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Hokie spirit illuminated by acts of service and resilience in Haiti

2020 Distinguished Early Career Alumni Award recipient Mario Calixte.
2020 Distinguished Early Career Alumni Award recipient Mario Calixte.

For alumnus Mario Calixte, there is no denying the staying power of the Hokie Spirit. 

“Virginia Tech makes me a better, a stronger and a more mature person. There is no person I’d rather be than the person I am now,” said Calixte. 

As a dual graduate  (computer science ’10, master’s instructional design and technology ’12), he feels these sentiments very strongly while working in his home country of Haiti. 

He continues to fuse his two degrees working as a consultant at Ecole Supérieure d’Infotronique d’Haïti to develop digital content for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders to be taught using interactive whiteboards.

When he's not doing his day job,  you can find him on the weekends traveling all over Haiti to set up computer labs and teach elementary and high school instructors basic computer and Linux operating system skills. 

More recently, he has to suspend his travel because of political instability, civil unrest, and the unpredictability of the security situation throughout the country. All the while, he has five schools asking for his help on how to use and integrate various educational computer-based applications into their curriculum.

“To say the least, I am living a life of service while I am following my passion. I am able to put my skills to the best possible use,” shared Calixte. Virginia Tech truly represented the sum of all its parts for Calixte. He credits the learning environment, his internship, as well as the community service opportunities and recreational activities, to playing a critical role in his life. 

Calixte receiving his master's degree in instructional design and technology in 2012.
Calixte receiving his master's degree in instructional design and technology in 2012.

“The most gratifying thing about the work I am currently doing is that I am in a position to serve others,” a statement that illuminates the university’s motto Ut Prosim (That I May Serve). “I feel like I am making a real difference in people's lives.” 

In looking toward the future, Calixte says he has a clear picture of what he would like to focus on for his doctorate dissertation after more than five years of work experience. “While many schools and teachers in Haiti have enthusiastically adopted interactive whiteboards, unfortunately, little or no research is available on their impact on student achievement.”

Calixte also works in conjunction with faith-based organizations and other nonprofits that donate computers to the schools where he trains teachers. He is actively working with missionaries to help expand their efforts in Haiti. The missionary effort, led by Denny Baumann, assembles the computers, educational software packages, and remote servers that Calixte uses to set up the computer learning labs. They have since expanded the offerings to Medical Internet in a Box that hosts free content from Medical Aid Films, Global Health Media, and the Hesperian Project. He is also coordinating the translation and recording of Medical Aid Films into Haitian Creole.

While life in Haiti is not easy or the safest place to live, Calixte feels like he belongs there despite the daily challenges he faces. “More than ever, Haiti needs people like me. Haiti cannot afford to lose any more valuable resources, especially human capital.”