Visit by Shelby and Gale Davis
The Lewis & Clark community joined together on October 12, 2009 to recognize and honor Shelby and Gale Davis and our thirty-one Davis United World College Scholars from around the world. It was a day of celebration and inspiration.
Shelby and Gale Davis established and funded the Davis United World College (UWC) Scholars Program in 2001, promising to provide grants of $10,000 or $20,000 per student to 91 selected colleges and universities in the United States that enroll United World College graduates. Since that time Lewis & Clark’s enrollment of Davis UWC Scholars has grown from one student in 2001 to thirty-one in 2009. This year alone the Davis UWC Scholars Program provides nearly half a million dollars to Lewis & Clark in support of the Scholars who hail from twenty-three countries.
A Warm Reception
As the Davises entered Smith Hall with their escorts, Davis UWC Scholars Osabea Amoako of Ghana and Tawab Malekzad of Afghanistan, more than 100 Lewis & Clark faculty, staff, students and guests greeted them. Posters with photographs and biographical information about each Scholar lined both ends of the hall and twenty-five flags, representing the nationalities of the Scholars and the countries where they studied, were prominently displayed.
The Scholars, most of whom were meeting the Davises for the first time, were surprised as Shelby and Gale Davis approached them, introduced themselves, and engaged them in conversations about their studies, their home countries, and their future plans. Florna Amaia, a first-year Davis UWC Scholar from Indonesia who studied at Pearson UWC of the Pacific (Canada), said, “Oh, my gosh! I couldn’t believe it when Shelby Davis himself reached out to shake my hand. He was so kind and genuine. He was sincerely interested in my adjustment to Lewis & Clark and how I am doing in my classes. It was wonderful to meet him and Mrs. Davis, too.”
President Atkinson Welcomes Our Guests
In her opening remarks Jane Atkinson, Interim President of Lewis & Clark, welcomed the Davises and thanked them for the tremendous contribution they have made to the Davis UWC Scholars Program and to Lewis & Clark College.
Atkinson cited the Davis UWC Scholars as models in the arts of international and intercultural exchange, emphasizing, “They arrive at L&C as experts in the art of reaching out across linguistic, racial, cultural, class, and national lines. They become models for others—including both US nationals and international students—in how to communicate, learn and grow in a multicultural setting. They have much to teach the rest of us too—faculty and administrators included—about what it means to be a global citizen and how much further we can go in advancing the global dimensions of our educational community.”
Atkinson ended her remarks by thanking the Davis UWC Scholars. “We thank you for modeling so well for us what it means to become global citizens, for going beyond our comfort zones, for exercising our curiosity, for doing the challenging and rewarding work of crossing boundaries and learning with and from people whose backgrounds and experiences are distant from our own.”
Impact of the Davis UWC Scholars Program on L&C
Greg Caldwell, Associate Dean of Students, spoke about the impact that the Davis UWC Scholars Program has had on Lewis & Clark. He pointed out that the thirty-one Davis UWC Scholars helped the College attain a 15-year high in international student enrollment and that over one third of all degree-seeking international students this year are Davis UWC Scholars. “An unexpected benefit of the Davis UWC Scholars Program,” Caldwell said, “has been the increase in the number of African students and all that they bring to our campus. We currently enroll fifteen students from Africa. Without the Davis UWC Scholars Program, we would have only two African students at the College.” Most importantly, Caldwell emphasized that, “Without the support of Mr. and Mrs. Davis and the Davis UWC Scholars Program, none of these students would be studying on our campus today.”
The New Scholars Introduce Themselves
Following the opening comments, the ten new Davis UWC Scholars stood before the crowd and introduced themselves, including: Seile Alemayehu of Ethiopia; Florna Amaia of Indonesia; Lena Anoshchenko of Ukraine; Oliver Heinke of Ecuador; Majel Kong of Cambodia; Tawab Malekzad of Afghanistan; Eduardo Mondlane of Mozambique; Chiunde Mwanza of Zambia; Matthew Rugamba of Uganda. Although each Scholar spoke only briefly, their remarks made a deep and favorable impression. “They were bright, personable, funny and inspiring,” said a faculty member. A professor of communication who coaches Lewis & Clark’s debate team, said simply, “They were BRILLIANT.”
The Scholars and Their Friends Speak
Five upperclassmen volunteered to speak at the reception including two Davis UWC Scholars and three US students who have been personally impacted by the program.
Risa Sacomani, a sophomore from St. Charles, Illinois, who is majoring in French Studies, began with an amusing story about the mistaken stereotypes she carried with her when she learned that her first-year roommate Karen Linchausen, a Davis UWC Scholar from Kamhlaba UWC in Southern Africa, was from Norway. “I assumed Karen would be a ”˜Euro clubber’ who would be ”˜way too cool.’ I had no idea how we were paired as roommates because we seemed to have nothing in common.” Risa soon found that Karen was a perfect roommate match and, in fact, they are still roommates in their sophomore year. Risa also found Karen’s knowledge and experiences in Africa, and all her friends from the Kamhlaba UWC were valuable resources for her class on Africa and her desire to study in Senegal.
Ramy Srour, a Davis UWC Scholar from Italy who studied at Red Cross Nordic UWC in Norway, spoke of his experiences at Lewis & Clark and gave some sage advice to the first-year Davis UWC Scholars. Ramy’s first year at Lewis & Clark was emotionally and culturally difficult and at the end of it, he decided to take a year off. “The problem,” Ramy said, “was that I thought, because of my experience at the UWC, I was like water in a bottle. I assumed I could take the shape of any vessel (culture) that I was poured into. I thought that because of my past aculturation at the UWC, I didn’t have to make any effort to mold myself to a new culture.” Ramy urged the new students “to make an effort early on,” and “to open up and be accepting, and to mix with all types of people at Lewis & Clark. “That way you can gain more and give more.”
Megan Percell a sophomore from Los Angeles, California talked about her expectations for college. I had all of these ideas of what it would be like to be in college, but they never included meeting people from all around the world and especially from Africa.” Megan, who is African American, told some very humourous stories about interacting with Kemi Coutinho, a Davis UWC Scholar from Uganda. “For the first three months or so I couldn’t understand a word Kemi said.” And for a time, I would introduce her as my “friend from Uganda.” But after a year of interacting with Kemi and sharing lots of conversations and experiences over the past year and a half, things are different. “I don’t think of Kemi now as my ”˜friend from Uganda.’ Now I just think of her as ”˜my friend.’”
Karen “Kemi” Coutinho, a sophomore Davis UWC Scholar from Uganda who studied at Kamhlaba UWC of Southern Africa, used her theatre and stage experience to entertain the crowd with humorous stories about accents and her work in Lewis & Clark’s phonathon. It seems that one potential L&C alumnae thought that the College was outsourcing its fundraising efforts when she heard Kemi’s accent.
Kemi emphasized that while she is an international student, she doesn’t feel any differently that other students. “I am included in everything and I don’t feel left out or particularly different in any way.” She also reminded her fellow Davis UWC Scholars that they play an important role in educating US students about other cultures, other countries, and other ways of looking at the world.”
Molly Hetz, a junior sociology/anthropology major from Berkeley, California, was the final student to address the crowd. Molly explained that when she first applied to Lewis & Clark, she had hoped to live in Akin Hall, Lewis & Clark’s multicultural theme community. Unfortunately, her application for Akin was turned down and she was a bit upset. But, she didn’t let the rejection get her down. She went out of her way to make lots of friends with the international students and TCKs (Third Culture Kids) in Akin. Those connections led her to befriend many of the Davis UWC Scholars from Africa. She has been so moved by the stories and experiences of the students who studied at Kamhlaba UWC of Southern Africa that she says emphatically, “When I have children they are going to go to the Kamhlaba UWC. You may think I am kidding, but it is the truth.”
Shelby Davis Shares His Thoughts
Shelby Davis, founder of the Davis United World College Scholars Program, spoke towards the end of the reception. He thanked the Lewis & Clark administration, faculty and staff for their support of the Davis UWC Scholars Program and he expressed his and Gale’s joy at being on the Lewis & Clark campus. He noted that ours is a beautiful campus filled with a great and supportive faculty and staff. Davis also acknowledged the thirty-one Davis UWC Scholars and reminded them of their duty to abide by the United World College principles and to share their intercultural skills with the students and faculty of Lewis & Clark.
Davis shared some thoughts on how he became involved with the Davis UWC Scholars Program and philanthropy. “My family’s philosophy has long been to look at life in periods of 30 years. We are to spend the first 30 years ”˜learning,’ the second 30 years ”˜earning,’ and the next 30 years ”˜returning.’ With the Davis UWC Scholars Program, I am involved in the ”˜returning’ phase,” Davis said.
Impact of the Visit
For a week following the reception, President Atkinson and Associate Dean of Students Greg Caldwell received unsolicited emails about the event. A faculty member wrote, “What a first-class event that presented a wonderful portrait of Lewis & Clark to the Davises and to the Lewis & Clark community in general. I know everyone came away with a much better appreciation for our Davis UWC Scholars and all they bring to the community.” A staff member stated, “The speakers were amazing”¦such variety, but all supporting the ideals and goals we would like to see exemplified in every person all around the world.”
With regard to the generosity of the Davises, a staff member stated, “I cannot begin to imagine what it must be like to have changed the world in such a way as the Davises have.” A professor in the foreign languages department expressed the impact of the event in his way, “I really enjoyed the Davis UWC Scholars reception. It was such a joy to meet Mr. and Mrs. Shelby Davis and to know more about their good work. The experience renewed my commitment to education.”