Becca Winkler ’16 launched “Walking Elephants Home,” a project that provides a new model of tourism, and has been nominated for a European Outdoor Conversation Association grant.
“Walking Elephants Home,” a Mahouts Elephant Foundation (MEF) project launched and run by Becca Winkler ’16, has been nominated for the European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA) grant—and voting is open until March 23.
“From many conversations with elephant owners struggling to make ends meet and who were unhappy with the conditions their elephants live in at elephant camps, I could see that we needed a new model,” Winkler said. “The forests of Thailand have been home to the Asian elephant for thousands of years; it is their birthright. ‘Walking Elephants Home’ is on a mission to to prove that tourists should do the work to see elephants in their habitat, rather than removing the elephants and forcing them to live in a tourist camp for our benefit.”
Winkler, a Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies major who first began working with elephants in Thailand as an undergrad, wrote her thesis on “Walking with Giants: Eco-feminist Insights on Elephant Tourism in Thailand.” She received a Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship grant in 2016 that helped her launch and run “Walking Elephants Home” through the MEF, a nonprofit that supports elephants and their mahouts (owners) in Thailand. Collaborating with indigenous people, the MEF offers a successful business model with ethical tourism alternatives to those who free their elephants. Their goal is to not only improve the elephants’ well-being by returning them to their natural habitat but also enhances biodiversity and prevents further deforestation.
Becca Winkler ’16 and her team at Mahouts Elephant Foundation (MEF), previously nominated and named a finalist in the European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA) grant for their project “Walking Elephants Home,” have been named the winners of the 2017 EOCA grant.
Though there is much work to do in order to fulfill the requirements of the grant, this grant will play a major role in allowing the team to support not only the elephants and mahouts, but also the surrounding forest and the communities in which they are working.
The previous story on Winkler and her project can be found here.
Members of the team behind TRAP House, one of the three social ventures awarded a seed grant, presented their pitch before members of the Board of Trustees, Patricelli Center Advisory Board and others. Presenting (from left to right) are Irvine Peck’s-Agaya ’18, Gabe Weinreb ’18, Bashaun Brown and Sara Eismont ’18.
Three social ventures started by Wesleyan students were recently awarded $5,000 seed grants in the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship’s annual Seed Grant Challenge. They are Kindergarten Kickstart, TRAP House and Walking Elephants Home.
The last weekend in February, all six finalists for the seed grants presented pitches for their ventures before the Board of Trustees, Patricelli Center Advisory Board and Seed Grant judges, as well as representatives of CT Innovations and the State of Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, fellow students, and others. The event was also livestreamed. One of the other finalists, <Zim/Code>, chose to withdraw from the Seed Grant competition before selections were made, after the project received $10,000 from another funder.
The remaining finalists, Give Education and Pertiwi Initiative, were awarded smaller runner-up grants funded by members of the Board of Trustees who attended the pitches and believed all six teams were worthy of validation.
“This was the third year that we awarded seed grants in a pitch competition format,” said Makaela Kingsley, director of the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship. “I am always blown away by the finalists, and this year was no exception. From Becca Winkler’s thorough understanding of the environmental and cultural conditions in northern Thailand to Irvine Peck’s-Agaya’s deep personal commitment to her economic development work, every person who took that stage captured the audience’s attention and garnered their support. More than launching ventures, this process helps students develop creative competence and confidence that will make them effective changemakers and capable leaders. I believe it’s a critical piece of a Wesleyan education.”
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At left, Brenna Diggins ’17 and Jess Cherenza ’15 were named academic all-NESCAC during the winter 2014-15 season. Eighty-nine Wesleyan students earned this distinction.
When the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) announced the names this month of 939 athletes among its conference member schools who earned the distinction of academic all-NESCAC during the winter 2014-15 season, Wesleyan celebrated its largest pool ever in winter with 89 student-athletes. These student-athletes, sophomores and above, meet the criteria of being significant contributors to their teams while achieving a cumulative GPA of 3.35 or higher.
The student-athletes play in the following winter sports: men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s ice hockey, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, men’s and women’s squash, men’s and women’s indoor track and wrestling.
Some highlights from this season’s group of honorees include:
Jordan Schildhaus ’15
- Women’s ice hockey standout Jordan Schildhaus ’15, who received academic all-NESCAC laurels in each of her three eligible seasons. She led the Cardinals in scoring during 2014-15 with 23 scoring points and was named first-team all-NESCAC. She was a second-team all-NESCAC pick in both 2013-14 and 2012-13 after being named NESCAC Rookie of the Year in 2011-12.
- Five athletes who had the pleasure of competing in NCAA Championship events, including:
- Wrestler Ryan Sblendorio ’15, who placed third at 174 pounds during the Northeast Regional Championships to earn a spot at the NCAA Division III Championships where he went 1-2, winning one match with a first-period pin.
- Ellie Martin ’16, who qualified for the NCAA Division III Women’s Indoor Track Championships in the 400-meter race and placed ninth nationally, a mere .03 seconds shy of All-America status as a top-eight finisher.
- Three members of the men’s basketball team–Tim Gallivan ’15, Chris Tugman ’15 and Harry Rafferty ’17—as Wesleyan won the NESCAC men’s basketball tournament title with wins over Bates, Trinity and Amherst to receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Championships. The Cardinals lost their opening-round contest to Skidmore.
Ryan Sblendorio ’15
Since sophomores became eligible for the award during the 2010-11 year, Wesleyan’s previous record for academic all-NESCAC distinctions was 87 individuals in the 2012-13 season. The best results overall came in spring 2013, when 94 student-athletes were recognized.
For the complete list of all winter academic all-NESCAC selections, click here or see below:
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