This blog is for those wanting to keep up to date on all the work that the Vermont Council on World Affairs is doing around the world.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

IVLP Delegates from the Kyrgyz Republic Visit Vermont for a Project on Education in the U.S.

IVLP delegates from the Kyrgyz Republic pose for a photo with The Sharon Academy faculty

Our most recent IVLP group got a real taste of Vermont weather during their visit this week. With spring only a few days away, those of us used to the weather around here were unsurprised-- even excited (fresh powder days on the mountain, anyone?) about the Nor’Easter that hit the East Coast on Tuesday. Luckily, even with the storm, the group of four professionals from the Kyrgyz Republic were still able to have a productive and informative visit, and participated in several meetings around the topic of “Education in the US”.

Michael Livingston, Head of School at The Sharon Academy, explains the foundations of learning

I had the opportunity to accompany the group to their first meeting on Monday, before the snow arrived, to The Sharon Academy (TSA), a rural independent school in (you guessed it) Sharon, Vermont. TSA is unique in that approximately 85% of students are publicly funded through rural “sending towns” that do not have their own high schools, and it strives to create an environment where students take an active role in their education: students in the high school develop and teach electives, and are invited to serve on the Board of Trustees; TSA strives to build the foundations of learning on trust and respect.

Andrew Lane, Director of TSA Middle School, discusses student responsibility

Because all of the IVLP delegates call rural areas in the Kyrgyz Republic home, they found the meeting with members of The Sharon Academy team, including several students, incredibly informative, and had many questions about developing a similar culture within their own schools.

IVLP delegates listen intently to TSA panel

Another great thing about TSA: they know how to have fun while developing important life skills! We caught TSA during their two-week interim session, where the high school produces a musical, and the middle school puts on a circus! Both projects encourage time-management, teamwork, discipline, creativity, and more-- we had a great time at TSA, and thank them for welcoming us into their community!

Elena Bell, State Department Interpreter, tries her hand at juggling during TSA circus prep

Following their time at The Sharon Academy, the visitors took a tour of the Vermont State House, where they had the opportunity to see the legislature in session--an exciting time of the year. They also paid a visit to the Vermont Rural Partnership in Cabot for a meeting with representatives to learn about this unique coalition of rural schools in Vermont.

Then came the snow…


Visits to schools outside of Burlington on Tuesday were, understandably, unable to take place. Fortunately, the group was still able to meet with Ellen Baker, Director of Teacher Education at UVM’s College of Education and Social Services to learn about the University’s Elementary Education Program. The VCWA is also incredibly grateful to our board member and former Deputy Secretary of Education, Mark Oettinger, for stepping up to a last minute request to meet with the group in the face of the inclement weather, ensuring that their stay in Vermont was as substantial as possible.

Visitors meet with Ellen Baker, Director of Teacher Education at UVM

The group, who was supposed to fly out to Utah yesterday, ended up having to extend their stay in Vermont an extra day They on their way as of this morning, and as a result, had some time to explore snowy Burlington! Thank you to all of the Vermonters who helped make this visit possible. We hope the group enjoyed their visit to Vermont as much as we enjoyed hosting them, and wish them safe travels on the rest of their journey through the U.S.!

This post was written by Chelsea Beaulieu, VCWA Program Assistant

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Recap of the VCWA Ambassador Series: "Israel and the Arab World" with Ambassador Haim Koren

On Monday, the Vermont Council on World Affairs was pleased to host, through its VCWA Ambassador Series, Ambassador Haim Koren, the former Israeli Ambassador to South Sudan (2012-2014) and Egypt (2014-2016). The event was held at Champlain College, in its Morgan Room in Aiken Hall, a historic and distinguished setting, quite befitting of the honorable guest as well as the tone of the evening.

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The event was free and open to the public, and ended up seeing a full house with a diverse range of guests, from members of the Champlain, UVM, and CCV faculty and student body, to some Vermont’s Jewish community and even residents and Vermonters hailing from South Sudan and Gaza.

There were a wide range of questions posited to the Ambassador, showing the high level of interest and engagement of attendees, which is exactly what the VCWA strives for. The event was undeniably a success in its facilitation of a safe space for civil discourse on world affairs, and we hope that Vermonters who attended found it to be a valuable educational experience.

Thank you to Champlain College for the generous donation of the event space, and thank you to Ambassador Koren for coming, and thank you to all who attended for making the event what it was! We hope to see you at our upcoming events as well!

By Chelsea Beaulieu, Program Assistant at the VCWA