When you ask the students of Rowan College at Gloucester County’s (RCGC) Japanese Anime Guild (JAG) for their most impressive collegiate accomplishment, they have a very non-traditional answer – their accomplishment is enabling the rescue of a North Korean woman and her young son from one of the world’s most oppressive political regimes.
JAG is an on-campus club started to provide a fun and friendly atmosphere for students to socialize, learn more about Japanese culture and enjoy the latest in Japanese entertainment. While many RCGC clubs place an emphasis on community service, JAG is particularly charity-focused. They have supported a number of international, national and local charitable organizations from their inception, with the intention of helping others not only within their own community, but around the world. So when Associate Professor of biology and club advisor Dr. Susan Glenn first heard about Liberty in North Korea (LiNK), she knew the organization was something that the students of JAG could really get excited about.
“I had read the book Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea which inspired me to start looking for ways to get involved,” said Dr. Glenn. “LiNK was running a program to inform people about the hardships in North Korea, in addition to operating an “underground railroad” of sorts to help people escape the regime. We invited LiNK to our campus to speak about their work. The students of JAG came away from that presentation determined to do something to help.”
LiNK is a grassroots initiative started by Yale University students dedicated to shifting attention away from the embroiled politics of North Korea and on to the struggle of its citizens. The organization employs individuals who are responsible for fact-finding missions, developing underground shelters, coordinating the resettlement of refugees and outreach efforts. They maintain a network of escape routes through China and Southeast Asia to smuggle refugees to safety and freedom in South Korea, but their commitment to North Korean refugees doesn’t end there. LiNK not only sets refugees up with housing, food and clothing, but also works to integrate refugees into their new community by assisting with higher education applications, job placement, understanding the medical and banking systems and providing financial assistance and translations services. Since the non-profit started executing rescues in 2010, they have brought 618 people to safety, with 100 percent of funds raised going to support those rescues.
“Liberty in North Korea believes that the North Korean people will achieve their liberty in our lifetime,” explains Sarah Palmer, Rescue Teams Manager with LiNK. “The bulk of our efforts are dedicated to rescuing refugees. We work with partners in China to help them make the 3,000 mile rescue journey to freedom and get them started in their new life.”
LiNK depends on the funds raised by student, religious and community groups all over the world. When JAG discovered that it took a total of $3,000 to fund a full rescue mission, they were convinced that was a goal they could meet. The club is best-known for Kotoricon – an annual anime convention used to raise money for a variety of charities. Through Kotoricon and other fundraisers, JAG was able to raise the funds necessary for LiNK to rescue “Yoo Sun” (a pseudonym used to protect her anonymity) and her 10 year old son and see them resettled into a life of freedom and safety in South Korea.
“When I know the money goes to something worthwhile, it makes me want to put more work into it,” said RCGC student and KotoriCon volunteer Kaitlyn Smith. KotoriCon co-chair and RCGC alumnus Edward Knorr agrees. “We send money to charities that I personally believe in, like LiNK, freeing people from North Korea and sending them to somewhere that isn’t a terrible place.”
“When we finally received the letter notifying us that “Yoo Sun’s” rescue and resettlement was a success, it was such a big day,” remarked Dr. Glenn. “I was so proud of the students. To know that they had impacted her life and the life of her son so deeply was the best possible reward for all of their hard work.”
To learn more about the Japanese Anime Guild and RCGC’s many other student clubs, visit RCGC.edu/StudentLife. To find out more about KotoriCon, visit RCGC.edu/Kotoricon or view a brief video on the February 2017 episode of RCGC Today at RCGC.edu/Today.
Formula for Success: Local STEM Students Earn International Recognition
Six Rowan College at Gloucester County (RCGC) STEM students stood in front of administration, faculty, staff and fellow members of the Math Club to receive certificates citing them for their outstanding performance in the 33rd Annual International Mathematics Contest in Modeling (MCM).
This is RCGC’s second time entering students into MCM, a contest which gives teams comprised of three students four days to solve a complex, real-world issue with mathematics. MCM is an online competition, so each team is able to compete from their own school. When instructor and Math Club advisor Jennifer Hoxworth and her co-advisor and brother, adjunct instructor Ryan Hoxworth, starting looking into the challenge, they knew it would be too good for their Math Club students to pass up.
“We wanted to give our students an opportunity to use their skills outside the classroom and to represent their college internationally in a math competition,” explained Jennifer Hoxworth.
During the past year, in addition to the movie nights, fundraisers and Club Days most RCGC clubs engage in, members of the Math Club have participated in the Garden State Math Competition at The College of New Jersey, The Garden State Student Poster Session and visited the Museum of Math in NYC. The Hoxworth siblings thought that MCM would be the perfect addition to the club’s growing roster of accomplishments and were excited to find six students who couldn’t agree more.
“Leading up to the competition, Jen and I worked on providing the students with problems similar to what could be offered as part of MCM and helping them mentally prepare for the rigor of a four-day competition,” said Ryan Hoxworth. “But once the competition started, each team worked entirely on their own to develop their solution.”
RCGC’s Math Club entered two teams into MCM. The first team was made up of Michael Koppel, Evan Scott and Scott Wood. The second team included Dillon Murray, Ryan Palaganas and Andrew Tomlinson. All participating teams were given the opportunity to select from three problems to solve. These problems were not revealed until the competition began. Koppel, Scott and Wood decided to work on Problem C – developing a solution to integrate self-driving cars into high-traffic areas to increase the capacity of highways without increasing the number of lanes or roads. Murray, Palaganas and Tomlinson chose to work on Problem B – developing a solution to highway congestion caused by vehicles existing tollbooths.
“I was excited to participate in MCM, because I was told the questions are really challenging and thought-provoking, which turned out to be true” said Koppel. “We ultimately choose to work on Problem C because it dealt with self-driving cars, a relatively new technology.”
“This competition taught us so much,” remarked Wood. “We saw first-hand just how important research and creativity are when faced with a challenging problem.”
Both teams worked on their solutions for four days on RCGC’s campus before submitting their final solution. The team comprised of Koppel, Scott and Wood earned “Honorable Mention,” with only 17 U.S. teams placing above them. Their 22-page solution beat out teams from Virginia Tech, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Delaware. The team comprised of Murray, Palaganas and Tomlinson earned “Successful Participants.”
“It is a tremendous honor for our students to perform so successfully in the International Mathematical Contest in Modeling,” said Dr. Brenden Rickards, dean of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). “While I am not surprised at our students’ success, I am extremely proud of the dedication and the work that it took to perform so well against this level of competition. Their success further illustrates the outstanding students and dedicated faculty and staff, including their project advisors Jennifer Hoxworth and Ryan Hoxworth, which we have at Rowan College at Gloucester County.”
Rickard’s comments about the level of competition involved in MCM are not to be taken lightly. A total of 8,843 teams from institutions around the globe participated in the competition this year – 311 of them from the United States.
“MCM drew me in because it’s a world-wide competition,” said Tomlinson. “I was interested to know how I would fare against some of the best students across the globe.”
“The competition was an experience in controlled insanity,” Murray added.” There was a lot of Google-searching and we filled up three white boards with math and drawings. Obviously, we worked really hard on the math element, but there was a lot of research, as well.”
The students were visibly enthused by the results of their hard work, and eager to offer advice to the next team of students to enter MCM.
“It’s really important to pool your strengths,” remarked Palaganas. “Never disregard an idea – you get the best results when you’re open to what everyone has to say.”
“Don’t be afraid to push your boundaries,” added Scott. “Bring as much research and as many points-of-view to this as you can – without a united, team effort a competition like this just isn’t possible.”
Categories: Public 2-Year Schools