Building Global Leaders

UMW students spent two weeks in Tanzania as part of a faculty-led study abroad trip.

Christophe Perdu ’14 visits with children at an orphanage in Tanzania.

Meagan Holbrook ’13 (right) poses with Tanzanian villager Mama Anna.

Serengeti National Park

The students took a safari through Serengeti National Park.

Vice President for Student Affairs Doug Searcy (second from right) shows his cell phone to children at the orphanage.

A group of UMW students, staff and alumni experienced life in Tanzania during their two-week trip.

Lindsey McCready (right) learns how to ride a camel.

Masai elders taught UMW students about leadership and community.

Students played with children at an orphanage.


In a small village in Tanzania, Mama Anna teaches local children from a makeshift classroom in her home. She greets everyone in the village by name and always looks for ways to help others, even in the face of her positive HIV diagnosis.

UMW students watch a giraffe during a safari at Serengeti National Park.

UMW students watch a giraffe during a safari at Serengeti National Park.

“As a leader, she is innovative, compassionate and committed,” said Meagan Holbrook, a 2013 graduate of the University of Mary Washington. “Those three traits enable her to do great things in her community and allow others to benefit from her talents.”

Holbrook and eight UMW students traveled to Tanzania in July as part of a faculty-led study abroad program. The 14-day trip, led by Vice President for Student Affairs Doug Searcy, was the culmination of last semester’s “Cultural Leadership in Tanzania” leadership seminar course.

“I think in America sometimes we lose sight of what community means and what family means,” Holbrook said. “In Tanzania, even when people may not have had the time or the resources, they welcomed us into their homes and made us feel like we belonged.”

When students visited an orphanage in Arusha, Tanzania, Christophe Perdu ’14 was instantly struck by the contrast between the disadvantaged surroundings and the smiling, joyful faces of the children. The simplest of activities – kicking a soccer ball, coloring a picture, or learning a new game – seemed to bring joy to their faces, so much so that when the students left, children clung to them.

Hannah Weiner (left) and Christohpe Perdu

Hannah Weiner (left) and Christohpe Perdu

“It’s about being able to forget about material goods and really focus on what does make you happy,” he said. “It’s about enjoying life itself.”

During the trip, the group learned from local families and village elders like Mama Anna, spent a day at a Masai village, met with educational and government leaders, took a three-day safari at the Serengeti National Park and volunteered at a local school, all with the goal of exposing students to new leadership styles and cultural customs.

Despite the language differences – Tanzanians primarily speak Swahili – the students quickly made connections between leadership traits in the East African country and those in the U.S.

“The students soaked up the culture and capitalized on every opportunity to learn,” Searcy said. “In the evenings we would reflect on what we experienced that day, and I was always impressed with the students’ understanding and articulation of the Tanzanian culture and community and how it related to their world view. They engaged at the highest level.”

The students’ journey started more than 18 months ago when Holbrook participated in a semester-long internship through the vice president’s office and expanded a current UMW leadership course to focus on international issues.

UMW students spent two weeks in Tanzania as part of a faculty-led study abroad program.

UMW students spent two weeks in Tanzania as part of a faculty-led study abroad program.

“International education is an excellent tool to help students learn about other perspectives,” Searcy said. “In turn, it helps them to understand how they fit into the world.”

With the support of the College of Business and the Center for International Education, they crafted the class in the fall of 2012 and began to develop the capstone trip to Tanzania.

“I feel extremely fortunate to be able to share in this experience with other students and learn about the country, its culture and leadership,” Holbrook said. “I would never have had this experience at any other school. Mary Washington has allowed me to be innovative and help create part of my own education.  That’s just one more reason I love UMW.”

About Brynn Boyer

Brynn Boyer is assistant director of media and public relations and a 2010 graduate of UMW.


  1. Dear Brynn,

    Our organization, Yantalo Peru Foundation ( ) is a non-profit organization which is developing a health and education program in the Peruvian jungle. To this day, we have been visited by almost 2,000 volunteers among health and medicine professionals and university students from the USA, Canada, Europe, Israel, etc., and we have finished the first section of Yantalo International Clinic, which is going to be the first ecological clinic building in Peru to provide service to the population of the Amazon jungle. Yantalo is a wonderful village full of gently people who also requires support in eco-businesses and SBA, in which I am personally involved.

    Our President, Luis Vasquez M.D., has authorized me to invite universities and similar organizations to work with us, either volunteering or celebrating cooperation agreements to work in the long term. In any case, I would like to have the opportunity to do a personal presentation about our health, business and education programs in Yantalo – Peru with the University of Mary Washington international stakeholders.

    I am currently living in Stafford VA, so it would be a great opportunity for me to collaborate with my beloved communities. Please contact me to your convenience.


    Robinson Vasquez LLM, MBA
    Yantalo Peru Foundation
    Director of International Affairs
    801 427 4675

    • Brynn Boyer says:

      Thank you for your note, Robinson. I have passed along your message to UMW’s Center for International Education.


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