June Highlights

Steve BerryA University of Iowa professor and student journalists launched the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism, an independent nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that publishes investigative and explanatory reports at www.IowaWatch.org. Stephen Berry, a faculty member of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, established IowaWatch with Robert Gutsche Jr., a doctoral student in mass communication.

 

Seven UI alumni from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Iowa Writers' Workshop made New Yorker magazine’s “20 under 40” fiction writers list: Chris Adrian, Daniel Alarcon, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, Joshua Ferris, Yiyun Li, ZZ Packer, and Salvatore Scibona. All but Ferris, an English and philosophy alumnus of the UI, are alumni of the Writers' Workshop. Li also has a degree from the UI Nonfiction Writing Program.

Conservation efforts aimed at protecting endangered Caribbean corals may be overlooking regions where corals are best equipped to evolve in response to global warming and other climatic challenges. That was the central message of an article published in the journal Science by lead author Ann Budd, professor of geoscience in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The University of Iowa College of Pharmacy’s celebration of 125 years kicked off at the Iowa Pharmacy Association Annual Meeting, where the college received a special Certificate of Recognition from the Governor’s Office. The college continued its celebration by hosting a University reception on Sept. 1 at the Kinnick Stadium press box and a 125th Anniversary Homecoming Gala on Oct. 1 at the Sheraton Inn Hotel in downtown Iowa City. A 125th Anniversary seminar series will begin in fall 2011.

Marisa Handler

Our People

MARISA HANDLER
Recent Writers’ Workshop graduate left behind the daily grind to travel the world for six years, telling stories of social and political activism that typically go untold.

Writers’ Workshop graduate Marisa Handler counts herself blessed to have witnessed, a number of times in her life, “history in the making.”

Handler lived in Cape Town, South Africa, until she was 11, when her family emigrated to Los Angeles. She graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a bachelor’s degree in English and interdisciplinary studies, and with hazy dreams for life after college.

After a few years working nonprofit jobs that were not quite satisfying, she wanted to realign her daily life with her values. In the fall of 2001, she found herself boarding a plane for India and Nepal, though she couldn’t exactly explain why.

This was just weeks after September 11, and Handler’s friends and family urged her to cancel her trip. Among those objecting was her mother, who in 1960s Johannesburg had been beaten on the head with a baton and jailed for marching against apartheid.

“I had planned it,” Handler says, “and I wasn’t going to let anything stop me.”

Her determination had something to do with the need for a journey, she recalls. But it also came from a growing awareness that although U.S. foreign policy affects millions of people around the world, very few of those people’s stories make their way into the mainstream American press. She pitched herself and was hired as a freelance stringer for the foreign news service at the San Francisco Chronicle.

Her early pieces for the Chronicle covered longstanding tensions between India and Pakistan, exacerbated by U.S. alliances with Pakistan prior to the war in Afghanistan.

“I don’t think many Americans made the connection between the war in Afghanistan and 2,000 people getting killed in Ahmedabad [India] a few months later,” she says. “I was grateful to be able to write a part of the story that wasn’t being told.”

Handler extended her trip. What began as three months in South Asia became a six-year journey following activist communities across the United States and the globe.

Her travels continued to be guided by stories that otherwise might not have been told. In late 2001 Handler reported from Nepal on the massacre of the royal family—challenging official government reports of the killings. In early 2005, she wrote about a small indigenous community in Ecuador’s remote southern Amazon that has succeeded in protecting ancestral lands from petroleum development. In 2007 she reported from Guatemala on Nonviolent Peaceforce, an international nongovernmental agency that provides human shields for human rights workers in volatile regions.

Handler chronicled her experiences—as both reporter and participant in the global justice movement—in her memoir, Loyal to the Sky: Notes from an Activist, which received a 2008 Nautilus Award for world-changing books. (Other Nautilus winners range from Barbara Kingsolver to the Dalai Lama.)