newsId: 617E44F7-5056-AF26-BED352481E8A1C02
Title: Class Explores DC Immigrant Housing
Author: Camille Bridger and Hope Johnston-Holm
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Abstract: An honors-level research class at SIS is collaborating with the nonprofit organization DC Doors to raise awareness about the homeless immigrant population in Washington, DC. DC Doors is led by SIS alum Janethe Peña, SIS/BA ’02.
Topic: International
Publication Date: 02/25/2015
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An honors-level research class at the School of International Service is collaborating with the nonprofit organization DC Doors to raise awareness about the homeless immigrant population in Washington, DC. DC Doors is led by SIS alumna Janethe Peña, SIS/BA ’02, and the class is taught by Assistant Professor Maria De Jesus. The class is conducting community-based participatory research with families who participate in DC Doors in order to help change the dialogue on homelessness.

Undergraduate students Camille Bridger and Hope Johnston-Holm discuss their visit to DC Doors and their experiences with the collaboration:

This semester, the American University Scholars Program provided students with an opportunity to take Power, Justice, and Health: Community-Based Participatory Research Models HNRS 196-012H, an honors-level research class. At first, we didn’t know what to expect. To our surprise and excitement, our professor, Maria De Jesus, welcomed us to a class that would focus on hands-on community-based participatory research. She informed us that we would conducting collaborative research with DC Doors, a grassroots organization that helps homeless female immigrants find housing, get jobs, and gain confidence by being able to provide for themselves by the end of their time within the program.

Taking a tour of the site was a very powerful experience for our group. We saw the rooms that the women stay in and could tell that the staff members were proud of their tenants. There wasn’t just pride in their voices, but hope and passion. Janethe Peña and her staff encapsulate those traits. It’s no wonder that the women coming into DC Doors feel safe in this environment. The staff members of DC Doors are welcoming and friendly to all who enter.

After the visit, our class put our thoughts into action and created five groups for our research. We want to change the dialogue surrounding homelessness and focus on the resiliency of the families that DC Doors assists.

• We created a social media group to document our research and to spread the word about DC Doors and its amazing, unique work.
• The survey group will analyze generalized information, including the demographics of its clients and the effectiveness of the resources available to them both through DC Doors and in the larger community.
• Our literature review group will explore ideas like resiliency, causes and perceptions of homelessness, and the importance of confidence and stability to homeless families.
• Our photo-voice group will give disposable cameras to the families in DC Doors so they can document their lives in ways that highlight events and experiences most important to them. Through a collaborative process, the research team will then co-analyze the pictures and co-create brief narratives to complement the pictures as a way of highlighting their lived experiences. We hope that the cameras, as tools of research and discovery, will become sources of empowerment for the families.
• The digital stories group will conduct narrative interviews with both staff members and the women to obtain their perspectives. The research team will ask the staff members to share their thoughts on working with the women and what the organizational resources and barriers are at DC Doors. They will ask the women personalized questions about their experiences. The group will then videotape some of the stories in order to highlight the resiliency of these women, as well as the wonderful work that DC Doors has done for them.

This class has now morphed into a greater social project where, as a group, we have the opportunity to make a difference in the perception of homelessness as it affects immigrant populations in Washington, DC. We hope that through our research, DC Doors will continue to benefit immigrant women and their families. Visiting the site showed us that the homeless women DC Doors is working with are real people. People have a tendency to dehumanize the homeless, but these are women who have children and husbands. These are families. DC Doors understands this and we’re excited to be working with the organization because of the real change it makes in supporting families.

DC Doors is a grassroots initiative that provides safe and affordable housing to the homeless immigrant population in Washington, DC. For more information, visit http://www.dcdoors.org/.

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Title: SIS Experts Debate Responses to Terrorism
Author: Antoaneta Tileva
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Abstract: The United States and its allies are grappling with how to combat extremism and prevent and respond to terrorism. A panel discussion at SIS on February 3 -- U.S. and European Responses to Terrorism: Do We Have It Right? -- addressed these challenges.
Topic: International
Publication Date: 02/19/2015
Content:

Facing the rise of the Islamic State group in the Middle East, Boko Haram in Nigeria, recent terrorist attacks in Paris, and extremist groups elsewhere, the United States and its allies are grappling with how to combat extremism and prevent and respond to terrorism. A panel discussion at the School of International Service on February 3 -- U.S. and European Responses to Terrorism: Do We Have It Right? -- addressed these challenges.

Moderated by Distinguished Journalist in Residence David Gregory, the former host of Meet the Press, the panel included Distinguished Practitioner in Residence Lt. Gen. David Barno (Ret.), who was senior commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan from 2003–05, and Distinguished Scholar in Residence Nora Bensahel, a national security expert.

“This is a conflict that defies easy explanations,” said Barno, noting that the presence of terrorist groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram is threatening to destabilize the entire Middle East and North African region.

Bensahel noted that it is not a traditional military challenge alone. “These types of threats are a response to U.S. conventional supremacy, and since they do not take place on a force-on-force battlefield, even state adversaries are turning to irregular tactics like terrorism to achieve their goals.”

She noted that the Al Qaeda model of the past was a centrally-organized unit, which offered more options to counter it. Al Qaeda has since morphed into many different groups with different agendas, which makes a central strategy to combat it very difficult.

Both panelists concurred that the United States has a geographic advantage that allows it to mostly avoid terrorist attacks at home, and that the United States takes a “if we fight them there, we do not have to fight them here” approach to radical combatants.

Europe, on the other hand, is vulnerable to domestic terrorist attacks, given its proximity to North Africa and the Middle East and its continuing challenges to assimilate its Muslim communities. Europe “sees terrorism as a criminal activity -- as such, it is a law enforcement problem,” said Bensahel. This non-military based response differentiates the fight against terrorism waged by Europe from that waged by the United States.

Gregory asked about the legacy of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the consequences for global terrorism. Barno noted that these wars were plagued by a number of issues. He pointed to a “lack of any continuity and zigzagging far too much” and suggested that the U.S. approach has lacked a proactive element. “We have to figure out how to get at the ideology of militant Islam. We have to limit their ability to recruit by removing their ideological legitimacy, attack their finances, and also address the humanitarian crisis they leave in their wake,” he said.

Bensahel and Barno both said that a containment strategy is more realistic than a “seek out and destroy” worldview. “Instead of talking about ‘defeat and destroy,’ a more realistic goal might be ‘degrade and contain geographically,’” said Barno. To that end, intelligence and law enforcement cooperation is crucial and there is also a greater need to understand dynamics on the ground -- particularly difficult in Syria, which is wracked by a civil war.

At SIS, Barno and Bensahel are collaborating on a book on military adaptation and the future of U.S. warfare. Follow them and David Gregory on Twitter: @DWBarno76; @norabensahel; @davidgregory.

Watch a video of the event here: http://www.american.edu/sis/events/SIS-Forum-Terrorism-and-US-Strategy-in-the-Middle-East.cfm

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Title: Climate Engineering – Three Questions for Simon Nicholson
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Abstract: A panel convened by the National Research Council of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences recently released a report that called for further study of climate engineering. We asked Assistant Professor Simon Nicholson for some insights:
Topic: International
Publication Date: 02/18/2015
Content:

A panel convened by the National Research Council of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences recently released a report that called for further study of "climate engineering" -- efforts to re-engineer the planet’s climate to battle global warming. We asked Assistant Professor Simon Nicholson, an expert on geoengineering and a founder of the Forum for Climate Engineering Assessment, for some insights:

Q: Climate engineering was once considered a fringe idea. Why is it gaining currency now?

A: It’s quite true that climate engineering was an idea that used to be confined to the darkest fringes of the conversation about responses to climate change. That has changed in the last handful of years for three main reasons:
• First, a small but vocal cohort of climate scientists has become disillusioned enough with the lack of political and social progress on climate change that they are pushing hard for serious consideration of ideas that in the past would have been seen as outlandish.
• Second, modeling studies have confirmed that the leading climate engineering proposal -- reflecting some amount of incoming sunlight by deploying sulfate particles high in the earth’s atmosphere -- would likely indeed have a cooling effect, though the positive and negative side effects attached to such an action are still being puzzled through.
• And third, studies and other activities like the recent reports from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) make it clear that there are people within major governments giving thought to climate engineering.
There are no guarantees that climate engineering proposals will ever advance from the drawing board stage. These are still speculative, unproven technological suggestions, and none are any kind of substitute for the hard yet critical work of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the impacts of a changing climate. At the same time, it can now be said that consideration of climate engineering is not going away, and will only grow louder and more insistent as the climatic condition worsens.

Q: What concepts did the expert panel propose to study and test?

A: The NAS panel decided to release two separate reports on climate engineering, and in doing so they reinforced categories that most people use when looking at climate engineering options. The first report is titled, “Climate Intervention: Carbon Dioxide Removal and Reliable Sequestration.” It examines the state of scientific knowledge around so-called carbon dioxide removal (CDR) proposals -- basically, imagined technologies that would draw large amounts of CO2 down from the atmosphere and hold it in long-term storage.

The second (and much thicker) report is titled, “Climate Intervention: Reflecting Sunlight to Cool Earth.” It looks at the state of scientific knowledge, this time around solar radiation management (SRM) proposals. These are technologies that might, someday, be developed and deployed to reflect some amount of incoming sunlight back into space before it can warm the earth’s atmosphere, as a way to lower regional or global average atmospheric temperatures.

In common with prior reports conducted by other bodies, the NAS documents suggest that CDR proposals are probably the less risky of the two approaches, but given current understandings and technologies would be incredibly costly and difficult to deploy at any useful scale, and work over such long timeframes that they don’t offer any kind of near-term help in combatting climate change. Some SRM proposals, on the other hand, most notably the injection of sulfates into the stratosphere, would likely be relatively cheap and could set to work tackling one major aspect of climate change, atmospheric temperature increase, almost immediately. SRM, though, is a much riskier undertaking.

The reports ended up calling for modest research agendas to advance the physical science of both CDR and SRM. Interestingly, the reports made clear that the knowledge gap on the physical science side is dwarfed by our lack of collective understanding of the social and political implication of climate engineering. There is, in other words, a huge amount of work that needs to be done on governance, public engagement, and civil society outreach. These are the major areas in which my SIS-based group, the Forum for Climate Engineering Assessment, are engaged.

Q: What could be the side effects and dangers of climate engineering?

A: We still have a great deal to learn about the potential upsides and downsides of climate engineering. At the rollout event for the NAS reports, a couple of the speakers characterized CDR technological options as largely free from risk. This is not true. Drawing down CO2 from the atmosphere is a good thing on its face, but the prevailing proposals would have enormous implications for landuse patterns, would require the development of huge new industrial infrastructures to transport and store CO2, and would require extraordinary new arrangements to enable international cooperation.

Leading SRM proposals like the injection of sulfates into the stratosphere pose their own sets of conundrums. I break the risks down into three categories: material (what if, as some models suggest, cooling the atmosphere shuts off the monsoon rains in India?); political (who gets to decide how SRM technologies are used, and how would conflicts be adjudicated?); and existential (what does all of this mean for our collective capacities to respond to climate change and for the sorts of future technological and social pathways we privilege?).

The Forum for Climate Engineering Assessment works to build a more robust, inclusive, and informed climate engineering assessment. Its next event, co-sponsored with Resources for the Future, will be held on February 24: “What’s Next for Climate Engineering?” Follow the Forum on Twitter at @CEAssessment.

Follow Simon Nicholson on Twitter @simonnicholson4. For media requests, please call J. Paul Johnson at 202-885-5943.

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Title: Drive Into the Future: Annual Case Competition Examines Ride Sharing Company Uber
Author: Laura Herring
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Abstract: Students explore strategic marketing plans and campaigns in this signature Kogod event.
Topic: Business
Publication Date: 02/13/2015
Content:

How does a company grow when it's already at the top of its game? That was the question posed in the 23rd Annual Kogod Case Competition. Students were tasked with developing a strategy to continue to grow the success of ride sharing company Uber in Washington, D.C., over the next five years.

More than 150 students participated in the annual event. Proposals ranged from instituting customer rewards systems to branching into new customer bases.

"The prompt was definitely geared toward creating an effective marketing strategy," said Ina Bonnier, BSF '16. "That was probably the most challenging for me as a numbers person."

Bonnier and her teammates, who made up SFGB Inc., focused their efforts on securing Uber's place as the preferred ride sharing company in the region.

"Uber is leading in the market right now, but we wanted to ensure that for the years to come," said Nishant Shrikhande, BS/CAS '16. "Our recommendations are designed to keep ahead of the competition."

Students weren't the only ones who found the case's lack of quantitative information somewhat difficult. The more than 60 judges found themselves challenged by the prompt as well.

"This case was certainly more vague than others in the past," said Farzad Shirzad, MBA '02. "That makes it difficult, but also more interesting because there are many ways to approach the problem."

Shirzad, who had competed as a student, enjoys judging the competition and giving back to his alma mater.

"I learned a lot from [the Case Competition] as a student and I'm continuing to learn as a judge," he said. "I also hope I bring a bit of empathy to the role as I recall working on little sleep and the stress involved as a student."

Student teams had 72 hours to prepare for the competition, from the case's release just before midnight on Wednesday, February 4, to the start of round one at 9 a.m. on Saturday. But despite the intense schedule, the teams enjoyed themselves.

"It was exhausting, to be sure," said Katerina Trajkova, MSMKTG '15 and a member of a winning team. "But it was also the most rewarding experience I've had so far at Kogod."

Teams for the competition are divided into three divisions based on student age:

  • Massachusetts: Teams comprised only of undergraduate freshmen and sophomores by credit hours.

  • Nebraska: Teams primarily comprised of juniors and seniors by credit hours, may include up to two underclassmen and no graduate students.

  • Wisconsin: Teams primarily comprised of graduate students and up to two juniors and/or seniors.

Judges could award up to 60 points to each team, divided among the categories of: Critical Issues; Evidence; Recommendations; Questions and Answers; Delivery; and Overall Impression. The winning teams of each division received $175, second place teams $125, and third place $75.

Winning the Day

Massachusetts Division Final Rankings

  • First Place—Millennial Management: Sophia Baneth, BA/SPA, ‘17; Kiersten Gonzalez, BA/SIS, ’18; Elizabeth Lilley, BA/SIS ’18; and Laith Shikir, BA/CAS ’17.

  • Second Place—MJ+H Consulting Group: John Atiyeh, BA/SIS ’17; Harry Glenn-Finer, BA/SIS ‘17; Joti Judge, BSBA ’18; and Matthias Ng, BA/SIS ‘15.

  • Third Place—MSM Consulting: Wilson McDermott, BA/SIS ‘18; Robel Minassi, BSF ‘15; and Dasha Savchenko, BA/SIS ‘18.

Nebraska Division Final Rankings

  • First Place—Case 00: Kylund Arnold, BSBA ’15; Sophia Barnes, BA/SOC ’16; Matteo Garofalo, BSBA ’16; Alexander Niu, BS/CAS ’15; and Virginia Zhao, BSA ’15.

  • Second Place—The Sapphire Group: Jonathan Beatty, BA/SIS ’15; Nkemdilim Chukwuma, BSBA ‘16; Yasmine Creese-Brown, BSA ‘15; and Heidi Friedrich BSA ‘15.

  • Third Place—BCCD Consulting: Cody Guyer, BSF ‘16; David Horowitz, BSBA ‘15; Casey Long, BSBA ‘15; and Benjamin Marks, BSA ‘15.

Wisconsin Division Final Rankings

  • First Place—GMA: Siwaree Indradat, MSMKTG ’15; Alyson Mucha, MSMKT ’15; Tom Shelly, MSMKTG ’15; and Katerina Trajkova, MSMKTG ’15.

  • Second Place—Omega Solutions: Iryna Casteel, MBA ‘16; Kendra Clark, MBA ‘16; Elizabeth Doane, MBA ‘16; Cathryn Panganiban, MBA ‘16; and Ekaterina Shok, MBA ‘16.

  • Third Place—BCHNS: Steve Beam, MBA ‘16; Mehdi Charfi, MBA ‘16; Nadia Noor, MBA ‘16; and Nithin Srinagesh, MBA ‘16.
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Title: The Conflict in Ukraine – Three Questions for Keith Darden
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Abstract: International efforts to resolve the crisis in Ukraine have accelerated as the conflict in eastern Ukraine between separatists and government forces has worsened. We asked Associate Professor Keith Darden, an authority on Ukraine, for some insights:
Topic: International
Publication Date: 02/09/2015
Content:

International efforts to resolve the crisis in Ukraine have accelerated as the conflict in eastern Ukraine between separatists and government forces has worsened. We asked Associate Professor Keith Darden, an authority on Ukraine, for some insights:

Q: The leaders of Ukraine, Germany, and France are pushing for a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday in Minsk in a bid to halt escalating bloodshed in eastern Ukraine. What might the contours of a deal look like?

A: There isn't likely to be a deal, but if there were, it might look like this:
1. A new line of settlement that would allow rail links between Donetsk and Luhansk to be under the control of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DNR) and the “Luhansk People’s Republic” (LNR), and possibly including the port city of Mariupol.
2. Withdrawal of forces from the line of settlement to a distance that would eliminate the shelling of civilian areas on either side of the line.
3. Securing water, electricity, and other supplies to Crimea.
4. Recognition of Donbas autonomy -- including control over the external border with Russia.

Q: Ukraine's president is seeking a ceasefire in his country's east and also defensive weapons from the West -- as Ukraine's economy continues to falter. What does Ukraine need to do to stabilize its economy and reform its political system?

A: Ukraine needs to decentralize political authority, so that governors are elected and its provinces have considerable control over taxation and budgetary issues. It needs to eliminate most of its regulatory framework, since this framework was not designed to "regulate" economic activity in the public interest but rather to secure political control over economic assets -- which meant that no one ever had an incentive to invest in the country. It needs to free energy prices, which means letting producers/sellers and consumers come to their own agreements about the supply of gas and electricity. If Ukraine took these steps, it would be a very positive step. Since the Maidan demonstrations, Kiev has shown no signs of moving in this direction.

Q: There is an increasing clamor in Washington calling for the United States to arm Ukraine. What might the consequences of U.S. "lethal aid" be?

A: The most likely consequence of U.S. lethal aid would be Russian escalation. I think we'd see the use of Russian air power and there might well be Russian troops on the Dniepr before the end of October. U.S. weapons would not deter Russia or the separatists from taking more territory. It would give them incentives to push further than they might otherwise intend to go.

For media requests, please call Paul Johnson at 202-885-5943.

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Title: A Road to Realization
Author: Gregg Sangillo
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Abstract: In a time of racial discord, AU students learn about white privilege.
Topic: Social Sciences
Publication Date: 02/04/2015
Content:

After a year marked by racial turmoil, many white people are now active participants in the Black Lives Matter movement. Yet, if we understand the concept of white privilege, even supportive whites may occupy a complicated position in the fight for racial justice. White activists often admit that they benefit from the same racist system that they're trying to destroy.

But academics studying white privilege say that acknowledging racial hierarchies is a solid first step towards eradicating them. American University has a sociology course, "White Privilege and Social Justice," that can help students sort through some of these thorny issues. Students of all races and ethnicities—black, white, Hispanic, Asian, and others—can learn more about racial identity, privilege, and unequal opportunity in American society.

The Course in Context

"There's an enormous field of white privilege studies that has been in existence since the early 1990s," says Celine-Marie Pascale, a sociology professor who started the course at AU in 2004.

Nationwide, white privilege courses have not been universally accepted. At the University of Notre Dame, a student publicly criticized a white privilege course and ended up doing an interview on Fox News. But aside from some complaints in the first year, Pascale says the class has been well-received at AU.

Last semester, the course was taught by Wanda Parham-Payne, an adjunct professorial lecturer. "I always reiterated that this is a safe space, and I'm not here to judge you," Parham-Payne says. "If students wanted to disagree with something other students said, that was up to them. I feel like those types of conversations are crucial in order to improve race relations."

After Parham-Payne's lectures, students would break into group discussions for about 20-25 minutes. Students also wrote personal, reflective papers on how race, class, and gender have influenced their lives.

AU alum Katie Beran says Pascale's course had a profound impact on her, and she even wrote about the experience in her law school admissions personal statement. "The class entirely re-conceptualized how I thought about race and how I experienced race relations on a daily basis," says Beran, who is white. "The course taught me that if I wasn't really fighting to change the current power structure, I was inadvertently supporting it."

Beran, who was an Honors student and a sociology major, describes the course as a journey of self-realization. "I came out on the other end feeling really committed to using my privilege to try to impact societal change," she says.

After graduating from AU, she went on to law school at University of Pennsylvania and co-founded the Civil Rights Law Project there. She's now a law clerk for a federal judge in Philadelphia.

White Privilege, Unearned Advantage

Pascale describes white privilege as a "social benefit that gives you unearned advantage." White people are afforded certain opportunities simply because of their privilege, and "whiteness" has been socially constructed as the norm, experts say.

"Until we can look at and dismantle those systematic and generally unsought advantages, we can't begin to dismantle the effects of the marginalization. So if we have 10 apples, and I'm consuming nine of them, we can look at how sad life is for you with only one apple. But until we address the fact that I've got nine, it's not going to change for you," Pascale says.

Academics offer empirical evidence to support this. "Studies have shown that if you send résumés to different employers that are identical in all aspects except name (Susan Smith in one and Tekisha Green in the other), the person with the name readily identifiable as 'white' gets the interview most of the time. Here you can see how racial privilege operates in ways that have nothing to do with whether or not the applicant is racist," Pascale explains.

In her class, Parham-Payne utilized Devah Pager's "The Mark of a Criminal Record," a widely read article in the field of sociology. When comparing white and African-American job applicants with comparable résumés in Milwaukee, Pager found that the white job applicant was more likely to get a callback for an interview. Even whites with criminal records were more likely to get job callbacks than African-Americans without criminal records.

Starting Small, Thinking Big

In addition to this course, AU has hosted forums on racial understanding and white privilege. The Center for Diversity & Inclusion holds workshops on "Unmasking Your Privilege." On January 24, a number of campus organizations were involved in a Teach-In for Justice, which included a session on white privilege led by Pascale.

Assistant Vice President of Campus Life Fanta Aw helped with curriculum design and faculty recruitment for the Teach-In. "The feedback we've gotten from students and participants who attended the white privilege [session] has been overwhelmingly positive. Many said it was really an eye-opener for them," Aw says. The whole event was a success, she adds, drawing from a diverse cross-section of students, faculty, staff, and administrators.

In wrestling with issues of privilege, Aw hopes these courses and programs will provide students with a sense of agency. She wants people to feel empowered to discuss race with friends and family.

"What I think is most challenging for students, and rightfully so because of their age group, is 'So, what can we do about it? We're seeing these high levels of injustice. But what can I as one person do about that?' And what we're saying to them is, 'You can [make a difference].' But the way you can is you start with your community, you start with your inner circle. And you build out."

Breaking Down Barriers

A frequent complaint about these kinds of courses and discussions is that they're preaching to the converted. People in attendance, the thinking goes, are probably already vocal opponents of bigotry. But Aw insists that anyone who attends can still learn new techniques in confronting racism.

And it's hard to pigeonhole some of the white students participating. Sophomore Becca Lamb is a Christian conservative who is pro-life. But she didn't view the deaths of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island, New York along conventional left-right, ideological lines. "It did feel like there was no political side to this," says Lamb, a student in the School of International Service. "I can look at Michael Brown's parents and the people of Ferguson and say, 'We need to be showing compassion.'"

She's taken courses related to gender and power, where the privilege issue has been discussed extensively. Her international affairs-focused sorority, Delta Phi Epsilon, was a co-sponsor of the recent Teach-In.

In response to a question about students and social media, Lamb says, "We don't learn to deal with conflict well. We can just block, we can just delete, we can just erase. And so, when you're forced to sit in a room with someone you care about, and talk it out and get to common ground, that can be really good. And it's really good for us to go through that."

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Title: Teach-In Highlights AU’s Focus on Civil Rights, Race During MLK Week
Author: Patrick Bradley
Subtitle:
Abstract: The all-day event proved impactful for many, especially one of its organizers.
Topic: On Campus
Publication Date: 02/02/2015
Content:

Teaching Inclusion

During her freshman year, Marie Pagan marched through downtown Washington, D.C., in response to the shooting death of Trayvon Martin; now, in her senior year, she’s marched on campus for the events in Ferguson, Mo., and New York City—unfortunate bookends to her college career.

Pagan helped organize the December demonstration, and her efforts recently carried into January’s Martin Luther King Jr. Week, when she assisted in planning AU’s Teach-In for Justice, focusing on civil rights in the 21st century.

Along with other student organizers, the School of Public Affairs senior wanted to continue the momentum around these pressing issues.

“We didn’t want it to stop there,” she said of the December protest, called “The Darkening.” “We thought the teach-in would be a great education opportunity to bring more knowledge to students.”

More than 200 students attended the Saturday, Jan. 24, event, which ran from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The day opened with a welcome by Provost Scott Bass and an original, dramatic performance by Professor Caleen Jennings before faculty and staff led breakout discussions that covered topics from white privilege to organizing for social change.

Students shared their personal experiences through the #AU6word story project. “It was an opportunity for students to be really candid,” Pagan explained. “That day there were open conversations about race that I’ve never experienced before here at AU.”

A daughter to Puerto Rican and Colombian immigrants, Pagan’s six-word story read, “Soy latina y negra. Soy latinegra.”

“It was a watershed moment for our responsiveness to social movements and social action,” said staff co-planner Calvin Haney, who serves as associate director for leadership in the University Center & Student Activities. “This could be a benchmark for how we address those co-curricular education moments that we need to help the students with.”

To further on-campus discussions around race and diversity, the university will offer continued programming and events throughout the semester.

Dedicated Week

The teach-in, however, was not the only standout event during AU’s MLK week. An annual tradition organized by the Center for Community Engagement & Service (CCES) dating back more than two decades, the MLK Day of Service saw 228 students serve at nine sites around the city. Some students packed cold weather kits for homeless veterans in the District, and this year, National Security Advisor and former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice joined beside them in their work.

The Kay Spiritual Life Center continued its focus on social justice issues with its annual Poynter Lecture with Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change, as well as two Table Talk discussions.

Rev. Mark Schaefer spoke on MLK’s spiritual influences in a lunchtime lecture attracted students, staff, faculty, and alumni from as far back as the Civil Rights era. The second presentation focused on race and class in D.C., with faculty members speaking alongside special guest Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP Washington Bureau.

“As a university rooted in the Methodist tradition, the Kay Center strives to make plain the intersection between faith and action,” said Kay’s assistant director, Christine Gettings. “We hope that events like [these] help our students see the connections between the deep values, ideas, and aspirations of a community and its response to calls to action.”

Similarly, the School of International Service held a workshop open to the entire university community on building skills to improve understanding across race and ethnicity. Attendees at the packed event ran through scenarios, discussing micro-aggressions that may appear in the classroom.

“It was a great mix of students, staff, and faculty,” said SIS freshman Rachel Bernard. “It was interesting to hear the different perspectives. There’s always room to grow, no matter how far you’ve come.”

In the company of so many different events, Haney saw the teach-in as a natural complement to capturing King’s approach to social justice.

“It honored the political activist spirit of MLK,” he explained. “Where [the MLK Day of Service] focused on the service component of his vision, I think the teach-in really brought attention to the political activist nature of King’s legacy.”

Next Steps

King’s legacy as well as the legacies of other Civil Rights leaders shaped Pagan’s academic path. Coming to AU to become a TV journalist, she soon felt pulled in a different direction after taking classes on civil rights history. She felt, in many ways, that she connected with the leaders she studied.

“I could really see myself as a part of these struggles and what people have been going through,” the Virginia native said. “I’m very aware of how great an opportunity it is for me to attend AU, because I know that not everyone from back home has that opportunity.”

Though now an RA in AU’s social justice living-learning community and a member of Student Government’s Women’s Initiative, Pagan plans to eventually become a civil rights attorney or policy analyst, just as soon as she finishes Teach for America.

And while she’s seen so many negatives in the events that have bookended her time at AU, she’s taking the experiences—good and bad—with her into the life that follows graduation.

“My college experience will definitely be framed by what’s going on now,” she explained. “I feel like I have the support of the university… Getting to know the different resources on campus and getting to know different people and their passion for the same issues has been really inspiring.”

Tags: Campus Life,Campus News,Office of Campus Life,Student Affairs,Student Activities,University Center,School of International Service,Race Relations,Kay Spiritual Life Center,Community service,Community Service Center
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newsId: EB9C6248-5056-AF26-BE0569264EB871DB
Title: Global Learning Trip Provides First-Hand Experience in International Business
Author: Laura Herring and Mike Stankiewicz
Subtitle:
Abstract: Kogod students traveled to Kenya to experience the business culture of one of Africa’s biggest economies.
Topic: Business
Publication Date: 02/02/2015
Content:

Kenya has a GDP of $55.24 billion, according to the World Bank. Conversely, the U.S. GDP is $16.7 trillion, exponentially larger.

A group of 15 Kogod students, both graduate and undergrad, visited Kenya as part of an AU study abroad business experience and saw this disparity first-hand. Part of Kogod's IBUS 244/744 course offered every year, the students traveled to Kenya to observe and experience an accelerated economic development of an emerging market.

Business in Kenya 

During the trip, which lasted from January 3-10, students visited Vision 2030, Nation Media Group, KenGen's Geothermal Plant, and Safaricom, the leading mobile network operator in Kenya, among other sites of interest.

Travel is preceded by several on-campus class meetings to learn about the business environment of the region and begin research on the companies the group will visit, along with preliminary work on the research projects the students complete upon return from the program.

Ritanch Hans, MSSM '15, described KenGen's Geothermal Site visit as his favorite business experience.

"While the site is very expensive to manage and operate, it is much cleaner and a more renewable energy than oil or coal," Hans said.

Christopher Evanson, BA/SIS '15, Kogod minor, spoke about his experience with money and commerce in Kenya. He discussed M-pesa, a micro-financing service.

"M-pesa allows you to deposit money stored on your cell phone and transfer money through secured messages," said Evanson.

For Professor Tomasz Mroczkowski, the faculty advisor on the trip, these two businesses were perfect examples of Kenya’s ingenuity.

"We saw a broad range of ideas and achievements from the Kenyan businesses," he said. "Each of them was well-adapted to the country and its needs and that's what these trips are for."

In the past, Kogod has offered IBUS 244/744 trips to Asia, Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East, but this was the school's first program in sub-Saharan Africa. Mroczkowski has led more than a half-dozen of these trips, but the experience in Nairobi was one of the best.

"There was a kaleidoscope of things to see and learn from, both for me and the students," he said. "From business to nature, society to culture, we experienced a great deal in a short time and it was an invaluable experience."

In addition to local businesses, the group also visited the Kenyan National Assembly, The Ol Pejeta Nature Conservancy, Hell's Gate National Park, and Lake Naivasha.

The Kenya program received a very large enrollment for a study abroad course. In addition to the array of businesses and cultural sites, the Kogod students also spent time at the American University AU Abroad Program office in Nairobi. 

"It was always my dream to go to Africa," said Hans. "If I can get class credit why not do it?"

Evanson, a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard, said he never misses taking opportunities overseas to better immerse himself in the culture of the world.

"I'm very happy that AU offers an experience like this that allows us to go out and integrate with different communities, which is an experience that money can’t buy."

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Title: The Defense Budget and Pentagon Confirmation Hearings: Three Questions for Nora Bensahel
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Abstract: We asked SIS Scholar in Residence Nora Bensahel, an expert on military issues, for some insights into the defense budget and Pentagon confirmation hearings.
Topic: International
Publication Date: 02/02/2015
Content:

President Obama’s 2016 budget, set to be reviewed by Congress this week, is expected to earmark $534 billion for defense spending. Also this week, confirmation hearings will begin for Ashton Carter as the next Secretary of Defense. We asked SIS Scholar in Residence Nora Bensahel, an expert on military issues, for some insights:

Q: The Obama administration will seek a base defense budget of $534 billion. Will this trigger mandatory cuts?

A: Yes, it almost certainly will, because the request is about $35 billion greater than current budget caps allow. According to the 2011 Budget Control Act, the base defense budget in Fiscal Year 2016 may not exceed approximately $499 billion. Congress cannot give the Department of Defense (DOD) more money unless it changes that law. Many members of the House and Senate support doing so, especially given recent crises with ISIS, Russia, Iran, and others.

Yet even if strong majorities supported increasing the defense budget, there will still be almost no chance that Congress would vote to do. The structure of the Budget Control Act means that Congress cannot increase defense spending without revising the budget caps on the domestic budget, and there is no consensus at all on that contentious issue. So the defense budget will remain limited to $499 billion, and the big debate over the next few months will be about how to allocate the $35 billion in required cuts.

Q: The Obama administration will also ask for nearly $51 billion in funding for the war in Afghanistan as well as the conflict against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. Is Congress likely to approve these sums?

A: Yes, it is. Funds for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), as the war funds are known, do not count against the budget caps. Over the past decade, Congress has allowed DOD to spend these funds not only on ongoing military operations, but also to supplement things that are normally in the base budget, such as new weapons and additional training. Congress will almost certainly do so again this year, using OCO funds as a way to get around the budget caps. The key question will be whether Congress will give DOD enough money to offset the $35 billion cut to its base budget request in addition to continuing to fund operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere around the world.

Q: Confirmation hearings for Ashton Carter begin this week. What issues or objections might the Senate committee raise?

A: The Senate will confirm Ash Carter easily, and perhaps even unanimously. Carter is very well qualified for the position and well regarded throughout the defense community as well as on Capitol Hill. Yet the confirmation hearings will be still be quite rocky. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain has already said that he intends to use the hearings to examine what he called the “feckless foreign policy” of the Obama administration. Carter will therefore have to endure rough questions from outspoken opponents of U.S. policies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and beyond, and manage to avoid any serious mistakes during his testimony before the confirmation vote occurs.

Follow Dr. Bensahel at @norabensahel. For media requests, please call Paul Johnson at 202-885-5943.

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newsId: 28D0C13A-5056-AF26-BE08D906F3F0980C
Title: Spotlight on the CRS Program
Author: Antoaneta Tileva
Subtitle:
Abstract: Spotlight on the Comparative and Regional Studies Program
Topic: International
Publication Date: 01/30/2015
Content:

The Comparative and Regional Studies (CRS) program at the School of International Service bridges comparative analysis and regional specializations. By exploring the frontiers of comparison across regions, this program represents a distinctive form of professional education, at once scholarly and practical.

We asked Associate Professor Randolph Persaud, director of the CRS program, to tell us more.

What is the mission/vision of the CRS program?

Our goal is to provide a strong research foundation that bridges the gap between research and policy, through connecting our academic work in the classroom with real world problems and issues, and taking advantage of our location in Washington, D.C. to learn about issues ranging from trade policy to defense budgeting. The Comparative and Regional Studies program bridges concepts and understanding of one or more world regions. The curriculum offers analytical tools for examining locales of students' choice as well as choices with a thematic focus. Regional expertise involves grounding in specific historical and cultural settings. It enables one to grasp changing coalitions' policies for addressing political and economic challenges. It also makes broad shifts in international relations concrete, identifies similarities and differences among parts of the world, and explores changing dynamics of global power relations.

How is the program unique?

CRS offers an innovative approach to local, national, and transnational questions in international affairs by bridging comparative analysis and regional specialization. Unlike conventional approaches to comparative politics, our program promotes interdisciplinary understandings of themes and theories, situating emerging topics and classic problems of international affairs in studies that draw upon sociology, geography, political science, and other fields. The CRS program is thus innovative in its modalities of comparative inquiry, enabling students to gain knowledge of specific countries while engaged in cross-regional analysis. By pioneering the frontiers of comparison across regions, this program represents a distinctive form of professional education that is both scholarly and eminently practical.

While SIS is a policy-oriented school, our goal is to foster strong research skills and an ability to reflect on the broader perceptions and policies outside of the United States, so that our students are well prepared to seek careers in the government, nonprofit, and private sector. Students can work with different professors who serve as mentors, attend high-profile events, lectures, and roundtables, extend their classroom experiences in ways that foster engagement and policy learning, and be able to write for different audiences, collaborate with peers, and deal with complex issues.

What are some things your program does to further your students professionally?

Through the combination of both theoretical rigor and applied knowledge, CRS helps place many students in internships and jobs overseas and in Washington D.C. With a population drawn from all world regions, the capital itself is a vast campus, offering extensive resources, including international organizations, embassies, U.S. government offices, major libraries, a university consortium, numerous museums, and other cultural and educational venues. Professors often integrate these intellectual resources into their courses. Through a recently developed "practica" option, students have conducted research for the U.S. State Department, the American Bar Association, and other "clients." Such innovative approaches to learning ensure that our curriculum reflects shifting demands in the international affairs job market.

Our students graduate equipped with a competitive skill set complemented by regional expertise that prepares them for jobs in government, the nonprofit sector, internationally-oriented businesses, or further academic study. We work on connecting students with former alumni through a variety of measures, whether via personal connections, professional events, or assistance with letters of recommendations, security clearance interviews, and merit awards for further language or field work.

Describe the students in CRS.

Students in CRS come from all across the United States, and from practically every continent. Our students bring a rich diversity of cultural, scholarly, and professional experiences to the classrooms. CRS graduates have pursued careers in government, nongovernmental agencies, international organizations, business, and academe.

Learn more about the CRS program here: http://www.american.edu/sis/crs/

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newsId: C61CDCBB-5056-AF26-BE51BCB2CC7EF9F5
Title: Be Curious and Stay Connected: Lessons from Tony Silva, SIS/MA '94
Author: Megan Patterson, SIS/BA '11
Subtitle:
Abstract: Tony Silva, SIS/MA ’94, looks back on his AU experience and his international communication master’s program.
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 02/09/2015
Content: "Be curious and remain curious."

Tony Silva, SIS/MA '94, values this philosophy as one of the most important things that he learned from his master's degree in international communication at American University's School of International Service. Having graduated with a degree in journalism from New Mexico State University, Tony came to AU, and SIS specifically, with a passion to do good in the world. Throughout his career, and now as executive vice president of Social Change at Ogilvy Public Relations, he is doing just that.

Looking back on his career, Tony knows that he has always been striving to make the world better. He describes the work that he and his colleagues at Ogilvy do, saying simply, "Social change is ultimately to improve the human condition." He credits the diversity at AU for helping him realize his "interest in travel, interest in issues, and how these issues effect a global population." 

While Tony went straight to the SIS master's program after graduating from college in New Mexico, not everyone else did. He valued the diversity of his peers, both globally – "Many of my classmates were from other countries or had spent a significant amount of time abroad" – and professionally – "I got to just learn not only from the professors, but from everyone around me." 

Tony knows the value of his degree, and he says that in his experience, the Washington, D.C. community values it as well. "Many AU alumni stayed in Washington for 25 years," he says, "so AU is well respected." Tony also is a big proponent of continuing to engage with the university. What's one reason why he encourages others to be engaged with their alma mater? "I got a private tour of the new SIS building before it was opened! That's one of the nice perks of staying connected with the university." 

5 things Tony Silva says his AU experience taught him: 

  1. Be curious and remain curious.
  2. Stay engaged and interested in many things.
  3. Bring new thinking into the workforce.
  4. Allow and accept the evolution of communication.
  5. Stay connected with people. Staying connected helps operating in this world a little bit better.
Tags: Alumni,Alumni Update,International Communication,SIS Career,School of International Service
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newsId: 65DAC901-A6A4-8974-68EDC272F0D9A737
Title: SIS Graduate Student Studies Development in Africa
Author: Antoaneta Tileva
Subtitle:
Abstract: Kafia Ahmed, second year SIS graduate student in IPCR interned in Kenya.
Topic: International
Publication Date: 10/13/2014
Content:

Kafia Ahmed, a second year SIS graduate student in IPCR, focusing on development in East Africa and prevention of gender-based violence, interned in Kenya this past summer and shared her experience with us:

SIS: Describe the organization you interned for and the type of work that you did.

KA: Adeso is a humanitarian and development organization that is changing the way people think about and deliver aid in Africa. It is an NGO in Africa working in a very different way than most. It believes that development must come from within, not outside African communities (i.e. Africans themselves must determine Africa’s future) and that while international aid has provided much-needed support, it often falls short of enabling lasting change at the grassroots level. Adeso wants to change this by creating and utilizing strong bonds with African communities. 

I worked with many of the organization’s existing projects and supported a variety of central functions during my time there. I learned a lot about the organization by doing the tasks put in front of me and spent a lot of time interacting with the other staff to plan and execute projects.

SIS: Are you still in contact with the organization? 

KA: I was mentored by the organization’s Regional Communications and Advocacy Manager who I am still in touch with and currently working with to support some of the organization’s projects while I am now back in D.C.  

SIS: Describe the value of international education in relation to your own personal experience.

KA: It's difficult to learn about the world without getting there and experiencing it for yourself. No one can teach you the same way that travel can. You have to get out there and see what kind of person you can become, by challenging yourself. 

SIS: What specifically about your program abroad did you find helpful/useful? 

KA: The fact that I was given real work to do and not busy ‘intern’ work really made it a meaningful experience for me. It showed me what I could potentially be doing if I worked there full time and taught me skills needed for future work in the field. 

SIS: How did your study abroad experience influence your career aspirations? 

KA: My internship abroad was a look inside the exact kind of work I hope to do after finishing my degree. It allowed me to experience what real life conditions are for doing important work abroad and the challenges as well as the meaningful impact that are part of it. It enabled me see another piece of the picture and how I can be a part of it one day.  

SIS: What were the most challenging or difficult aspects of your program and how did you overcome them? 

KA: My biggest challenge was not getting in my own way and allowing myself to take on tasks that scared me and rising to the challenge.

SIS: How beneficial do you think it is to have this program on your resume or international experience, in general? 

KA: I think that this experience shows that I am a good candidate for the kind of work that I want to do, it shows that I am capable and have the skills set they seek.  

SIS: What kind of professional skills did you develop during your time abroad? 

KA: Timeliness, organization, and how to ask for help when I need it.

SIS: What advice can you offer to other study abroad students? 

KA: Think about what kind of job you’d like to do when you graduate and pursue an internship with an organization that has an opportunity like that. Find the person who has that job and ask them how they got to where they are.  

SIS: How did your time abroad influence your studies at SIS or academic interests, in general? 

KA: My experience showed me that the career path I’ve chosen is the right one for me and that I can actually succeed and thrive in my chosen field. 

SIS: Would you recommend the program to your peers or if the internship site interested in receiving more AU students? 

KA: I would highly recommend this internship to anyone interested in East Africa and dignified development solutions. Others can reach out to me and the SIS International Programs Office if they are interested in interning with Adeso.  

SIS: Does your career goal relate to your international experience?

KA: Yes.

SIS: Is there anything else that you wish to say about your experience? 

KA: Feel free to read the blog entries I wrote while there: http://kafiainkenya.blogspot.com/

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Title: From a Semester in Norway to a Career in International Education: Caitlin Murphy, SIS/MA '14
Author:
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Abstract: Profile of Caitlyn Murphy, SIS/MA '14
Topic: International
Publication Date: 10/06/2014
Content:

Caitlin Murphy is a recent alumna of the SIS International Communications program who spent a semester studying abroad in Norway with one of the SIS partner institutions, Norwegian University of Life Sciences. After graduation, Caitlin accepted a position at Lebanon Valley College as the Associate Director of Global Education. She now manages all international aspects at the College from international student recruitment and advising to study abroad programs. During her time as a student in the International Communication program, Caitlin focused her studies on international education.

SIS: Describe your experience abroad during your degree program at SIS

CM: I studied abroad for a semester at the University of Life Sciences (NMBU) in Norway. I worked with the SIS International Programs Office and was placed in regular graduate classes at NMBU with all the other students studying there. It was a complete immersion and I not only took classes there that were different from those at SIS, but I learned so much about the country and culture of Norway. I also was able to travel around a lot on the weekends.  

SIS: Describe the value of international education in relation to your own personal experience 

CM: International education is the most inexpensive catalyst, energizer, therapy, and mirror that anyone could ask for. The experience challenges at the onset, evokes curiosity, leads to triumph and confidence, which in turn, with some reflection, is the key to all future trials and tribulations. The power to thrive somewhere else has been jumpstarted with such an experience and that is something that students can take with them for the rest of their lives.

SIS: How did your study abroad experience influence your career aspirations?

CM: Although I have studied abroad a few times before, this experience was even more transformative than I could have imagined. I met people from all around the world, I gained more spontaneity and courage, and lastly I gained genuine empathy for circumstances I had never experienced until I was five months in Norway making sense of my early 20s and my future. While I had a sense of how to navigate trains and airplanes before, I learned much more about ferries and fjords. That may seem irrelevant, but now I know that I need to be in a place that values the great outdoors, and mountains are a must.  

SIS: What advice do you offer to a study abroad student?

CM: My advice is to do everything you can. Do the things that scare you most, for the biggest risks yield the biggest rewards. Make yourself uncomfortable in times when you can make others comfortable, and you will learn to develop meaningful friendships and lasting experiences. Do not think of study abroad as a static experience. Once you have lived somewhere else, you begin to start a life with a group of people; that doesn't have to end when it's over. Reflect, communicate, and motivate yourself to stay connected elsewhere as you continue to expand your options and your world back home.  

SIS: What specifically about your program abroad did you find helpful/useful? 

CM: My program was a taste of a completely different education system. I was not accustomed to simply hearing lectures and then taking final exams that were worth large parts of my grade. While initially I was worried and annoyed about the grading process, I realized that many other students have lived this way forever and survived. I thought, why can't I? I will be better for it in the end and I will become more adaptable in my test-taking skills, and it turned out to be beneficial in the end. It has made me more flexible and a bit more stress free. 

SIS: What were the most challenging or difficult aspects of your program and how did you overcome them? 

CM: The most challenging aspect of my program was learning to balance my budget in one of the most expensive cities of the world. Some of my favorite pastimes were difficult to fulfill because such activities were extremely expensive. However, I tried new activities and did many more things with friends in our apartment complex on campus. For example, instead of eating out we cooked in -- it was during these times that we shared cultural traditions and nuances. I practiced my language skills and laughed over foreign music or entertainment. The little moments truly make the entire experience; that is the secret.  

SIS: How beneficial do you think it is to have this program on your resume or international experience, in general? 

CM: Because of my work in international education, having a network outside of the United States is always vital. Also, because I lived with international students from all around the world, I was fortunate to make lasting connections and great friendships with these people. Now I have a little network to call on for visits, favors, advice and so on as I continue in my work.  

SIS: What kind of professional skills did you develop during your time abroad? 

CM: In Norway, I was exposed to sustainability, international development, poverty, and economics through my coursework. These frameworks are vital for my future in international education and how I will conceptualize my work. While the following are not professional skills, they have served me after my time in Norway. I learned how to cook all sorts of international foods, as I was surrounded by international students. I also learned how to cross country ski, swing dance, and improved on my Italian language speaking, oddly enough. 

SIS: How did your time abroad influence your studies at SIS or academic interests, in general? 

CM: I knew going into graduate school that I wanted to study abroad so I made sure to focus on my core courses to start. This actually made me much more focused my first year and encouraged me to take additional credits, such as Skills Institute Courses. Taking on additional work to start and allowing myself more creativity towards the end of my program truly gave me a strong foundation to grow in whatever direction I wanted to at the end of my program with elective credits and thesis work abroad.  

SIS: Would you recommend the program to your peers? 

CM: I think every SIS student SHOULD study abroad. There may only be so many chances to have such an uninterrupted time period to go and explore. Even if you have done it before, every experience, new place, and new face you make can be the difference in where you end up. As SIS students, we need to practice what we preach and get out into the world MORE.  

SIS: Does your career goal relate to you international experience? CM: I hope one day to be working abroad, in some sort of educational or training capacity. Seeing Norway has opened my eyes to a desirable country, but also a great and interesting case study to an education system that is a bit unique. 

SIS: Is there anything else that you wish to say about your experience? 

CM: My experience in Norway is still so central to not only my life but my entire essence. During my experience, I faced new life obstacles, and many roads were converging at once: saying goodbye to friends, graduation, getting a job, moving, and other relationship changes. Being in Norway at the time allowed me to think objectively and with new eyes that were not exhausted by my daily routine of who I was and where I was going. This new context truly provided a new canvas and the experiences I had and the friends I made colored this for me in ways I couldn't have imagined by the time I returned home. I am still working on this "painting" in a sense, but I think, breathe, and dream about Norway and those experiences still.  

There was a story that the Norwegian Embassy did on me during my first or second week in Norway. I also made a video -- there are no words, it is just a slideshow. Enjoy!

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Title: From Undocumented to Unstoppable
Author: Rebecca Vander Linde
Subtitle:
Abstract: Daniel Alejandro Leon Davis achieved his college dreams, despite seemingly insurmountable odds.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 06/13/2014
Content:

At age six, Daniel Alejandro Leon Davis, SIS/BA ’13, came to the United States from Venezuela with his mother to visit siblings in Miami. Instead of returning home, Daniel and his mother stayed in the U.S. permanently, though they were undocumented. Despite what seemed to be insurmountable odds, Daniel persevered. He received AU’s prestigious Abdul Aziz Said Phi Epsilon Pi Scholarship, graduated Magna Cum Laude, and won the Fletcher Scholar Award for exemplifying integrity and selflessness in citizenship while achieving academically.

As an AU student, Daniel was the first undocumented intern for the Clinton Global Initiative, part of President Bill Clinton's philanthropic foundation. Now, he is chief of staff to Michael Skolnik who is a civil rights activist, political director to hip-hop pioneer Russell Simmons, and president of GlobalGrind.com.

“My mother lived the American dream,” Daniel says. Although his mother can’t speak English, she put on a brave face and gave her children everything she could, working as many as three jobs and eventually becoming the top interior designer for Mercedes Homes.

It is clear Daniel’s mother is his inspiration and champion. Looking back at his childhood, he recognizes the signs that she struggled because they were undocumented. He remembers nights when his mother would go without food; her constant apprehension around police officers (even mall security guards) for fear of deportation; and frequent visits to her lawyer’s office. Undocumented immigrants often live in such secrecy and fear, it is not uncommon for them to hide their status from their children, which is why Daniel did not learn he was undocumented until his senior year of high school.

Daniel dreamed of attending an Ivy League school, but the country's economic crisis derailed those plans. His mother could no longer afford the tuition, and his undocumented status disqualified him from financial aid and scholarships, so he enrolled at Seminole State College and earned his associate’s degree. Many prestigious four-year schools accepted Daniel’s transfer application but would not allow him to attend because he was undocumented.

When he called American University and revealed his status, his admissions counselor said, “Oh, you’re a dreamer! We have a way of putting you into the system,” and enrolled him despite his being undocumented. Although he again faced financial obstacles, he would not be deterred this time.

"I gave up on my dream once. I'm not giving up on my dream again. I don't care what I have to do. I'm going to American University," Daniel told himself. He called 95 scholarship organizations and asked if any of them would accept an application from an undocumented student; only three said yes: the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, Coca Cola, and Phi Theta Kappa.

At his graduation ceremony, the president of Seminole State announced to Daniel, his mother, and the entire school that Daniel won all three scholarships he applied for, which totaled more than $160,000. He says, "That's the day my life changed. That's the day that everything was worth it, the day that I live for every single day."

Still, life was not easy. The scholarships did not take effect until after his first semester at AU, so Daniel couldn’t afford housing and stayed with friends instead. In October 2011, he “came out” as undocumented by wearing a sign announcing his status on LGBTQ National Coming Out Day. He told his story at an event that evening. After that, he says, “Strangers would come up to me on campus and say, ‘Hey, did you eat today? Do you want me to swipe you in to TDR?’ I felt what community truly meant at AU and that people really stand for what they believe in there.”

Unlike other students preparing for graduation, Daniel knew he wouldn’t be able to find a paying job because he was undocumented. Still, he wanted to use his personal experience and success in creating social change on a larger scale. “I introduced myself to Michael Skolnik [at an event] using the networking skills I learned in one of my classes at American,” Daniel says. Through a friend, he got a meeting with Michael and worked on some projects for him. Michael was so impressed with Daniel’s work that he immediately hired him as his chief of staff.

It was a shock. “I figured I’d be an intern,” Daniel says. Instead of interning, Daniel runs a team charged with harnessing celebrity power, especially on social media, to create social change. He has worked with Alicia Keys, P. Diddy, Common, and countless others.

Daniel also finds time to give back to the American University community as a volunteer with the Latino Alumni Alliance and as a social media ambassador. He volunteers because, “AU gave me a lot, a lot, a lot! From Dr. [Fanta] Aw making sure I had housing, to people making sure I had scholarships, professors spending so much time with me and caring for me. … My service is a way to pay back all the ways people helped me at AU. And if I can help that next undocumented student who goes to AU, or help that next Latino student, I want to do that. For me, volunteering means knowing I get to be a part of a community that lasts forever outside of campus.”

Daniel is now married and is an applicant for permanent residency in the U.S.; the Washington College of Law legal clinic is assisting him with his application process.

Daniel's AU education was possible thanks in large part to donor-funded scholarships including the Barbara Bohn Wright Memorial Scholarship, the Annette Langdon Scholar-Activist Award, and the Abdul Aziz Said Phi Epsilon Pi Scholarship. Learn more about how donations to AU make a difference in students' lives.

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Title: Julio Antonio Ubillús Ramírez, SIS/MIS '13
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Abstract: An SIS graduate student from Peru brings his skills to his country's embassy in Prague, Czech Republic.
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 06/04/2014
Content:

How has SIS made a difference in my world?

  • The MIS program is the second masters program I completed. Before the MIS, I obtained a masters degree in Diplomacy and International Affairs from the Diplomatic Academy of Peru (ADP). In general terms, my time at SIS has allowed me to increase and broaden my knowledge in many relevant academic fields that are interesting and important for my career, such as International Relations, Diplomacy and Foreign Policy making, among others. This experience has allowed me to strengthen my understanding and capacity for analysis of many different events in International Politics.

 

What was one important turning point (interaction with a faculty member, course topic, event attended, internship moment, book, etc.) during my time at SIS that influenced my professional path?

  • I arrived to SIS with an already established career path, being a Foreign Service Officer in the service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Peru. However, I had very valuable experiences while taking classes with Ambassador Anthony Quainton (“Diplomatic Practice”), Professor Daniel Masis (”Proseminar in International Relations II”), and Professor David Mislan (“Theories of Foreign Policy Decision Making”), among others. Those were nothing but very interesting and useful academic experiences which are helping me today in different aspects of my career.

 

What has been a -- possibly unexpected-- pivotal experience or piece of knowledge that has led me to my current position?

  • One of the most interesting and valuable experiences I had while studying at AU was taking a class with Ambassador Anthony Quainton, who happened to be Ambassador of the United States to Peru during the late 1980s until the first couple of years of the 1990s. As a Peruvian diplomat, it was very interesting to learn from the experiences of a foreign diplomat such as Ambassador Quainton, especially regarding his insights about Peru´s political and diplomatic affairs during a very delicate and important period of the history of my country.

 

Why I chose SIS?

  • I arrived to the SIS as the result of an agreement signed between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Peru and American University, which allows one Peruvian diplomat to take the Master in International Service (MIS) Program every year. In exchange, the Diplomatic Academy of Peru receives two SIS masters students (one per semester) every year. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Peru has the policy of encouraging its youngest diplomats to increase their academic education in order to be better prepared to address the challenges and duties that are inherent to our labor as Foreign Service Officers. To me, SIS represented, among the different choices to pursue higher education, one of the most attractive ones, not only because of the reputation of the university, but also because of the experience and versatility of the professors that are part of the School of International Service.

 

Fields of study?

  • I have a bachelors degree (2002-2006) and a “Licenciatura” (Professional Degree) (2007) in International Business from Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos in Lima, Peru; a masters degree in Diplomacy and International Affairs (2009-2010) from the Diplomatic Academy of Peru (ADP) in Lima, Peru; and a masters degree in International Service (MIS) (2012-2013) from the School of International Service (SIS) at American University in Washington DC, United States.

 

Languages?

  • Spanish (native)
  • English (advanced)
  • Portuguese (advanced)
  • French (intermediate)
  • Czech (beginning lessons)

 

World issue of interest?

  • Integration processes in Latin America.
  • Foreign Economic Policy as a tool to promote growth with equality in developing countries.
  • The increasing political and economic influence of China in global affairs.

 

Professional role model?

  • Ambassador Javier Pérez de Cuéllar. A Peruvian Diplomat that held the position of Secretary-General of the United Nations between 1982 and 1991, leading the most important international organization during the end of the Cold War, a turning point in the history of international politics.

 

Favorite book?

  • "Ficciones" by Jorge Luis Borges.

 

Favorite movie?

  • "El secreto de sus ojos" (The secret in their eyes) by J. Campanella.

 

Current residence?

  • I am currently living in Prague, Czech Republic.

 

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Title: Ann Mangold, SIS/MIS '12
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Abstract: Alumna’s Fellowship Allows Her to Make a Difference through Federal Service
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 06/04/2014
Content:

Why I chose MIS:
I chose MIS because of its location in Washington, D.C. and the excellent reputation of its faculty as well as the School of International Service. I think close proximity to the nexus of politics and decision-making creates unmatched opportunities for students who study in D.C. I also liked the idea of having classroom interaction with fellow students who had a variety of experiences, from the private sector and government to NGOs and international development.

How I make a difference in the world:
I’m currently completing a Presidential Management Fellowship with the Department of Labor, Office of Public Affairs. The Labor Department’s mission focuses on promoting, developing and improving work opportunities for job seekers and wage earners. In addition, the department also works on preventing, mitigating and eliminating international issues such as human trafficking and forced labor. Although it sounds cliché, I really do feel like I’m contributing to making a positive difference in people’s lives, whether it’s making workplaces safer or helping to raise the minimum wage – these are things that matter, and I’m proud to be a part of it.

How MIS has made a difference in my world:
Through MIS, I formed a solid network of mentors, professors and friends who have offered invaluable advice and support in my professional pursuits. I feel lucky to have met such an intelligent and inspiring group of people. My time at MIS also helped me to secure my first post-grad school job, which was a great opportunity with a media company in Kabul, Afghanistan, which I learned about through a fellow MIS student.

Field of study:
The great thing about MIS is that there are very few required courses, which allows students to choose most of their electives to focus on key interest areas. It’s sort of like a “choose your own adventure” for graduate school. I chose to take courses primarily in international security and foreign policy, with a regional focus on the Middle East.

SIS activities:
Outside of class, I completed internships with the Women’s Foreign Policy Group, The Moshe Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University and The New Yorker. I found these experiences to be extremely valuable because they provided practical insight into the issues I studied and helped me to explore possible post-graduation career options, as well as meet some very interesting people in the international relations field. Additionally, I spent time getting to know my classmates and professors. Not only have many of my classmates become close friends, but they also have served as an automatic professional network.

Languages:
Working knowledge of Spanish and Arabic. I also learned basic Dari (a Farsi dialect) while living in Afghanistan and found that immersion is the best way to learn a language quickly.

World issue of interest:
I don’t have a particular issue that I’m focused on, but I would say that anything related to education/literacy for women and children (particularly girls) is of interest. I am also interested in increasing foreign policy understanding and engagement amongst Americans. It seems fewer and fewer are involved or aware of what’s happening in domestic politics, let alone the rest of the world.

Professional role model:
My mom. She set a great example for my sister and me of how to balance a career with having a family/personal life. It must have been extremely difficult, but she never complained. I find this especially amazing since she taught first grade for 36 years – it can’t have been easy to manage a classroom of six-year-olds all day and then come home to run a household.

Favorite book:
That’s a tough choice. The first book that comes to mind is Skeletons on the Zahara by Dean King. It’s a true story that recounts the experiences of American sailors who were shipwrecked off the coast of Africa in 1815, captured by desert nomads, sold into slavery, and subjected to a hellish two-month journey through the Sahara. It’s a fascinating portrayal of human courage and resilience.

Favorite movie:
“The Lives of Others.” Set in the early 1980s, it follows the monitoring of East Berlin residents by the Stasi. I like films that are grounded in real-life events. I also love the movie “Working Girl” with Melanie Griffith. It’s a classic “girl power” movie.

Current residence:
Washington, DC

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Title: Profile: Jesse Pruett, SIS/MIS '12
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Abstract: MIS graduate uses his skills to mentor and develop the next generation
Topic: International
Publication Date: 05/28/2014
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Why I chose MIS:
I chose MIS because it offered an internationally respected program with the flexibility to fit within a demanding and often unpredictable schedule.

How I make a difference in the world:
My father had a jar filled with coins he had collected from his world travels, which fueled an early fascination with all things “international”. I have been extremely fortunate to have been involved, in very small ways, with many of the significant world events of my generation. At this point it is my hope that I contribute through mentorship and development of other “internationals” whose own experiences will influence the direction of our country and the world.

How MIS has made a difference in my world:
MIS provided a great window into the nexus of academic theory and the real-world experiences of a great cohort of student-colleagues representing a broad swath of perspectives. Sharing the academic adventure with them enriched not only my appreciation of studied histories and subsequent events but it also expanded my understanding of my own experiences.

Field of study:
My official area of focus was U.S Foreign Policy, with an unofficial emphasis on the interagency aspects of expeditionary efforts abroad.

Languages:
English, Spanish

World issue of interest:
I am interested in how military and civilian instruments of national power can coalesce in expeditionary circumstances, coordinate with international partners, and collaborate with local populations and leaders to deliver the most beneficial expression of American ideals into that environment.

Professional role model:
The American Generals of World War II provide a series of case studies in achievement in International Affairs. Eisenhower, MacArthur, Bradley, Patton, Marshall (and others) each offer lessons and insight into the traits required to commit to a cause, overcome doubt and hardship, balance strength and compassion and serve as leaders in incredibly intense environments. At the more personal level, my father is my truest role model, providing a foundation of character that I strive to build upon in both my professional and personal endeavors.

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Title: Jeremy Dastrup, SIS/MIS '11
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Abstract: This MIS graduate serves and protects the United States by investigating criminal, terrorist, and foreign intelligence threats throughout Southeast Asia.
Topic: International
Publication Date: 05/28/2014
Content:

Why I Chose MIS:
As a mid-career government employee I needed to find a program with an extensive selection of core and elective courses which would permit me to tailor my degree to my career needs. The MIS program gave me the latitude within my degree to become intimate with the subject matter which I knew my career was going to expose me to. I knew the MIS program, and American University, was the best choice for me when I selected it, but I did not fully realize how perfect a fit it was until I completed my degree and started to apply what I had learned to my career objectives.

How I make a difference in the world:
I interact with foreign government officials on a daily basis. I strive to understand their perspectives and needs. At the same time I am able to represent the United States in a positive light, helping to break down perceived cultural barriers. I give people from different walks of life a positive impression of what America is. This in turn facilitates mission success for me and the United States government.

How MIS has made a difference in my world:
My degree has provided valuable understanding of the underlying political, cultural, economic, and security developments within Southeast Asia, which have enhanced my ability to interact and succeed throughout my career in this region of the world. The principles I learned during my MIS experience, along with the high caliber of instructors and students, are something I reflect on daily and help to shape how I work in the world.

Field of Study:
Southeast Asian Security Issues

Languages:
Spanish and Malay

World issue of interest:
Security issues dealing with Southeast Asia and more specifically the South China Sea to include territorial disputes. How the economic growth of China and other Southeast Asian countries are straining stable security relations in the region and ultimately how that subsequent strain affects the military mission of the United States.

Favorite movie:
Any romantic comedy because it allows me to laugh and spend time with my wife after a long day.

Current residence:
Singapore

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Title: Profile: Dylan Robinson, SIS/MA '12
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Abstract: Meet Dylan Robinson, SIS/MA '12
Topic: International
Publication Date: 05/28/2014
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Why I chose MIS:
I moved to Washington, DC with the intention of making a career change, having worked in archaeology for over a decade. My work fell primarily on the environmental impact side of land development, and I reached a point where I wanted to broaden my career focus to include the bigger picture of global development.

I figured DC was probably the best place to pursue my expanded interests, being at the heart of policy development and our nation’s role in the world – I also have family in the area so I used these connections to facilitate my relocation. I was previously unaware of American University or SIS but quickly found out about them as I researched programs in the area. I was particularly drawn to SIS given their excellent reputation and their location within DC proper.

How I make a difference in the world:
I am still making my way, but am very excited about a new business that I am forming that seeks to combine for-profit and non-profit. I learned about this hybrid model through a Social Enterprise course that I took in my final semester, and it really opened my eyes to new possibilities. I hope to combine something I love – all-natural homemade lotions and balms – with a cause I care about – environmental sustainability and combating exploitation in developing nations – as most of these product ingredients come from developing and environmentally threatened areas. The nuts and bolts are still in formation, so stay tuned…

In the meantime I currently hold a few different jobs, acting as Executive Administrative Assistant for a small local business that manages investment portfolios, doing freelance editing work, and running a small greeting card business online, not to mention my most prized position – new mother!

How MIS has made a difference in my world:
Well, the full impacts are still unfolding, but I really cherished the experience of the program. The program was full of great courses and I really enjoyed meeting and collaborating with fellow professionals. The MIS program is unique in the level of experience and wealth of expertise held by the students themselves and I hope to always maintain the relationships I cultivated during my time there.

While I have found the job market to be extremely challenging in the time since my graduation and am still developing my new career path, I feel armed with a great new battery of knowledge and skills as I carve my way.

Field of study:
I chose classes from a fairly broad spectrum of fields within SIS, including US Foreign Policy, International Peace and Conflict Resolution, Global Environmental Policy, Comparative Regional Studies and Social Enterprise. So much of the field of International Relations was really new to me, so I wanted exposure to as many elements as possible. However, I focused my research whenever possible on environmental issues and tried to keep my interests in mind while considering the emphasis of the curriculum at hand.

SIS activities:
I tried to get involved in as many activities as possible to take full advantage of my time at SIS. I was elected as the MIS Representative on the Graduate Student Council (GSC)  and also sat on the Networking and Foreign Affairs Committees for the GSC. As the representative to MIS, I organized events to help students in the program network and stay connected with one another.

I also participated in negotiation practices with AU’s Negotiation Program (AUNP) , a really spectacular and unique student-run program, and attended weekend problem-solving workshops operated in partnership with other universities in the area. I spent a term in a Dialogue Development Group , another great AU program, which was very personally enlightening and challenging, and participated in a German language study group.

Finally, I took advantage of the Summer Abroad Program opportunities and spent a summer in Brussels learning about the inner workings of the EU, as well as living with a local family, and conducted a related independent study research project. After returning, I was selected to present at the SIS Summer Abroad Student Research Symposium that fall. (And yes, I did still study and sleep during all this!)

Languages:
English (native), German, currently studying French.

World issue of interest:
Environmental sustainability; development and exploitation

Professional role model:
That’s a tough question. There are so many remarkable professionals I have been lucky to work with over the years and many people who have influenced different elements of my life. I’ve also been very blessed with amazing friends and family and an extremely supportive husband.

On a very personal level, my Sensei (my martial arts instructor of over 15 years) has had an immense impact on my life. As a woman in a tough arena, she helped me learn how to be strong and comfortable being in charge yet gentle at the same time, and how to always have compassion for others even when faced with aggression. She helped me develop a personal confidence that carries over to all other aspects of my life.

My stepfather, as well, has had a large impact on my professional development. He inspires me in the way that he continuously works to improve himself professionally, and never shies away from making a leap to something new. He has managed to work his way up into a really impressive career while always keeping up great relationships and treating others with respect, not to mention being a really supportive and loving family member.

Current residence:
Jupiter, Florida

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Title: SIS Alumna Writes to Showcase Modern Challenges in U.S. Identity
Author: Karli Kloss
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Abstract: Carla Seaquist, SIS / BA ’67 strives to give space to many of the complicated, and at times, ephemeral social and political issues facing our country.
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 05/08/2014
Content:

As a writer and playwright, Carla Seaquist, SIS/BA ’67, strives to give space to the complicated political, cultural, and ethical-moral issues facing our country. She began her career in civil rights activism, helping to organize the women’s caucus at the Brookings Institution from 1972 to 1976.

She then moved to San Diego where she served as the city’s equal opportunity officer from 1977 to 1983, successfully moving women and minorities into nontraditional jobs. For this work she was awarded NOW’s Susan B. Anthony award “for courage and hard work on behalf of women and minorities.”

The shift from civil rights to writing was a logical progression, Seaquist says. She began working as a freelance writer until she moved on to playwriting.

During the siege of Sarajevo, Seaquist reached out to the manager of a Bosnian radio station. They built a unique relationship over the phone. She turned their conversations into a play, Who Cares?: The Washington-Sarajevo Talks, a universal drama about the saving power of human connection in chaos. This play has had three productions, including at Washington’s Studio Theatre. Seaquist has written three other plays.

The shift from playwriting to more direct commentary happened on September 11, when she witnessed the Pentagon on fire. As a result, Seaquist became a contributing writer for The Christian Science Monitor and, now, The Huffington Post.

Seaquist published her first book of commentary, Manufacturing Hope: Post-9/11 Notes on Politics, Culture, Torture, and the American Character, in 2009. Her forthcoming book is titled Can America Save Itself from Decline?: Politics, Culture, Morality. She also published Two Plays of Life and Death.

“I have found the SIS take-away tool–the need to develop a conceptual framework–very useful,” Seaquist states. “International relations made me a world citizen, providing me with an outlook that’s global, not parochial, and a keen interest in history and other cultures–all very helpful in writing commentary.”

Seaquist lives in Washington state with her husband Larry, a state legislator, and is working on a play titled Prodigal.

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