The Columns

Three W&L Students Selected for New Oxford Study Abroad Program

— by on April 21st, 2017

“We were very fortunate to have three outstanding applicants, all of whom were accepted and are looking forward to spending next year at Oxford, in residence at Mansfield College.”

Kenta Sayama, Mohini Tangri and Ben Fleenor

In early 2016, Washington and Lee University signed a memorandum of understanding with Oxford University’s Mansfield College that would allow W&L students to study at the university in the U.K. beginning in 2017-2018. Now, three students – Ben Fleenor, Mohini Tangri and Kenta Sayama – are preparing to pack their bags and spend their junior year there, studying a broad range of subjects across the humanities and social sciences, while taking in the sights and sounds of Oxford.

“We were very fortunate to have three outstanding applicants, all of whom were accepted and are looking forward to spending next year at Oxford, in residence at Mansfield College,” said Mark Rush, director of international education at Washington and Lee.

While the three students intend to study a wide variety of subjects, all expressed interest in Oxford’s new human rights institute. They are also looking forward to experiencing the tutorial style of teaching.

“While one important aspect of global education is exposing students to different cultures and different people, it is also about exposing them to different educational models,” said Rush. “The tutorial system at Oxford will broaden and deepen their exposure to different pedagogical structures, which will be a great addition to their educational experience.”

Hear the students talk about their upcoming year:

W&L Adopts MyinTuition, a Fast, Free Tool to Help Students and Parents Estimate College Costs

— by on April 19th, 2017

“We see MyinTuition as particularly useful for families early in their college search, especially to differentiate the ‘sticker price’ of a private college from what their family will actually pay, after financial aid.”

It is a rite for any parent with a child approaching college. Their children are bright high school sophomores and juniors so they search for the best schools. Some look at the costs and recoil, thinking that the price is more than they can afford.

In 2013, Wellesley College introduced a fast, user-friendly tool that has given families a more accurate way to gauge costs while factoring in financial aid. Williams College and University of Virginia adopted Wellesley’s tool in 2015. Since then, applications at Wellesley, Williams, and U.Va are up, with about 90% of that increase coming from students planning to apply for financial aid.

MyinTuition has proved so successful that starting today, 12 more schools, including Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., are adopting the tool. This broader reach means that thousands of other parents and their children may pursue education paths that they might have otherwise ignored for fear that the costs were out of reach. The tool is made available on each of the college’s websites, as well as on myintuition.org.

The 15 schools that offer MyinTuition are:

MyinTuition was driven by the knowledge that too few students apply to top-notch schools because they assume they cannot afford them. Since a high-quality college education is an important pathway to upward economic mobility in the United States, this is a critical issue across the country.

In 2011, the federal government mandated that colleges and universities offer a “net price calculator” to provide prospective students with an estimate of the cost of enrollment and financial aid possibilities. These often ask parents to answer a dizzying array of questions with detailed information about family finances, including information from tax returns.

MyinTuition does not intimidate. It informs parents through a user-friendly process that asks six basic financial questions in order to provide personalized estimates of what it would cost a family to send their child to a particular college.

“Families look at the price and walk away without thinking about financial aid possibilities because the assumption is that the cost is too high,” said Phillip B. Levine, an economics professor at Wellesley College who developed MyinTuition along with Wellesley’s Katharine Corman. With MyinTuition, parents and prospective students can look closer and see a clearer picture of what a college education will cost them at a top school. “They might see that they don’t have to walk away,” explained Levine. “Their son or daughter can go to the school that is the best fit for them, regardless of the sticker price.”

It takes the average user about three minutes to complete and gives parents a breakdown of the estimated costs paid by the family, work-study, and loan estimates, in addition to grant assistance provided by the institution.

“This helps bring more students from low and moderate income families into the stream of students flowing into the top schools in this country,” said Levine. “It takes down a formidable barrier.”

In doing so, MyinTuition can help colleges diversify their student enrollments. “We see MyinTuition as particularly useful for families early in their college search, especially to differentiate the ‘sticker price’ of a private college from what their family will actually pay, after financial aid,” said Sally Stone Richmond, vice president for admissions and financial aid at Washington and Lee. “Just like an admissions profile offers students a sense of the academic qualities a college seeks, MyinTuition gives families a means of understanding their potential financial expectations prior to applying.”

“As a key part of our efforts to promote Washington and Lee’s affordability, we are pleased to include MyinTuition as a secure, efficient, informative tool for prospective students and families to estimate their expected college costs,” said James Kaster, Washington and Lee’s director of financial aid.

More than 125,000 estimates have been provided at Wellesley, Williams and the University of Virginia so far.

According to Joy St. John, Dean of Admission and Financial Aid at Wellesley, where all applications are up this year by 17 percent, MyinTuition helps schools fulfill their commitments to access, affordability, and transparency around college costs. “We want even more students and families to realize that top colleges are within reach for any qualified student, regardless of their financial situation,” she said.

Senator Mark Warner to Visit W&L, Speak with Students from W&L and VMI

— by on April 7th, 2017

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., will speak to students from Washington and Lee University and Virginia Military Institute in Lexington on Thursday, April 13 from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. in Washington and Lee’s Stackhouse Theater.

Warner will be introduced by Rossella Gabriele, a sophomore at W&L who will be interning for the senator this summer. Warner will speak briefly, then will take questions from the audience. The talk and following question-and-answer session are open to public.

Aly Colón to Lead Online Discussion Sponsored by LACOL

— by on March 30th, 2017

Aly Colón

News consumers today face a flood of fake news and alternative information. Washington and Lee University students, faculty, staff and alumni are encouraged to participate in this timely online meet-up with Aly Colón, Knight Professor of Ethics in Journalism at W&L, to explore forces of change in the new media landscape as we become responsible for deciding how we filter what’s news and what’s not.

In this 1.5 hour session on April 4 at 3 p.m., Professor Colón will frame the conversation with historical examples and point to emerging trends in the digital age of news where Velocity + Volume = Volatility. As an ethical agent of journalism, how can you cultivate a mindset of open inquiry and deepen your capacities to handle challenging or uncomfortable views, especially in online settings?

The session will be interactive with ample opportunity for questions and discussion with participants in the web forum.

This discussion is sponsored by the Liberal Arts Consortium for Online Learning (LACOL). The event is a fully online, interactive web conference via Zoom. Register online at LACOL.net.

W&L’s Smitka Talks About NAFTA on NPR’s Marketplace

— by on March 28th, 2017

Mike Smitka, Professor of Economics at Washington and Lee University, talked to NPR’s Marketplace about NAFTA and auto parts.

Read his interview on WUWM.

Journalism W&L’s Swasy on How Journalists Use Twitter

— by on March 28th, 2017

“We will question authority. We will seek the truth. And we will teach future journalists how to wear out their shoes and use Twitter or whatever gadget proves useful in our mission.”

Alecia Swasy, Donald W. Reynolds Chair in Business Journalism at Washington and Lee University and author of “How Journalists Use Twitter: The changing landscape of U.S. newsrooms,” talks about her new book on the Poynter Institute’s website.

You can read the full essay below or on poynter.org.

I studied how journalists used Twitter for two years. Here’s what I learned

By Alecia Swasy • March 22, 2017 • Reprinted by permission

Twitter reflects the good, the bad and just plain ugly reality of social media these days. For academics, journalists and voters, there’s never been a more crucial time to talk about the impact these social media platforms have on factual journalism and being watchdogs of the powerful.

It’s in vogue to attack the messenger for the message. We are called liars. We are called “nasty people.” We are told to shut up.

So, what else is new? What administration has loved the press? Washington Post editor Marty Baron recently told the Code Media conference: “We’re not at war with the administration, we’re at work. We’re doing our jobs.”

We work to get the facts. And as academics, we work to teach future journalists the key principles of news gathering. With the advent of Twitter and other social media, it’s important to teach critical thinking so all can ask: Who is setting the news agenda?

I didn’t set out to become a Twitter scholar. Indeed, I made fun of it like most journalists did when it was launched in 2006. I warned my students about the danger of bogus information spreading through these new platforms. But grad school is full of surprises and I found myself on a team partnered with metro papers to measure readers’ reactions during each of the 2012 presidential debates.

It was comforting to see how citizens picked up on the same topics as the journalists in the room. When Mitt Romney said he would cut spending to PBS, the Big Bird tweets went off the charts.

By election night, we all watched as Tom Brokaw came back from a commercial break and apologized for an earlier remark. He likened voters to schizophrenics. A viewer quickly tweeted that he shouldn’t make light of a serious illness.

My generation of reporters rarely heard from readers, except an occasional letter or phone calls, which were often ignored for the sake of deadline. But this was a turning point — the election where the audience pushed back instantly.

I had my dissertation topic and spent about two years researching and interviewing 50 journalists at four metropolitan papers — The Dallas Morning News, The Denver Post, The Tampa Bay Times and Atlanta Journal Constitution.

I wanted to explore how this new information distillery was shaping newsroom habits. And I wanted to know if it can do anything to boost readership or revenues in a time of shrinking newspaper budgets.

This is something that all news organizations are still struggling with – how to get readers back from grazing on Google and Facebook to real news sites. News organizations can no longer be passive. They must distribute the news wherever you go, whenever you want it.

According to Pew Research Center, more than half of Americans get some news from social media platforms. Facebook is the leader by a wide margin. Forty-four percent of the general population gets news on Facebook.

The early days of Twitter made editors twitch. Sorting fake information from facts would take a lot time. And photojournalists wisely warned about altered images getting passed off as documentary photography.

Editors also worried about how their staffs would use Twitter. The editors I interviewed all had stories of the fellas in the sports department drinking a few cold ones while watching a ballgame and tweeting their expletives about the pitcher.

But all 50 journalists said reluctance gave way to acceptance as the early adopters showed how Twitter could help in newsgathering. Journalists are quite competitive so they began friendly battles to see who could build the biggest number of followers. By the way, it’s usually those guys in sports!

Other themes emerged about the good, the bad and the ugly sides of Twitter. One early advantage: Twitter allows the 24/7 monitoring of reporters’ beats. A reporter’s nighty ritual now includes one last check of Twitter before nodding off. Good thing the night news editor at the Denver Post made that last check the night of the Aurora movie theater massacre.

It was well past the print edition deadline, so the Post’s first 24 hours of coverage was all digital – their reporters tweeted, shot their own photos and video in the field. The new rule was: If you don’t have it on Twitter first, it’s not a scoop. The Pulitzer judges noted the extensive digital coverage when awarding the prize for breaking news to the Post.

Twitter gives print journalists a chance to beat TV news cameras to breaking news. Reporters, photographers and editors in all departments are now instant weather and traffic reporters. The entertainment reporter in Atlanta now describes herself as “a fry cook at Waffle House. I do it all.”

One of the most interesting things I found was Twitter’s emergence as the new phone directory. Consider the decline of landline telephones, and the subsequent death of the community white pages. A school reporter in Dallas used Twitter to find students and parents by searching key words on the latest buzz in the schoolyard. As she said: If families do have a landline, teenagers won’t answer it, but they’re on Twitter chatting about what’s going on.

Indeed, she used Twitter to track down the news about a Dallas teacher being fired because she once posed for Playboy. The reporter also used Twitter to confirm the teacher’s identity — and to find her.

One of the troubling trends in Twitter use is using the 140-character message to interview sources. Reporters argue that it’s easier for people to reply via tweets, even while at meetings, versus answering a phone call. I get that. But what do we sacrifice when we don’t look a person in the eye when they answer our questions?

And a lot of public officials have their flacks respond to reporters. Yes, Twitter can be a great tool to find people, but you need to wear out your shoes knocking on doors.

My research also showed the social and economic capital gains for journalists and the news organizations. In journalism, reporters build their social capital by breaking news in their communities. That translates into more readers, which attracts more advertisers, meaning gains in economic capital.

For reporters, Twitter expands their readership to an entire globe that was once limited to geographic circulation boundaries. The best example of this came from the Tampa Bay Times and Craig Pittman, one of the country’s top environmental reporters. His presence on Twitter got the attention of the editors of Slate, who asked him to do a month-long blog. It also helped him land a book contract on news of the weird in Florida.

Pittman is the master of finding bizarre news at the intersection of humidity, stupidity and exotic animals in Florida.

Take the time the Pasco County sheriff tried to lasso a runaway kangaroo. The constable Tasered the hopper, but the critter stood his ground. Undaunted, a brave spectator jumped in and tackled the varmint. Craig added: “You know, that was the same week the Tallahassee cops Tasered a llama.” Nothing but readers there!

Another social capital gain for reporters is apparent with millennials. They use Twitter to “curate their own brand.” When I worked as a journalist, the curation of brands was something Procter & Gamble did to sell more Pringles or Pampers.

Millennials have witnessed the massive downsizing of their newsrooms and view themselves as independent contractors who are in charge of their own marketing, much like corporate America curates their brands. One reporter said:

“I love working here…But there are no guarantees. I don’t know whether the paper will be here in five years.” Her Twitter account and website will travel with her wherever she works.

Turning social capital into economic capital is far more elusive for the news organizations. All of the senior executives and publishers I interviewed agreed that Twitter builds ties to the community and helps readers understand who is behind the news: Journalists are real people. We’re your neighbors.

Translating Twitter use into actual profits is far more elusive. Indeed, only the Tampa Bay Times offered one story to show success. Every Sunday morning, the Times social media manager tweets out all the deals and coupons in that day’s paper.

Single copy, or rack or retail sales, shoot up 2 to 7 percent on Sundays when they tweet the deals. Keep in mind that the Times sells about 370,000 papers every Sunday.

As a journalist and professor, the most important finding from the 50 interviews had nothing to do with revenues. To a person, regardless of job title, each one emphasized that the main thing that will attract readers is producing credible content.

Twitter is just a new gadget in our tool box. It has expanded our reach, but it has also fueled the flood of propaganda masquerading as news. It has amplified the political discourse, sometimes in very ugly ways.

But it can be a useful addition to old-fashioned dogged reporting. Consider the Washington Post’s coverage of Trump’s charitable donations. Reporter David Fahrenthold recently shared his experience in two Post articles. He contacted more than 300 charities. A reader tipped him off to the oil painting of the candidate, which Trump purchased with his foundation’s money.

You see, readers do want credible information. One tipster even volunteered to send Fahrenthold a photo of the painting, which was displayed at a Trump resort in Miami. When the reporter started his campaign coverage, his Twitter following was 4,700. It grew to more than 60,000 and its still growing.

And he keeps breaking news. The day after the painting story broke, Fahrenthold received a video in the mail. It was Access Hollywood footage of Trump bragging about molesting women. It became the most read story in the Post’s history. The reporter received death threats and was labeled “a nasty man.”

The pros like him will continue to do the work and to serve the public as the watchdog of the powerful. We will question authority. We will seek the truth. And we will teach future journalists how to wear out their shoes and use Twitter or whatever gadget proves useful in our mission. And we will not shut up.

Alecia Swasy is the Donald W. Reynolds Chair in Business Journalism at Washington & Lee University. She is the author of “How Journalists Use Twitter: The changing landscape of U.S. newsrooms.”

W&L’s Strong Offers Historical Perspective on Lying in the White House

— by on March 28th, 2017

“Long before Donald Trump arrived in Washington, our nation had presidents who lied. Lying in the White House is so common that there are discernible categories of presidential fabrication.”

The following opinion piece by Bob Strong, William Lyne Wilson Professor of Politics at Washington and Lee, appeared in The Roanoke Times on March 26, 2017, and is reprinted here by permission.

Strong: Liar-in-chief

By Robert A. Strong | Strong is the Wilson Professor of Politics at Washington and Lee University and is currently completing a book on the presidency of George H.W. Bush

Long before Donald Trump arrived in Washington, our nation had presidents who lied. Lying in the White House is so common that there are discernible categories of presidential fabrication.

First, there is the venerable national security lie; the kind we expect our leaders to tell. Dwight Eisenhower forcefully denied that the U.S. flew spy planes over Soviet territory when he knew we did. The Carter administration publicly stated that there was no planning for a military mission to release the hostages held in Tehran.

Obviously, Americans were disappointed when a U-2 plane was shot down over the Soviet Union and when the hostage rescue mission in Iran failed, but they never faulted the folks who lied to our enemies in support of those operations.

Then there are the personal lies.

Jack Kennedy was asked in the 1960 campaign if he had Addison’s disease. He said no, knowing full well his response was false. Bill Clinton, in his most remembered remark, wagged his finger and denied having sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.

These were deeply disappointing public performances, but both Kennedy and Clinton were able to maintain popular support despite their false statements about health and marital indiscretions.

Richard Nixon was different. His denial of knowledge about the Watergate break-in and subsequent cover-up was not lying about private matters. It was lying about dirty political tricks and illegal efforts to hide them from investigation. Nixon committed impeachable offenses and resigned with a permanently damaged reputation.

Lying by itself may not end a presidency; but committing crimes and lying about them can.

Even before politicians arrive in the White House, running for office can produce problems with the truth. When Ronald Reagan promised to simultaneously cut taxes, raise defense spending and balance the budget, his principal opponent called that Voodoo economics.

The famous comment by George H. W. Bush was probably a slur against practitioners of Voodoo. But we don’t usually call claims like the one Reagan made lying. We call it campaigning. Even so, campaign language can sometimes venture so far from reality that it looks a lot like lying.

Reagan presents another example of presidential predicaments with veracity.

During the Iran-Contra scandal Reagan said that he never approved arms sales to Iran for the purpose of getting Iranian help in freeing hostages held in Lebanon. He said this repeatedly until evidence made it perfectly clear that his administration had done exactly that.

Reagan’s televised apology contained the claim that he still thought he had not traded arms for hostages. If the president was not lying to the American people, he was lying to himself. Self-delusion may be an occupational hazard for politicians.

All of this brings us to Donald Trump, already the most fantastic liar ever to occupy the Oval Office. Trump lies about everything. He talks about terrorist attacks in Sweden that no one in Sweden managed to notice. He blames Obama for the bugging of Trump Tower without any actual evidence that the surveillance took place or that the former president ordered it. He claims a bigger victory in the electoral college than any president since Reagan — a statement so patently false that a ten-year-old could prove its inaccuracy in a matter of minutes.

Trump says that millions of fraudulent votes were cast in 2016 and that all of them were for Hillary Clinton. He says the U.S. crime rate is sky high when a cursory glance at reliable trend lines shows a sustained and substantial long term decline.

Donald Trump practices every known form of presidential fabrication. He exaggerates, he obfuscates, he deludes, he makes things up and he believes things made up by others. Thus far, Trump has paid no substantial price for his troubles with the truth. His lies may actually have pleased his supporters and deflected his critics.

But one issue should give Trump and his associates pause. The president and his administration have provided Nixonian denials of any untoward communications or coordination with the Russians who hacked the election. There has already been one trusted advisor forced into resignation and another forced into recusal by conversations with a Russian diplomat. Additional Russian-related accusations dribble from anonymous sources.

Is this a Watergate in the making?

If Donald Trump knows about campaign conversations with Russians about their activities to disrupt the election and has falsely claimed that those conversations never took place, that might be a lie too far; even for the most accomplished political fabricator in American presidential history.

W&L’s Connelly Writes About the Presidential Selection Process

— by on March 28th, 2017

“The presidential selection process has for decades been a grand, national accident waiting to happen.”

This article was originally published on The Hill and is reprinted here with permission. Read the original article.

Bring back the party bosses: Media moguls
replaced smoke-filled rooms

By William F. Connelly, Jr., Professor of Politics at Washington and Lee University

It finally happened.

Since the 1970s McGovern-Frazier presidential nominating process reforms, we have, every four years, “reformed the reforms” making the process progressively more “open and democratic” in hopes of finally slaying the dragon of “party bosses in the smoke-filled rooms.” At long last we have succeeded — with Donald Trump the result of this democratized nomination process. Congratulations. We are now reaping the whirlwind of majoritarian populist reforms.

Woodrow Wilson may be celebrating, while James Madison is disheartened.

The presidential selection process has for decades been a grand, national accident waiting to happen. Indeed, it almost happened in 1992 with Ross Perot. Recall the soft demagoguery of “I’m Ross.  You’re the Boss.” While discussing complex policy conundrums, Perot frequently insisted “It’s just that simple,” promising to get under the hood to solve our nation’s problems with alacrity.

Perot, who ran as a largely self-funded third party candidate beholden to no one, effectively nominated himself on CNN’s “Larry King Live.” At one point during the general election, Perot led Republican President George H. W. Bush and Democrat Bill Clinton. Yet Perot – dubbed “a paranoid little ferret” by humor columnist Dave Barry – ultimately incinerated his own candidacy with his quirky penchant for conspiracy theories. Easy come, easy go.

Perot owed his candidacy to the media bosses, rather than to any party bosses. “I was his New Hampshire,” Larry King boasted. Similarly, today Donald Trump’s outsider populist candidacy owes little to the Republican “establishment.” To the contrary, most GOP governors, senators, and House members did their best to stop Trump, as witness the dearth of elected officials at Trump’s Cleveland nominating convention.

Similarly, Republican donors and “#NeverTrump” conservative intellectuals did their darnedest to derail his candidacy; but to no avail. Trump’s outsider populism defeated more than just the other sixteen GOP candidates. Similarly, Bernie Sanders came close to Hillary Clinton, in spite of the best efforts of establishment figures like DNC chief Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Democrats’ undemocratic “superdelegates” reform largely helped save Hillary in the end.

As political theorist Herbert Storing noted, “The few never sleep, while the many are rarely truly awake.” Our presidential selection process reforms traded one set of elites for another; media bosses replacing party bosses, with the new process seemingly more intent on entertaining than enlightening voters — all in the pursuit of ratings and viewership. Televised “presidential debates,” for example, place a premium on outrage, goading gladiatorial candidates into demeaning mud wrestling matches. The advantage goes to celebrity candidates.

In an age of celebrity candidates, we find ourselves with an “apprentice” president utterly lacking relevant experience. And it shows. Trump may be the ultimate “unintended consequence of reform.” What’s next, a “Saturday Night Live” comedian for president in 2020?

Our media-driven presidential primary process produced a disconnect between the qualities needed to run for president and the virtues needed to serve as president; disconnecting campaigning and governing yields tweeting taking the place of cabinet level deliberations. The Donald may be ideal for filling a voracious 24/7 cable news vacuum. Thank you, CNN, FOX and MSNBC!

Who needs a cabinet or a West Wing filled with serious policy mavens, when a president can watch cable TV talk shows, then emote into his twitter feed? Reality has been replaced by a media-created in-the-moment mediality. Is it any wonder that we find ourselves debating “fake news” today?

Ironically, if the current Progressive Wilsonian “direct democracy” process is purportedly so democratic, how did it result in nominating the two least popular major-party candidates in polling history? Party regulars, Madison might remind us, especially those who actually know the candidates and can exercise serious “peer review,” may ultimately be better judges of candidate character and competence, and less likely to fall prey to populist demagoguery.

Is a media-dominated outsider populist primary process an adequate substitute for a party-oriented republican process capable of exercising a deliberative judgment on whether a particular candidate is ill-suited by character and temperament to be President of the United States? Or, as political scientist Jim Ceaser has argued, perhaps we need a “mixed system” which requires candidates to appeal to popular sentiment and to pass peer review muster with party professionals, especially elected officials with whom presidents need to work. The media bosses have failed us with their faux populism.

We need to relearn the value of Madisonian republicanism. Let’s reform the reforms to make the process more deliberative and less democratic. Bring back the party bosses. The general election is sufficiently democratic to allow us to pass judgment on their nomination choices.

William F. Connelly, Jr. is the John K. Boardman Politics Professor at Washington and Lee University.

W&L’s Melissa Kerin Talks About the Hidden World of Stolen Art and Artifacts

— by on March 28th, 2017

“Anything that you see in a museum or in a collection could have a dubious provenance. We need to begin to ask questions around who is entitled to own this stuff.”

Melissa Kerin, Assistant Professor of Art History, talked to WMRA’s Jessie Knadler about the Staniar Gallery’s recent exhibit by artist and researcher Joy Lyn Davis.

Listen to her interview on WMRA.org.

W&L Junior Awarded Davis Projects for Peace Grant

— by on March 28th, 2017

“If, through this program, we can motivate the students to continue their academic trajectory and make them realize that they can study STEM, then I am willing to put in all my effort to start making the difference.”

Angel Vela de la Garza Evia ’18

Angel Vela de la Garza Evia ’18, a student at Washington and Lee University, has won a $10,000 Davis Projects for Peace grant that will allow him to conduct a three-phased STEM-related project — STEMito — for primary school students in his home city of Monterrey, Mexico.

The first phase of the STEMito project will consist of redesigning, refurbishing and equipping a public-school classroom to become a STEM center. The second phase will involve building a STEM curriculum and training the school’s teachers so they can use the newly equipped room to its full potential. The project will culminate in a month-long summer program for the school’s students, with each of the four weeks concentrating on one of the letters of STEM.

“The goal of STEMito is to expose students at the primary level to a wide variety of STEM topics in a way that they have never experienced them before,” explained Vela de la Garza Evia. “By doing so, we want to increase the curiosity and motivation that the students have towards learning STEM-related topics. In addition, our goal is to train teachers on new materials and learning methodologies related to STEM so that they can implement them in their classrooms throughout the academic year.”

The project is a perfect fit for Vela de la Garza Evia, who is a Bonner scholar and is studying chemistry and engineering. “This project combines my passion to serve with my interest in sharing what I learn in my own classes,” he said.

“STEMito is an inspiring project,” said Mark Rush, director of international education and Stanley D. and Nikki Waxberg Professor of Politics and Law. “Angel will return to his home to encourage primary school students in Escuela Eduardo Caballero Escamilla to learn more about and consider careers in the STEM fields.”

Vela de la Garza Evia will collaborate with students from Universidad de Monterrey, American School Foundation of Mexico High school and faculty.

“The program combines Angel’s curriculum of study with his profound desire to assist children in a school that does not receive government funding,” said Rush. “Accordingly, working with the students and his collaborators, Angel will offer what could be a life-changing experience for these children as he opens their eyes to the mystery and beauty of the STEM fields.”

For Vela de la Garza Evia, the grant represents an opportunity to make a positive impact in his country. “We will show students the wide array of pursuable options that are out there, that otherwise they would have never known existed,” he said. “If, through this program, we can motivate the students to continue their academic trajectory and make them realize that they can study STEM, then I am willing to put in all my effort to start making the difference.”

As a partner school of the Davis United World College Scholars Program, Washington and Lee University is eligible to receive Davis Projects for Peace grants. The program is funded by the late Kathryn Wasserman Davis, who established it on her 100th birthday in 2007 as a way to challenge young people to plant seeds of peace throughout the world with innovative projects. At least one Washington and Lee student has won a Davis grant each year since the award’s inception.