Study abroad: is it still a life changing experience?

My late husband Ben Brown, a graduate of Baylor University, the University of Colorado in Boulder, and Harvard University, used to say that he had learned a lot from the faculty of those institutions and had enjoyed his time in the classroom and at fraternity parties. But when we discussed and compared life-changing experiences Ben remembered his first trip to Europe with an American fellow student who had grown up in France and Belgium. He remembered his year as a Fulbright Fellow in Italy.

Most of all Ben remembered a summer’s worth of train travel through India and his return to the West by way of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Lebanon.  He and his travel companion, also a Harvard graduate student, told many tales of traveling with the locals, buying food from street vendors, bartering clothes for lodging when running out of travelers checks …. The remarkable thing is that they never worried about personal safety. They had enough street smarts to avoid pickpockets and crooked merchants; they did not worry about street crime or politically motivated arrests.  Especially in Moslem areas they were moved, and sometime embarrassed, when very poor people offered them food, water, and shelter.

In the 1990s Ben established a scholarship program to provide Colorado University students with opportunities for similar life-changing experiences. One recipient worked with a clinic for AIDS patients in South Africa, another studied mining law in Argentina, a married graduate student couple did part of their medical school training in Andean villages.

Those life-changing experiences are hard, perhaps impossible, to replicate. At most universities, “study abroad” means very short stays in a few places deemed safe — mostly the capitals of Western European countries. Not enough time to become fluent in a foreign language, interact with local people, learn to think in new ways, test one’s resourcefulness.

Unfortunately, those of us who went to college in the 1950s and 1960s managed to shape a world that is highly connected by technologies and economic ventures yet very disconnected in other ways. We have given the younger generations the tools and even the financial means for exploring the world.  However, by accepting a world in a permanent state of war and awash in powerful weapons we are depriving them of learning opportunities that cannot be duplicated in classrooms, libraries, or labs.



The refugee crisis, the EU and …?

Another Washington Post editorial, another indictment of Europe/the EU for not saving lives in the Mediterranean, for closing borders, for failing to integrate asylum seekers and economic migrants. The list goes on. No doubt about it: major European countries were complicit in the political and military interventions by the United States that have turned a fragile and complicated region of the world into a colossal disaster.

It is easier to point fingers at the failings of others than to take responsibility for reversing the disaster. In 2014-2015 EU countries, led by the German Federal Republic, received about 1.5 million refugees, many of them from Syria, but also from Afghanistan and Iraq.  Small and impoverished countries like Lebanon and Jordan hosted, if that’s an appropriate word, millions more in crowded city slums or makeshift camps.

Meanwhile in the U.S. only one prominent politician, Donald Trump of all people, has acknowledged publicly that the regional disaster started with the American invasion of Iraq. Afghans and Iraqis who collaborated with the invaders and thus have become outcasts in their own countries are waiting for their American visas. Others, along with half the population of Syria, look to the EU because they have nowhere else to turn.



Today, Palm Sunday 2016, is a good day for prayerful reflection on my journey as a member of the universal Church and of a particular church community, St. John’s Norwood Episcopal Church in Chevy Chase MD, USA.
I will write about my journey. For today, as we enter Holy Week in the Christian calendar, I will only say that I am deeply grateful to my late father, who made sure I went to Sunday School, and to church leaders who knew the difference between the fundamentals of the Christian faith and the cultural and political preferences of particular human tribes.

March 28

This week fellow parishioners at St. John’s Norwood and others left for a Holy Land pilgrimage. It will be interesting to hear about their experiences. When I returned from a similar journey a couple of years ago, several friends, and especially close Jewish friends, wanted to hear my impressions and learnings. Having spent time in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and the West Bank, I answered that I had visited at least three different “countries” in less than two weeks.

In Tel Aviv I spent time with peers — senior women leaders in higher education and business. We talked, we met over coffee or dinner at hip spots, we walked on the beach. Sort of like being in Southern California or Arizona, but with a much more global flavor.

In Jerusalem (where we happened to be close to Easter) I saw a city that could be — should be — the Holy City of the Abrahamic faiths but instead is morphing into the de facto political capital of the strongest regional tribe.

On the West Bank I saw townships (why do we call them “settlements”?) that might easily fit in American or European landscapes. They exist side by side with indigenous communities that are dying because young people who can leave do and those who cannot leave face unemployment, loss of homes and land, and incarceration. Since the 1980s I have traveled in underdeveloped countries, I have seen the many faces of poverty, often accompanied by lack of political freedom and unchecked violations of human rights.  The West Bank is a place like no other I have seen.

April 10

I have known for some time that, like most of my relatives, colleagues and friends, I live in a very small world. Even so, I was not prepared for the way my connections with my church intersected with my connections with my physical and political home … the Village. While researching Village history ca. 1986-2016 I stumbled upon an event, an episode really, that shed light on cover-up behavior by the Episcopal leadership. Like the well publicized and more extreme behavior by the Roman Catholic hierarchy at the turn of the 21st century, the cover-up involved molestation of a minor visiting the National Cathedral by a person in position of prestige and influence at the church.

In January-February 2001, the Washington Post and the now defunct newspapers in Montgomery County, Maryland, reported on the matter and disclosed the identity of the alleged child molester,  a prominent lay leader at the church and the long-time Mayor of Friendship Heights Village. Some of Washington’s best known and expensive lawyers worked on a plea bargain for the defendant, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor.  An out- of-court settlement mandated counseling, a probationary period, and compensatory damages to the plaintiff’s family.

The Episcopal leadership must have had many sleepless nights.  This incident occurred when the Anglican Communion  worldwide was in the throes of wrenching debates and schisms over the ordination of gay clergy and the blessing of same-sex unions. The last thing the National Cathedral leadership needed at that time was publicity about sexual misconduct — in the public restrooms of the Cathedral — by a  high-profile parishioner. Cathedral leaders did not address the issue, but it is reasonable to assume that they were also aware of the alleged offender’s high profile in the Washington gay community.

The consequences of the cover-up? The convicted offender was removed from the roster of lay leaders at the Cathedral.  He lost the confidence of many friends and colleagues in the gay community.  He lost the license to practice his profession. Yet within his political community he was able to deny or minimize both the incident and his conviction. He did not run for office again, but continued to “manage” Council elections behind the scenes and to promote candidates who did not question his narrative of consistently stellar achievements.  Fifteen years later, he is still at it.






Clara M. Lovett
Clara M. Lovett

Born in Trieste, Italy, Dr. Lovett received her undergraduate education at the University of Trieste and Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. She came to the United States in 1962, earning her master’s and doctoral degrees in history at the University of Texas, Austin.grand_canal_veniceAs a faculty member at Baruch College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, Dr. Lovett made her mark as a teacher and scholar in the field of Modern European History. Her doctoral dissertation and two monographs that followed won scholarly awards. The National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and the Research Foundation of the City University of New York supported her research.

So America

During her years in the Washington, D.C. area, Dr. Lovett held national leadership roles as chief of the European Division of the Library of Congress, dean of arts and sciences at The George Washington University, and provost at George Mason University. She lectured at the Foreign Service Institute of the Department of State, wrote for The Chronicle of Higher Education and Change magazine, and participated in national projects for higher education reform.

In 1989, she was on Washingtonian magazine’s list of most influential women in Washington; in 1992, the Virginia Federation of Business and Professional Women named her Educator of the Year; in 2005 she was honored by the American College Personnel Association for lifetime contributions to higher education. In 2011, Dr. Lovett was among 12 women from around the world to be named “Women Who Make a Difference” by the International Women’s Forum, an organization of senior women leaders with chapters in the U.S. and 25 other countries.arizona

In October 1993, Dr. Lovett was named president of Northern Arizona University. During her tenure, the University became the leader in Arizona in partnerships with community colleges and in distance learning. Targeted program initiatives, especially in the environmental sciences, attracted world-class senior faculty, produced a threefold increase in sponsored research, and allowed the University to launch a successful $100 million fund-raising campaign.

Following her retirement from the NAU presidency, Dr. Lovett became president of the American Association for Higher Education. In that role, she advocated for expanded access to higher education, diversity in curriculum and staffing, and effective use of technology in instruction and institutional operations.

claramlovettAs a national thought leader, Dr. Lovett frequently gives lectures and writes about issues in higher education. Her articles have appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education and InsideHigher Ed. She also serves on the editorial advisory board for  the monthly Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning.

Since her days in the Washington, D.C. area, Dr. Lovett has advised and worked with appointed and elected officials on issues of higher education policy. In the 1990’s, she collaborated with several governors of western states on the creation of Western Governors’ University, one of the first online universities in the world and, to date, the only American accredited university that awards baccalaureate and master’s degrees based on demonstration of competency rather than accumulation of credit hours. Since 2005 Dr. Lovett has assisted colleagues at the City University of New York with several projects, including senior executive searches.

Phoenix Sunset

Dr. Lovett has served as Founding Trustee of Western Governors University,  as Trustee of Thunderbird, The School of Global Management,  and as Scholar-in-Residence at the American Council of Trustees and Alumni.

During her years in Flagstaff and Phoenix, Arizona, she served as vice chair of the B&L Charitable Foundation, established by her late husband, Benjamin F. Brown IV, to support social service and arts organizations, among them the Phoenix Symphony, the Scottsdale Center for the Arts, and AWEE [Arizona Women’s Education & Employment, Inc.]. Dr. Lovett also assisted the Hopi Indian Tribe to establish the Hopi Education Endowment Fund; in 2020 she was elected again to the Fund’s Board of Directors. She also served on the Board of Arizona Blue Cross Blue Shield, Inc.

Dr. Lovett continues her support of the arts as a member of the National Advisory Board, the Investment Committee,  and the Director’s Circle of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, where she established the Clara M. Lovett Fund for Emerging Artists.

In 2013 she established the Brown Faculty Fellowship at Baylor University, alma mater of her late husband and many of his forebears. She serves on the Pension & Benefits Committee of the Cosmos Club of Washington D.C. She was nominated for membership in the fall 1988, among the first women to be admitted when the Club ended its males-only tradition.

A resident of Friendship Heights Village, Dr. Lovett is a parishioner at St. John’s Norwood Episcopal Church in Chevy Chase MD.  In 2021 she was elected to represent her congregation at the Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington DC, having served previously on the Vestry of St. David’s Episcopal Church in Washington DC and on the Chapter of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Phoenix AZ.

In 2014-2017 she served on the elected Council of F. H. Village. In 2018 she was elected to the Board of Directors of the Montgomery County (MD) Parks Foundation. In 2021 she was elected to the Board of Directors of her condominium building, The Carleton of Chevy Chase MD.