Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Meet The Staff - Fall 2017

So long summer... hello Fall 2017! August finds the USP staff regrouping from our various summer travels and activities and getting ready for a new semester and the year ahead. Our two new PA's are here-- learning the ropes, our Global Health students are already working hard at their modular course work, doing site visits and hearing from guest speakers, and we are all gearing up for the arrival of the rest of the group, orientation and our Rwanda trip! 

USP staff work hard to provide a supportive environment for students to live, grow and learn in. Whether you are a parent, friend, alum, perspective student, home university faculty member, or a current USP student, we would like to introduce you to our current team. 
Staff members: what is the best part of your 
job at USP??

Lydia Wankuma- USP Office Administrator
"I like the fact that my job is multifaceted, so I get the opportunity of interacting with staff members every day and with students at various points during the week. There’s no room for boredom.” 

Rachel Robinson - USP Director
"Crossing cultures, being in new and different situations with people who think and do things differently than you is one of the most valuable learning spaces to put yourself in; it is not always comfortable, but it brings new insights, perspectives and empathy. What I love most about my job, is building relationships with the students and bearing witness to their growth and development over the course of the semester. And not just their growth, but my own as well. I am often challenged and encouraged by their journeys, to keep pushing into the questions and to live what I believe as authentically as I can. (Also, I work with some of the best people ever!)"

Eddie Tokpa- Assistant Coordinator (Below, Right)
“I think the favorite part of my job is relationship. I enjoy the interaction both with students and with host families. In addition to that is also the community aspect of it. I can go to a family’s house even if I don’t have an appointment and they will receive me.” 

Micah Hughes - Global Health Coordinator (Left, pictured with Zac Tamale- Head of the Laboratory at Uganda Christian University's Health Centre) 

“What I love most about working with USP is the unique privilege to combine the academics of biomedical sciences with Christian experiential learning in the Ugandan Context. When more and more programs are moving towards short-term (1 or 2 week) international trips, I am grateful to work with students for 5 months and witness a deeper transformational learning that takes place through cross-cultural relationships with host families, internship supervisors, and the surrounding USP community."

Lisa Tokpa-  Social Work Coordinator (Left)  
“Being a cultural bridge as well as empowering and equipping both students and supervisors."

Paige Schaffer- Program Assistant (Right)
“My favorite thing about my job is that I get to learn so much from so many different people while also getting to support students as they learn so many new things themselves." 

Innocent Atimango- USP Administrative Assistant (Left)
“Working and being able to coordinate with different departments and seeing it fall in place successfully. Seeing students having functional supplies. I find joy in seeing them be satisfied with what they have be it books or dorm supplies." 

Lydia Koma- USP Office Attendant (Below)                     

John Kabugo – USP Driver (Below)
“My favorite part of the job is to drive students safely on the road to their practicum sights and bring them back; and also to interact with them, exchanging ideas and they tell me what is about American and I also tell them about Uganda: different cultures, different behaviors, making friends. And to get to know them.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Benjamin Apuuli – Program Assistant (Above, Right)
“Getting to know the students and having interactions with them and in those interactions getting to know more about the American culture and them getting to know more about Ugandan culture. And also working hand in hand with staff and learning from each other."    

Morgan Walker- Program Assistant (Far Left)
“My favorite part of being a Program Assistant is the awesome community I get to live in and work with. The students and staff at USP and Uganda Christian University are incredible and so is the district of Mukono where we are located."

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Alumni post: Emilia Martinez!!

USP Alumna, Emilia Martinez was a senior social worker in the Social Work Emphasis in Spring 2015. She has since returned to Uganda as a Peace Corps volunteer, and is currently working in Gulu, Northern Uganda. 

As a USP student, I repeatedly heard how the experience had the ability to change my life.  While I believed it to be a generally true statement, I did not know exactly how my semester in Uganda really would change the course of my life.   

We learn a lot of concepts as USP students - one degree changes, development, flexibility, social justice, humble learning, cultural conflict, minimalism. There are plenty of opportunities to put these concepts into action throughout the semester, especially in host homes or practicum sites, but I was eager to dive in deeper; the semester was not long enough for me to truly understand the concepts in the way that I had wanted to learn them.  Upon returning home, I did the one thing that I knew I could at the time:  trust the process.  And I needed all the trust I could get as a senior who had no plans after graduation.

USP social work cohort of Spring 2015. 

Emilia with Ugandan friends, Innocent and Lawrence during her semester abroad.

I began to explore options to continue the learning that felt halted at the surprising end of my semester. It was important to me to find a way back to Uganda because I had developed a strong connection to the country. But it is not easy to find international work without international connections. This is how I learned about the Peace Corps. I had heard about the volunteer program before, but I had never truly understood it until after my experience with USP. If I were to become a volunteer, I would have the opportunity to put into practice those USP concepts and continue my desired expansion of knowledge.

Emilia spending time in her community as a Peace Corps volunteer.

Fast forward two years after the end of my semester, I am well into my Peace Corps service in the-one-and-only Uganda. It was a lengthy process to get to the place I am at today, but well worth all of the struggle. One of the reasons I picked Peace Corps over other opportunities abroad was its commitment to community development. During my USP experience, I was convicted by the way people used international funding for the sake of "development". Now, I am practicing hands-on community development in a meaningful, tangible way and it is much more difficult than I could have imagined. My learning is not limited to the workplace. It was also important to me to learn the meaning of minimalism and fight the American instinct of consumerism. Every day I live with less and have tested ways to purposefully minimize my consumption.  

Emilia practicing the local language with primary students during her time in the Peace Corps.

My time as a Peace Corps volunteer is exactly what I needed to allow me the space to further process my USP experience. And my time as a Peace Corps volunteer would likely not have happened without my time as a USP student. All of the knowledge that I have gained and all of the personal growth I have endured is a result of the foundation that I built during my semester. 

At the end of my Peace Corps service, I will be satisfied with what I came to do and will leave Uganda again, but with much more peace of mind this time around. For the first time in two years, I have a plan and feel good about it. I would not have been able to reach this place had I not let go of my sense of control and learned that not all is lost when life doesn't work out as planned.  

Emilia with her host family.
I almost did not do USP because I was afraid. But thanks to a special friend (shout out to Clara Williams) and some courage, I took a leap of faith. Now, I seek to live boldly every day. Many call me brave for this commitment, but it is merely a response to what I learned as a USP student; meaningful education changes us. I used to wonder how USP would really change my life and I don't have to look back very far to see just how it has changed me. It is no longer a question I need to ponder, only one that makes me excited for all that the future will hold.