In 2009 Hawanya Garrett was afraid she wouldn’t make it to Brazil. UDM’s two-week intensive program in Brazil made it possible for Garrett, a UDM student and full-time employee at Trinity Health Systems, to study abroad. She’d been granted the time off from work, and her summer financial aid would cover tuition. Things were aligned for Garrett, an accounting and communications studies major, to study language, culture and religion in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil (a UNESCO world heritage site).
Then passport, travel visa, and insurance fees started adding up—each, a reality check on her finances. She grew nervous when she found out her disbursement check would arrive after the program fee deadline, which sent her scrambling for ways to cover costs. Just when she thought she might not make it out of Detroit, Jamie Dylenski ’98, and her husband Bob Dylenski made a donation to support CLAE students studying abroad.
Brazil Program Director Lara Wasner couldn’t wait to share the news with her students. The donation was enough to offset the costs of four program participants, all UDM students, including Hawanya, who, without it, may not have been able to go. The Dylenski family plans to provide an ongoing scholarship to support study abroad at UDM.
The Brazil program, which highlights parallels between slavery in the U.S. and Brazil, draws many minority students. “Generosity like Jamie’s helps us continue to make this program relevant, accessible, and affordable to all of our students,” says Wasner. “I was a bit concerned when my list of 30 prospective students in March dropped to only seven confirmed in April, one month before departure. We might not have had a program this year if help from Jamie hadn’t arrived. She was part of the solution from the start.”
Jamie Dylenski ’98,who graduated with a Master’s in Religious Studies and is a member of the CLAE Alumni Council, was part of a formation team that met with CLAE’s Dean Charles Marske, CLAE’s Director of Advancement Jennifer Dafoe and study abroad program directors Art Beer (Greece), Sarah Stever (Italy) and Lara Wasner (Brazil) to strategize about program solvency amid the economic downturn. As program directors, all were tuned into international education trends—and all were braced for the economy’s impact on study abroad.
According to International Educator magazine (July 2009), President Barack Obama encourages study abroad, even in tough economic times. The new administration sees such programs as supporting a new era of U.S. engagement in the world, stating that “exchanges can break down walls between us.”
Garrett cannot imagine not having had this experience. “My visit to Brazil not only taught me that slavery was global, this experience has given me the ability to embrace other cultures, to value family and friends more, to appreciate and be satisfied with what I have versus what I think I want or need. I would recommend this experience to anyone and everyone.”
To make a donation to support a CLAE study abroad program, call Jennifer M. Dafoe, director of CLAE Development, at 313-993-1429 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.