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WLC | Spanish MA Student Profiles

Justine Strom

What is your academic/professional background prior to coming to AU?
I graduated in 2008 from Gustavus Adolphus College (Saint Peter, MN) majoring in Spanish with minors in Latin American studies and music. I then moved to Washington, D.C. for an internship with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI). I also interned for several other non-profit organizations before packing my bags to move to the Dominican Republic in 2010. While there, I collaborated with JJ Talentos, which is a non-profit organization that works with youth in marginalized neighborhoods to promote their participation in the arts (music, dance, theater). Finally, I made my way back to D.C. to start my master´s program. I currently work for El País Spanish newspaper's Washington Bureau.

Why did you choose AU, and the MA in Spanish: Latin American Studies in particular?
I really liked the unique classes that this program offers, which I was not able to find in other programs at other universities. For example, courses that pertain to Central American cultures, Caribbean cultures, Afro-Latin American music and legacy, radical politics in Latin America, and many more. I also liked the option to be able to graduate with the master´s degree and get a certificate in translation at the same time. Although in the end I did not do this option, many other students in the program are taking this route and seem to enjoy it. Apart from academics, I knew that I wanted to attend AU because of its location. There are so many internship and job opportunities in this city and the booming Latino community has helped me make connections to what I am learning about in the classroom.  

Have you worked on any specific research projects that you would like to highlight?
I applied for and received a Tinker Field Grant (through the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies at American University) to travel to El Salvador to conduct field research this past summer. My research topic pertains to how the Catholic Church has responded to violence (mainly gang violence) and its role in promoting human rights. I was interested in learning about any initiatives that the church, as well faith-based non-profit organizations, have taken to provide youth with other outlets as opposed to those that participating in a gang would offer. This was an especially interesting time to travel and conduct research because in March of 2012 the Catholic Church mediated conversations between the two dominant gangs in El Salvador, which eventually lead to a truce between the two.

Can you describe what you are working on at your current internship/job?
Right now at El País we are covering all US campaign activities. I enjoy being able to use my Spanish each day in a professional atmosphere. I am learning about how an international newspaper covers the Presidential elections, as well as how elections are perceived globally.

Is there anything else you would like prospective students to know about the program?
I especially enjoy that the professors in the department encourage students to present their work and research papers at various events on and off campus. For example, last semester numerous students in my program presented at the MACLAS Conference (Mid Atlantic Council for Latin American Studies). We also present our research papers that we write throughout the semester in class. At first I was weary about this because it is something that I always shied away from prior to starting my Master´s degree. I now realize how much I have improved my presentation and public speaking skills, as well as my confidence. This encouragement from the professors has given me the chance to be proud of the research that I have done and share it with others.

 

Lindsey Murphy

What is your academic/professional background prior to coming to AU?
I graduated from Kent State University in 2011 with a BA in international relations and Spanish. I went directly from my undergraduate studies to the MA program at AU.  

Why did you choose AU, and the MA in Spanish: Latin American Studies in particular?
I chose AU in part for its location. With my particular academic background Washington, D.C. offers a great deal of internship and job opportunities that are much more difficult to find in other states. For example, AU’s MA in Spanish has Proyecto Amistad which is an internship program where students can gain experience working in the Spanish speaking community and earn school credit at the same time. I was drawn to this particular MA program because unlike most Spanish degrees, this one focuses on Latin America rather than Spain. It was also important to me that the courses were instructed in Spanish; after just one year my writing, reading and speaking skills have improved immensely!

Have you worked on any specific research projects that you would like to highlight?
In spring 2012, I received the Tinker Field Research Grant through the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies. In August, I went to Santiago, Chile for three weeks to study the student movement. I interviewed professors and students to learn more about the historical context behind the movement and the specific reforms the students are demanding in the education system. I also participated in the national strike and other student demonstrations in order to study the creative methods used in protest to challenge the government. Right now I am working on turning this research into a project where I explore how the students use urban space as a tool in the movement.

Can you describe what you are working on at your current internship/job?
This past summer I worked for the National Democratic Institute (NDI) with the Latin American and the Caribbean (LAC) team. This is an organization that promotes openness and accountability in government by building political and civic organizations, safeguarding elections, and promoting citizen participation. I had a wide variety of responsibilities as a project assistant. For example, since NDI has offices in Latin America, the majority of my work was translating field reports and other accounting and subgrant documents. This position also involved some research and administrative tasks such as coordinating travel logistics for team members. Every morning I gathered relevant news articles for the region to keep the LAC team updated on current events. I was additionally in charge of NDI’s Political Parties Network website where I would post different articles related to constitutional reform, elections and other important legislation regarding women and indigenous groups in Latin America. Overall, I really enjoyed this experience for a few different reasons: It gave me a better idea of how non-government organizations function; it helped further my interested in democracy promotion; and it gave me a chance to put my academic knowledge to use in a practical setting.  


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