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Two Honors Program students to study in the Amazon during winter break

RELEASED: Dec. 20, 2011

EAU CLAIRE — Two University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Honors Program students will spend part of their winter break studying and conducting research in the Amazon.

Christine Manwiller
(with sculpture titled "Recreating the Real")

Christine Manwiller, an art major from Turtle Lake, and Shauna Stoeger, a Spanish and psychology major from Hortonville, were among 12 students nationally who were accepted into the Honors Amazon Winterim 2012 program, which is organized by the National Collegiate Honors Council and the Honors College at Florida International University. Based in Peru, "Living on the Edge of a Rainforest Frontier" will run from Dec. 29 through Jan. 15, 2012.

During the international Winterim experience, Manwiller and Stoeger will enroll in two intensive three-credit courses: "Living Off the Rainforest: Biodiversity, Sustenance and Sustainability"; and "Culture, Identity and the Environment in the Peruvian Amazon."

The students will be based in the city of Iquitos, Peru, and the Madre Selva Biological Station, located in the Amazon rainforest. They will conduct biological and cultural research in the Amazon and surrounding tribal reservations.

Manwiller and Stoeger each received $1,000 in financial aid awards from Florida International University to support their participation in the program.

"This trip interests me because of the location and the opportunity to pursue research developed by me in my area of interest," Stoeger said. "Taking courses focused on research in the areas of sociology and environmental sustainability is attractive since my psychology research focuses on environmental issues. Also, the program takes place in a Spanish speaking country, which was a definite draw for me."

In her research in the Amazon, Stoeger will study the perception, frequency and form of punishment of environmental crime in the Amazon such as illegal animal poaching and trade.

"This will tie nicely into my future career aspirations," said Stoeger, who is on track to graduate in May 2012. "I plan to go to graduate school for forensic and counseling psychology, with an emphasis in Latino mental health. Becoming familiar with the crime rate, forms of punishment and perceptions of criminals in a Latin American country will give me a foundation for my future studies and career."

Shauna Stoeger

Stoeger, who has studied in Nicaragua and Costa Rica, was a founder of LA SED (Latin American Sustainability, Education and Development), a UW-Eau Claire student organization that raises funds for sustainable projects in Latin America, mostly in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. It sponsors 40 school scholarships in El Fortin, Nicaragua, and is building a bridge in that community. It raised $1,000 to help a school and orphanage in Haiti rebuild.

"I'm attracted to everything about Latin America," Stoeger said. "I've been enthralled by Latin American culture since I studied in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. I love the warm feeling of the culture and the free spirited nature. The idea of experiencing the culture of Peru is enticing."

In recent semesters, Manwiller has developed an interest in Peru and the Amazon basin. She studied Peru extensively in a cultural anthropology course and took an experimental mathematics course focused primarily on Mayan mathematics.

"One of the things that interest me about Peru is its art conservation program," said Manwiller, who plans to graduate in fall 2013 and then attend graduate school at the University of Delaware Winterthur Museum Program in art conservation. "The program organizes a trip to Lima and Cusco, Peru, to work in the conservation labs located there."

The trip to Peru will be Manwiller's first international experience.

"I'm very excited to experience a new culture," Manwiller said. "I hope to get some cultural background as well as experience the art in Iquitos. I know this trip will give me invaluable experience that will help prepare me for my future as an art conservator."

Dr. Jefford Vahlbusch, director of UW-Eau Claire's University Honors Program, is encouraged to see students taking advantage of opportunities offered by the national honors program.

"This is the first time in many years — and perhaps the first time ever — that an honors student from UW-Eau Claire has even applied to join one of the NCHC's honors opportunities," Vahlbusch said. "Christine and Shauna's applications are a sign that our considerable efforts to reinvent and reinvigorate our University Honors Program are beginning to work. Shauna and Christine are honors pioneers, and their success in this application process demonstrates that our university honors students can compete with the best honors students nationally. It is my hope that many other UW-Eau Claire honors students will follow in their footsteps."

For details about the Peru immersion experience or the University Honors Program, contact Dr. Jefford Vahlbusch at or 715-836-4490.



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