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.


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.


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.

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.

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.

SIDS Symposium Header

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”

Staff Friday: Christie Meno

Every Friday, the International Studies Department will profile one of our amazing faculty (or staff) members so you can get to know them better and see all the amazing work our faculty and staff do!

Christie Meno is the Graduate Administrative Director for the MA in International Studies (MAIS) program. In this role, Christie supports all of the program’s outside-of-the-classroom functions, such as recruitment, admissions, orientation, professional development opportunities, student socials, and addressing any ongoing student concerns. Christie proudly hails from a small town in upstate New York (Sidney, New York) and joined the intrepid International Studies Department in January 2016. Before taking this post, she worked most recently at New York University in New York City where she was part of the department of Residential Life and Housing Services. Christie studied political science as an undergraduate at the University of Michigan (Go Blue!) and received her Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration and Student Affairs from the Peabody College of Education and Human Development at Vanderbilt University.

Christie’s professional interests include the dynamics of college student transitions and especially the first-year experience, particularly among first generation and low income students; college access and equity; and bridging the in- and out-of-classroom experiences to create seamless living-learning environments. To expand her knowledge on the first-year experience, Christie spent a summer as a National Orientation Director’s Association (NODA) intern at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. Given her role at USF, Christie has shifted her focus to facilitate college access and success at the graduate student level.

At the Great Wall of China

Christie’s professional career started at NYU where she worked with the Faculty Fellows program helping to coordinate on- and off-campus events with faculty and students. Her work in this field led to her giving several successful conference presentations. Christie then transitioned roles and worked closely with student leadership and development, overseeing the student staff training and ongoing professional development for NYU’s nearly 400 residential student staff members. This role took her all the way to Shanghai where she helped develop a training course for NYU’s residential life student staff at the NYU Shanghai campus.

In addition, her passion for increasing student access led to her involvement with the iMentor program in New York City which pairs professionals in the community with high school students as they work toward graduation and admission into colleges. Since arriving at USF, Christie has enjoyed applying her various interests into a new arena in her work with graduate students. Finally, Christie is also an instructor for the USF 101 course, a class designed to introduce new students to the USF mission and what it means to study at a Jesuit, social justice-oriented institution. This role allows her to enjoy the best of both the undergraduate and graduate student experience at USF’s beautiful campus.

In her non-working hours, Christie spends her time exploring SF by way of restaurants, museums, music venues, and walks through SF’s diverse neighborhoods. Christie loves traveling, mostly recently returning from a two week adventure in Thailand, and is a lifelong skier excited to explore the mountains of the West. She is passionate about cooking new dishes, Jackson Browne, finding San Francisco’s best Bloody Mary and scoop of ice cream, and obsessing over Michigan football (whose games often begin at 9am on the West Coast; hence, the Bloody Mary search…). While she is a definitive New Yorker at heart, Christie feels the pull of California more each day, and couldn’t be happier for the opportunity to work here in the International Studies Department.

Reflections from the Killing Fields

There are many opportunities for International Studies majors at USF to engage with a broader global community and put the lessons of the classroom into context and into practice.

img_5403The ERASMUS class is a year-long living-learning community in which the students delve into their understanding of ethics, service, and justice at local and global levels, discuss the material as a community, and directly apply information and ideas through various community-based research projects. At the end of the year, students have the option of traveling to Cambodia to further their understanding in a global context.

BAIS major Ali Buck participated in ERASMUS during the 2015-2016 academic year and made the trip to Cambodia in May and June 2016. Today, she recounts her experience visiting the Tuol Sleng prison and the Killing Fields where millions of Cambodians died during the campaign of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s, and the impact both the experience and the International Studies major have had on her global perspective.

Student Reflection by Ali Buck (’18)

Killing Fields memorial

I expected to be more emotional at the Killing Fields than at the S21 Prison Camp because I’ve studied various prison camps since I was young. Every year a Holocaust survivor came to talk at my school, so I assumed that visiting S21 would be just as hard as listening to the survivors talk. It was harder than anything I could have imagined. The woman guiding us through had lost her family in the building we were standing in. One room was lined with images of those who had come to the camp; some seemed to know they were about to die while others were either too young or too naïve to understand their fate. In Erasmus, we had spent the past semester learning about the Khmer Rouge, so I knew that children were killed and I knew the number of people that died. But knowing something and understanding it are completely different. I didn’t understand until I looked into the eyes of the photos that these people were dehumanized in the complete sense of the word. Every photo was eerily the same: the same haircut, the same facial expression, and ultimately the same fate. People were reduced to identification numbers, which became death tolls. Even now, each of those individuals is just part of the total number of victims of the Khmer Rouge.


In my International Studies courses, I have struggled to comprehend how governments around the world can do such terrible things to their people or even how people can treat one another so terribly. The moment I finally understood that this was not old history, this was something that happened while my parents were alive, was the moment I broke down. The difference between learning about something in a classroom is than experiencing it in the world is incredible. It invokes emotions that lead to passionate actions, which ultimately lead to change. Some changes are large-scale movements that affect the world, while others are small internal changes that may just alter one’s perception of the world.


That’s what drew me to USF: the allure of being challenged in the way I think about my place in the world. There is this constant discomfort that I have come to accept as growing pains. For me, this trip solidified my desire to study global politics and understand the world around me, and what I can and cannot do within it; the best way to understand the world is to see it. I am going to continue to travel to places that I learn about and learn about the places I want to travel to. The International Studies program at USF takes a holistic approach to understanding one’s place in the world. By approaching the world from a multi-disciplinary standpoint, I have been able to critically analyze the “how” and “why” aspects of the “who?” and “what?” questions.


Faculty Friday: Christopher Loperena

Every Friday, the International Studies Department will profile one of our amazing faculty members so you can get to know them better and see all the amazing work our faculty do!

Faculty Friday Profile: Christopher Loperena


Christopher Loperena is an assistant professor in the International Studies Department and the academic director for the Master of Arts in International Studies program. He received his bachelor’s degree in International Studies from the University of Chicago, with an emphasis on human rights in the Southern Cone of Latin America. After completing college, he co-founded a non-profit organization that provided computer technology training to grassroots organizations in Latin America and the Caribbean. He worked in Honduras and Jamaica before returning to school to pursue a graduate degree at the University of Texas at Austin. He completed his Ph.D. in Social Anthropology in August 2012.

Professor Loperena’s research looks at the socio-spatial politics of development in Latin America. He’s interested in how neoliberal and extractivist development paradigms affect the territorial rights of black and indigenous peoples. His research has appeared or is forthcoming in Current Anthropology, Geoforum, The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology and Journal of Sustainable Tourism. His most recent publication highlights how neoliberal tourism policies are advanced under the guise of ecotourism and sustainable development, creating the conditions for extractivism to take hold in black and indigenous territories. He challenges the tendency to position tourism, in particular ecotourism, as an alternative to traditional extractive industries.

Currently he is working on two book projects. The first is a single-authored manuscript titled, “A Fragmented Paradise: Race, Territory and Black Autonomy on the Caribbean Coast of Honduras.” Based on over two years of continuous ethnographic research, A Fragmented Paradise examines how struggles over lands that are targeted for tourism development shape the ethics of autonomy in a Garifuna village situated on the white-sand beaches of Tela Bay, Honduras. The second project is an edited volume (with Aída Hernandez Castillo and Mariana Mora) on the use of anthropological knowledge in the adjudication of indigenous and afrodescendant rights.


Professor Loperena is committed to making sure his research has a scholarly impact beyond the academy. Most recently, he provided expert testimony for a Garifuna land rights case before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. He has written affidavits for asylum cases, and he sits on the Board of Directors for Refugee Transitions—a local community-based nonprofit agency serving high-need, low-income refugee, asylee, and immigrant newcomers.

In his free time, Professor Loperena enjoys walking aimlessly through San Francisco’s colorful streets, sampling the city’s many wonderful restaurants, and long runs in Golden Gate Park. He’s also fond of 90s hip hop, salsa, merengue and any music that inspires him to dance!

Faculty Friday: Dana Zartner

Every Friday, the International Studies Department will profile one of our amazing faculty members so you can get to know them better and see all the amazing work our faculty do!

Faculty Friday Profile: Dana Zartner

Dana - UN

Dana Zartner is an Associate Professor in the International Studies Department and an Adjunct Professor in the School of Law at the University of San Francisco. Professor Zartner grew up in Dayton, Minnesota (about an hour north of Minneapolis) and went to Hamline University in St. Paul where she received a BA in International Relations with a minor in French. After receiving a law degree from Boston University, Professor Zartner worked as an immigration attorney in Northern California, specializing in green card applications for ‘Individuals of Extraordinary Ability’ and ‘Outstanding Professors and Researchers’ and asylum cases. After five years as an attorney, she decided to return to academia and received a Ph.D. in Political Science from UC Davis.


Professor Zartner specializes in international and comparative law, with a focus on environmental protections and human rights. Her primary interest lies in understanding how we can better implement positive international human rights laws and environmental protections at the domestic level. Using an interdisciplinary approach that considers both legal cultures and legal institutions within states, Professor Zartner’s first book Courts, Codes, and Custom: Legal Tradition and State Policy Toward International Human Rights and Environmental Law (Oxford University Press, 2014) considers ten different countries across five different legal traditions (common law, civil law, Islamic law, East Asian law, and mixed traditions) to understand why some states are better at internalizing international law than others. She has also done work on the role of legal culture in shaping transitional justice in the aftermath of crises, and the institutional factors that best facilitate treaty compliance in the case of the Convention Against Torture.

Professor Zartner’s current research focuses more on the environment and the relationship between a healthy environment and the achievement of other human rights. She is fascinated by the question of how we can use indigenous, religious, and cultural understandings of the natural world as important in its own right to overcome current ideas that nature is simply a commodity to create better law and policy that protects both the environment and human rights. She was very inspired by a trip to Cambodia this past summer and meeting a forest-saving monk who has created a community forest in the middle of massive deforestation and blesses trees to ensure they are protected.

Cambodia Monk

A proponent of the benefits of working through both local and global institutions, Professor Zartner has attended, as an NGO delegate, a number of United Nations meetings, including the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Geneva in 2015 and the Committee on the Status of Women in New York in 2016. While the UN system has its problems and works slowly, she believes that the opportunities afforded global civil society in attending these meetings, having the opportunity to connect with other groups to share ideas and resources, and interact with State delegates, is a vitally important component of promoting and protecting human rights, environmental rights, and indigenous rights. Her hope for the future is to be able to take USF students along on these trips.

In her free time, Professor Zartner plays golf badly and has learned four notes on her guitar. She thinks San Francisco is the best place in the world (along with Italy and New Zealand, well … and now Cambodia) and loves the combination of big city and big nature that we have here. A lover of wine and good food, particularly Italian cuisine, she makes very authentic lasagna and will on occasion host department parties at her house. She sort-of speaks Italian, largely learning from watching US comedies dubbed into Italian and Italian game shows. She thinks animals are awesome and has a cat named Viggio who likes to eat asparagus, bell pepper, and blueberries. She also loves The Walking Dead, all things Middle Earth, and the Tenth Doctor.


MAIS ’15 Alum: Building Bridges on the U.S.-Mexico Border

Under the white-hot glare of the U.S.-Mexico border debate, Charlie Cutler MAIS ’15 is launching a new tennis and tutoring program for underserved kids in the cross-border town of Nogales, which straddles Arizona and the Mexican state of Sonora.

Source: Building Bridges on the U.S.-Mexico Border

This program, the Border Youth Tennis Exchange (BYTE), is a non-profit that “provides athletic training and a specialized National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) educational curriculum to youth on both sides of the US/Mexico border.” Through this experience, BYTE works to “strengthen border communities and bridge social, economic, and political gaps” between the two countries. The organization, started by Charlie Cutler, is a glowing example of how students take the experiences from MAIS, both in and out of the classroom, and bring them into the world to make it a better place.


As written in a recent USF News article spotlighting BYTE, “USF’s international studies program offered interesting classes and the freedom to study issues such as Central American economic history, refugees, and U.S. asylum policy. Cutler also benefitted from the program’s numerous San Francisco connections that allowed him to meet leaders of organizations operating in countries around the world, see how nonprofits worked from the inside, and intern for a number of them — including coordinating an inmate tennis program and teaching college prep writing at San Quentin State Prison.”

We are proud to call Charlie Cutler a MAIS alum and encourage you to check out the following links to learn more about BYTE and how you can support this organization.

BYTE Website | USTA Article | USF article | BYTE Video