What does it really mean to be part of a community? There are nearly limitless answers to that question and a myriad of ways to interpret it in the first place. However, at some level, it all comes down to the impact people have on one another. This issue of the magazine is all about people reaching out to one another, the value of those connections and a strong sense of being an integral part of a larger community — whether it’s right around the corner or halfway around the world.
On these pages you’ll find stories that take you from Europe to Africa to Asia and the Middle East — stories of individuals and research that reinforce the importance and value of our interactions with one another. Sherman Folland, economics professor, has spent the last several years examining the potential health benefits of social capital and what he and others like him have found is that the stronger your social connections, the healthier and happier you may be. That’s good news for the many others you’ll find on these pages who have made connections in communities that extend across the street, across nations, oceans and nationalities.
You’ll read about Associate Professor of History Abdi Kusow, who was born and raised in Somalia and has spent much of his career studying the impact African immigrants have on their adopted countries. He recently returned from Italy, where he served as an adviser to an international group hoping to help stabilize his native country. You’ll also read about Brent Lilly, SBA ’95, who served two tours of duty in Iraq and came away with a better understanding of that country and his own; Michael Michalak, CAS ’69, who has spent his career in the Foreign Service and was appointed Ambassador to Vietnam this past year; and John Masson, CAS ’92, who helped bring the human impact of the Iraq war on soldiers and their families to the forefront with his role in the Emmy-winning production, Band of Brothers.
A strong sense of community has been at the core of Oakland’s mission since its founding. These stories embody that ideal. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as we enjoyed writing them.