January 3, 2008
Providing students opportunities on campus and in Chile
By Alicia LeBlanc
Time passes in the blink of an eye; 20 years can seem like two.
Brian Ruszczyk ’88 was a student assistant for Grace Jarvis, senior lecturer in Spanish, two decades ago, but they kept in touch through the years via e-mail and occasional visits. Meanwhile, Jarvis developed Dickinson’s Málaga, Spain program, and Ruszczyk progressed in his international banking career.
Currently based in Geneva as managing director for Citigroup in charge of investments for Latin American clients in Switzerland, Ruszczyk has lived, worked and studied in Latin America for the last 25 years.
Those Spanish-language skills have been invaluable.
In recent years, the former professor and student talked about H2O Patagonia, the adventure camp and luxury lodge that Ruszczyk began four years ago in the verdant part of Chile he had grown to love during his study-abroad and business travels.
“I spend my professional life in airports and zipping around Latin American cities, and I wanted a go-to place to get away from it all,” he says. “I was looking for something that would keep me outdoors and allow me to share this experience with others. When I studied abroad in Chile [during high school and college], I had rafted the gorgeous Futaleufu River and always wanted to own a farm down in Patagonia.”
“We had talked often about connecting Brian’s two loves, Patagonia and Dickinson,” says Jarvis. “He has done a lot in his life and wanted to do something not just financial to give back.”
Together, Jarvis and Ruszczyk conceived an internship and scholarship program to benefit current Dickinson students. “This program is just another way he is continuing the relationship and creating great networking possibilities worldwide for students,” says Jarvis.
“I believe that my Dickinson education prepared me in so many ways for the international experience and challenges of global business that took me to where I am today,” adds Ruszczyk. “I wanted to get involved with Dickinson again, and I figured what student wouldn’t want to intern down in Patagonia? We got dozens of applicants.”
Kristiane Koontz ’08, along with several other finalists, was nominated by the internship program’s campus selection committee, of which Jarvis is a member, then was interviewed in Spanish and ultimately chosen by Ruszczyk as the program’s first intern in January 2007.
She heard about the internship through Jarvis. “She conducted my interview to attend the study-abroad program in Málaga, Spain, and she thought I would be a strong candidate,” says Koontz.
“It was a perfect combination of my interests,” Koontz continues. “I am an international-studies major with a Latin America focus. I planned to study abroad in Málaga for the fall semester and Brazil in the spring. I love outdoorsy sports, and I hope to work in business administration.”
Now in the midst of her second three-week, winter-break, paid internship at H2O Patagonia, Koontz works on Web and business-to-consumer marketing for the camp.
Along with his support of the annual internship at H2O Patagonia, Ruszczyk pledged $50,000 to fund a restricted annual scholarship for students who demonstrate financial need and interests in Spanish, Latin American studies and study abroad in Latin America, as well as an endowed fund to assist students in pursuing summer internships who wouldn’t otherwise have the financial ability to do so.
His desire to establish an annual scholarship and an internship program comes from being “fortunate enough to have similar grants when I attended Dickinson,” he explains. The first annual scholarship is being awarded this year to a junior majoring in Spanish.
“We value this kind of relationship with alumni and are thrilled that he can offer this to students,” says Rachel Weaver, assistant director of the career center. “When support comes from an alum, it shows that the Dickinson community recognizes the value of a Dickinson education.”
And it’s happening more frequently. “Students have great experiences with these kinds of internships,” says Weaver. “What makes it good is that the alums know what students are capable of and give them important projects.”
In Koontz’s case, she spent two weeks of her internship writing a proposal to National Geographic Adventure Magazine explaining, among other things, the company’s environmental sustainability and corporate responsibility efforts.
“She has been a great asset for my company,” says Ruszczyk, who continued to employ her off site after the first internship ended. “She is joining us for the 2008 season, and my only regret is that she is graduating, and I am going to lose a fantastic resource and person.”
Jarvis, who visited H2O Patagonia during Koontz’s 2007 internship, happily observed Ruszczyk and Koontz working together, and became part of the bond forged between alumnus, current student, professor and alma mater.
“One of the reasons that I came to Dickinson was that I wanted to feel a connection with the professors and the alumni,” says Koontz. “Brian really wants to create a quality experience for students, and I wouldn’t have had such an amazing opportunity if it wasn’t for him.”