MAIS Students Present their Research at this year’s ISA West Conference in Pasadena, CA

ISA-West, a regional division of the International Studies Association, held its annual conference in September 2017 in Pasadena, California. ISA-West brings together students, faculty, and scholars from around the region, the U.S., and the world to present their research and discuss global issues. This year, with generous assistance from the Rue W. Ziegler Scholarship Fund, two MAIS students presented their Capstone work. Jessica Tran presented her paper entitled “Increasing US militarization of the Asa-Pacific region and its impacts on regional stability from a critical security perspective”. Tristan Burger presented her research project “Small Arms: An Applied Approach to Children in Armed Conflict Prevention Initiatives”. Below, Jessica shares her experience:

After conducting preliminary research on my thesis project throughout the summer, I had the opportunity to share my work at the ISA West Annual Conference in Pasadena, California. Presenting in a panel on U.S. Foreign Policy and International Conflict, I was excited to share my thesis project and gain valuable feedback from peers and established scholars.

Not only did I receive constructive responses for my project, but I also had the opportunity to connect with many scholars whose area of expertise relate to my academic interests. I met my rockstar, J. Ann Tickner, whose tremendous work in Feminist IR and critical security studies inspired me to think more critically about the analytical approach to my project. I engaged in a lively discussion with IR Professor Sanjoy Banerjee on China’s security infrastructure; he promised we could stay in touch and provide guidance on the case study portion of my project.

Additionally, David Lake—the discussant for my panel—offered considerable support to myself and other panelists, including extending the discussion of our papers and general career advice over coffee. These interactions were truly the highlight of the trip. I enjoyed sharing and discussing IS ideas, but the immense support of the IS community in developing emerging scholars was what really blew me away. I left tremendously encouraged with not only my thesis project but also the prospects for life after MAIS.

In participating in the conference, I faced a lot of personal fears—fear of public speaking, fear of presenting my ideas to the world, and fear of rejection. I can’t say I’ve been completely cured of these insecurities, but I’m grateful for the experience to tackle it head on and come out the other side a bit more confident and determined.

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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!

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.

#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.

#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!

Student Stories: Model UN Conference

img_4603Happy New Year! We’re kicking off the new semester with a throwback to last year when the USF Model UN club traveled to Los Angeles, CA to participate in the third annual University of Southern California Trojans Model United Nations conference in October. Want to join them next time? Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to find out when their first meeting of the spring semester will take place and how you can participate.

Thirteen delegates from the University of San Francisco, partially sponsored the International Studies department, represented various entities, characters, and countries in different committees during the conference. The committees ranged from general assembly groups like the World Health Organization and Social Cultural and Humanitarian Committee to specialized committees on the European Union and Los Angeles 2024 Olympics Organizing Committee. Additionally, delegates participated in “special crisis” committees like Trojan War: Greeks, Petrobras Board of Directors and the Golden Age of Piracy.

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“We had an exciting weekend of debate, networking and politics. As a Model United Nations club, we participate in various MUN conferences over the country. These conferences provide us with the opportunity to research the entity we are representing. Our engagement in the debate over the topics concerning the committees enhances our public speaking, negotiation, and diplomacy skills. Diplomacy is an art, and just like any art form, it takes practice to excel in it. These conferences help us put what we learn in classes into perspective. I, for example, by representing Nigeria at the UN Social Cultural and Humanitarian Committee, on the topics of Gender Inequality and Corporate human rights, was able to apply all I learned from my Politics and Development in Africa class.”   -Mustafa Zahid, BAIS ‘17

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“I was glad to be a part of a Crisis Committee titled “Pirates”. I went into it unsure exactly of how pirates could possibly be tied into the themes MUN, globalization, and coalition-building. However, by the end of the conference, I had helped pass directives through long voting blocs that involved issues surrounding global free trade, colonialism, fair representation, slavery, democracy, religion, and much, much more. I would not have been able to attend an amazing event or learn so much outside of the classroom had it not been from the support of the International Studies Department and other supporters of our club… We learn so much from these conferences. Classrooms have some limitations and many time restraints, but when we are able to go to conferences like these, we write and apply our own policies and resolutions into global situations.”  – Hannah Do, BAIS ‘18

“I had a great time representing Slovakia in an EU committee, where we were trying to find a common agreement on how do deal with the refugee crises coming from the Syrian civil war and North Africa. It was a very intellectually stimulating conference, and I would be happy to do it again. I was also happy that I got to bond with some of my teammates, I feel as if we left the conference stronger as a team, which is the most important part of the club.”  – Gabe Greschler, Politics ‘19

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MAIS Internship Spotlight: Andrew Chen (’16)

headshot1. Where did you conduct your internship and why did you choose this opportunity?
I was a resettlement intern at the International Rescue Committee (IRC). I chose to go there per the suggestion of one of my professors. I knew that I wanted to write my thesis on migration and diasporic communities. Seeing as the IRC helped refugees resettle in the Bay Area, among other areas throughout the US, it seemed like a good fit. Every family has a different migration story and interning at the IRC was a good way to learn and here these unique and different journeys.

2. What were your work responsibilities?
The IRC helps refugees in finding housing, attending health and social benefits appointment, finding work, and helping refugees who need long-term assistance in becoming self-sufficient individuals. My responsibilities as a resettlement intern were crucial to the initial arrival of the refugee family. The caseworkers that I worked with only handled family and individual cases for the first 90 days after their arrival, after which they are transferred to the Intensive Case Management branch of the IRC for additional assistance. My responsibilities included making periodic home visits to insure that the family felt safe and supported, taking individuals to social benefits appointments, scheduling initial healthcare checks and setting up primary physician preferences, assist in school enrollment for kids, setting up their new home and etc.

3. Are there accomplishments that you are particularly proud of?
I am glad to know that I was able to make a positive change in the lives of individuals and families in need. Interning at the IRC give a new meaning to USF’s motto of “Change the world from here” as it truly does give all of their interns the chance to make a difference in the lives of those in less than ideal situations.

4. How were you able to apply your MAIS coursework to your hands on experience?
During the spring semester, I took a class on refugees and forced migration. The IRC was able to help me better understand the life of a refugee and the struggles that they face on their journey to another country. The class also helped me learn the terminology that is used on a regular basis at the IRC. It was great to learn and apply what I’ve learned simultaneously in the semester. The International Law class was helpful in informing on what claims and threats these refugees must make in order to be granted refugee status. Overall, those two classes provided me with a great framework and understanding of migration and the rights afforded to refugees.

5. What did you gain from your internship?
From this internship I’ve gained a better perspective of what refugees must go through. It also gives me a better perspective on the US immigration system. Prior to coming attending USF and getting my internship at the IRC, I had worked at a law firm where I was tasked with filling out and sending immigration forms for business purposes. The IRC is the complete opposite of business immigration, and I am glad to have gained the experience and perspective of both sides of the immigration world.

MAIS Internship Spotlight: Briawna Gillespie (’16)

This week, we’re chatting with MAIS student, Briawna Gillespie, about how she completed her internship requirement this summer.

20160706_140948Q: Where were you interning this summer?
This summer, I had the pleasure of having two internships. The first was with the Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press (WIFP), a women’s organization that works so women in media have the freedom to express their opinions on issues they care about. The other was with Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation, an organization that helps to promote awareness and provide education to the public about female genital mutilation.

Q: What sort of work were you responsible for at each internship?
At WIFP, I took on a multitude of tasks. I was responsible for updating directories, helping organize events, and a few other interns and I worked together to design whole new logos and creative flyers to re-label the brand. I also attended a series of events all around the city for WIPF.

For Global P.E.A.C.E., I was primarily in charge of finding grants and brainstorming ideas for events. I was given an amazing opportunity to design a social media campaign for the organization to raise awareness about female genital mutilation. I had to come up with a budget, slogan, branding, and a litany of other details in order to bring this campaign to life.

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Q: Are there accomplishments that you are particularly proud of?
Definitely. At WIFP, the most important thing I accomplished was a presentation I gave in front of a large group of students, authors, and government representatives who were just as excited to learn about issues that women face in media.

The social media campaign I mentioned for Global P.E.A.C.E was ultimately very rewarding as well. As a result of my efforts and dedication, the president of the organization loved my ideas. Currently, the president is in the process of pitching that campaign to the board of directors so it can be launched and active by 2017.

Q: After working at these organizations, what have you gained from those experiences?
These two internships have allowed me to complete things that I never thought I would do, and ultimately allowed me to grow professionally. With enthusiasm and determined effort, I was able to bring my visions as an intern to life. Plus, the friendships and connections that I’ve made this summer were absolutely amazing, and those are definitely experiences that I will carry with me for the rest of my life and future career.

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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