English Professor to take multicultural expertise on rotary mission to Brazil next spring

Jeff Birkenstein, Ph.D., selected as one of four from the Northwest

October 24, 2006

Lacey, Washington – Saint Martin’s University Assistant Professor of English, Jeff Birkenstein, Ph.D., is one of five young professionals selected to participate in Rotary International’s Group Study Exchange (GSE) from the Northwest to Brazil, slated for late spring 2007. The GSE program offers a unique educational, cultural and vocational exchange experience and provides travel grants to participants. Rotary International is a worldwide organization of business and professional leaders that focuses on humanitarian service throughout the world.

The Northwest GSE team, comprised of men and women between the ages of 25 and 40, will spend four weeks in Brazil where they will study local culture and institutions and observe their respective vocations as practiced there. The GSE program’s primary objective is to further international understanding, goodwill and peace. Prior to departure the team will spend time together planning, preparing and studying Portuguese. Team members competed for selection by submitting an application with essay to the local Rotary GSE Committee for evaluation and then traveled to Victoria, Canada for a round of interviews.

Birkenstein, who is conversational in Spanish, is looking forward to visiting Brazil. During the trip he hopes to make contacts that will enable Saint Martin’s to add Brazil to its growing list of overseas exchange programs. Birkenstein adds that “the whole world is always in my classroom, because my students will both affect and be affected by it. So that phrase about “just wait until you join the real world….” Well, through discussion and interaction in the classroom, I try and bring that real world to my students now. This unique travel opportunity will further my ability to do so.” Birkenstein teaches African American literature, the short story, ESL, composition and American literature classes at Saint Martin’s.

The GSE program aims to enrich participants’ lives and spread Rotary's vision of peace and world understanding. The program hopes to foster international understanding through person-to-person contact, friendship, study, service, and cross-cultural exchange. Foundation program participants serve as goodwill ambassadors not just when they’re abroad, but also when they return to their home countries as alumni. Saint Martin’s University prepares students for successful lives through its 22 majors and six graduate programs spanning the liberal arts, business, education and engineering. A Catholic, Benedictine university, Saint Martin’s welcomes 1,100 students from many ethnic and religious backgrounds to its Lacey, Washington main campus, and 600 more to three extension campuses.

For additional information:

Anne Kirske
Interim communication director
Saint Martin’s University

For information on future GSE missions contact:
Larry Poplack
Olympia Rotarian