Rue W. Ziegler Fellowship: Megan Clemens

 

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Megan:

This summer I was fortunate enough to conduct my master’s thesis research near the Kimana Gate of Amboseli National Park. Amboseli is located in the southern part of Kenya, near the Tanzanian border and Mount Kilimanjaro. The Amboseli ecosystem is located in Maasailand, with many traditional Maasai communities still inhabiting the area. The Amboseli ecosystem is also part of a large migratory route that wildlife use to access corridors between Amboseli, Serengeti, Maasai Mara and Tsavo National Parks. Amboseli is quite small as a park, but the ecosystem sustains approximately 1,600 elephants while the park only holds enough resources for around 100 elephants at one time. As a result, the lands and corridors between these national parks hold so much value for both the wildlife and the local communities. As a result, community-based initiatives have been implemented to encourage and incentivize community members to adhere to conservation policies, and also offset costs from human-wildlife conflict.

My research goal was to study how community-based conservation initiatives impacted the local communities, paying specific attention to the gendered dimensions of these initiatives. My main research objective lies in the gendered impacts of community-based conservation initiatives because these initiatives tend to assume communities as one unit, rather than recognizing sub-groups within communities have different needs. More specifically, the Maasai are a patriarchal society that traditionally has many customs based on gender inequalities. So, I was curious to see— Was anyone benefitting? Did some benefit more than others? If the communities were receiving benefits did both genders benefit equally? Were there barriers limiting who could benefit? To find answers to these questions, I conducted interviews with Maasai men and women, as well as conservation NGO employees.

One of the most common benefits mentioned by the Maasai community members I interviewed were school “bursaries”. The “bursaries” are checks that help pay for local kids’ tuition for secondary school. Bursaries are funds that are created through shared park revenue policies. A portion of every park entrance fee goes into this fund. However, many times the checks or bursaries do not cover the costs of a semester for one child in secondary school. It surprised me that so many members of the Maasai communities who were receiving these bursaries considered them a benefit from the park, but also recognized that it wasn’t truly enough to cover the costs of an education. Additionally, the benefits of the school bursaries were even harder to access for girls because of the existence of female genital mutilation, child marriages, and marriage dowries. Often because of these barriers, families use the limited funds they have to send their sons to secondary school.  

My advice for students wanting to conduct fieldwork abroad is first and foremost, do it! Secondly, I would say start planning and coordinating with your advisor as soon as you can because there is a lot of logistics that go into planning your work abroad. For students who are thinking that they want to go abroad for research, but may not have an advisor— reach out to department faculty and start having those conversations. Once out in the field, enjoy your time there and take notes on everything!

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Alumni Spotlight: Francesca Mateo (MAIS’ 16)

We caught up with recent MAIS graduate, Francesca Mateo (MAIS ‘16) about her work with Project PEARLS, an NGO in the Philippines that aims to alleviate children from slum communities out of poverty through education and health. Here is an excerpt from a story she wrote documenting her experience and a new initiative to create a week-long dance summit as part of an immersion trip for Filipino-American choreographers. Be sure to read the full story here.

Francesca:

While in the MAIS program, my classmates and I were given several case studies in which we had to access numerous ways to problem-solve. For instance, how do we increase the nutrition in this particular community? Or, how do we approach a human rights issue in a community while remaining culturally sensitive? Because MAIS taught me how to take the time to understand an issue from several different angles, I am more prepared to create my own program.

While creating Art of Us, not only did I ask what the problem was but what were the factors that played a role in it. Creating Art of Us also required a great amount of teamwork considering I worked with three organizations to create it. The MAIS program helped with this as well. On top of papers and readings, MAIS requires its students to collaborate and debate and build together. MAIS helped build my professionalism, cooperative skills, as well as leadership.

Working to Prepare our Students for the Future

A degree in International Studies provides the knowledge and skills employers in a variety of fields are looking for in those they hire. In the International Studies Department dana_with_map_2-3 (2)at USF we are always working to improve our curriculum to better serve our students to this end. Professor Dana Zartner, Chair of the International Studies Department, recently worked with members of four other International Studies programs around the country to brainstorm some best practices for creating success for our students. The results of their work were recently published in International Studies Perspectives, which is linked below. We’d love to hear from you – what other best practices can you think of?

Knowledge Skills and Preparing for the Future

Alumni Spotlight: Sarah Masoud (BAIS ’14)

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Currently, I am working at the International Institute in St. Louis, Missouri. It’s a refugee resettlement agency that also offers many free services to immigrants and asylees in the county. I am an Employment Specialist and focus on helping immigrants and refugees locate employment. Additionally, I am working on expanding a new program called Career Pathways, which is an additional service that guides any foreign-born individual towards achieving their professional career and educational goals. This program helps people that were professionals in their home country to practice in their field in the U.S.

On another note, I am involved with 1951 Coffee Company. On the weekends, I am working as a barista at a local cafe to gain experience. In the future, I hope to help the current team secure funding for a second location and open a branch in St. Louis.

#WhyMAIS: Gideon Olaniyi Omoniyi

As the MAIS Team continues to prepare for the incoming F17 cohort, we turn to current student, Gideon, to hear about his experience as an international student in the program and #WhyMAIS was the right choice for him

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What attracted you to USF and the MAIS program?
It had everything I wanted to learn about. I actually chose USF because of the content of the program -– development, environment, human rights, and similar focuses. I hadn’t done a lot with human rights, academically, so that was actually one of the main attractions.

The program is interdisciplinary, and I appreciate the anthropological approach as well. They want you to understand the real world to some extent. To not just get an idea of how it is, but get some kind of practical case studies, which is helpful to me.

Describe your first semester.
I’m an international student and coming from a totally different background. I’m coming from an different academic environment with a different approach to issues. I have such a conflict of ideas, like, “This is what I used to know, and this is a new dimension of what I think I used to know.” I needed to find a balance in that knowledge and I tried to avoid stereotyping. I still struggle—I try to be open-minded about that, so I can gain new knowledge.

On the practical side, everything is different. It’s a new set of people, and I realized I need to learn people’s gestures. For instance, here, people smile as part of a cultural greeting. In Africa, smiling is not something that you just get from everyone.

What’s the most interesting assignment you’ve completed?
I think it would be the topic of torture from the human rights class. I’ve always been interested in human rights issues. Doing research for that paper and trying to understand how some of these tortures actually work and how it’s practiced was very interesting to me.

What is your favorite San Francisco or campus spot?
The campus is very beautiful— every part of it is beautiful work. I like to study within the science building’s Getty Lounge— a seating area where everything is glass so you can see outside. And there’s the silent study center in the library. But outside? I haven’t really had time to see around San Francisco yet, but I’ve been to Pier 39 and to Golden Gate Park.

What advice do you have for incoming students?
For international students, irrespective of the country, they should be open-minded. They should be friendly, as personable as they can. And they should learn to speak out— you don’t need to keep things to yourself. You should talk to your professors and talk to the department, and try to be yourself.

Alumni Spotlight: Ariel Stenek (BAIS ’12)

arielSince graduating, I haven’t had a linear career path.  My only goal has been to travel and experience as much as I can of the world.

In my last semester at USF, I took Professor Juluri’s Davies Seminar on the book publishing industry, and this inspired me to move to New York City to take up an internship as the Publicity Assistant at powerHouse Books, a fine art and photography book publisher.  I did that for 8 months before I found out about available teaching positions in China.

Through Marshall University, I was placed in an international school in Shanghai as a 4th grade Language Arts, Science, Geography, and Art teacher.  On my weekends and holidays, I traveled Asia extensively, and by the end of the year, I had seen Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, Burma, The Philippines, Korea, and Malaysia.  Between school years I spent a month living in Istanbul.  Afterward, I took a job as a Language Arts/ESL tutor in Taipei. My time in Taipei allowed me to add Singapore, Hong Kong, and Macau to my travels.

I moved back home to Honolulu last August to help my parents move their business.  I’ve been working in retail for the last year, and with Hawaii’s strong Asian tourist economy, my travels have allowed me to connect with many different clients.

In addition gaining a place in Queen Mary University of London’s postgraduate International Relations program, taught at the University of London Institute in Paris (big thanks to Professor McBride and Professor Corvaisier for their recommendations!), I also received a Rotary Foundation Global Grant Scholarship to fund my studies.  Over the next year, I plan on focusing on security/peace studies and working with NGOs in Paris to help refugees and immigrants assimilate to their new communities.

#WhyMAIS: Stephen Schneider

As admission decisions are going out, and new students begin to join the MAIS community, we turn to current students to explain #WhyMAIS was the right choice for them. In this post, we hear from Stephen Schneider:

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What attracted you to USF and the MAIS program?
The San Francisco Bay Area is an important and interesting part of the world and I’ve always wanted to spend time here. After surveying a number of graduate programs in the area, I decided on USF and MAIS because of its clear commitment to applying knowledge towards social justice causes and because I wanted to study at a progressive, academically rich institution. Having focused on Global Studies for my undergraduate, I wanted to continue pursuing this highly interdisciplinary and timely field at a professional level in an evolving world city. The program length, course content, high quality of the faculty and staff, and recommendations by alumni all contributed to my decision to attend MAIS.

Describe your first semester in one sentence.
The first semester at MAIS consists of stuffing an incredibly dense and broad body of theoretical and practical knowledge into your brain, then unpacking the way it collides and combines with previous world views, and finally attempting to sift and remix the contents in an academically coherent and personally enriching manner.

What’s the most interesting assignment you’ve completed?
There have been quite a few awesome assignments that have allowed me to explore my interests in a creative way. The most interesting assignments are those that ask us to think about and propose solutions to specific issues using the theories and tools from the course work. My favorite was developing a plan centered on human-powered electrical generation as an implement to reduce energy poverty and corporate exploitation in rural areas.

What is your favorite San Francisco or campus spot?
The hilly parks in the city are fantastic—Bernal Heights, Twin Peaks, Bayview Park, John McLaren Park, etc.

What advice do you have for incoming students?
First, plan for housing very early and try your best to get as close to campus as possible. Being closer to campus allows you to more easily participate in social events, talks, sports games, going to the gym, and could lead to a richer student experience. Secondly, refresh your knowledge about academic writing rules and styles so that you can focus on doing your best work without having to scratch your head too much. For international students, read up on American academic standards, and never be afraid to ask questions or challenge assumptions. Third, come with high expectations about the level of dialogue and discussion and bring your own story into the conversation. MAIS is comprised of folks with an amazing range of backgrounds and interests, and each person contributes to the learning experience. Expect to speak in public, share your opinion against critique, and be able to back up your voice with research and experiential evidence.

Most importantly, take every opportunity to hang out and discuss the issues with your fellow classmates.  Essential reflection and further learning happens outside the classroom, so grab a burrito and dive into the complexities of the wonderful world of International Studies. The planet right now truly needs the kind of concern and inquiry that MAIS allows us to foster, so make this your time to really dive in. Lastly, enjoy it! Remember to take one day at a time and find your way to enjoy the distinctive experience as a graduate student at an outstanding university in a remarkable city.

Student Stories: Colombian Coincidence

by Natalie Murphy (BAIS ’17)

Over spring break I traveled to Colombia with fellow international studies senior Cherine Adly. There were two Arrupe Immersion trips going to Colombia as well, but we were going alone to see as much of the country as we could in the period of short time. About a week before leaving, we discovered that another senior in the IS program was also going to Colombia with family. Adriana Levandowski (BAIS ’17) was headed off a day or two before us, but we would be on an in-country flight together a few days into the trip. We took a look at our itineraries and tried to figure out where we might be able to meet up. Taking into consideration which areas we were staying in, it looked like we’d only be able to meet up once—little did we know how wrong we were.

We tried to get dinner with Adriana on the first night that we arrived, but it didn’t work out. There went our only opportunity to meet up. The next day we were all on the same flight to Santa Marta, but being on a plane in different rows didn’t afford too much time to chat. Two days later, Cherine and I had camped the night before in Tayrona National Park. We were on a beach a few hours’ hike from the entrance of the park. We were  walking out of the entrance of the beach area to start on the journey out of the park when I hear my name being called. I look up, and there is Adriana, her mom, and her cousin. They had hiked for three hours to get to the beach. If they had taken just a few more minutes, or we had left a few minutes earlier we would have completely missed each other. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. We only had a few minutes to say hello and offer some suggestions before we had to continue on back to Santa Marta. We parted ways saying we’d see each other back at school, not anticipating running into them again. I bet you can guess what happened next.

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Natalie, Adriana & Cherine in front of Iglesia de San Francisco de Asis with the #ISatUSFCA stress ball

The next day Cherine and I wandered around Santa Marta in the morning before we were scheduled to catch a bus to Cartagena in the afternoon. We stopped at an ATM and while I waited in line, Cherine went around the corner to buy some water. While waiting, I looked up only to see Adriana’s cousin buying a coconut from a street vendor across the street. I did a double take, and then saw Adriana beside him. We had a little longer to chat this time, exchanging stories and suggestions for the city before parting ways so Cherine and I could catch our bus. But the coincidences don’t end there.

On the final day of our trip we returned to the Bogota airport. Once checked in to our flight and through security we decided lunch was in order. We entered a restaurant and were walking towards an open table when I heard my name being called yet again. Adriana and her family were eating lunch at the same restaurant and were on the same flight back to San Francisco with us. As we got seated on the plane, we also found out that one of the Arrupe Immersion groups was on the same plane as well.

Who would have thought that in a country more than twice the size of California, we would run into our fellow Don not once, not twice, but three times. Whether you want to change the world from here, or have plans to change it from somewhere else, do something because the world is a pretty small place either way and Dons are EVERYWHERE!

Attending the United Nations SIDS Symposium: Climate Change, Development, and the Challenges of Small Island Developing Nations

In February 2017, Professor Dana Zartner, Chair of the International Studies Department, attended a symposium in Nassau, Bahamas sponsored by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the Government of the Bahamas. The symposium – entitled Implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SAMOA Pathway in Small Island Developing States (SIDS): Equipping Public Institutions and Mobilizing Partnerships – focused on how SIDS can best integrate the 2030 Agenda and the corresponding SAMOA Pathway in national planning, policies, strategies and public institutions. Given their vulnerability to climate change coupled with development challenges, SIDS face special challenges in the coming years.  This Symposium brought together SIDS and key partners, including donor states, and created a form for discussion and collaboration on how best to equip public institutions and mobilize partnerships between international organizations, federal and local governments, civil society, corporations, and academia.

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The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a plan of action that encompasses people, the planet, and prosperity. Incorporating the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 169 corresponding targets, the 2030 Agenda provides for a more holistic approach to sustainable development than the earlier Millennium Development goals. With the 2030 Agenda, member states of the UN and affiliated stakeholders recognize the eradication of poverty in all its forms is one of the greatest global challenges and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. According to the document, with the 2030 Agenda UN members are “resolved to free the human race from the tyranny of poverty and want to heal and secure our planet.”   The 2030 Agenda is a key step forward in efforts to address issues such as sustainable development, climate change, poverty, and human rights because it recognizes the fundamental importance of the relationship between the natural world and health of our planet’s environment, and the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development. This new approach is highlighted in the breadth of issues covered in the SDGs. Continue reading “Attending the United Nations SIDS Symposium: Climate Change, Development, and the Challenges of Small Island Developing Nations”

MAIS Internship Spotlight: Daniela Bermudez (’16)

As our current MAIS students are working on their summer internship placements, we’re flashing back to last summer’s internships with today’s blog post.

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Where did you intern this summer?
I had the opportunity to fulfill my internship with ProMexico, the Trade and Investment Commission within the General Consulate of Mexico in San Francisco. ProMexico is in charged of maintaining and strengthening the relationship between Mexico and the United States. A goal that personally resonates with my vision in life; strength and growth in any community lays in a good neighboring relationship, accentuating differences as positive assets.

The ProMexico office in San Francisco focuses primarily in businesses, either here in the Bay Area or California with Mexico, creating business partnerships and portraying all the good traits Mexico and the Bay Area have to offer. The Commission believes that neighboring countries should see their proximity as an advantage and should build a closer relationship through the exchange of the best each country has to offer.

How did the MAIS program prepare you for your internship?
Tools I acquired thorough out my courses at the MAIS program such as research, diligence in every task, attention to detail, and overall a more thorough understanding of different cultures have been key elements I put into practice throughout my internship. The ability to use and express oneself in two languages in a professional manner is a quality that the MAIS program reinforced and was a characteristic that was highly noted by co-workers and employers, within my internship experience.

During my internship I had the opportunity to work close to multiple businesses that have relationships and investments in Mexico. Every task demanded a lot from the ProMexico team. Organizing my time, managing several tasks at a time and completing them at a prompt time length, are skills I needed to have mastered in order to succeed. Thankfully I learned all of these during the MAIS program.

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What were some highlights of interning at this organization?
My internship has provided excellent opportunities for networking. I have had the opportunity to meet the Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs Claudia Ruiz Massieu, the General Consul of Mexico in San Francisco José Gemi Gonzalez, and the Mexican ambassador for UNESCO, as well as representatives from Google, LinkedIn, Sales Force, among others, all sharing a deep interest in Mexico’s development as a country and society and the importance between a strong relationship between both countries.

Working under Deputy Chief of the Commission Azul Ogazon, I was part of a team that was responsible for the administrative organization of ProMexico. Aiding in any way possible from creating an agenda for potential businesses partners that wanted to visit the Bay Area and arranging meetings with specific business sectors to organizing high-profile events around the city.

Recently the regional offices of ProMexico in Washington D.C. have contacted me to be part of a research program in the Silicon Valley area. Investigating the underrepresentation of Mexican and Latino individuals in the tech-industry. Working side by side with the regional offices is a great opportunity to discover how Mexicans are portrayed in the United States, but most importantly how two great countries work together in similar industries.

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What did you gain from your experience?
Working for ProMexico has been a great experience since day one. I have met incredible people and love working with a team, which is filled with hard-working, driven individuals. People that I now know wholeheartedly and admire their achievement. They have encouraged me and guided me throughout my summer stay in ProMexico.

Every opportunity life gives you comes for a reason and as well as every decision you make in life takes you somewhere differently, at the end it is where you were meant to be.

I am and always have been driven by human relationships and the power we have to create bridges between people, societies and countries. Working for ProMexico showed me the willingness of people to approach different cultures and the love that exists between nations.