September 24, 2013


Ambassador Susan Jacobs congratulates a child at an adopted children’s naturalization ceremony. 
The Ashland University College of Arts and Sciences' Symposium Against Indifference: Engaging Latin America and the Caribbean is proud to present a program with Ambassador Susan Jacobs, Special Advisor for the U.S. Department of State's Office of Children's Issues. In addition to meeting with various groups of University students to discuss international student travel, Department of State internship and employment opportunities as well as her experiences as a woman in the Department of State, Ambassador Jacobs will address international children's issues at a public evening program on Tuesday, October 1, 7 p.m. in the Faculty Room of the Myers Convocation Center. This event is free and open to the public.

While encouraging extensive audience participation, Jacobs' evening program will focus on topics including child abduction across borders and international adoption. As Special Advisor for International Children’s Issues, she actively engages with foreign government officials to protect the welfare and interests of children. She travels around the world leading meetings with foreign representatives to discuss ways to further promote The Hague Adoption and Abduction Conventions, and assist signatory countries to meet their responsibilities on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction under the conventions. In relation to the Symposium's focus on Latin American, these countries are the most common destination of reported parental abductions, for example, the Sean Goldman case that threatened U.S. Brazil relations.
Ambassador Jacobs meets with Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom.
As one of the first women at the U.S. Department of State to serve as as a foreign ambassador, Ambassador Jacobs was a Senior Policy Advisor in the Bureau of Consular Affairs and previously served as the Bureau’s liaison to the Department of Homeland Security. From 2000-2003 she was the United States Ambassador to Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. From April 1998 to October 2000 she served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Global Issues in the State Department's Bureau of Legislative Affairs. Ambassador Jacobs joined the Foreign Service in 1974. Her early assignments included tours as vice consul in Caracas, deputy consul general in Tel Aviv, refugee officer in New Delhi, office director in the State Department's Citizens Emergency Center, and special assistant to the Ambassador in San Salvador.

In 1990 she returned to Washington, DC where she served as an office director in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs and then as a Legislative Management Officer in the Bureau of Legislative Affairs. In 1994 she was senior policy advisor to the Commission on Immigration Reform, and from 1995 to 1997 she was the U.S. Consul General in Bucharest. A high point of her Bucharest tour was serving as the coordinator for the July, 1996 visit of First Lady Hillary Clinton. In 1997 she attended the Senior Seminar, a nine-month advanced professional development program designed for senior foreign policy officials in the United States Government.

Ambassador Jacobs graduated from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where she was a Regents Scholar, and later studied at Georgetown University Law School and the George Washington University. She has received numerous awards, including the Department of State's Meritorious Honor Award, its Superior Honor Award; and the Community Achievement Award in New Delhi.

Night Train to Bolina and "Inside the Season" pre-show talk

The kickoff event for the Ashland University 2013-2014 Theatre season is the play Night Train to Bolina by 2003 Pulitzer Prize winner Nilo Cruz.  Night Train to Bolina is the story of two children, Mateo and Clara, who rely on each other and their imaginations to help them flee a violent world.  Written in a masterful magic realist style, that is beautiful, moving and powerful, Night Train to Bolina shows us the strength and resilience of youth in the most difficult of circumstances. Showings will be September 26th, 27th, 28th,  October 3rd, 4th, 5th  at 7:30 p.m. and September 29th at 2:00 p.m. in the Studio Theatre.  
The Department of Theatre and the College of Arts and Sciences is sponsoring an “Inside the Season” pre-show talk as part of the Symposium Against Indifference: Engaging Latin America and the Caribbean. Led by Fabio Polanco, associate professor of theatre and director of the drama “Night Train to Bolina,” the event is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 4, on the Hugo Young Theatre stage prior to that evening’s performance. The public is invited to the pre-show talk even if they don't have tickets for that evening’s performance. John and Karen Godt, founders of the Hope for Honduran Children Foundation, will add real-life experiences to the presentation as they discuss their organization’s work.

The pre-show talks are offered to give audience members the inside story as they learn more about the production and its creators, while also hosting guest presenters in connection with the show’s theme. Since “Night Train to Bolina” and this year’s Symposium both focus on Latin America, this first presentation of “Inside the Season” will examine the effect of civil unrest and violence on children in these areas from the playwright’s efforts in developing the script to the work of John and Karen Godt’s foundation.

Karen Godt at the Flor Azul Boys Community in Honduras.

The Hope for Honduran Children Foundation, based in Cleveland, Ohio, was established to help provide a nurturing environment for children ravaged by conditions of extreme poverty in Central America. In addition to supporting them with food, clothing, shelter, medical care and education, their ultimate goal is to instill the desire and provide the necessary tools for these children to become self-sufficient, caring, and responsible adults. Literature about the organization will be available at all performances and donations will be accepted on their behalf. For more information, the organization's Web site is at

For more information about Ashland University Theatre visit or call the Box Office at 419.289.5125.

September 9, 2013

Drug-Trafficking and Deforestation in Central America

The first event in this year’s Environmental Lecture Series will be a presentation by Kendra McSweeney from Ohio State University.  That will be Thursday, Oct. 3 at 7:30 pm in the Ronk Lecture Hall, COE.

Kendra McSweeney interviewing the oldest living Tawahka woman, Honduras (photo credit: K. McSweeney)
Dr. McSweeney is a geographer specializing in the relationship between people and forests.  She has conducted research for 20 years in Honduras, where she has tracked the resilience of forest-dependent native communities to climate-related and other exogenous shocks, including drug trafficking. She has also studied the links between demographic change and struggles around territory in the Ecuadorian Amazon.  At Ohio State, she teaches courses on Latin America, fieldwork, research and professionalization, demography, and environment. 

“… There has been relatively little attention…to the ways in which narco-trafficking is transforming the Central American countryside. In fact, the flow of drugs through remote, biodiverse regions is having a profound and devastating effect on the region's forests; Guatemala and Honduras now have some of the world's highest deforestation rates. Narco-trafficking is also contributing to the massive displacement and impoverishment of indigenous peoples and peasant smallholders across the region. Drawing from long-term research in eastern Honduras (a major trafficking hub), this talk will detail just how drug trafficking has this effect, and will review the ways in which these dynamics are profoundly linked to the ways in which the U.S. chooses to wage its 'war on drugs.' "

View of deforestation from boat, as seen by two young Tawahka women, Honduras (photo credit: K. McSweeney)

This year’s Environmental Lecture Series explores “Environmental and Human Health in Latin America,” with perspectives from experts in human ecology, policy, and scientific study related to specific environmental issues.

September 5, 2013

“Our Culture is Not for Sale”: Maya Spirituality and the December 21st, 2012 Predictions in a Global Context

Presenter:  Dr. Elizabeth Bell

September 18, 2013     7:00 pm

Ronk Lecture Hall

Elizabeth Bell is a Senior Lecturer at The Ohio State University, where she received her doctorate in 2012, specializing in Latin American literatures and cultures with a minor in Folklore Studies. She has worked with the Kaqchikel-Maya population in Guatemala since 2006 and studies the post-war resurgence of traditional Maya spiritual practices. She has published several articles based on her research and is currently revising her book manuscript for publication.

In 2009, this young researcher received a Fulbright grant to carry out fieldwork in Guatemala, focusing on the spiritual practices of Kaqchikel-Maya communities. “These communities make part of a society with increasing religious plurality, economic and ethnic inequality, drug-related violence and the legacy of military violence and discrimination.  They face ongoing lack of recognition and voicelessness in a society that values them only insofar as their culture can be appropriated for a growing tourism industry”.  One of the cultural objects colonized through this industry and the media around the world is the Maya calendar and time predictions, which constitute clear demonstrations of ancient and sophisticated systems of knowledge. In her talk, Bell will discuss the attempts of the Mayas to decolonize their systems of knowledge, focusing on the infamous 2012 “doomsday” predictions. She will share with us examples from her fieldwork before and after 2012.  We will see how, when unable to achieve social and political representation and recognition in this highly stratified postcolonial society, the Maya population negotiates meaning and achieves legitimacy by using the very tool which sets them apart: their culture.