Leaders for a Global Society

CLU grads are drawn to world issues
By Marsha Anderson

World Bank photographer Arne Hoel ’81 is often up and out of his hotel before 4 a.m. to capture the best light, traveling to sites by fourwheel-drive vehicle, and finishing work after the sun goes down. Just a typical day in the field—in one of the many African countries where the World Bank has projects.

For Hoel, a Norwegian based in Washington, D.C., showing the positive and human face of development projects in Africa gives him great personal satisfaction.

“We use documentary photography as a communication tool to give development a face, and talk about it in terms of stories that people can relate to,” he says. “I try to document the challenges of issues related to health and education, water, infrastructure, energy and transportation so essential to a strong economy.”

Like Hoel, Kelly Culwell ’95, M.D., is concerned with issues of health and education. Since last September, the California native has made her home in Geneva, Switzerland, with her writer husband and dog. As a medical officer at the World Health Organization headquarters, Culwell works in Reproductive Health and Research. Her office is in a large complex of buildings with sweeping views of the Alps.

A typical day in Geneva starts out with a three-block walk to the bus stop, where Culwell catches a “very efficient” Swiss bus right to WHO headquarters north of town. Her primary job is to conduct a systematic review of medical literature to ensure that WHO recommendations on the use of contraceptives by individuals with other health problems (such as diabetes and AIDS) reflect the latest thinking and research. She also develops low-tech job aids like flip charts that can be used by community health workers in the field.

Meanwhile, Gabriel Laizer ’00 works in Washington, D.C., to eradicate world hunger. While earning a master’s degree in international development at American University, Laizer worked part time at the nonprofit Bread for the World. That “temporary” student job grew into a five-year commitment.

For the past two years, he has worked for Alliance to End Hunger where he spends half his time in advocacy work and another 30 percent doing research. The rest of his time he identifies national and international organizations to approach to join the Alliance.

“We look at the goals and mission of these organizations and find their common threads. We want to bring them to the table with us, [but] we also look for solutions that worked that could be applied to another region or country,” he says. “We think long term. We want permanent solutions to poverty and hunger, not short-term distribution of food.”

Coming Full Circle

“Follow your heart to where your interests lie. If you do that, you will do a job well. And it is never too late to redefine yourself.”
Arne Hoel ’81

As a political science major at CLU, Hoel pursued his interest in photography taking pictures for The Echo and working in the College Relations office. He went on to earn a master’s in political science at UCSB before returning home to Kristiansand, Norway, for a required year of military service and subsequent jobs in Norway’s civil service.

Selected for the Norwegian Foreign Service in 1990, Hoel was posted to Vienna and Riyadh before being assigned to Washington, D.C., where he served as head of the Administration and Consular Department.

He was then hired by the World Bank to coordinate donor support for a regional development program in Africa, the Nile Basin Initiative. In his communication role with donors, Hoel used photos to convey the impact of the projects, and his managers encouraged him to document the programs in pictures as well as words.

“We are trying to build a collection of photos that reflects a modern Africa, a very diverse Africa, not just the Africa you see in the media that often reinforces negative stereotypical perceptions,” Hoel explains. “Every time I come back I feel uplifted and inspired by the people I meet and the many things we take for granted in the U.S.”

When home in the nation’s capital, Hoel spends much of his time editing and captioning the thousands of photos he has taken and in planning his next trip. Gearing up for the next shoot involves extensive preparation – seeking input from people in operations about their projects and how best to capture the issues and convey messages, then developing a detailed script.

By the time he is on location, the busy photographer has a detailed itinerary down to the hour of each meeting. In the past four years, his trips have taken him to 14 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including Senegal where he captured the impact of a water project, Ghana for the 50th anniversary of its independence and Sierra Leone where he documented economic reconstruction and recovery efforts.

Noting that his present career with the World Bank taps many of the same skills he used earlier in his work as a diplomat, Hoel cautions students against defining themselves too narrowly. “Follow your heart to where your interests lie,” he says. “If you do that, you will do a job well. And it is never too late to redefine yourself . . . My job is like play. I never tire of doing it.”

Applying Theater to the Art of Medicine

“First, determine what your passion is. Next, determine what training is needed to follow that passion. And finally, figure out how to make a living doing it. Start with that central question, ‘What is my passion?’ The rest will follow.”
Kelly Culwell ’95

A biology major/communication minor at CLU, Culwell pursued her theater interest with almost as much fervor as her studies, averaging one play a semester during her four years at the University—not bad for a pre-med major!

She went to UC Davis and UC San Diego for her medical training, practiced obstetrics/gynecology for a year, and then completed a Family Planning Fellowship while earning a master’s in public health at Northwestern. Her studies included a six-week externship with WHO that involved working with health care providers and women with HIV in Africa and other countries.

“At CLU I knew I wanted to go to medical school (if I couldn’t be an Oscar-winning actress), but at the time I thought I wanted to be a regular doctor with a medical focus on women,” she says. “Toward the end of my residency, I realized I wanted to focus on family planning. And that has led me to what I am doing now.”

Delivering medical care in the field offers unique challenges, Culwell points out. “Can you say a woman should always have her blood pressure checked before birth control pills are prescribed—if there are no blood pressure (measurement) cuffs? Is this an absolute requirement, or not? These issues become very tricky in low-resource settings.”

The job is more than science, she explains. “It draws a lot on my verbal and written communication skills and my ability to synthesize information—as well as my theatrical ability to present information and teach.”

Culwell believes CLU creates a well-rounded person with the ability to explore a variety of interests without being pigeonholed into one area. “Having that kind of background, that breadth of experience, really helps,” she says.

Her job will soon take Culwell to Hungary to continue work on a study that may involve travel to Turkey, the Dominican Republic, Thailand, Zimbabwe, Brazil and Chile over the next year. Still other work assignments may take her to Zambia and Tanzania.

“I feel very fortunate. We are so lucky to be here. For my career, this is really the chance of a lifetime,” she reflects.

“Some of the best advice I was ever given I received fairly recently,” Culwell continues. “First, determine what your passion is. Next, determine what training is needed to follow that passion. And finally, figure out how to make a living doing it. Start with that central question, ‘What is my passion?’ The rest will follow.”

Finding Ways to Give Back

“CLU was a life-changing experience. It opened my eyes to a career in public service. If you are one who has been given opportunities, how do you give back?”
Gabriel Laizer ’00

Born to Masai parents in Arusha, Tanzania, a city near the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, Laizer grew up speaking Masai as his first language and Swahili as his second. His father worked for the national bank of the country, and Laizer, the second of seven children, attended elementary and middle school in Arusha. At an early age, he became aware of the poverty of many of his classmates.

“We lived comfortably, in a house with running water, electricity, telephone and TV, but two to three blocks away were people who lived in a mud hut with no water,” he says.

Laizer came to the United States for the first time in 1994 at the invitation of an American woman who had been working as a Lutheran missionary at his school. He completed high school—and perfected his English—while living with her family in rainy Pasco, Wash.

Coming to CLU as a freshman in 1997, Laizer decided to major in political science, determined to go into business and make lots of money. But as a junior, he participated in CLU’s Semester in Washington where he worked for Amnesty International.

That semester changed the direction of his career.

“CLU was a life-changing experience. It opened my eyes to a career in public service. If you are one who has been given opportunities, how do you give back?” he asked himself.

For now, his answer lies in Alliance to End Hunger, whose annual agenda alternates between domestic and international issues. The 2008 focus is international, trying to get the President to increase poverty-focused international development by $5 billion. “When you’re in D.C., you start talking about huge spending figures,” he chuckles.

Laizer’s experiences in Washington are preparing him for the future when he hopes to return to Africa and take a leadership role in solving his country’s problems.

“A lot of the issues we’re working on here, from HIV/AIDS to lobbying for educational programs, are ones affecting Tanzania,” he notes.

And when he talks with current CLU students, the former ASCLU president challenges them to think as part of the global community, sign up for the Peace Corps, or become part of another globally focused effort.

“You open up a world outside CLU—yet one so linked to yours,” Laizer says.


Marsha Anderson is Associate Director of Foundation Relations at CLU.

Editor’s note: Hoel’s photos may be seen at www.worldbank.org/ and at his personal photo Web site, www.arnehoel.com. For more information on the World Health Organization, go to www.who.org. For information on the Alliance to End Hunger, visit www.alliancetoendhunger.org

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