Alumni Spotlight: Adanma Osakwe, MAIS ’11

Adanma Osakwe is a 2011 graduate from the Master of Arts in International Studies program. As a Nigerian-American growing up in Switzerland and attending high school at the International School of Geneva and college at the University of Massachusetts, Adanma brought a unique perspective to the classroom. Here’s a snapshot of where she’s taken her MAIS degree:

“During my time at MAIS, I completed several internships that significantly enhanced my work in the classroom. Those internships include: the San Francisco Human Rights Commission working in discrimination investigations to support fairness in housing and employment; the United States Trademark and Patent Office where I worked in the Office of the Chief Economist assembling cost-benefit analysis on copyright term extensions for the USA and Asia-Pacific; the Whitaker Group, a ThinkTank with a focus on US Foreign Investment in Africa and the impact of the African Growth and Opportunity Act; and the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) in Geneva where I worked on the impact of a growing Chinese presence on sustainable development and multilateral trade in Africa. My time at ICTSD supported my MAIS Dissertation project The New Scramble for Africa and Chinese engagements in the Niger Delta. Continue reading “Alumni Spotlight: Adanma Osakwe, MAIS ’11”

ISatUSFCA at the United Nations: Professor Dana Zartner attends #CSW60

I attended the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women’s (CSW) annual meeting at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, earlier this spring. It was held, fittingly, during Women’s History Month in March.

It was the 60th session of the commission, which included dozens of presentations and breakout sessions over a two week period. This year’s themes were women’s empowerment and its link to sustainable development and the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.

The commission discussed the need for empowering women in leadership and decision-making positions, assuring all possible measures be taken to address sexual and gender-based violence, recognizing the integral relationship between a healthy environment and human rights, and ensuring protections for human rights defenders.

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#WomensRights

I attended the event as one of a handful of delegates for the San Francisco-based NGO called the Women’s Intercultural Network (WIN). My official role was to attend sessions and help WIN develop recommendations to share with local government officials and NGOs.

WIN’s recommendations to CSW included making multinational corporations more responsible for upholding the principles of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which seeks to ‘make the global local’ by creating a framework for the improvement of the status of women and girls in villages, towns, and cities. One recommendation included creating a social media hastag, and eventually a broader campaign that promotes “Companies for CEDAW.” While international law does not apply to corporations generally, encouraging companies to adopt the rights guidelines outlined in the treaty on their own is a strong step towards improving women’s lives throughout the world and strengthening corporate social responsibility.

Keeping with the  goal of this year’s CSW to promote better use of technology to improve the welfare of women and girls, WIN co-sponsored a panel with local Bay Area organization FemResources about the possibility of creating apps that help refugee girls stay connected with friends and family and provide them with  information about available support services

A pipeline to jobs and internships for International Studies students

(want to become one? Check us out at: https://www.usfca.edu/arts-sciences/undergraduate-programs/international-studies)

In addition to representing WIN, I attended CSW to cultivate relationships that will benefit our students here at USF. As chair of the International Studies Department one of my primary goals is to build an extensive network of contacts for our students, which can help them with internships and careers after graduation. For example, I spent time speaking with one of the U.S. delegates representing the U.S. Department of Justice and her intern about the internship program through the DOJ and how the intern was finding her experience as well as representatives of the government of New Zealand on opportunities they may offer. I also met representatives of organizations such as MamaHope, the Alliance for Girls, The 50 Women Project, and the U.S. Department of Labor — all of which may be potential internship sites for students.

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Many students in our undergraduate International Studies and interdisciplinary Master’s in International Studies programs are interested in working with NGOs in the fields of human rights, women’s rights, sustainable development, and education. We also have students who hope to go on to careers in the foreign service or work for intergovernmental organizations like the UN. I was able to connect with individuals from organizations around the world and build networks that could be beneficial for my research on the development and use of international law to provide better human rights and environmental protections within states in which USF students are involved.

Leading in San Francisco

A primary focus of my work with WIN is to connect USFers to San Francisco and the Cities for CEDAW campaign. San Francisco was the first city in the U.S. to adopt the principles of CEDAW and is a leader in the campaign. Ultimately, I hope to incorporate elements of the campaign into my classes, having students work on advocacy plans to encourage other cities and the nation to adopt CEDAW. This is particularly important as the U.S. is the only industrialized country, and one of only six countries worldwide, that have not yet ratified CEDAW (the other five being Iran, Palau, Somalia, Sudan, Tonga).

During my time in New York, I spoke with other professors who, as part of their classes, bring students to CSW every year. My goal is to develop and fund a program so that USF students are able to experience CSW for themselves and actively engage with leaders from around the world on issues that are important to them.

It is one of the cornerstones of a USF education to engage with diverse communities from around the world to make change for the better. While an imperfect organization, the UN is one of the primary fora we have for true global discussion of issues that matter — both at home and abroad. Every time I attend, I am struck by the number of people there are in the world striving everyday to achieve justice and a better life for all. I hope to impart that to my students during their time at USF in the same way my colleagues and friends at CSW impart it to me.

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”

Alumni Spotlight: Daniel Hartz, MAIS ’10

I began my career in finance and banking before finally listening to the voice in my head imploring me to look for something more. As I was finishing a two year stint in Peace Corps Ghana I knew that a graduate degree was the next step in my career transition. One of the difficulties I faced was deciding which type of degree to seek and where. I discovered that USF was inaugurating a MAIS program and, fortunately for me, I was accepted into the first cohort.

Visiting artisan workshop in Mozambique
Dan at an artisan workshop in Mozambique.

Were it not for the individual, close relationships that MAIS faculty fostered with each of us students I’m not sure where I would be right now. As it happened, one professor introduced me to a USF graduate who founded a small investment firm that at the time was working on a unique agriculture investment in Ghana. It was a perfect fit and my internship with Golden Mean Capital Partners (GMCP) began almost immediately. The MAIS coursework helped me bring a different perspective to a GMCP team that was made up exclusively of finance professionals. In turn, the work we undertook in Ghana informed and shaped my graduate thesis: Integrating Venture & Philanthropic Capital in sub-Saharan Africa’s Agriculture Sector.

My MAIS internship, which became a full-time job after graduation, has taken me back to Ghana several times as well as Zambia, Mozambique, Mauritius and South Africa. For the past two and a half years I have been working with the Sustainable Cotton Cluster in South Africa to help provide unique financial solutions for revitalizing the country’s cotton sector. I also helped to found and grow the African Diaspora Network, a non-profit dedicated to furthering economic and social development across the continent.

Inspecting artisanal products in Mozambique
Inspecting artisanal products in Mozambique.

I think it says a lot about USF that both of the ventures I am involved in – each focused on inclusive growth and positive social impact – were founded by and include multiple team members that are graduates. I believe there is a shared sense that together we can do more. And it all began at USF.

Can GM crops help African farmers?

Written by Professor Brian Dowd-Uribe

Since serving in the Peace Corps in Togo, West Africa, I have been very interested in schemes to improve food security in rural Africa. One of the most promoted schemes is the introduction of genetically modified (GM) crops. Proponents like Robert Paarlberg and Calestous Juma claim that they are needed technologies to boost agricultural productivity and address regional food insecurities. Moreover they claim there is a moral imperative to make these useful technologies available to poor farmers. If they are good for Global North productivity, why can’t they help African productivity? On the other hand, opponents such as Vandana Shiva and a host of non-governmental organizations claim they will primarily benefit the relatively rich at the expense of poor peasant farmers.

Before diving in to the debate, we should first explore whether GM crops have been adopted in Africa, and what we know about their performance. To date, only two GM crops – insect-resistant forms of cotton and maize – have made it into the hands of African farmers. Of these, GM cotton has the longest empirical track record, having been the first GM crop ever introduced in Africa, and the only one that has been grown in multiple countries – first South Africa, then Burkina Faso. The performance of this crop has received intense scrutiny, as it offers the best indication of how the suite of other GM crops slated for commercial approval may perform across the continent.

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In 2003, Burkina Faso, in partnership with Monsanto, became one of the first African countries to begin field trials of Bt cotton, the most commonly grown GM crop in the developing world. Bt refers to a toxin – Bacillus thuringiensis – that kills one of the world’s most common and pernicious cotton pests, the bollworm. Monsanto agreed to backcross the Bt gene onto local Burkinabè varieties, which were subsequently released to farmers in 2008. With more than 140,000 smallholder farmers cultivating Bt cotton, Burkina Faso has the largest number of total GM crops producers on the African continent, and is celebrated as an example for how GM crops can help poor farmers.

Farmers have enthusiastically adopted the technology, and for good reason. Despite the very high cost of Bt cotton seed, studies show that Bt cotton has increased yields and profits – with an average Bt cotton farming family gaining 50% more profit than from conventional cotton. Moreover, Bt cotton growers use significantly less noxious pesticides. The total number of sprayings has gone down from 6 to 2, reducing exposure of damaging chemicals and saving valuable labour time. Other studies, including my own work, acknowledges these benefits, but questions whether this is the most equitable development strategy; it may benefit principally those farmers who are already doing well – and be too risky of an investment for those farmers with small plots of land or less capital.

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But the development outcomes of Bt cotton in Burkina Faso may soon be a thing of the past. Our recently published work reports that the inferior lint quality of Bt cotton has caused severe economic losses for Burkinabè cotton companies prompting a complete phase out of all Bt cotton production over the next two years. Company officials and Monsanto representatives cite two problems with lint quality. First, Bt varietals produce shorter, less desirable lint. The shorter length means poorer quality, which in turn means a lower price on the international market. Second, even though cotton yields are up, the amount of lint ginning machines is able to extract from the picked cotton has diminished. In other words, Bt cotton produces both less cotton lint, and lint of an inferior quality.

Continue reading “Can GM crops help African farmers?”

Current MAIS Student Jose Zacarias Blogs During his Immersion Trip to Puebla

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F15 MAIS student Jose Zacarias is spending his spring break on an immersion trip to Puebla, Mexico. Follow his adventures and insights on his blog – https://nwlsite.wordpress.com. Here is an excerpt:

Preparing for Puebla

While reading and studying the global economy produces fascinating discoveries nothing can compare to being immersed in a Country’s culture and economy. Saturday I will be traveling to Puebla, Mexico, and while I’m excited for the hopes of visiting Cholula, one of the oldest inhabited cities in Mexico, and feasting on Mole Pueblano on my first visit ever, the majority of my excitement comes from visiting a place that is today known as a transit site for Central American migrants making their treacherous way to the U.S. – Mexico border. Interestingly enough, Puebla is also rapidly becoming a hot spot for multinational corporations, like Audi (Coincidence?).

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UPDATE: Click here to listen to an interview conducted on Ibero Radio station about his experience in Puebla.

Dhaka Art Summit

Dhaka Bangladesh, February 4-8, 2016 | Professor John Zarobell

Art ought to be a means to overturn such expectations and to allow people to understand history and its relation to the present in a new way.

Last week, I traveled to Bangladesh to attend a unique visual arts event, the Dhaka Arts Summit. This was the third manifestation of a biennial festival that began in 2012 and I participated in the festival by moderating a large panel of curators and artists discussing the development of regional group exhibitions. Regional group exhibitions are controversial among artists and curators in the Global South because, while including them in a broader expanded understanding of modern and contemporary art, these museum shows nevertheless position them in the role of an exotic other for a western audience. Since the Dhaka Art Summit is itself a regional group show, billing itself as the largest festival of South Asian Art, it is clear that these projects have evolved since the 1980s, when the first exhibitions of non-western artists began to appear in European and American museums. Having a regional show take place in the region and unaffiliated with any museum, means that the terms are now more open to debate.

Festival Director announcing awards

Continue reading “Dhaka Art Summit”