Posted on Wednesday, February 25, 2009
George Liston Seay '62 began the summer between his junior and senior years at HWS by hopping on a merchant ship, The North Lord, and sailing to Rotterdam, with a stop to load wheat in Montreal along the way. The father of classmate George Pappadakis '61 was a Greek ship owner and presented the English major Seay the tremendous opportunity to travel on The North Lord to and from Europe. After he disembarked in Rotterdam, he toured Germany, Denmark, France, Italy and Belgium.
"It was life changing," he says of the experience. "It added to literature and history the aspect of moving about in the world."
It was so compelling an experience, in fact, he now provides for the Student International Initiative Fund ("Seay Grants") at Hobart and William Smith. These give financial assistance to students studying abroad to afford them the opportunity to "do their own projects that bind them to the cultures that surround them." Now, his life-changing experience is changing more lives globally.
With the Seay Grants, the Center for Global Education is able to provide small grants to students who wish to take on a project above and beyond the regular course of study abroad in which they are involved. These projects may have an academic focus or they may be more cultural enrichment in nature.
"Through the Student International Initiative Fund, we have supported a long list of such projects over the years with the purpose of encouraging the students to engage their host societies and become more immersed in order to learn about local culture, language and people," says Tom D'Agostino, director of the Center for Global Education. "Enabling them to take on such personalized projects helps them literally take their ‘Worlds of experience' and make them meaningful, or consequential, to them."
The Seay Grant is becoming well known among students going abroad. In the 2007-2008 year, there was enormous growth in the number of grants awarded. Students studying abroad who receive Seay Grants have been given the latitude, according to Seay, to do "anything they think leads them deeper into the lives of the people they are getting to know."
The projects to date have varied. Among them have been a number of ‘zines, a small, self-published magazine that can be easily copied and widely distributed; a chapbook of poems; essays; and dance, art and photographic projects, among others.
"The Seay Grant really benefits students who have a desire to tap into the place they study creatively," says Alicia Gregory '09, a grant recipient.
Gregory's project was a ‘zine on life in South Africa. She was most interested in writing and design so chose the print format. The grant enabled her to conduct and record interviews with South African students, travel for story ideas, and print about 200 copies that she placed around campus. Once distributed, all copies were gone within a week.
"I know the same has happened with the ‘zines following mine-a testament to the campus interest and curiosity in the border-crossing experience. It is because of the Seay Grant that this interest and curiosity can be fed with such a breadth of creative projects."
Innis Baah '10 studied abroad in Hong Kong in the fall semester and credits a Seay Grant with making it possible for him to move about during the semester to experience different aspects of the culture.
"I was very fortunate to be one of the people to get a Seay Grant," said Baah who credits the Seay Grant with enabling him to move beyond Hong Kong to meet people, see more of the country and go to Beijing for shows, something he would not have been able to afford to do without the grant.
His project, which he's still working on, is a zine about "identity." Immersing himself in the cultures in and around Hong Kong and not only learning about different people but seeing how they view him was critical to the project. His planned zine will reflect on his own shifting identity- born in Ghana, raised partially in New York and studying in Hong Kong-as well as observations of the multiple identities of the citizens of Hong Kong.
Diana Haydock '09, an art history and European studies double major, used her grant to create a Braille map of Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore while participating in the Rome program.
"This project encompassed all of my passions and really brought my experiences at HWS together." She feels very proud of what she was able to accomplish, and is very grateful to Seay. "He helped me help others, and it's been such a positive domino effect."
After returning from abroad, Seay graduated from Hobart College with a B.A. in English but continued to pursue global experiences first by joining the Peace Corps, spending three years in Brazil with the organization. He then spent an additional four years in Brazil with the Foreign Service Office before returning to the U.S. He returned to the U.S. long enough to graduate from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton, then worked for the Ford Foundation in Mexico and ultimately returned to Washington, D.C., where he has hosted a radio and television program focused on international affairs, "Dialogue."
"For all those experiences, the grant made sense," he explains. "It makes me feel good because it is what I lived."