News Archive

Union College international rescue and relief students return early from Venezuela

Lincoln, Neb.—Students in Union College’s international rescue and
relief (IRR) program are taught to expect the unexpected. For 32 IRR
students and staff, the unexpected conclusion to their semester of study
in Venezuela included a week in protective custody while confusion
created by questions from the Venezuelan government about the group’s
documentation was explored. Following clearance by Venezuelan officials
on Friday, April 6, Union College welcomed the group in Miami on Tuesday
morning, April 10 at 1:15 a.m.

“We are grateful and relieved that our students are safely back in the
United States,” said David Smith, Union College president. “Our highest
priority, whether on campus or with traveling groups, is always the
safety and wellbeing of our students. While there is much that can be
learned from this situation, the most meaningful lesson for me has been
the resilience and positive spirit of our students and staff while they
waited patiently for the situation to be resolved.”

On Feb. 8, the group of 21 students, seven staff and four staff
children, arrived in the village of Maurak, Venezuela, for 10 weeks of
training and service. From this site in the southeastern corner of the
country, small groups of students, each led by a physician and in most
cases also a registered nurse, traveled by plane, jeep, canoe or on foot
to remote villages to provide medical services for two to three days.
The groups then returned to Maurak for debriefing and continued study.

During the first half of the semester in Venezuela, IRR students were
involved with more than 600 humanitarian contacts under a physician’s
supervision. In addition to tropical medical experience, IRR students
were engaged in coursework through lectures and demonstrations. Mid-way
through the trip, however, Venezuelan government officials questioned
the validity of the group’s permissions and paperwork pertaining to
licensing of the two physicians in the group and accusations of using
expired medications. Most of the medications in question were left at
the mission campus by previous service groups.

“We do not know exactly who or what triggered the concern over our
status in the country after several weeks of service,” Smith said. “The
goal of the international rescue and relief program is to train
professionals who can relieve suffering through emergency service and
caring for those in need. We in no way wish to interfere with government
policies or provide help in a way that is not welcome.”

Smith says that while launching the IRR program during the three years
leading up to this year’s trip, Union College representatives completed
all paperwork and obtained permissions they understood that were as
necessary and customary for the semester abroad.

Despite the unexpected confusion over documents, Michael Duehrssen, IRR
program director and board-certified physician, said they maintained a
positive relationship with the local village. “The people of Maurak and
the remote villages where we served were extremely supportive and
grateful for our work,” he said. “The questions about our credentials
came from officials beyond the local region.”

After it became clear that confusion with the documents could not be
easily solved, the Union College group agreed to voluntarily leave the
country. However, even after this decision, more delays for clearance
and the Easter holiday weekend prolonged travel arrangements.

“We are proud of our students and their positive approach to this
disruption in their semester,” said Linda Becker, vice president for
Student Services who along with Jeff Joiner, chair of the Division of
Health Sciences, met the IRR group at the Miami airport. “From what the
IRR students have told us, even though they were not free to come and go
for a few days as they might have wished, they were treated well and
even shared meals with the guards who posted at the mission campus the
last week. Other than having to find creative ways to overcome cabin
fever, the group had the food and supplies they needed.”

Alicia Archer, Union College student from Colorado agrees with Becker.
“We were all very calm—very chill—with no extreme emotions,” she said
Tuesday morning on the phone from Miami. “After this trip, I am even
more proud and passionate about the IRR program than before. I have
rediscovered my goals and vision for my life on this trip.” Archer plans
to combine her IRR major with a degree in nursing and serve abroad
again.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What was the purpose of the trip to Venezuela?

In the junior or senior year of the international rescue and relief
(IRR) program, students complete 10 weeks of training in tropical
medicine, preventative health care and humanitarian relief in a remote
setting.

Who was involved in the trip?

The group of 32 from Union College worked with local health care
professionals, translators and volunteers. Most of the students are
juniors and seniors and all have completed Emergency Medical Technician
(EMT) basic certification.

21 Union College IRR students including one who is a registered
nurse

7 staff including two physicians and two registered nurses

4 staff children

Where in Venezuela was the IRR group located?

The Union College group was in the state of Bolivar on an existing
mission campus near the village of Maurak, which is about 15 miles from
the Brazilian border in the southeastern corner of Venezuela. The
closest Venezuelan town on a detailed map is Santa Elena.

What type of training and service is involved in the semester abroad?

While in Venezuela, IRR students learned through a combination of
lecture and hands-on training. The students were separated into small
groups, each led by a physician and in most cases, also a registered
nurse and a local health care provider. During the week, the groups
traveled by plane, jeep, canoe or on foot to remote villages to provide
medical services for two to three days and then returned to Maurak for
debriefing and continued study.

Why were Venezuela and the village of Maurak chosen as the training
site?

The program director, Dr. Michael Duehrssen, had previous contacts in
the region including flight support through a group that has been
established in the area for several years. This is the fourth annual
service trip Duehrssen has made to the area which has allowed him to
establish relationships with the local village captains and medical
personnel in the region. In spring 2006, administrators from Union
College also visited and met with local and regional officials. The
village of Maurak extended an invitation and made land available for
Union College to use for the semester of training. The rural setting
provided access to rivers and mountains that were also ideal for jungle
survival training and recreation. In addition, program leaders wanted
students immersed in the Spanish language, which IRR majors are required
to study and will likely be needed in future service settings.

What documentation did Union College pursue prior to arriving in
Venezuela?

Union College had signed letters of agreement with a local hospital and
health officials, the governor of the State of Bolivar, the Civil
Protection department for the State of Bolivar and had a letter of
invitation from a recognized relief organization in the region. The
group had the customary approvals by state and local authorities and
when they asked about additional documentation, they were told that no
further approval was needed. Also, because Duehrssen had traveled and
served successfully with other groups using the same level of
permissions with no concern, Union College leaders thought they had
covered the documentation requirements.

What was the nature of the confusion with the government?

During the three years leading up to this year’s trip, Union College
representatives completed all paperwork and obtained permissions they
understood as necessary for the semester abroad. However, in the second
half of the 10-week trip, Venezuelan officials questioned the group’s
authority to practice medicine while in the country and the
appropriateness of their tourist visas for the work they were doing. In
addition, there were questions about expired medications that were found
on the site of the mission campus, even though most of these medications
were left in storage by previous groups. Union College does not know how
the government initially became concerned about the group’s purpose and
permissions.

What was the status of the group once questions were raised by the
Venezuelan government?

For about a week, the group was restricted to the grounds of the mission
campus and a nearby hill/mountain for recreation. Officials described
the term as “protective custody.” During the day, three guards were on
duty at the entrance to the campus. Students and staff were never
threatened with violence or harmed. In fact, the students befriended the
guards who often ate meals with the group and participated in worships.

What is the setting of the mission campus?

The mission campus where the international rescue and relief group was
housed is about the size of one-and-a-half football fields. The
grass-covered grounds include three block buildings (residence
facilities and a main multi-purpose dining and meeting building) with
more construction in process.

What did the students learn while in Venezuela?

Union College’s international rescue and relief group was in Venezuela
for more than a month before questions were posed by the government
about their documentation and purpose. During these weeks, the group was
involved with more than 600 humanitarian contacts under a doctor’s
supervision including assisting with wound care, treating abscesses and
parasites, testing for malaria, improving unclean water systems,
administering child health assessments and presenting preventative
health education lectures. In addition to tropical medical experience,
IRR students were engaged in coursework through lectures and
demonstrations. Some of the most valuable lessons for the group this
year also include understanding diplomacy, contingency planning and
developing patience in the midst of unfamiliar circumstances.

What is the future of the IRR program, particularly the semester
abroad?

With more than 100 students enrolled in this unique academic discipline,
Union College is committed to the future of the international rescue and
relief program. During the launch of the program over the last three
years, Union College has received invitations from potential sites in
multiple countries. In the weeks ahead, Union College administrators
will continue to refine the process and criteria for locations best
suited for the semester of international study and service. While local
officials in Maurak have said they would welcome the group’s return,
details of this arrangement or other site possibilities will need to be
explored in depth.

ABOUT US

The international rescue and relief major at Union College is the
only undergraduate program of its kind in the United States. This
interdisciplinary major combines the study of health, logistics, search
and rescue through seven emphasis options. The major, launched in 2004
with 32 students, now has more than 100 students enrolled.

The multi-track curriculum combines rescue and survival skills,
emergency care, humanitarian relief, public health, disaster management
and multi-cultural service training. Certifications include EMT basic
and white water and high angle rescue among others. In order to prepare
students for diverse environments and foster a global perspective,
courses are taught in Colorado, Florida and a developing country in
addition to the main campus in Lincoln, Neb.

This major is designed to equip graduates with specialized skills to
serve in a world facing increasing natural and man-made disasters and
growing refugee populations. More info available at www.ucollege.edu/irr.

Union College, located in Lincoln, Nebraska, is an accredited,
comprehensive institution of higher education offering bachelor’s
degrees in more than 50 majors and a Master of Physician Assistant
Studies. Established in 1891 by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Union
enrolls close to 1,000 students from 46 states and 30 countries with a
variety of faith backgrounds. Union College offers active learning in a
vibrant Christian atmosphere where students are empowered to lead. With
a focus on undergraduate education, Union’s nurturing environment offers
students a safe place to grow and prepare for careers of service and
leadership. www.ucollege.edu

Community invited to the Division of Fine Arts' Spring Music Festival

Union College invites the community to six music performances during the Division of Fine Arts Spring Music Festival Weekend, April 20-24. All events are free to the public. For more information, call 486-2553.

Friday, April 20, 8 p.m.—Spring Choral Concert
Unionaires, Union College Octet, Chamber Chorale, and Honors Singers
College View Church Seventh-day Adventist Church, 48th and Prescott Ave.

Children affected by HIV/AIDS showcase art in McClelland Art Gallery


"If HIV were an animal, what would it look like?" Kids from Camp Kindle answered this and other questions with crayons and markers. Their artistic answers are displayed in the McClelland Art Gallery until March 19.

 

Students shadow professionals in third annual Division Field Day

Junior and Senior business and computer students from Union College will visit a number of companies across Lincoln for the third Division Field Day, Feb. 21. About 70 students will spend four hours around the city shadowing professionals in their respective fields.

International rescue and relief students assist with disaster relief in central Florida

International rescue and relief students from Union College in Lincoln, Neb., thought they had seen the worst winter rain storms Florida had to offer during two weeks of ocean survival and dive rescue training. But on Friday, Feb. 2, news of pre-dawn tornadoes a few hundred miles north of their training posts in the Florida Keys prompted 19 Union College students and staff members to find a way to help.

The Boys Next Door drama production opens Feb. 22.

Union College Drama will perform the two-act play The Boys Next Door, opening Feb. 22, 2007.

Nursing program adds spring admission

Twenty students made history this semester at Union College by showing up to class. They are the first students admitted in the nursing program's new second admission cycle. Previously the program accepted just one class annually, but interest in the program has surged in recent years. With so many qualified applicants, it became impossible to accept everyone.

Spring semester starts strong; nineteen students graduate in December

Dr. Trudy Holmes-Caines advises psychologymajor Nelly Melendez during registration

The quiet stillness of a snow-blanketed campus burst to life as 954 new and returning students began spring semester at Union College on Jan. 9, 2007. This is a decrease from 982 during the fall semester.

Community invited for Music Festival performances, Feb. 2-3

Band students from 11 Seventh-day Adventist high schools in the Midwest will gather Feb. 2–3 on the Union College campus for the annual Mid-America Union Music Festival. The Lincoln community is invited to come and enjoy fun classical pieces presented by the high school and college performers Feb. 2 at 7:30 p.m. in the College View Church and Feb. 3 at 7 p.m. in the Union College gymnasium. The 160 visiting performers will be joined by the Union College Wind Symphony in both performances.

Multicultural Committee to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy

Union College will not have classes Monday, Jan. 15 in memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. Union's Multicultural Committee encourages students, employees and the community to have "a day on, not just a day off."

Joy brings colorful seasons to the McClelland Art Gallery

From the spring flowers and butterflies of "I'll Fly Away" to the "Autumn Woods" Joy Frame shares the beauty of the seasons in her watercolor paintings currently on display in the Union College McClelland Art Gallery until Jan. 26.

Frame became serious about watercolor painting about 16 years ago. "I'm intrigued by the beautiful blending of colors, the movement and to some extent unpredictability of the paint on the paper," Frame writes in her artist statement. "I love this elusive medium."

Photography class artwork displayed in gallery

LINCOLN—Images from the Union College photography class will be on display Dec. 3–22 in the McClelland Art Gallery.

"I have some very talented students in this class," said Bruce Forbes, associate professor of Art and Graphic Design. "The photos I've seen make me excited. I expect this to be an extremely varied show."

Concerts on Dec. 8 and 9 celebrate the Christmas season

Union College Festival of Lessons and Carols
The first concert will begin Friday, Dec. 8 at 7:30 p.m. and will feature the Unionaires, Union College Vocal Octet and Chamber Chorale. Diverse selections from the carols and anthems of John Rutter will be interspersed with Biblical texts from the four Gospels telling the the age-old story of Christ's birth. Everyone is welcome at this free concert in the College View Seventh-day Adventist Church (4801 Prescott Ave).

Forbes bicycle photography on display in the McClelland Art Gallery

"This exhibit combines two things that I've enjoyed for a long time, but never put together: bicycling and photography," says Bruce Forbes, Union College associate professor of art and graphic design who is displaying photographs in Union College's McClelland Art Gallery until Dec. 3.

The exhibit presents 24 color photos taken this summer while Forbes participated in the Bicycle Ride Across Nebraska (BRAN) with 600 participants and the Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) with 10,000 registered bicyclists.

ABC reality show filmed at George Stone School<br>Episode airs: Monday, Nov. 13, 7 p.m. CST

The Wife Swap crew film Susan Zimmermann's class at George Stone School.

George Stone students and Cody (in light blue near the back) take recess in the Union College atrium.

Children of the World choir performs at Union

Union College welcomes the Children of the World international children's choir on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 10:30 a.m. in the College View Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Tags: 

Andrew Peterson to perform free concert Oct. 27

Union College presents Christian folk artist Andrew Peterson in concert at the College View Seventh-day Adventist Church (4801 Prescott Ave.) Friday, Oct. 27, 2006. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.; the concert begins at 7:30 p.m. The concert is free to the public and a free will offering will be collected to support Peterson's ministry.

Peterson has recorded seven albums and his music has been reviewed by USA Today and Christianity Today, among others. He is known for his down-to-earth style and vivid observations.

McClelland shares beauty of nature in the McClelland Art Gallery

The paintings of Jim McClelland will be in Union College's McClelland Art Gallery Oct. 20–Nov. 10, 2006. The watercolor and oil paintings will depict a variety of scenes including birds, animals, landscapes, flowers and still life.

"Artwork is meant to be shared," says McClelland, professor of art at Union College. "I hope people will be inspired by the creative genius of God, expressed not only in the paintings themselves, but in the talents He gives people."

Professor Blake facilitates religion and politics forum

The Lincoln Community Forum invites the community to attend a discussion on Church and State addressing the question, "How can religion and politics work together?" This forum will take place Tuesday, Oct. 3 at St. Mark's on the Campus Episcopal Church located on 1309 R Street. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the event will start at 7 p.m. Chris Blake, Union College professor of English and communication and author of Searching for a God to Love, will be the moderator and facilitator of this event.

Union College concert celebrates Mozart's 250th birthday

LINCOLN—Union College presents, "The Majesty of Mozart," a free vocal and instrumental concert on Oct. 21 at 7:30 p.m. in the College View Seventh-day Adventist Church, to celebrate the 250th birthday of one of Austria's great composers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Watercolors' vibrancy seen in the McClelland Gallery

LINCOLN—Missi Paul, a national award winning artist from Lincoln, Neb., is currently displaying transparent watercolors at Union College's McClelland Art Gallery until Oct. 1.

"These are not your grandma's faded watercolors," Paul says of the vibrancy in her paintings.

Unlike ink, pencil or oil painting, once a watercolor has been added it cannot be removed from the painting, and the color seeps into the paper as it wills. "Watercolor is technique first," Paul says. "It has a lot of personality and is hard to control."

"Woman's Work," Pippa White to perform at Union College

LINCOLN—Union College's Multicultural Committee presents, "Woman's Work," a one-woman show performed by professional actress Pippa White, Sept. 19 at 7:00 p.m. The free show will take place on the lower level of the Everett Dick Administration Building, at the center of the Union College campus, 3800 S. 48th St. "Women's Work" is a combination of short monologues that use humor and insight to explore the lives of working women in the past 15 decades.

Union College announces highest enrollment in 23 years

LINCOLN—Opening more sections of freshman courses, finding creative solutions for student housing, having about 100 more students volunteer to serve the community than in previous years: these are the sorts of problems Union College administrators and student leaders rejoice in. Union College's enrollment is the highest it has been since 1983. The total student body grew to 982 with a full-time equivalence of 927.8, up from 930 students and 863.3 FTE last fall. The number of first-time freshmen this year is 194 compared to 177 in fall 2005.

Record-breaking Project Impact celebrates 25 years of community service

"Can we come back sometime and do more?" asked Matthew Johnson, senior chemistry major at Union College while repainting a group home. Questions like Johnson's echoed across the city as over 900 volunteers at more than 50 agencies celebrated the 25th anniversary of Project Impact, Union College's annual community service day. The spirit of volunteerism that has made the event a success since 1981 continues throughout the year. Students who want to do more build upon a legacy of community involvement.

Classes have begun

Lincoln—The stairwells of the Everett Dick Building once again reverberate with the sounds of reunions and students making new acquaintances. More stations are open in Union Market and the lines are a bit longer. Across campus, lost-looking new students get pointed in the right directions. The energy brought by the return of students can be felt everywhere on campus.

At Union College, school is back in session.

Pages

Subscribe to News Archive

Loading...