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W&L Senior Awarded Project for Peace

As far as Washington and Lee University senior Eduardo Rodriguez is concerned, communication is the key to peace.

That basic premise underlies the proposal that won Rodriguez a $10,000 grant from the Kathryn Wasserman Davis 100 Projects for Peace program.

This is the second time in as many years that a W&L student has won one of the grants. Last spring Andrew McWay, an accounting and business administration major from the Class of 2008, received money to partner with a small microfinance group in Peru.

Rodriguez is a business administration major concentrating in poverty and human capabilities studies. He is also a self-described technology supporter who works in the Tucker Multimedia Center at W&L. His winning project combines his passion for technology with his interest in using language instruction as a way to promote peace.

His project consists of setting up a language laboratory in his home town of Pehuajo, Argentina, where students will be able to use the latest technology, including video-conferencing, that will permit them to interact in virtual space with students from other cultures and countries as they learn languages.

Rodriguez had attended secondary school in Wales at the United World College of the Atlantic and found that, when he returned to Argentina, friends were quick to stereotype the people with whom he had been interacting.

” ‘Brits are all cold,’ was one of the things that I would hear when I’d come home,” Rodriguez said. “It really upset me, because these were my friends they were talking about. Most of the stereotypes are negative and could be avoided if people actually interacted with one another.”

Rodriguez has secured space at the Escuela Media 207, a public school in Pehuajo, where 15 interconnected computer workstations will be established. Funds from the grant will pay for six, while the school will provide the others.

According to Rodriguez’s plan, the laboratory will not only provide language instruction directed by professors at the school, but also connection to the Internet. The ensuing videoconferences with students learning Spanish at Washington and Lee will establish partnerships.

“There is no substitute for these one-on-one conversations in learning a language,” said Rodriguez. “Enabling these conversations to occur in a virtual way will provide the students in Pehuajo an opportunity many would otherwise not have.”

Although the project is focused largely on language instruction at Escuela Media 207, Rodriguez said that the computers will also be available to professors of other public and private schools in the community. Rodriguez intends to conduct on-site setup and training in July.

Projects for Peace is part of the Davis United World College Scholars Program, based in Middlebury, Vt. Kathryn Davis, a philanthropist and the widow of Shelby Cullom Davis, a businessman and former United States ambassador to Switzerland, has put up $1 million in each of the past two years to fund 100 Projects for Peace.

Now 102 years old, Mrs. Davis launched the initiative on the occasion of her 100th birthday in 2007 and now renews her challenge to today’s generation of college students to undertake innovative and meaningful projects. Designed to encourage and support motivated youth to create and implement their ideas for building peace throughout the world in the 21st century, each of the more than100 projects will receive $10,000 in funding.

“The competition on nearly 100 campuses was keen and we congratulate the students who proposed the winning projects,” said Executive Director of the Davis UWC Scholars Program Philip O. Geier. “Kathryn Davis has been a lifelong internationalist and philanthropist, and has left her mark on a wide range of institutions and countless students. The wisdom of her years has led her to look to young people for new ideas and fresh energy to improve the prospects for peace.”

The Davis program encourages students to use their imaginations to determine their projects and promotes “creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship.”

W&L is one of more than 90 colleges and universities whose students are eligible for Project for Peace funds because it participates in the Davis program, which provides scholarships to students who attend the United World Colleges, a series of international high schools around the world.