruments such as tambourines and drums, however, a modern jazz trio (saxophone, electric bass, and drum set) also served as a back-up ensemble.

Famous Brazilian singers and instrumentalists were featured along with children’s choirs, a scholastic string orchestra, and a recorder (simple woodwind instrument) ensemble. One of the central themes of the opening ceremony was music throughout childhood. The puppeteering company featured “Mandinho,” a Brazilian puppet character, whose name means “little child” in South Brazil. Mandinho was a central figure throughout much of the beginning of the presentation, following a story from birth through late childhood. The accompanying musical selections depicted a range of childhood activity, from a lullaby in infancy to childhood play and dance songs. The group performed traditional Brazilian music and recently composed, showcasing Brazil’s rich musical history as well as forward artistic progress. While the musicians performed, puppeteers and dancers also performed interesting routines. I had no idea that chickens and puppets (marionettes, hand puppets, and oversized stick puppets) were so important to Brazilian culture! (Editorial note: I wound up taking many more videos than I did still shots of music performances, better to share with my students upon my return to school.)

The music presented during the conference was a celebration from all over the world. A collegiate women’s choir from the US presented a concert, but I also heard a xylophone ensemble (which would hail back to African musical roots), guitars, and native vocal groups. It was an incredible opportunity to hear and learn about diverse music from all corners of the globe.

Conclusion

I am so very grateful for this experience. The conference was amazing, a professional development and networking experience unlike any other I have experienced thus far. The breadth and depth of research and its applicability and relevance to my classroom would not have been available anywhere except at this international conference. My students are mesmerized when I talk about my travel experiences, and Brazil has been no less. I was inspired to select a piece for my orchestra that features samba, a Brazilian rhythm/dance/music style, bringing my experience further into my classroom. I was able to share these reflections and a general overview of my trip with colleagues at our district inservice in August, as well as with my colleagues at school. I am thankful for the people I met, the acquaintances I made, and new lifelong friends found. I realized that a key similarity among people of any culture is that we have an innate curiosity about each other, and the best way for us to satiate that curiosity is explore it firsthand.

2014-2015 Council Scholar: Molly Rowland (South Mecklenburg High School)

From the perspective of Molly Rowland, recipient of the 2015-2016 Council Scholar Award:

Thanks to the generosity of the World Affairs Council of Charlotte, I was able to study the Spanish language and culture in Madrid, Spain, for three weeks this past summer. I had taken Spanish in the past but hadn’t used it in a long time. Since many of many students are Hispanic, I needed the refresher to be able to communicate with them and their parents more effectively.

My entire trip was an adventure. I stayed with Maria, an older woman who lived in the city center. She cooked authentic meals for me and conversed with me in Spanish. I was able to talk with her about everything from her own family to cultural differences between Spain and US, which not only helped me practice my language skills, but helped broaden my global perspective as well. I discovered that she took in foreign boarders to help pay the rent. The economy is not in great shape and she needs to do this to survive. It was a very eye-opening experience for me to have these discussions with her.

I also attended language classes 3 times per week at Club de Español. This allowed me to have some structure to my language learning. I was listening to and speaking Spanish in the classroom and was also able to practice what I’d learned with Maria. The classes took place on Mondays and Wednesday from 10:30-1:30 and on Fridays from 10:30-12:00. This schedule allowed me to spend enough time in the classroom while not overwhelming myself.  During my time at Club de Español, I had two different teachers. One was incredibly effective, enthusiastic, and made us speak a lot to one another in Spanish. She also used repetition to help us remember vocabulary. The other teacher, in comparison, was not effective. She often checked her phone as if she was ready to leave, was rarely standing up and interacting with us, and had us do a lot of writing activities. I realized that I wanted to emulate the effective teacher. I believe I am a combination of both of these teachers and that I have some work to do to become the most effective teacher that I can be.

Additionally, I spent time exploring on my own and taking advantage of being in such a diverse city. I was able to visit the famous Prado and see gorgeous paintings that I had learned about in my Spanish Civilization and Culture class in college. It was such an exciting moment to see Velázquez paintings up close! It was surreal, much like the paintings I was viewing. It made me want to come back to the classroom and incorporate different, exciting paintings into my art unit in class.

This trip ultimately taught me what it is like to learn a foreign language. I had forgotten, as I have been fluent in German for a number of years. There was a lot of frustration involved in the process and it made me realize what my students experience every day. I also realized that my students need an enthusiastic educator that focuses on communication in the target language in order to be effective.

I am so grateful for the amazing opportunity that the World Affairs Council of Charlotte in cooperation with Wells Fargo, Carolinas HealthCare System and UNC Charlotte made possible for me. I cannot thank you enough! I look forward to promoting the program for years to come.

 Application

The German language is my passion. I started learning the language during my sophomore year of high school and never looked back. I immersed myself in the language and the culture through various organizations and travel and was well on my way to fluency after I graduated high school. Having earned a BA and an MA in German and having lived abroad several times, I know the German language like the back of my hand. This is dangerous for a language teacher. It means that I’d lost much of my understanding of language acquisition. I knew that I needed to re-gain an understanding of the language learning process. I had studied Spanish in college and hadn’t used it since, so I relished the opportunity to hone those skills while learning more about how one acquires language.

Additionally, the enrollment of Hispanic students in German courses has been on the rise at the high school in which I teach. Last year I had issues communicating with some Hispanic parents who don’t speak English very well (or at all). In one instance I wrote to a parent via e-mail and received a response in broken English from the student’s sister, as her parents were unable to answer the e-mail. This broke my heart. I wanted so badly to be able to communicate with these parents in their native tongue, which is why I applied for the World Affairs Council scholarship. I was lucky enough to be a recipient and scheduled my departure for July 12, 2015.

Madrid, Spain          

While in Madrid, Spain for three weeks this summer, I attended language courses three times per week at Club de Español, a language school in the city center. The courses convened three times per week. Mondays and Wednesday classes were 3 hours long, while Fridays were 1.5 hours long. The courses mainly focused on speaking, which is the weakest part of my Spanish skill set. I often found myself frustrated that I understood what was being said but struggled to express myself. It wasn’t always that I didn’t understand. 90% of the time I understood at least part of what was being asked. However, I simply didn’t have the exposure to the language that would’ve given me the vocabulary to enable me to respond to more than just basic questions.

The first week I answered almost exclusively in English. I understood what was being said but I wasn’t able to articulate what I wanted to say in the target language. I wasn’t trying to be defiant, but it may have come across that way to my host and my language teacher. This all changed late into the second week, when I met with the cousin of a co-worker. She doesn’t speak English. I was nervous when I went to meet with her at Starbucks but I did it. At first I tried to speak English. She didn’t understand a word, so I finally began to spit out words in Spanish. With my other interactions I’d had the opportunity to speak English and I had done so. In this case it was not possible to speak English and I gave it all I had. I was so proud I myself. It gave me a new appreciation for students coming to the US without any or little knowledge of English

It made me realize that I need to be a bit more understanding of my own students. I need to give them visuals and hand gestures to help them understand, and also provide them with phrases that I review again and again so that they are able to converse in German on a basic level. I also need to understand that language acquisition takes time. In the future, I will be more patient with my students.

During my time at Club de Español I ending up having different teachers. The second teacher taught us for one week while the former teacher was on vacation. While the first teacher was by no means ineffective, I found the second teacher taught me more in one week than I learned in two in the previous class. The first teacher had us sit and write down activities. We did little speaking. While the teacher was not constantly on her phone, she checked it occasionally to look at the time, despite the fact that there was a clock in the room. This gave me the impression that she wasn’t enjoying what she was doing and wasn’t really focused on us. In contrast, the second teacher never had her phone out, greeted us with a smile, and seemed more enthusiastic about her work. She had us stand up, sit down, read, write, and speak. She repeated vocabulary as she held up the object in question, leading me to associate the object with the Spanish word and not an English translation. She facilitated learning in a way that I’m now trying to model in my classroom.

I have already started using what I learned from the classes in my own classroom. Recently I did a lesson on German food. I took out plastic objects and said the words in German, having the students repeat them several times. This activity required no English and was more effective than simply writing out the words in German and English on the board. It allowed the students to associate each object with a German word and involved the use of the target language only.

In addition to class time, I also spent a great deal of time experience the Spanish language and culture. I lived with an older Spanish woman who cooked authentic meals for me and was happy to help me practice my Spanish. She and I visited several art museums, including the famous “Prado.” There, I was able to see paintings that I learned about in books back when I did my undergraduate degree. Seeing El Greco and Velázquez paintings up close was surreal.

In addition to having conversations with my host about art, I was able to discuss the state of the Spanish economy as well. It allowed me to understand Spain as a society. I soon realized that Spanish culture is greatly influenced by the current state of the economy. An example of this would be the fact that many young people live at home well into their 20s. There simply aren’t jobs for young people that would enable them to work and earn money. Even after college, many young people remain unemployed for years. These are problems that cannot easily be solved.

When I wasn’t at school or with my host mom, I was with an organization called Se habla Español Madrid. The group leaders, native speakers of Spanish, organized various excursions in and around the city of Madrid. The group was made up of non-native speakers from all over the world who were hoping to improve their language skills. I was able to participate in 6 field trips with them. Two of the most exciting were a trip to the mountains to swim in a natural pool, and a movie night in a museum garden. These excursions allowed me to meet native and non-native speakers alike, practice my Spanish, and have a good time.

The trip to the natural pool ended up being an adventure in and of itself. Since the group leader did not do enough research, we arrived at the train station not knowing how to get to the pool. This resulted in a two hour walk up a mountain. Since I had been told we could swim OR hike, I had chosen the former and was in sandals! It was quite difficult walking up the mountain in sandals, but I made it. The view of the pool with the backdrop of the trees was worth the trouble. This experience taught me to be prepared for anything. This can also be applied to the way I approach my classroom. I need to be prepared for things not to go as planned and adjust accordingly.

In addition to Se habla Español Madrid being a good time, it helped me to understand cultural differences. The organization was an amazing addition to my experience in Madrid and I would recommend to anyone thinking of becoming a part of it. However, it’s important to keep in mind that last minute changes may occur. This comes from the relaxed mind-set of the Hispanic culture in general. As someone who has grown up in the United States, these last minute changes were difficult for me to handle at first. I prefer to plan things out and move forward accordingly. It took some getting used to, but I realized I needed to learn to be more flexible. Flexibility is also a trait that will help me greatly in the classroom. One is expected to adapt to the needs of the students. Sometimes the lesson plans that I use need to be changed or adapted and I need to be able to do that.

My experiences in Spain have helped me to change the way I lesson plan. While I still map out a general plan for the week every Friday, I now take a few minutes after school each day to tweak my lesson plans. These minor adjustment are based on how classes went that day. Sometimes I need to go slower and re-loop, while other times it feels as if I’m beating a dead horse and need to move on. I have noticed that this has resulted in more engaged students.

Lisbon, Portugal

I was also fortunate enough spend a weekend in Portugal. My initial goal was to understand the linguistic similarities and differences of Portuguese and Spanish, and how I, as a language learner of Spanish, would respond to my environment in Portugal. I was able to understand a bit of what I read on signs and heard around me, thanks mostly to cognates. This made me realize that in my own classroom I need to try and use more cognates so that the material is easier for my students to understand.

My time in Portugal was spent alone, so I tried to interact with the locals as much as possible. My most interesting encounter happened when I took a taxi back to my hotel after a long day of sight-seeing in Lisbon on Saturday evening. As I conversed with the cab driver, I discovered he spoke English better than most foreigners I had encountered on the trip. It turns out that he is a fellow educator. He described how his pay had been cut a while back due to the economic problems in the region. As he discussed his meager salary, I realized that I was lucky to be in a country where educators are paid more compared to Portugal. I really began to appreciate my job in Charlotte, NC, even more.

Culture Shock

The morning after my arrival I had my first language class. As I didn’t know where the language school was located, I’d enlisted the help of Maria, my host. She and I set a time to leave and walk to the bus stop. I was waiting patiently at the time we’d agreed upon when finally, a few minutes after the fact, she appeared. We then went to the front door of the apartment building, when Maria realized the key she’d given me was not working. This was something I’d assumed we were going to rectify later. Instead, she spoke with Jose, the apartment janitor, and asked him if he had another key. At this point we’d already been standing there for several minutes and I was anxious to leave. I was not accustomed to being late to things on my first day! Maria could read the expression on my face and told me it wouldn’t take long. I, trying to be polite, said it was no problem. Eventually Jose came back with the key and Maria took me to the bus stop, where I thanked her for her help and went on my way.

I was able to get to the language school and was there 30 minutes before my class started. I introduced myself to the woman at the front desk and got the necessary materials from her before sitting down in my classroom. The class was to start at 10:30. It was already 10:15, so I thought it would be a few moments before the other students walked in. 10:30 rolled around and no one was there. A few minutes later, other students arrived. I looked at them, puzzled. Eventually, the instructor came in at about 10:45, and we began the lesson. It was then that I realized I was on Spanish time and no longer on American time. I had to get used to the slower pace of things in Spain.

In addition to the slow pace of the country, I also had to get used to my surroundings. In Germany and the United States, I know where I can buy the products that I need. This was not so in Spain. The first few days I struggled to find a drug store, which I then realized doesn’t exist in Spain. Once I figured this out I was able to buy toiletries and the like at a supermarket in town, but it caused me quite a bit of annoyance those first few days as I walked around and around, searching for one.

After a couple of weeks, once I knew the rhythm of the things and was more familiar with my surroundings, Madrid began to feel like home. I knew where to go, what time to arrive to meetings with friends, and began to feel as if I’d been coming to Madrid for years.

Thank you!

I would like to thank the World Affairs Council in cooperation with Wells Fargo, Carolinas HealthCare System and UNC Charlotte for giving me this wonderful opportunity. I am now able to teach German more effectively and am able to interact with Spanish speaking students and their parents more effectively. I have also noticed in passing that I’m now able to understand most students when they are conversing in Spanish with their friends! This trip would not have been possible without your generosity.

 

Tim Fairchild, Director of Global Energy Practices (SAS): People over Profit – SAS (June 2nd, 2016)

13418468_10156993852810597_4490416892749293100_oHenry Ford once said, “A business that makes nothing but money is a bad business”. Ford is acknowledged as a key figure in history that, as a Captain of Industry, pioneered the assembly line process of production. This novel approach revolutionized the industry in the United States and the rest of the world. Despite being known as an innovator who knew how to make a dollar, history often overlooks his philosophy of business, a philosophy that included taking care of his own employees by paying them higher wages.  For many living in today’s world, business is a means to create wealth in order to better one’s own life, sometimes at the expense of others. Tim Fairchild takes a different path. Fairchild, the Director of Global Energy Practice for SAS, was a guest speaker at WACC’s Global Energy Series on June 2, 2016.  He discussed how business is more than a means to make money, but rather an avenue to make the world a better place.

Since its founding in 1976 at NC State University, SAS has been frequently ranked as one of the top-performing privately-owned businesses and one of the best places to work by Fortune Magazine. Fairchild, who is head of the Energy Department at SAS, began his speech with an excerpt of his personal experiences with Dr. James Goodnight, a founding member of SAS and its current CEO. For Fairchild, in order for others to see how SAS is different from many similar companies, it is necessary to understand the man at the helm. Goodnight’s vision for the company has influenced its unique culture. Worth 8.1 billion according to a 2012 Forbes report, Goodnight’s philosophy is being down to earth`. He drives his own car, eats in the cafeteria, and can be seen walking around the SAS campus. When SAS had the option to go public, a move that would have made Goodnight one of the wealthiest individuals in the nation, he decided against it, stating that the culture of the company he helped build would be lost, and that SAS would be run by shareholders who have no relationship with the company’s employees.

You can sell sugar water or you can do something that matters,” Fairchild says with a grin on his face, taking a small poke at Coca Cola, which also has large operations in Charlotte.  Diving into his speech Fairchild addressed problems of the current electrical grid setup, how individual solar panel units for homes are woefully inefficient for their cost when compared to British Thermal Units (BTU’s) produced, and how if green infrastructure is to flourish in residential areas, it will be communities that need to make the push, not just government laws and regulations. He gives a personal anecdote about how when he and his wife moved into a new city they had to choose from dozens of different electric providers. Praising the system put in place for Charlotte and the surrounding area, he highlights Duke Energy’s commitment to quality and environmental awareness, similar to SAS which has now spread around the world.  For Fairchild, companies like Duke Energy and SAS are prime examples in how companies are taking point in the push for sustainable energy.

Summarized by William Floyd, recent graduate from Appalachian State University (B.A. History) 

Introducing: William Floyd (WACC Intern; Summer 2016)

Maggie Mills pictureA month ago I was sitting in a library surrounded by a stack of books and papers. With final exams and graduation just around the corner, I experienced the same feelings 99 percent of college seniors do: pure excitement for taking the next step in life, and pure terror at the unknown.

My college experience at Appalachian State University taught me that you never stop learning. During my enrollment, there was nothing I wanted to be more than a college history professor. But by my senior year, like many people learning to live on their own, I wasn’t sure that was the path I wanted to take. I have always loved interacting with people, learning their stories, and sharing mine. I wanted to pursue this but I didn’t know how.

During my research for employment I came across the World Affairs Council of Charlotte (WACC). The WACC has strived to educate the Charlotte community on international affairs, to establish a network between government and private systems, and to create a dialogue between countries who know little to nothing about each other. We cannot appreciate our country’s role in the world if we do not understand it.

During my time working on several independent studies under both the history and political science departments at Appalachian State, I was exposed to a wide array of knowledge. The research I conducted ranged from the complex relationship of North and South Korea to the impact of the Spanish Civil War on modern-day Europe. This has given me a substantial understanding of European politics and relationships as well as those in the Koreas and Asia as a whole.

I have always been passionate about world affairs, specifically in the growing need for sustainable energy and the push for more democratic systems. I seek to explore the conflicts raging in the South China Sea and well as the Middle East. During my internship with the WACC I hope to learn more about solving these global challenges.

William Floyd is a recent Appalachian State University graduate with a B.A. in History and minors in Political Science and Spanish (May 2016). 

2015-2016 Council Scholar: Brandi Lewis (Independence High School)

Brandi L Montreal 2I had a life changing and rewarding opportunity to attend the American Counseling Association’s Annual Conference as a 2016 Council Scholar!

The American Counselor Association (ACA) holds conferences around the world through its many partnerships with counselor associations. This year’s annual conference was held in partnership with the Canadian Counseling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA) on March 31–April 3, 2016, in the beautiful city of Montréal, QC, Canada, at the Palais des congrès de Montréal/Montreal Convention Center. The American-Canadian conference has been meeting as a tradition once every ten years. I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to visit our northern neighbor for the first time!

I am a professional school counselor in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. As a first year counselor, I wanted to learn as much as I could about meaningful ways to assist my students. My team and I seek to help our students not only academically, but also emotionally and socially. I was able to attend several workshops at the conference on various topics including: Solution-Focused Counseling, Counseling Immigrants and Migrant Children, The Creative Arts in Counseling, and Resources and Interventions for Counseling Children and Adolescents.

Along with my time in workshops I explored the beautiful city. Although it was March and spring break here in North Carolina, it was very, very cold there. Many days, it was no warmer than 20 degrees! I gladly exchanged my swimsuit and sun dresses for hats and a heavy coat! I found the people to be very friendly and the city to be very accessible. My favorite stops were the Underground City, Chinatown, and Saint Patrick’s Basilica.

One thing that was interesting to me was language. I became very nervous on my first few days there because I do not speak French. I only had Google Translate and Google Maps to guide me. I was very worried that I would not be able to communicate effectively. I walked into book stores and boutiques and got very scared because people were speaking to me in French and nearly everything was written in French. Finally I was exhausted, lost, and hungry from waling one day, so I decided to stop to get dinner on my way back to my hotel room. I was strangely nervous and lonely so I decided to eat the most comforting and safe thing: American food—a hamburger! As I was attempting to read the French signs and point at pictures, the cashier laughed at me. She began speaking in English! Montreal is very much a multilingual city. Outside of the airport and my hotel, most people spoke to me in French, but on average, many people speak several languages including English. Most students learn three languages before graduating from high school: French, English, and one language of their choice.

I felt as if I lost weight just by the shear amount of walking I did while in Montreal. I was also impressed by the level of diversity in the city as well. Although our northern neighbors are so similar to us here in the U.S., I still expected for Canada to be a lot more different than it was. In my ignorance, I was shocked to see so many separate communities like the Latin Quarter, Chinatown, and Afro-Canadian communities. I learned quickly that in many ways, were are more similar than not.

This experience has helped me tremendously in my work with immigrant and refugee students. Our school is home to students from at least twenty-seven countries. Often students will come to me very scared when enrolling school. I can now say that I understand some of what they may feel. I am always impressed to hear stories about some of my students who travel from overseas alone to reunite with family here in the U.S. Their bravery inspires me. I relied on that inspiration when I felt scared—even in a country so close to home. I will forever be grateful for this experience as it allowed me to gain valuable professional development, but it also allowed me to step out of my comfort zone. My first international trip was a blast and I look forward to traveling more internationally in the future!

The WACC Council Scholar Award Program is supported by Wells Fargo, Carolinas HealthCare System, Bank of America and UNC Charlotte.

VIDEO: 2016 World Citizen Award Dinner

The World Citizen Award Dinner has become an important part of the educational and international fabric of the Queen City. The World Affairs Council of Charlotte annually presents the World Citizen Award to a prominent individual or organization that has enhanced our community’s global standing through accomplishments of international significance. Each year, a capacity audience gathers to celebrate and recognize the achievements of the award recipients.

This year, the WACC honored Dr. Philip L. Dubois, Chancellor of The University of North Carolina at Charlotte on Wednesday, April 20th as the recipient of the 2016 World Citizen Award for his leadership and commitment to international education and global initiatives in our city, this region and the world.

 

Land Redistribution in South Africa: Regarded as a key to economic improvement, but a contentious topic

During the era of apartheid in South Africa millions of black South Africans were displaced from their homes and removed from land that has been theirs for generations. These native South Africans were put into areas characterized by low income, high rates of infant mortality, malnutrition, and illiteracy. South African wealth distribution is of the most unequal among developed countries; to improve the economic landscape, many black South Africans are calling for land reform that will redistribute areas that once were theirs. The hope is to increase economic opportunity.

Land ownership by race has been blatantly skewed in South Africa since the apartheid era. According to South African newspaper The Mercury, “only 13 percent of the black population owns land.” The lack of land ownership within the black community leads to problems such as food scarcity due to lack of access to agriculture practices. Neil Gopal, Chief executive of the South African Property Owners Association (Sapoa) argues, “South Africa must adopt a process to increase land ownership by the formerly disenfranchised that continues to support food security with effective agricultural structures”. The availability of land could lead to more self-sustaining practices for black South Africans and boost their economic standing.

The redistribution of land could mean growing involvement in agricultural and rural development for black South Africans. According to the Daily Dispatch, the South African government has “committed to distributing 4.5 million hectares of land to disadvantaged black South Africans, largely dispossessed under apartheid. This figure includes redistribution of about 30 percent of the country’s commercial farms”. But whom this land should go to has become increasingly disputed. In the opening session of the National House of Traditional Leaders, President Zuma urged traditional leaders to actively engage with the matter of land reform on behalf of the communities they lead, but some argue that land should be given to ordinary citizens while others argue it should remain in the hands of white commercial farmers capable of effectively using the land for agriculture and livestock . Overall, land redistribution will be difficult with the possibility that apartheid sentiments still lurk throughout the country.

Policy makers and those who are pushing for land reform see the re-distribution of land as an imperative step in shrinking economic disparity. Reformers are advocating for what they call “the social function of land,” according to South African newspaper The Star. Program co-coordinator for Development Action Group, Mercy Brown-Luthango, has called for “robust public engagement and dialogue on the social function of land and on the use of expropriation as a tool to achieve this.” The “social function of land” would create land accessibility for all South Africans, making natural resources more available to those in poverty and who have had little access in the past.

With a majority of impoverished South Africans living in rural areas, land re-distribution and its use seem to be one of the first steps towards leveling the economic field within the country.

Written by Jonas Heidenreich, recent graduate of Political Science with a concentration in International and Comparative Politics from Appalachian State (Dec. 2015)