Politi Fund - the Gift of Global Perspective

"An investment in knowledge pays the best interest."
~ Benjamin Franklin

Dr. A. Francis Politi
Dr. A. Francis Politi

Cultural differences are more than differences in language, food and clothing. Our culture often shapes the way we view the world and perceive world events.

Students and faculty who study abroad have the benefit of a broadened view and a less biased perspective toward other cultures - a true advantage in today's global society. A long established vision for Norwich University is that the institution offer students an educational experience that is, "American in character yet global in perspective."

The realization of this goal could present a huge financial challenge for Norwich, which is why the Politi International Fund is such a valuable resource. Established in 2004 by Dr. A. Francis Politi, the fund affords students and faculty members the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of foreign cultures and generally increase their global perspective.

Each year awards are made to students and faculty pursuing international studies, terms abroad, exchanges and various other learning opportunities abroad.  Preference is given to programs that are located in or associated with Central and South America.

This initiative has had a lasting impact on the lives of many members of the Norwich community by adding a new dimension to their various fields of study. The gift of global perspective is the opportunity to learn things for yourself, first-hand. Many who study abroad report that their experiences actually changed their lives by giving them a strong sense of self-confidence and independence.

If you're curious about how to get involved, applications for Politi International Fund awards are now being accepted for the Fall 2006 semester. Students and faculty may download applications and receive information online. The committee to award these scholarships meets twice a year. Applications are generally available a month before the committee meets. For Spring semester abroad opportunities, applications are available in September, and decisions are usually made by the committee in early October. For Summer and Fall semester abroad opportunities, applications are available in January, and decisions are usually made by the committee in March.

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Two who received the gift of global perspective

"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire."
- William Butler Yeats

One of the major goals of Norwich University President Richard Schneider is to fully establish five Institutional Priorities at Norwich: Improve Learning, Inspire Students, Integrate Information Technology for All, Internationalize the Campus and Invest Strategically. Each of the priorities compliments the others.

The goal to Internationalize the Campus, for instance, helps to Improve Learning and Inspire Students. Giving students a deeper understanding of foreign cultures is also a way of Investing Strategically. This is, no doubt, what Dr. A. Frances Politi had in mind when he set up the Politi International Fund at Norwich in 2004.

Zacharia Eastman - Tanzania

Zacharia EastmanNorwich senior Zacharia Eastman, a civilian student, recently traveled to East Africa. He was awarded $1,000 from the Politi Fund, which helped offset the cost of his involvement in last year's NU Visions Abroad trip to the Tanzanian village of Pommern. Eastman, an English major who wants to become a teacher after he graduates, studied education at a small school in the isolated village and helped build a new library.

"The trip gave me a unique insight into the culture and academic issues of a developing country," Eastman said. "I found that many of the issues faced in these schools are the same ones we face in our own schools. I got to observe how people from another culture deal with classroom discipline, what they did to retain skilled teachers and how they interest their youth in learning. The experience helped me better understand the needs of multi-cultural classrooms. I have a better understanding of students from other cultures," he said.

Eastman has some warm memories from the trip. "At the end of the day, when we were hot, tired and looking forward to getting back to the mission house, a group of about 20 little kids would come running over to play with us. It was invigorating and energizing," he said.

Eastman teaching in Tanzania

Eastman also recalls the memory of one of his students facing a future with limited possibilities. "One of the things that really struck me was how trapped they seemed to feel," he said. "One of the students told me that he'd like to see America one day. I remember telling him, 'you should do it, you should find a way to make that happen'. I thought there must be some way for him to do that. And he shook his head and said, 'maybe for you'."

When he returned to the U.S., Eastman got a letter from Global Volunteers, a non-governmental organization that Norwich partners with to coordinate volunteer service trips around the world. The letter thanked him for his work in Pommern and told him that his Tanzanian students had named him, "Mwalimu wetu kutoka America", which means our American Teacher. Holding the letter Eastman said, "That made me feel like maybe I did leave some kind of a mark there."

Michelle Hamilton - Chile

Michelle HamiltonMichelle Hamilton, a senior in the Corps of Cadets, spent a semester immersed in the language and culture of Santiago, Chile last year. The Politi International Fund paid her airfare, and through the University Studies Abroad Consortium, Hamilton completed 18 credits at the Universidad Andrés Bello.

Except for a handful of American college students attending other classes there, the International Studies major was completely on her own, totally immersed in the language and culture. Hamilton studied Spanish and took classes in Latin American Literature and Pre-Columbian Art, among others.

"During my first 2 weeks there I didn't talk much," she remembers. "I just watched how people spoke and interacted with each other. These people are very calm and relaxed. They were very nice, not stereotypical or judgmental."

She learned firsthand from the people of the region by living with Patricio & Maria Victoria Osario. "They were my Chilean parents," Hamilton said. "When they went on an outing, they always brought me. We had a family dinner every night and breakfast every morning. There was a farmer's market close to where they lived," she said, "so I went with them and helped get the groceries from the market."   

Patricio Osario, Michelle Hamilton, Maria Osario

"I got to know a lot about Chilean culture. Most of my Spanish vocabulary is now based on the Chilean vocabulary. Santiago reminded me of home. I felt safe there," she said. "A lot of stereotypes were erased."

Remembering the sights and sounds of Chile, Hamilton described the country. "The Northern part of Chile is desert, very dry and the Southern region is cold, with icebergs floating off the coast. It's a country of extremes and I lived right in the center," she said. For anyone considering a trip to Chile, Hamilton offers two "must see" locations.

"You must visit Valparaíso," she said. Chile's sixth largest city in terms of population, Valparaíso once served as a major stopover for ships traveling between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans before the Panama Canal was built. "It's South America's version of San Francisco," Hamilton said, "It's colorful, hilly and beautiful."

Hamilton called the Andes Mountains, "one of the most spectacular things I've ever seen." The Andes are a continuous chain along the western coast of South America and to the north the chain continues in small ridges and isolated hills along the Pacific Ocean. The mountains extend over seven countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Equador, Peru and Venezuela.

"I think this part of the world is forgotten by most people," Hamilton said. "I'm glad I got a chance to study in Chile. The experience changed me, it was a maturing experience. I hope more students take advantage of this opportunity."