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Travel with UC Berkeley students via the campus's Web site through dispatches about their summer field work

14 June 2002

By Carol Hyman, Media Relations

Berkeley - Summer vacation for one University of California, Berkeley, student means tracking the endangered Marbled Murrelet off the California coast. For another, it's defending the right for all children in the Dominican Republic to attend school. A third student is at an archaeological excavation site in Greece. Four MBA students are helping a Mexican orphanage to manufacture and market goat cheese.

Summer work experiences have existed for years for UC Berkeley students, but this season, the public can travel along - with these seven students- through a new Web site launched by UC Berkeley's Office of Public Affairs on the campus's Web site. The site, Student Journal: Summer Dispatches from the Field, features regularly updated reports on their adventures with photos from the field.

"The people here compose, play, listen, dance, and one could even say live to the rhythm of merengue and bachata," wrote law school student Tim Griffiths in a dispatch from the Dominican Republic. "The music pours out of homes, cars and businesses, often at tremendous volume, which might be irritating if bachata and merengue weren't so good."

Griffiths, an intern from the International Human Rights Law Clinic at UC Berkeley's School of Law (Boalt Hall), is working on two cases the clinic has filed against the Dominican government for human rights violations against Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent.

"Tim's presence in the country this summer investigating the cases is critical to the litigation," said Laurel Fletcher, director of Boalt Hall's internship program. "He is the eyes and ears of the clinic on the ground. It's a tremendous responsibility to represent the legal team in the country, but Tim's extensive background in human rights work has prepared him for this vital role."

"Being a Berkeley student doesn't mean you are just learning about what is going on in the world, but you are part of the process," said Christine Maslach, UC Berkeley's vice provost for undergraduate education. "Active engagement in discovery is really what Berkeley is all about. Students are working with people on the forefront in their fields as proactive contributors to the educational enterprise."

The four Haas School of Business students at the Mexican orphanage in Atlixo prepared for their trip the entire school year. The orphanage produces and sells goat's milk cheese and soap and has the goal of becoming self-sufficient. Doug Brown, Joost Krikhaar, Fabio Matsui and Brent Mitchell are helping it, during their three-week stay, to increase efficiency and to develop a business plan and marketing strategy.

The students are part of the business school's International Business Development (IBD) program, which sends student-consulting teams to assist companies in foreign countries. They are working for IPODERAC (Puebla Institute of Rehabilitation), an organization that provides shelter, education, and professional training to 72 Mexican boys.

"They (the orphanage staff) don't have a good handle on the production and don't understand quality control," said Sebastian Teunissen, executive director of the Clausen Center for International Business & Policy at the Haas School. "During the short time the students are there, they will be teaching them quite a few things."

Teunissen added that UC Berkeley students who have participated in the Haas School's international program - it sends more than a dozen teams out each summer - are prepared for careers in numerous fields including international consulting, investment banking and product development.

According to their most recent dispatch, the students are learning about the process used to make goat cheese and are very impressed with the sophistication of the techniques used. "By the end of the day, we had no doubt that IPODERAC makes the highest quality cheese around," they reported. "We hope we can help them market it more effectively to increase funds available to the orphanage. More about that in our next dispatch."

Katherine Chou, in Ancient Nemea, Greece, this summer, will be helping with inventorying finds at an ancient athletic site the campus has run since 1973. There, the Panhellenic Games were held more than 2,300 years ago.

"Nemea has been my life's work, and it has been wonderful to share some of it with generations of students," wrote project leader Stephen Miller, professor of Classics at UC Berkeley, in an interview via e-mail. Besides working with students at the 45-acre site, Miller takes his teams on field trips elsewhere in Greece and encourages them to strike out on their own weekend adventures.

"Kathy will return to Berkeley next fall with a head full of Greece - the antiquities and landscape and language," Miller wrote.

Though much closer to home, Ph.D. student Zach Peery is conducting research vital to the survival of a species of bird, the Marbled Murrelet. "The Marbled Murrelet is an extremely secretive bird. It generally attends its nest site before sunrise and after sunset, does not vocalize near its nest, and nests approximately 200 feet up in the tallest trees in the world," Peery wrote in his first dispatch.

"This secrecy makes the murrelet nests exceptionally challenging to find. In fact, the murrelet was the last bird for which a nest was a located. At one point, the Audubon Society actually offered a bounty to the first birder who could locate a murrelet nest. It was not until 1974 that a nest was found in Big Basin State Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains."

UC Berkeley Web manager Jeffery Kahn said he's looking forward to receiving regular dispatches from the students in the coming weeks and posting them this summer for a wide audience.

"To a UC Berkeley student, 'summer vacation' may not mean the same thing as it does to you and me," he said. "These students are an inspiration."