MAIS Student Spotlight: Brian Andersen in DC

Some crazy facts:

  • It requires registering less information to start a company in the US than to get a library card
  • Approximately 1 trillion dollars are funneled out of the developing world, primarily through shell companies that are not registered to any specific person.
  • Millions of people around the world don’t have access to life-saving vaccines that allow them to reach their full potential.

One of my favorite quotes sums up much of my outlook on life, “Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul.” (Abbey, 1990) Edward Abbey wrote this a year after I was born in the book A Voice Crying in the Wilderness, working to draw a line and establish a limit on the exploitation of the world. This last week I had the privilege of being able to put into action the sentiment that deep engagement with understanding the roots of the inequalities that shape our world causes. Through a connection with a professor, I was able to volunteer with the ONE campaign, which is a global movement that works to inspire action to pressure governments to respond to extreme poverty. To put action behind the sentiment, which results from conversations regarding the global inequality and environmental crisis that we confront which we engage in through MAIS program.  

We were advocating for two measures, the Illicit Cash Act, which seeks to require all companies to register who will receive the benefit of the actions that the company takes. The scandal of the Panama Papers, in which a complicated web of more than 214,000 shell companies were investigated reveals the need to take such action. To give a glimpse of the impact, according to The Namibian, a gentleman Benny Steimentz owes more than $700,000 to the city of Koidu in Sierra Leon; he is worth more than 6 billion dollars. (Khadija Sharife; Silas Gbandia (April 26, 2016). “Sierra Leone’s flawed diamond trade.”). The allowance of privacy for shuffling this money around has allowed for, human trafficking, funneling of money into violent entities, drug schemes, and a slew of illicit activity. This scandal went a long way to illuminating some of the ‘how’ corruption takes place and the role countries such as the US and Switzerland who maintain the highest extent of privacy globally play in this. Although the Illicit Cash Act does not purport to be a silver bullet for solving the problem of corruption, it moves the needle in the role that this country plays in those schemes to a more honest position.  

The other initiative that the 160 volunteers who gathered to meet in Washington, DC, gathered to discuss with our representatives was the GAVI alliance. This is an initiative that seeks to address a market failure in which the world’s poorest countries don’t have the financial resources to individually buy vaccinations for their populations. The alliance pools these countries together and through global cooperation in which the US is the third-largest contributor the program’ lumps’ these countries together, which drives the price of producing the vaccines down and provides the resources to pay for these vaccines.  This program which began in 2000 has vaccinated 700 million children (WHO/ UNICEF 2019). According to the modeling, this has saved 13 million lives. We were advocating for the continuation of funding this initiative of providing a shot of opportunity.

It was an incredible experience to hold meetings in the halls of Congress, and being that our representative at USF is Nancy Pelosi to hold a meeting at the top of the Capitol building was an experience I will never forget. The California team met with Senatorial staffers from the offices of Kamala Harris and Diane Feinstein, and I was lucky enough to lead the meeting with the office of Nancy Pelosi being the constituent of that office. Although our democracy may be flawed in many ways, the willingness of our leaders to hold meetings with the public is a somewhat unique part of our democracy that is worth celebrating.

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International Studies Spring 2020 Keynote “The Rights of Nature: Global Perspectives on a Growing Legal Movement”

On Thursday, February 13th, The International Studies Department hosted the Spring 2020 Keynote Panel on Recognizing the Rights of Nature: Global Perspectives on a Growing Legal Movement.
Our panelists work globally and locally, laying the groundwork for a global moevment to recongnize and establish the rights of nature through law, advocacy, and community engagement.

Gabriela Eslava Bejarano, MPA-DP candidate at Columbia University and Red Cross Consultant, Colombia
Christopher Finlayson, QC, barrister at Bankside Chambers, former member of parliament, Attorney-General, and Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, New Zealand
Mari Margil, executive director of the Center for Democratic and Environmental Rights, Ecuador and Washington, and
Geneva E. B. Thompson, Associate General Counsel at the Yurok Tribe Office of the Tribal Attorney, California.

Stuart Blackwell’s MAIS Story

08.15.19-OMC10557-International-Studies-Stuart-Blackwell-05So there I was, sitting at my desk in April of 2015 pretending to look into graduate programs for Human Resources. To say that I was filled with a certain sense of dread about my prospective future would be an understatement. To be honest, I had spent very little time looking into HR programs and instead found myself browsing numerous Global Affairs and International Studies programs at several colleges around the country. I was not overly thrilled about the idea of continuing a career in HR, working a 9-5 desk job, and having to do that for the next 40 years with the hope of retiring by 65 and finally enjoying something resembling a life. I knew that I had to make a change or else I would be stuck sitting at that desk for years wondering what I could have done with my life. Over the next few weeks I came up with a five-year plan to alter my course and decided that I would volunteer with AmeriCorps in order to gain enough experience to join the Peace Corps so that I would have some practical experience and a stronger background before going to graduate school.

After completing my Peace Corps service in November of 2018, I had narrowed my graduate school options to New York University, Georgetown University, and the University of San Francisco. Since I was unemployed and finally back in the United States, I decided to visit each of these universities in order to make a more informed decision. Of my three options, USF was the only school that seemed to be perfectly tailored to what I was looking for in a graduate program: the curriculum was completely in line with what I wanted to study, the faculty consisted of a diverse group of highly skilled and intelligent professors, and the size and diversity of my potential cohort was precisely what I was looking for. After meeting with Christie Meno and Brian Dowd-Uribe on a beautiful day in March of 2019 I was completely sold. I knew that this was where I would spend the next two years of my life studying and learning before entering into the next phase of my life, whatever that may be. Where I go after completing the MAIS program remains uncertain for the moment, but I am confident that the skills and knowledge that I gain from this experience will both shape me and allow me to flourish in whatever path I go down next.

Glen Salazar’s MAIS Story

I chose MAIS because of the golden opportunities it gives. The University of San Francisco’s location in the heart of the most high-tech cosmopolitan city in the world, makes me feel I am at the epicenter of where the future is being made. The connections it gave me to the brilliant professors who are passionate about their areas of expertise ranging from anthropology to sociology, and journalism to legal studies, has broadened my intellectual horizons. My peers that hail from Norway to Mozambique and Greece to India have shared with me their ontological knowledge and helped me to see the world through a different perspective.

The MAIS program has amplified my sparks of curiosity about the world and transformed me into a more illuminated global citizen through the stellar education it gives. Last year I went through adversity almost going blind due to a genetic disease, but thanks to my faith, the support from my professors, and the administrative staff, I was able to persevere. My master’s thesis focuses on the confluence of artificial intelligence and populism in Brazil, in particular the central role these forces played in President Jair Bolsonaro’s 2018 electoral victory.

Faculty Engagement Around the World: Summer 2019

The summer is a time when our International Studies faculty are able to focus on their research and work with communities across the globe. This real-world engagement by the IS faculty is one of the strengths of the programs in International Studies at the University of San Francisco. These experiences of our faculty inform their teaching, develop networks that can help students with internships and research abroad, and create a dynamic environment for learning. Below several IS faculty share with us how they spent their time this past summer.


Professor Lindsay Gifford worked on a paper and book chapter currently titled “The Fluid Dynamics of Asylum: Middle Eastern Refugee Reception in Finland” for a conference and upcoming volume from Yale University. She also finished another book chapter entitled “Homeland (Dis-)Engagement Processes among the New Syrian Diaspora”, which is part of an edited volume compiled by James Gelvin (UCLA) and submitted to Stanford University Press. As an expert on migration from the Middle East, Professor Gifford also provides pro bono assistance to Syrian and Iraqi refugees as an expert witness in asylum cases. In addition to her own work, Professor Gifford supervised her MAIS students conducting their Capstone research over the summer, including: research on Mexico’s new asylum regime (Melissa Balliet); a study of Somali youth identity in the U.S. (Mohamed Hajji-Mohamed); and an examination of the #MeToo movement in Norway (Lise Sletner). While her work kept her very busy, Professor Gifford also found time to visit family in Guatemala where she participated in a wedding, visited her family gravesite, and caught up with her colleague Prof. Rachel Hall-Clifford (Agnes Scott) who directs the anthropology field school in Antigua Guatemala.

Lindsay 2019


Professor Jeffrey Paller spent June participating in a workshop on quantifying cities for sustainable development in Bristol, UK. Following the workshop he spent several weeks in Ghana and Nigeria conducting research on the contentious politics of urbanization  and presenting his work at the Lagos Studies Association conference.

JP2 2019JP photo 2019jp3 2019

He also launched his new book entitled Democracy in Ghana: Everyday Politics in Urban Africa (Cambridge University Press 2019) at the Center for Democratic Development in Accra, Ghana.


Professor Quỳnh N. Phạm went to Việt Nam this summer to continue her research on several of ongoing projects. One area of research explores the relationship between art and subaltern politics. pham-quynh-02This exploration includes her collaborative work with art researcher and curator Ms. Linh Tường Đỗ, which led to the publication of their article “A Conversation on Art, Epistemic Violence, and Refusal” in the International Feminist Journal of Politics in June. Additionally, Professor Phạm conducted research in the National Archives and libraries, as well as through conversations with scholars and artists, for a project that focuses on the forging of anti-colonial connectivity during struggles for decolonization and national independence. She also enjoyed gathering materials of different genres on the global politics of migration (scholarship, oral histories, memoirs, short stories, graphic novels, films, arts) and visiting various places in San Francisco in preparation for teaching her new First-Year Seminar called The Immigrant Experience.


Professor John Zarobell JZ photo 2019presented a paper entitled “Artistic Research and Everyday Life in the Asian Megacity” at the International Forum on Urbanism conference in Jakarta, Indonesia. During the conference, scholars had tours of the city and were welcomed with fried rice treats in Kampung Rawa, an urban village where craft food production (tofu, tempeh, etc.) is the economic specialization. Later Professor Zarobell continued on to Shanghai, where he visited arts districts, museums and galleries and met with artists, non-profit managers, curators and urbanists for continued research on his Emerging Asian Megacity project.


Professor Dana Zartner began her summer in Whanganui, New Zealand where she spent a month researching the recognition of the rights of natural entities like the Whanganui River and Mount Taranaki.

She met with Maori leaders, government officials, environmental activists, and members of the community in an effort to understand how the legal recognition of the rights of nature can protect the environment and encourage a different kind of human-nature relationship. This work will be a chapter in her forthcoming book, tentatively titled Blessed Trees & the Rights of Rivers: Innovative Legal Advocacy for Protecting our Environment. Initial thoughts on this research were published in a short essay at The Conversation discussing what we can learn from Te Awa Tupua and the movement to recognize rights for Lake Erie. DZ2

Professor Zartner then spent a month in Umbria, Italy, where she continued her research on rewilding and a comparative analysis of the legal and cultural responses to wolf reintroduction in Italy and the Western United States.

Advice and Experience from Alumni: Beatrice Maneshi, 12’

Lebanese Reforestation

We are excited to catch up with BAIS graduate Beatrice Maneshi (‘12) this week. Beatrice formed her own feminist international development consulting company, Catalystas, in 2018 and shares some of her secrets to success with our current students.


How did the education you received from the International Studies Program at the University prepare you for your current work?

My work as an international intersectional-feminist lensed consultant really utilized all of the education I received at USF. Specifically, the Jesuit tradition of critical thought and evidence-based education really has made me a stronger consultant.  When working in fragile states trying to deliver a risk or needs assessment or when working with a multinational organization to try and design programs that can connect the Arabic to the English speaking world with technology I often rely back on the approach and discipline I developed at USF.

Continue reading “Advice and Experience from Alumni: Beatrice Maneshi, 12’”

SoMa: Filipinos in San Fransisco’s South Of Market

Check out some of the amazing work our MAIS students complete in the program. Did you know that Filipinos have a historic presence among the tech companies located in the South of Market (SOMA) District of San Francisco? In this digital story produced for the seminar ‘Culture, Identity and Social Change,’ MAIS student Scott Cooper (’20) shares the struggles and concerns of Filipin@ activists in SOMA to preserve, invigorate, and make visible Filipino culture and heritage in this highly contested neighborhood.

Weeks of Transformation: My First Semester Experience


“Is Nairobi your first name?” the Wells Fargo banker, who was assisting me to open a checking account, asked. The gentleman was studying my passport!

In Kenya, when you meet my first name, you will demand my surname. And when I submit both, what often follows is a shock. Dan! Basil! Dan Basil! Traditionally, my name does not reveal my Kenyan identity, whether at home or in the U.S. Honestly, this is an issue I have struggled with. In their efforts to cushion their child from the storms of negative ethnicity, my parents must have settled on the ‘neutral names’. In the process, I lost part of my identity.

At the MAIS Program, I met classmates faced with similar challenges. At this point, I feel confident that MAIS is not just preparing us to re-define ourselves but equipping every student with the right tools to sufficiently change the world from here.

Continue reading “Weeks of Transformation: My First Semester Experience”

Securing the Future through Faculty Research: Emerging Asian Megacities

It is normal when the sound of Karachi surprises a man crossing McAllister Street to catch a 5R bus to Ocean Beach. It is very normal when a veteran customer service agent at the San Francisco International Airport desk asks, “Where’s this?” staring at your boarding pass!

In other parts of the world, cities like Karachi may remain unknown in 2018; fast forward to the mid-century, and they are megacities. Demographic studies project that by 2050, there will be 2.3 billion more people living in urban areas. The majority of this population will be from Asia and Africa. Needless to say, they will be living in Asian and African cities.

Continue reading “Securing the Future through Faculty Research: Emerging Asian Megacities”