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UW-Eau Claire to Host Open Society Institute's Fall Conference for Undergraduate Exchange Students

RELEASED: Nov. 7, 2005

EAU CLAIRE — The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will host the Open Society Institute's fall conference for Undergraduate Exchange Program students Nov. 9-12. Forty students from Central Asia and Eastern Europe who are studying throughout the United States this year will attend the conference.

"We were selected as the conference site based on the positive feedback of students who have studied here through this program and the experience of students and program directors based on last fall's successful conference," said Dr. Karl Markgraf, director of the Center for International Education at UW-Eau Claire. "We were among the first universities, along with Duke University and New York University, to host students from this program."

While in Eau Claire, the exchange students will attend leadership seminars, workshops and planning sessions. They will stay at a local hotel and participate in various recreational activities in the area.

In addition, they will visit area non-profit agencies, including Beaver Creek Reserve and Citizen Science Center, Bolton Refuge House, Feed My People, Community Table, St. Joseph's Food Pantry, the Welcome Center Program at De Long Middle School, and the Boys & Girls Club of Eau Claire. They also will meet with the president of the Chippewa Valley Chapter of the Sierra Club.

Dr. Donald Mowry, director of the UW-Eau Claire Center for Service-Learning, helped arrange the visits together with Phil Huelsbeck from the Center for International Education, AmeriCorps*VISTA member Carrie Dachel, who is assigned to UW-Eau Claire, and OSI program coordinators.

"These international students gain a new perspective on American community organizing and civil society through these visits in Eau Claire," said Anne Campbell, the Undergraduate Exchange Program manager. "It is the centerpiece of our conference."

"Four themes — environment, domestic violence, hunger, and youth development — emerged as being the best match for the students, who each complete a community service-learning project as part of each semester's experience during their time in this country and also complete a community service project or internship upon their return home," said Mowry.

Since 1996, UW-Eau Claire has hosted between five and 10 students each year through the Open Society Institute's program, which seeks to assist educational and civic development in Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro by exposing participants to a liberal arts curriculum, classroom instruction, community service work and civil society related programming.

Markgraf said UW-Eau Claire also participates in the Open Society Institute's faculty development fellowship program, hosting faculty from Belarus, Georgia and Kazakhstan for up to three semesters during a three-year period.

"Hosting this conference is a big deal for Eau Claire," Markgraf said. "These students will all go on to be leaders in their home countries. It's exciting to be part of their intellectual and personal development because we know they will go back and be part of democratizing their countries."

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