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January 21, 2004
These students stand out from the crowd
By Susan Green

Everyone has a story to tell.

Every year, more than 16,800 stories alone make their way to Ohio University, where they join the collective narrative of a University with a proud history and an even brighter future.

It just happens that these two stories are about two Ohio University students who hope to use their interest in international affairs to shape that future.

The following profiles represent the third in an ongoing Ohio in Focus series, "Finding Their Focus."

A world of difference
"Last spring I had a chance to study abroad in Ecuador, which is very rare for a first-year student," says Clarissa Kornell, an articulate second-year Honors Tutorial College student from Akron, Ohio. "It was a life-changing experience. I don't know if I would have had that opportunity at another school." She plans on returning to Ecuador this summer.

Kornell's interest in Latin America began with a trip to Bolivia the summer after she graduated from high school. But she credits her political leanings to an upbringing that emphasized global political awareness.

That first trip to Latin America was with Amigos de las Americas, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization, which "creates opportunities for young people to excel in leadership roles promoting public health, education and community development." The experience fueled Kornell's interest in development, developing countries and how the United States relates to those countries.

"I went to Bolivia and my project was promoting community leadership," Kornell says. "We talked about the meaning of community development and the best ways for a community to develop.

"It was my first experience in a developing country. I lived in a town of about 150 people with no running water or electricity. There were only three cars in our town and they belonged to the taxi drivers."

Kornell says she loved her time in Bolivia, but admits it was strange at first. It seemed like a different world. "Once you get used to it," she says, "you realize it's the same world, not better, not worse, just different."

Her experience at Ohio University is different, too. She's a community leader in Read Hall, a dormitory dedicated to creating a living and learning environment.

"My job as a community leader is to create programming," Kornell says. "For example, I invited one of my professors who's from Chile to talk about the 1973 overthrow of Marxist President Salvatore Allende but the conversation turned into a discussion about Sept. 11 in the United States." She also invited a professor from Germany who specializes in foreign policy and German-U.S. relations for an informal conversation with hall residents.

But it's not all academics and no play. Kornell's quick to point out some of the fun activities, like a birthday party for Read Hall, bike rides, movie nights and Latin dancing at Casa Nueva.

"There's about a million-and-one things to do here," she says. "So find something that interests you and go for it."

Diplomatic affairs
Curt Ciesinski has thing for international crime. But it's not what you think.

The criminology and international studies senior from Celina, Ohio, plans to blend his interest in crime investigation and other cultures into a career with the U.S. State Department.

"I'm fascinated with other cultures and I love to travel," he says. "I've always been interested in government work, initially the CIA or FBI, but now I'm leaning toward diplomatic affairs."

During his four years at Ohio University, Ciesinski completed the LeaderShape Institute, a program designed to help students to learn to "lead with integrity." He's also worked to create a Unity and Diversity student task force to increase minority and international student retention.

Ciesinski, who is nearly fluent in French, also gets by in Italian and Spanish. This summer, he'll put his multi-lingual skills to good use during an internship with the State Department in the Bureau of European Affairs. Working at the American embassy in Paris, Ciesinski will help Americans abroad resolve problems, aid tourists with passport and visa problems, report deaths and births and work with the American ambassador.

Good training for an ambassador in the making.

Susan Green is a writer for University Communications and Marketing. Joseph Hughes, a writer for University Communications and Marketing, contributed to the second profile


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