MAIS in Action Spotlight: Alexander Hirata

“…USF was helping me grind the lens through which I view the world.”

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When I was 18, I took a gap year before my sophomore year of college. I volunteered as a 4th grade teacher on the island Yap, in the Federated States of Micronesia. I had a moving experience, and it sparked my passion for international aid and development.

I fed this desire throughout college by working as the Student Director of Missions at my university, where I sent students on volunteer assignments around the world. During my senior year, I realized I had barely bit into that field; there was far more to learn, and it was necessary for me to study it in order to participate ethically, unlike many of the aid organizations I’d witnessed doggedly pressing their own harmful agendas overseas.

I searched for a graduate program that would foster critical examination of this dubious world of international development, one that emphasized empowerment instead of trendy Western solutions. Thus, I enrolled in the Master of Arts in International Studies program at University of San Francisco, which embodied these criteria.

The MAIS program introduced me to a library of literature and theories of which I had no idea; my undergraduate degree is in creative writing, and I couldn’t believe such rich texts and meaningful concepts existed. I also learned skills I rely on regularly in my work, such as writing policy briefs and research outlines. I could not get enough.

The curriculum is well constructed, with subjects from one class complementing subjects from the others each week. We built off of challenging abstract theories: time-space distantiation, hegemony, transnationality, and more. These were difficult, but wrestling with them was worth it, as eventually I was able to link them and construct a framework of understanding, a language allowing me to enter the discourse. I realized what was happening, later: USF was helping me grind the lens through which I view the world.

My internship with Canvasback Missions allowed me to return my focus to Micronesia, and to the Marshall Islands, specifically. Making the Marshalls my cynosure provided a real-life case study for so many of the concepts I learned. Canvasback ended up sending me to the Marshall Islands as part of my internship, and that on-the-ground experience provided me with a tangible counterbalance to my readings.

Continue reading “MAIS in Action Spotlight: Alexander Hirata”

International Studies student & USF basketball player Kalyn Simon (BAIS ’16, MAIS ’17) shines on and off the court

We are so proud of our USF women’s basketball team for making the NCAA playoffs this year! We are especially proud of International Studies student Kalyn Simon for both her work with the team as well as her dedication to International Studies!

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Essay by Kalyn Simon

As child I grew up watching basketball. My cousins, Dad, Grandpa, and I would gather around the television yelling play by play as if we were actually sitting in the stands. The Warriors have always been a family favorite, however March was always a special time of the year. March Madness was when the best of the best competed for the national championship. The tournament was for both men’s and women’s teams so there were constantly games for us to watch. It was pure magic watching such talented and driven athletes preform at their prime in pursuit of the NCAA championship. Entering the “Big Dance” is an experience athletes dream about their entire collegiate careers. The conditioning sessions at six in the morning were all for the glory of cutting down the nets and playing under the big lights of the NCAA.

This year instead of yelling at the television screen, my family was yelling in the stands. Winning our West Coast Conference Championship was one of the most memorable and exciting experiences I have had. As the final buzzer sounded in Las Vegas our team sprinted out onto the court and embraced one another. Smiles engulfed each player’s, coach’s, and USF fan’s faces as confetti fell from the ceiling and we each kissed the enormous golden trophy. In this moment, I along with my amazing teammates was floating on cloud nine. The only thing better than cutting down the nets that day was the realization that we were “going dancing” or headed to participate in the NCAA tournament.

From that moment on I felt invincible. I received texts and emails from my professors from the International Studies department and the greater USF community. I felt so proud to be able to represent my major and my school. The next week we found out we would be playing against Stanford. We practiced and prepared the entire week for the upcoming opponent. We approached the game as any other, but in the background we could not help but smile. We smiled knowing that together through the blood, sweat, and tears we had finally reached the next level.

Kalyn Simon Fan Club

The outcome on the scoreboard at Stanford was not in our favor, but it is an experience I will cherish for a lifetime. I am blessed to have been able to play alongside teammates just as driven and talented as the ones I admired on television fifteen years ago. It was an experience built on the hard work and endless belief of in our staff and players who refused to give up. Just as I had imagined as a child, walking onto that court under the big lights was pure magic. However this is not the end. We will continue to fight until we end up on the winning end of the NCAA tournament, a tournament of champions.

1st Annual Restore Hope for Refugees Banquet

On March 31, the Multicultural Graduate Student Alliance (MGSA) hosted the 1st Annual Restore Hope for Refugees Banquet to raise funds for the Kayany Foundation to help build a classroom for Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

Several MAIS students are involved in the organization which partnered with USF ASAUSF Arab Student Union and USFCA Muslim Student Association to organize the fundraising event. The over 100 people in attendance enjoyed performances from ASWAT Bay Area Arabic Music Ensemble Group and the Shabab Al Quds Dabke Group plus special guests Bandar Shawwaf from the Friends of Kayany Inc and the talented Dima Khatib Managing Director of the Aj+ Global and her son Fares who recited Arab poetry.

The event raised $3,810 toward the $6,500 needed to cover the cost of a clean, safe, and climate-controlled classroom that accommodates up to 35 Syrian refugee children in an environment that foster’s education, empowerment, and healthy living. To contribute to this cause, you can donate by clicking here.

Special thanks to Old Jerusalem Restaurant for catering our banquet and all the organizations/businesses who donated items and funded this amazing event. This includes: University of San Francisco, the USF Graduate Student SenateUniversity of San Francisco School of Management, the Middle East Children’s AllianceJewish Voice for Peace, Sharif’s Jewelers, Sephora, LUSH Cosmetics, CREAM, King Kush Clothing Plus, Ashbury Tabaco, Costco Corporation, Samiramis Imports, Philz Coffee,Rumi Book Store, theAROC: Arab Resource & Organizing Center and the Arab Cultural & Community Center.