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Hansen Summer Institute's 10th Cohort Defines Spirit of Global Changemakers

Hansen Summer Institute's 10th Cohort Defines Spirit of Global Changemakers

Cesar Arcaya Hernandez and Tin-Pui Timothy Tung are young, inspiring college men, respectable and honorable people. Their personal aspiration is a shared one – both are drawn to become a doctor. It is a profession enabling them to see firsthand that their work, their contribution, can make a difference in another’s life. Both are also developing important traits to last a lifetime: a desire to lead, to be engaged in important dialogue and an unquenchable desire to learn and add to their respective base of knowledge.

Hernandez, from Venezuela, and Hong Kong’s Tung, represent two of the 25 college students selected from a deep pool of worldwide applicants to participate in the 10th annual Hansen Summer Institute for Leadership and International Cooperation program June 29-July 21 on the University of San Diego campus.

Hansen Summer Institute 2019

“This is a program of enlightenment,” Tung says. “This being my first time coming to the west coast of the United States, to experience liberty here opens my mind to what I hope Hong Kong can become.”

Likewise, Hernandez sees the Hansen Summer Institute, which for the second straight year was named by ProFellows.com as one of the nation’s top 10 summer fellowship opportunities, as an avenue to further his skill set and to envision a better Venezuela.

“I believe it is something that can go beyond a summer camp, vacation or my first time traveling to the U.S.,” he says. “My biggest goal is for this to be a tool to change my closed environment. I can’t speak for all Venezuelans, but in the position we are in now with our government, when we feel hopeless and we cannot change the outer environment, I do believe I can change my environment. I believe that if every Venezuelan starts changing their own environment the whole country and whole world will change in that manner.”

The program, funded by the San Diego-based Fred J. Hansen Foundation, a nonprofit charitable trust that is administered by trustee Tony Dimitroff, definitely delivers. Managing Director Ronald Bee, who has a lengthy career ledger in global affairs as a professor, organizational director, author and much more, has been a steady HSI leader. The USD School of Leadership and Education Sciences is a formidable program host, dedicating its support since HSI's arrival to campus. This year's program kicked off July 1 with a reception in which Laura Deitrick, USD Nonprofit Institute's associate director, welcomed participants to USD.

The 25 students at USD this summer are: Hernandez, Tung, Samuel Ashaolu (Nigeria), Jonathan Mugisa Basara Bright (Democratic Republic of the Congo), Saadman Chowdhury (Bangladesh), Anna Cron (United States), Mayara Cruz (Brazil), Tatev Derzyan (Armenia), Joshua Emero (U.S.), Jarret Fisher (U.S.), Shivranjani Gandhi (India) Caleb Huffman (U.S.), Günay Huseynalizadeh (Azerbaijan), Issac James (U.S.), Elene Janadze (Georgia), Julius Kaliisa (Rwanda), Ting-Chu (Judy) Lin (taiwan), Edward Mbewe (Zambia), Halyna Moroz (Ukraine), Stefania-Felicia Pavel (Romania), Ilya Pozdnyakov (Russia), Sol Santos (Argentina) Dorra Sayari (Tunisia), Aydin Ulu (Turkey) and Fizza Zaheer (Pakistan).

The schedule is packed during the three weeks, shaped by different themes — Identity and Diversity (Week 1), Identity and Conflict (Week 2) and Overcoming Us vs. Them (Week 3). Each week features guest lectures, discussions, hands-on training, meetings with political and business leaders, educators, field trips including a Fourth of July celebration in Coronado. Each student also gives a personal presentation to the group after receiving some public speaking/presentation training.

One of the prime exercises, though, comes simply having students spend time together. Staying in the Maher Hall residences, students are often uniquely paired together to create the chance to learn more about each other, develop friendships, such as having Hernandez rooming with the Congo’s Bright.

“We’ve had conversations in the room,” Hernandez said. “This can’t be [a] random (roommate pairing) because we’re in the exact same situation. We’ve been talking about the political background of our countries, how politicians act, the corruption we have faced so far, violence we’ve seen in our respective countries, the institutionalized violence against people and the question of who is taking advantage of this conflict. In his case it started in the 1960s, and in Venezuela the top of the conflict started in 1999 with Chavez's uprising. Who is actually winning after all this? We agree that there’s a bigger picture that people are not seeing. It goes beyond one side against another. There’s a lot of things moving backstage that we actually don’t know.”

Tung, meanwhile, is rooming with one of the five U.S. students, Caleb Huffman, who is academically studying in Beijing.

“We’ve had interesting discussions about the role of China in Hong Kong’s affairs and his perspective as an American living in China, the interactions between China and the U.S.,” Tung said.

Tung has had conversations, too, with Chowdhury and Mbewe, on topics such as the future of Asia with the former and exploring the topic of if Chinese investments in Zambia are a benefit to Zambia or if it is more the widely held view that what China is doing is an attempt to colonize Africa with the latter.

Based on these interactions it’s pretty clear that there’s not much off limits when it comes to the students learning more about each other, about other countries and developing bonds that will strengthen in coming years, too, when they'll be added to the already strong nine years of an HSI alumni network that's connected by social media and beyond.

It's all about a better global understanding between countries, between people, between Changemakers.

— Ryan T. Blystone

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