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Title: SIS Students Conduct Student-Led Virtual Exchange Program
Author: Katie Leasor
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Abstract: Students in SIS Professor Robert Kelley’s undergraduate course participated in ECA’s first student-led virtual exchange program with other students worldwide.
Topic: International
Publication Date: 07/01/2015
Content:

This article first appeared on the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ (ECA) website. Students in SIS Professor Robert Kelley’s undergraduate course participated in ECA’s first student-led virtual exchange program with other students worldwide.

During the spring 2015 semester, American University students at the School of International Service participated in the State Department’s very first Student-Led Virtual Exchange Program. These freshman students designed and piloted their own virtual exchanges with counterparts around the world. This pilot dramatically increased mutual understanding between the American University students and youth from the other countries to promote peaceful relations.

The American University students each chose a region they were interested in, a country to collaborate with, and then began to reach out via email to universities or youth organizations as potential partners. They based their partner selection on the school or organization’s schedule, and if they had English language capacity. The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ (ECA) Collaboratory provided the students with strategic priorities for those countries as well as guidance and best practices on how to conduct their virtual exchanges.

From June-April 2015, these American students discussed and compared culture, politics, and everyday life with their counterparts in Brazil, Czech Republic, India, Japan, Kenya and Morocco. The students collectively talked about everything from political systems, to academic curriculums, and even social stereotypes in their countries. They scheduled weekly Skype sessions to discuss current events, shared photos and videos of spring breaks, as well as established Facebook groups to connect synchronously and asynchronously with students in universities and youth groups across all six regions.

While presenting the results of their virtual exchanges at the State Department in April, the American students displayed the type of connection and understanding to youth from the other countries that helps promote peaceful relations. When the student shooting occurred at Garissa University in Kenya last April, Corina Chao, who was part of the group conducting a virtual exchange with Kenyan students, said she was not only concerned about the students she worked with during her virtual exchange, but the whole country during the tragic event. “It didn't feel like a news story about a far-away country like events like those often feel, but it felt like it was happening next door,” she said. “The exchange made something that once would have been just another story on my Twitter feed into something personal.”

Similarly, American University student John Levandofsky who was in the Japan group, found that despite being half way across the world, there were parallels in their everyday life. “Reflecting on our project I think we were able to empathize with our partners in Japan because we found similarities in our differences. Being students at the University level we bonded over that similarity and from there looked at the cultural differences in classes, campus living, etc.,” he said.

This Student-Led Virtual Exchange Program is part of the ECA Collaboratory’s broader efforts to research and understand how virtual exchanges can best complement our in-person exchange programs.

The original version of this article first appeared on the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ (ECA) website on June 26, 2015:
http://eca.state.gov/highlight/american-university-students-conduct-first-student-led-virtual-exchange-and-connect

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Title: Professor Showcases Disability and Global Governance Research at UN
Author: Maya Aguilar
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Abstract: Professor Derrick Cogburn, executive director of AU's Institute on Disability and Public Policy (IDPP) at SIS, presented disability and global governance research at the United Nations.
Topic: International
Publication Date: 06/29/2015
Content:

Professor Derrick Cogburn, executive director of American University’s Institute on Disability and Public Policy (IDPP) at the School of International Service, unveiled key preliminary findings of the IDPP study, Accessible Global Governance: The Invisibility of Persons with
Disabilities
, during his keynote presentation at one of the world’s largest international disability community gatherings—the annual Conference of States Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) at UN headquarters in New York City.

Cogburn’s presentation took place at the high-level side event, “Accessible Global Governance: The Participation of Persons with Disabilities in the UN System and Broader Global Governance Processes” on June 9.

“Tremendous questions still arise about how involved persons with disabilities are in UN conferences, meetings, and events,” says Cogburn. “This challenges the veracity of the deeply held sentiment, ‘Nothing About Us, Without Us,’ that emerged during the initial negotiations for the CRPD.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank estimate that more than one billion people in the world live with some form of disability—approximately 15 percent of each country’s population. Based on draft preliminary findings from Phase I of the IDPP study—which included in-depth multi-stakeholder interviews with officials from the UN, government and multinational institutions, civil society organizations, and private companies—Cogburn offered a set of 50 preliminary recommendations on social, political, economic, and technological factors to enhance the effective participation of persons with disabilities in the UN system.

The recommendations include mechanisms to improve the accessibility of information, physical infrastructure, and transportation by persons with disabilities to UN conferences, as well as strategies for the prospective creation of a tenth UN-designated civil society major group for persons with disabilities.

Cogburn was joined at the event by leading experts in disability rights and public policy including: Lenin Moreno, UN Special Envoy on Disability and Accessibility and former vice president of Ecuador; Yohei Sasakawa, WHO Goodwill Ambassador and chairman of the Nippon Foundation ; Ambassador Luis Gallegos, former ambassador of Ecuador to the United States and chair of the UN task force that negotiated the convention; and Akiko Ito, chief of Secretariat for the Convention and UN focal point on disability.

Cogburn also delivered remarks during the general session of the conference to offer a summary of IDPP’s findings and outcome discussions from the side event. As a result of this discussion, Cogburn was invited back to the UN for a historic inaugural Major Groups and Other Stakeholders Workshop on Governance, Transparency, and Accountability on June 18-19. He will serve in the International Expert Meeting on the Establishment of a Global Category II Centre of Excellence for Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities at UNESCO headquarters in Paris on June 29-30.

This is the fifth consecutive year that IDPP has participated in the Conference of States Parties to the CRPD and offered a delegation of SIS graduate and undergraduate students and alumni who have served as official rapporteurs at the conference. Angie Njoku, SIS/MA ‘16, and Mona Hamza, SIS/BA ‘15, were among this year’s delegation.

Learn more about IDPP: http://aseanidpp.org/

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Title: Fortieth Anniversary of the Helsinki Accords — Three Questions for Sarah Snyder
Author:
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Abstract: We asked Professor Sarah Snyder, author of Human Rights Activism and the End of the Cold War: A Transnational History of the Helsinki Network, to reflect on the legacy of the Helsinki Accords:
Topic: International
Publication Date: 06/23/2015
Content:

This summer marks the fortieth anniversary of the signing of the Helsinki Accords, which established principles to guide relations between the Communist bloc and the West. We asked Professor Sarah Snyder, author of Human Rights Activism and the End of the Cold War: A Transnational History of the Helsinki Network, to reflect on the legacy of the accords:

Q: What was the significance of 35 states signing the Helsinki Final Act in 1975? What did the agreement seek to accomplish?

Securing the participation of 34 other European and North American countries in the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) negotiations and their ultimate agreement to the Helsinki Final Act was initially seen as a great diplomatic coup by the Soviet Union. The conference had long been sought by the Soviets, who hoped for formal recognition of the post-World War II borders in Central and Eastern Europe. There had been no postwar peace conference, and the Soviet Union first proposed a treaty on “collective security in Europe” at the 1954 Foreign Ministers Meeting.

The agreement evolved, however, to include principles governing relations between states; free movement of people, ideas, and information; environmental cooperation; and human rights. Such measures were intended by Western, neutral, and nonaligned governments to erode the East-West divide in Europe.

Q: How did the Helsinki Process contribute to the end of the Cold War?

The Helsinki Final Act’s human rights principle, human contacts provisions, and follow-up mechanism all spurred the development of a transnational network of activists pushing for reform in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. This network of human rights advocates moved the topic into the forefront of international relations, and, as a result, human rights became an important element of Cold War diplomacy. The Helsinki network influenced both Western and Eastern governments to pursue policies that fostered the rise of organized dissent in Eastern Europe, freedom of movement for East Germans, and the acceptance of human rights norms in the Soviet Union—all factors in the end of the Cold War.

Q: How has the Helsinki agreement affected the modern human rights movement? What is the legacy of the Helsinki Accords?

Monitoring groups that developed in the wake of the signing of the Helsinki Final Act were part of a broader network of human rights organizations developing internationally in the 1970s, and they played a central role in the rising profile of human rights activism. Human rights advocates secured international legitimacy for the idea that governments’ treatment of their own people is subject to international criticism and comment in part by changing ideas of national interest.

Helsinki monitoring groups were a key element of this broader, international movement, working to advance human rights at the same time as those fighting against apartheid in South Africa and those campaigning for human rights in Latin America and China. These human rights movements learned from one another and improved protections of human rights overall in the years that followed.

Agreement that a country’s human rights record is a matter of international significance, subject to the scrutiny of foreign governments and nongovernmental activists, is the most important legacy of the Helsinki Final Act.

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Title: G-20 Project Links Emerging Economies and Global Policy
Author: Jennifer Swope
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Abstract: The “New Thinking and the New G-20” project works to bring new ideas and the perspective of emerging economies to global discussions of policy change and institutional reform.
Topic: International
Publication Date: 06/17/2015
Content:

Scholars, political scientists, and economists from around the world attended the “New Thinking and the New G-20” conference on April 15 at the Capitol Hilton Hotel in Washington, DC. Timed to precede the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, 11 authors were invited to present published papers, offering recommendations for international policy cooperation and institutional innovation in global economic governance.

Launched in 2013 by Distinguished Professor Miles Kahler of the School of International Service (SIS) and Barry Eichengreen of the University of California, the “New Thinking and the New G-20” project works to bring new ideas and the perspective of emerging economies to global discussions of policy change and institutional reform. Additionally, the project aims to link researchers in the emerging economies more effectively to research networks in the industrialized world and to global policy discussions. The project is supported by the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) and the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET).

“The growing role of the emerging economies in global governance, through the G-20 and other institutions, has not been reflected in new thinking about international financial and monetary cooperation,” noted Kahler. “Reform proposals since the global financial crisis have largely originated in the familiar transatlantic network of scholars and policymakers who have shaped past institutional initiatives. We decided to emphasize ‘next generation’ researchers from the emerging economies, since they will sustain the research network in the future.”

In early 2014, two interdisciplinary teams composed of economists and political scientists from both industrialized and emerging economies were identified and tasked with producing individual papers and collective policy recommendations. One team, led by SIS Professor Randall Henning, devoted its research to macroeconomic and financial cooperation. The second team, led by Professor Andrew Walter of the University of Melbourne School of Government, concentrated on international coordination of financial regulation. The research teams and their products serve as an initial test of a research network that connects individual researchers and research institutions in North America, Europe, and Japan with researchers in the emerging economies.

The April conference represented the culmination of this research. According to Professor Henning, who organized the conference, this event also provided a foundation for expanding the project’s research network. “The conference was the launching point of building a broader network to influence global economic governance and to inject ideas and recommendations into upcoming G-20 meetings,” said Henning.

The one-day conference also included a keynote address, “Debt, Imbalances and Secular Stagnation,” by Lord Adair Turner, Baron Turner of Ecchinswell. Lord Turner was Chairman of the U.K. Financial Services Authority from 2008-2012, has held several key positions in international finance, and is currently writing on these subjects. The conference concluded with an address by the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey, Turalay Kenç. Turkey currently holds the presidency of the G-20 and will host the upcoming November meeting of heads of state of G-20 countries.

Moving forward, the research project will expand its network to provide a continuing stream of new ideas, sustain international collaboration, and integrate researchers from the emerging economies into global policy discussions.

Learn more about the G-20 Project: https://www.cigionline.org/series/new-thinking-and-new-g20

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Title: SIS Working Papers Series Highlights Faculty Research
Author: Anne Deekens
Subtitle:
Abstract: The SIS Working Papers Series provides faculty the opportunity to circulate and elicit feedback on draft articles and book chapters, and to gain international exposure for their written research findings and policy recommendations.
Topic: International
Publication Date: 06/15/2015
Content:

The School of International Service (SIS) Working Papers Series provides faculty the opportunity to circulate and elicit feedback on draft articles and book chapters, and to gain international exposure for their written research findings and policy recommendations. Through this initiative, SIS is enhancing its brand as a leading research institution addressing the global challenges of our times.

The papers are hosted on the Social Science Research Network (SSRN), a distribution outlet for nearly 200,000 social scientists that has been ranked as the top open-access repository in the world for research other than in medicine and science. SSRN provides distribution of research to authors and their readers for free.

The circulation of faculty research in draft form helps to attract notice and generate comments that in turn serve to improve articles before they are submitted for consideration to top academic journals. This pre-submission review process, according to Professor Arturo Porzecanski, distinguished economist in residence at SIS, often results in improved drafts with a higher likelihood of journal publication.

“It is important to get one’s ideas out early, first in order to claim authorship for them and second to be able to polish them prior to attempted publication,” explained Porzecanski. “Submitting a rough draft to a journal which hasn’t benefitted from peer critical review can minimize one’s chances of approval.”

Professor Nathan Paxton is coordinating the series. He notes that in addition to gathering feedback, the series also allows faculty to increase exposure for their research.

“We want to further the intellectual community at SIS so that we can gain a larger audience and increased exposure for faculty research,” said Paxton. “We encourage faculty to submit papers that they would like comments on and most importantly, that they strongly believe in.”

The SIS Working Papers Series is available here. Papers published thus far include the following:

“We hope that the SIS Working Papers series will encourage the exchange of ideas both within SIS and with the larger academic and policy community,” says Porzecanski.

Faculty who are interested in submitting papers should contact Professor Nathan Paxton at napaxton@american.edu.

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Title: First Class of International Economics Students Graduates
Author: Anne Deekens
Subtitle:
Abstract: The inaugural cohort of master’s students in the International Economics (INEC) program graduated in spring 2015.
Topic: International
Publication Date: 06/11/2015
Content:

The inaugural cohort of master’s students in the International Economics (INEC) program graduated in spring 2015. The program, launched by the School of International Service (SIS) together with the Department of Economics in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) in fall 2013, is designed for students who wish to combine substantive economic analysis with an understanding of how that analysis is applied in the international spectrum.

The goal of the joint program is to prepare students for professional careers as international economists—whether in multilateral organizations, government agencies, multinational corporations, public-advocacy firms, industry associations, or research institutes.

SIS Professor Arturo Porzecanski, co-director of the program along with Associate Professor Kara Reynolds of the Department of Economics, underscores that a strong market exists for a demanding MA degree in international economics.

“This is one of the few programs in the United States and beyond that offers specialized training in international economics at the master’s level,” explains Porzecanski, who is also the director of the International Economic Relations program at SIS and a former high-level Wall Street economist. “To meet market demands, our rigorous curriculum provides specialized training in theoretical, empirical, and policy-oriented economics, as well as in international political economy, trade and finance with a focus on proper policymaking. Upon graduation, our students will possess the expertise they need to market themselves as international economists.”

The inaugural class included four students:

  • Ngoc Phan, SIS/MA ’15: Phan currently works in a temporary position at the World Bank. Phan, a native of Vietnam, received his bachelor’s degree from Colgate University in Economics and International Relations in 2013. During his time in the INEC program, Phan worked as a research and teaching assistant for SIS professors Pek Koon Heng-Blackburn and Mohamed Alaa Abdel-Moneim. He also interned at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago in Bethesda and the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Phan will attend Duke University for a PhD in Political Science in the fall with a full tuition scholarship. He hopes to return to Washington, DC, one day to teach.
  • Eliot St. John, SIS/MA ’15: St. John works currently as a Compliance Analyst at the U.S. Department of the Treasury in the Office of Foreign Assets Control. St. John received his bachelor’s degree in 2012 from the University of Hawaii at Manoa with majors in Economics and Political Science and a minor in Spanish. In 2012, he was a financial planning assistant with the firm Wealth Strategy Partners in Hawaii. While a student, St. John served as a research assistant for SIS professors Jessica Trisko Darden, Michelle Egan, Manuel Suárez-Mier, and Neil Shenai.
  • Kyle Toman, SIS/MA ’15: Toman is currently a Pathways Economist at the Bureau of Economic Analysis in the U.S. Department of Commerce. Prior to joining the INEC program, Toman served in the Peace Corps in South Africa. Toman received his bachelor’s degree from Mars Hill University with majors in Mathematics and Business and a minor in Political Science in 2012. While at AU, Kyle interned at the U.S. Department of Commerce (International Trade Administration and Bureau of Economic Analysis) and the U.S. Department of State (International Organization/Office of UN Political Affairs). He also served as a teaching assistant for SISU-300, the Introduction to International Economics course taught by SIS Professor Stephen Silvia. Kyle hopes to remain in Washington, DC, and work for the federal government in a role related to international economics.
  • Elias Yazigi, CAS/MA ’15: Yazigi formerly worked as a Junior Contracts & Grants Analyst at the Summerill Group in Washington, DC. A native of Syria, Yazigi interned at a law firm in Syria in the summer of 2008. He received his bachelor’s degree in Economics from George Mason University in 2011.

Reflecting on his experience with INEC, Phan said: “The program is strong with regard to equipping us with quantitative skills and statistical software.”

Learn more about the International Economics program: http://www.american.edu/sis/internationaleconomics/index.cfm

Read more about the launch of the International Economics program: http://www.american.edu/cas/news/international-economics-ma.cfm

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Title: Converting to Islam in America: How a Research Class Enhanced My Understanding of Feminism in the United States
Author: Hannah Feldman
Subtitle:
Abstract: This article by Hannah Feldman, SIS/BA ’16, first appeared in Pakistan Link. Feldman conducted fieldwork on the experience of Muslim converts in the United States as part of Ambassador Akbar Ahmed's "Researching Islam" course.
Topic: International
Publication Date: 06/08/2015
Content:

This article by Hannah Feldman, SIS/BA ’16, first appeared in Pakistan Link. Throughout Ambassador Akbar Ahmed’s “Researching Islam” spring 2015 undergraduate course, Feldman conducted fieldwork on the experience of Muslim converts in the United States. Here, she reflects on how this research course enhanced her understanding of both Islam and feminism.

Over the last decade, the American news media have unceremoniously granted the title of terrorist to all Muslims throughout the world. Without a clear understanding of the Islamic faith and with total disregard to the Muslim population in the United States, the media have time-and time-again tainted Islam and its teachings. Since Islam has been in the forefront of the news throughout most of my life (as I was only nine years old when the September 11 terrorist attacks occurred), I sought to learn more about the faith, more about the people and understand what it means to be a true Muslim. As someone with my own personalized belief system, I constantly seek for knowledge about other faiths as a way of redefining my own.

Therefore, I decided to enroll in a class called “Researching Islam” at American University, taught by Ambassador Akbar Ahmed. Having already written his book, Journey into America: The Power of Islam—which analyzes the main divisions of Muslims in the United States—a few years prior, I am sure he could see that undergraduate students learning to do fieldwork would be a demanding undertaking. But he was truly ambitious for us and had faith in us by wanting us sophomores and juniors to perform research in the field, interviewing everyday Muslims in America. Journey into America is divided into an analysis of three major divisions of Islam in America: African-American Muslims, Immigrant Muslims, and Muslim converts.

Having been placed in the Muslim converts group, I found it extremely difficult to hone in on a specific point of research regarding converts. Why does anyone convert to a religion? There must be some sort of draw towards a faith, and I wanted to uncover that draw to Islam. From my preliminary research, I learned that four out of five converts in America are women. But the news media had taught me that Islam oppresses women. How, then, could a woman convert to Islam? Did she know what she was getting into? Did she know she had to be subservient to men and never have a career? These were the questions and thoughts that whirled around in my mind as I sought to unveil the mystery behind conversion. As you may guess, the American media have a keen way of making you terrified over absolutely nothing.

As a glorified feminist, entranced with the notions of gender equality and empowerment, I was keenly aware of the dichotomy behind converting to Islam in America and the Westernized views of femininity and feminism. So I began to wonder if a woman’s feminine identity had shifted following her conversion to Islam. By feminine identity, I used Asifa Siraj’s definition found in her work on femininity in Muslim women, which included: stereotypical feminine attributes, physical appearance, childbearing, and motherhood. And with that, I was ready to begin my fieldwork.

Prior to my fieldwork, I was nervous that I would come off as rude or ignorant towards the women. As someone with a mixed faith background, I was keenly aware of my bias going into this research. My family, a mix of Jews and Catholics, generally supportive of my academic and personal interests, was aghast to my interest in Islamic teachings and principles. For fear I would join a jihadist organization (or so my grandmother foresaw), they remained wary throughout this process.

I had the honor of speaking with five extraordinary women ranging from all ages and backgrounds who had converted to Islam. They were some of the strongest women I had ever met, who carried themselves with such grace, poise and with an abundance of self-love. When I spoke to each woman about Islam, she explained to me that Islam teaches radical gender equality, that a woman can determine her own path in life while still maintaining an active faith in Islam. In these semi-formal interview settings, I was able to gain a greater understanding of Islam and the role the faith plays in each woman’s life. Their identity as American women had shifted following their conversion. No longer was it necessary to prescribe to American consumerism and excess. No longer was it necessary to wear revealing clothing to be considered a strong woman; instead, dressing and acting modestly enabled each woman to enhance her self-confidence.

The women I interviewed embraced their femininity because they do not feel judged by others, in particular with men. According to each woman, Islam provides an equality of the sexes not seen in the United States. While most noted that Islam is not necessarily practiced this way around the world, they are grateful to be a Muslim in America because they are afforded the same rights as everyone else, and are allowed to practice their religion as they see fit. According to the women I had the pleasure of interviewing, there are natural differences between men and women, but they are all equal in the eyes of Allah. To them, gender does not matter.

Not only has talking to these wonderfully strong women allowed me to gain some more self-confidence, but it has also harbored my own spiritual growth. Their strength and personal connection to a faith that works is beautiful to observe. This experience has further shifted my secular feminism beliefs. I used to view feminism as women solely focusing on their careers, not worried about familial life and being able to wear revealing clothing to show strength. However, now, I see feminism as being able to manage a career and a family, feeling empowered, and being true to oneself at all times. I plan to use my personal experience in this research as a way to educate others about different ‘kinds of feminism’ and gain more solace as a young, career- and family-driven woman. I am truly indebted to Ambassador Ahmed for guiding me towards the real truth about Islam in America and around the globe.

The original version of this article appeared in Pakistan Link on May 29, 2015:
http://pakistanlink.org/Community/2015/May15/29/02.HTM

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Title: World Environment Day – Three Questions for Ken Conca
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Abstract: The United Nations World Environment Day on June 5 is meant to encourage worldwide awareness and action for the environment. We asked Professor Ken Conca to reflect on environmental progress and challenges:
Topic: International
Publication Date: 06/03/2015
Content:

The United Nations World Environment Day on June 5 is meant to encourage worldwide awareness and action for the environment. We asked Professor Ken Conca, author of the forthcoming book, An Unfinished Foundation: The United Nations and Global Environmental Governance, to reflect on environmental progress and challenges:

Q: The World Environment Day theme this year is “Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care.” What does the United Nations hope to highlight this year?

Each year, the United Nations underscores a specific theme on World Environment Day. This year, the emphasis is on the responsible management of natural resources. Particular attention is being paid to actions people around the world can take—cutting down on food waste, conserving energy, shifting to renewables, and using water wisely.

The UN tends to promote an optimistic, can-do message on these symbolic occasions, exhorting people to do their part for the planet. But there is a danger of the message being too weak for the challenges we face. Scientists studying biological diversity refer to our era as the “sixth extinction,” comparable in scale and scope only to a handful of abrupt shifts in the planet’s history. Human beings use almost half of the available runoff of fresh water, with dire consequences for critical freshwater ecosystems around the world. The World Health Organization estimates that more than three million people die prematurely each year due to air pollution. Today, more than two billion people lack a simple, water-based sanitation system of the sort that was introduced at the height of the Roman Empire, two thousand years ago.

The UN does important work on the environment every day, but many of its initiatives have seen a loss of political momentum in recent years. We saw this quite clearly at the last major global environmental summit, the “Rio+20” conference held to mark the twentieth anniversary of the original Earth Summit. Governments proved unable to agree on all of the meeting’s major agenda items: the transition path toward a green economy, how to reform the UN’s environmental institutions, what to include in a new set of Sustainable Development Goals, whether a new agreement is needed for the world’s imperiled oceans, or how to break the political paralysis on climate change. In the end, it took some skillful diplomacy even to agree on a vague and largely meaningless outcome statement, and the conferees kicked all the major issues back to the UN General Assembly—as though that body were not made of exactly the same governments that had just failed to agree.

Q: The next major United Nations climate change conference will be held in Paris at the end 2015. What is the objective of that meeting and what are its prospects?

The world’s governments have been meeting annually for more than two decades now, ever since the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, seeking a binding mechanism to address the climate problem. Climate change reflects all of the attributes that make global environmental problems difficult to solve: the problem is complex, knowledge is contested, national interests are often in conflict, and some very powerful actors have the ability to preserve the status quo. After several years of governments’ failing to find a formula for globally mandated emissions reductions, the Paris conference is shaping up to produce a much weaker regime in which countries put forward voluntary commitments (as many have been doing already in recent years).

Unfortunately, what governments won’t be discussing at Paris is their human rights obligation to take rapid, serious action on the issue. Climate change is a human rights threat in several ways. Its harmful consequences will hamper the realization of a broad range of human rights, including rights to life, food, water, health, housing, and self-determination. The consequences of a changing climate—including shifts in water availability, an increase in extreme weather events, sea-level rise, the loss of snow cover and sea ice, and changing patterns of agricultural productivity—will disproportionately threaten poor and marginalized communities around the world, even though they have played little or no role in causing the problem. And human rights are at stake not only in the effects of climate change, but also in the policy responses to it, some of which include controversial provisions for land use and community access to natural resources. Communities with the most to lose thus find themselves threatened not only by the outcomes of climate change, but also by their lack procedural rights—access to information, decision making, and redress—in climate diplomacy.

Q: Why has the international community made so little progress in solving global environmental problems and addressing climate change?

It is hard to imagine effective responses to these problems without a strong role for the United Nations. For all its flaws, the UN remains the only plausible forum for engaging broadly global challenges. It is the only venue in which a sufficiently wide range of voices may be heard as we seek to forge a robust consensus on admittedly very difficult political problems. It has been the most important catalyst for negotiating international environmental agreements among nations, and the most important focal point for disseminating new ideas and practices for better environmental stewardship. The most important environmental accomplishments of the past forty years—the rise of global environmental awareness, the birth of key ideas such as sustainability, the negotiation of important treaties—all bear the UN stamp in one way or another.

But the UN needs a new strategy. When the global organization was created after World War II, it was given a four-part mandate in the UN Charter: international peace and security, human rights, development, and the creation of a world system based on international law. Unfortunately, the environment has come to be understood as relevant to only part of that mandate. As I explain in my new book, An Unfinished Foundation: The United Nations and Global Environmental Governance, the UN approach has stressed what might be termed “better law between nations and better development within them”—while largely failing to treat the environment as a human rights issue or a threat to international peace and security. As a result, some of the UN’s most effective tools go unused, and an effective, system-wide response to environmental challenges has been largely blunted.

In my book I recommend several steps to reinvigorate UN initiatives, including recognizing the environment explicitly as a human right; making a stronger commitment to rights-based practices in environmental protection; acknowledging that the international community has a responsibility to protect people from dangerous consequences of environmental change; finding an effective (but limited) role for the UN Security Council on the conflict-related aspects of environment and natural resources; and exploiting opportunities to use environmental cooperation as a peacebuilding tool, in order to break the cycle of economic marginalization, conflict, and environmental degradation in which too many of the world’s poorest communities find themselves trapped.

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

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Title: SIS Dean James Goldgeier Elected President of APSIA
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Abstract: James Goldgeier, dean of American University's School of International Service, is the newly elected president of the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA).
Topic: International
Publication Date: 06/01/2015
Content:

James Goldgeier, dean of American University's School of International Service, is the newly elected president of the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA). Goldgeier’s tenure will run from June 1, 2015 – May 31, 2017.

APSIA includes more than 60 member schools in the Americas, Asia, and Europe dedicated to the improvement of professional education in international affairs. APSIA members work to promote excellence in professional, international affairs education worldwide by sharing information and ideas among member schools and with other higher education institutions, the international affairs community, and the general public.

By combining multidisciplinary and policy-oriented studies with career development, APSIA member schools prepare students for the global workplace of the twenty-first century and are the primary sources of education for international affairs professionals in their respective countries. APSIA’s website also serves as valuable a clearinghouse of information for prospective students and employers.

APSIA executive director Carmen Iezzi Mezzera, SIS/BA '00, SIS/MA '01, said, “We are excited to welcome Jim Goldgeier as the new president of APSIA! His leadership has advanced the work of the School of International Service in many ways. We know he will similarly help the Association better live its mission to support the top international affairs graduate schools around the world and promote the field of international affairs education broadly.”

“I am honored by this appointment and look forward to working with the Executive Committee and leadership of APSIA and its member schools of international affairs to advance our common agenda,” said Dean Goldgeier. “Schools of international affairs have an increasingly important role to prepare students for global careers and to serve our local, national and international communities. The great challenges of our time demand a global perspective, and the APSIA member schools are uniquely positioned to provide it.”

AU’s School of International Service was founded in 1957 through a call by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to train future students of international affairs to “wage peace.” Nearly six decades later, the top-ranked school continues to emphasize scholarly distinction and service to the global community.

Learn more about APSIA: http://www.apsia.org/

Learn more about SIS: http://www.american.edu/sis/

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Title: Spotlight on the Intercultural and International Communication Program
Author: Anne Deekens
Subtitle:
Abstract: The Intercultural and International Communication (IIC) program at the School of International Service is for students who are interested in the intersection of culture and international affairs.
Topic: International
Publication Date: 05/28/2015
Content:

The Intercultural and International Communication (IC) program at the School of International Service is for students who are interested in the intersection of culture and international affairs. IC encompasses the study of culture, communication, and social systems at the local, national, and global levels, and examines identity, culture, and technology as they relate to communication.

We asked Professorial Lecturer Amanda Taylor, director of the IC program, to tell us more:

What is the mission/vision of the IC program?

Our goal is to prepare interculturally competent professionals with the international communication knowledge and skills necessary to address the global challenges of our time.

How is the program unique?

The particular strength of the IC program is that we centrally consider the role of culture in international affairs and its role in interactions, programs, and policies. Established in 1968, the IC program is the first of its kind in the nation and remains an innovator in the field. In addition to our strategic Washington, DC, location, what truly distinguishes our program is our focus on the intersection of intercultural relations and international communication. In the IC program, we not only study culture, but we also care about building a particular culture within our community -- one in which we challenge each other while simultaneously supporting one another.

In the program, we focus on the role of culture, media, and technology in shaping (and reshaping) global issues at the international, interorganizational, and interpersonal levels. We explore the role of social media in shaping international relations, recognize the cultural underpinnings that inform diplomatic relations, and examine the emergence of public and cultural diplomacy. We consider the cultural dimensions of health communication, participate in the development of internet governance regulations, and consider the relationship between international relations and transnational education. Through our program's structured flexibility, students develop a core foundation in the field, and they also work on building or enhancing an area of expertise by selecting from among our concentrations within the program or across the school.

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

Our goal is to ensure that students can understand and analyze the role of communication in shaping international and interpersonal relations, and that they also develop the concrete communication skills necessary to translate these frameworks into effective professional practices. To do this, all of our courses integrate theory and practice. We use simulations, case studies, and applied client projects in all of our courses to build this bridge between the classroom and the field. We also punctuate our core courses with skills-focused intensive weekend institutes in which we hone in on key tools to enhance students' professional portfolios. Our students learn how to apply their new knowledge to concrete case studies in public diplomacy, technology policy, health communication, and international education. They build the skills necessary to support the key communication needs of effective internationally-focused organizations, including building culturally-relevant strategic communication plans, developing intercultural trainings, analyzing global technology policy, managing international education and exchange programs, developing digital diplomacy initiatives, and using targeted communication in support of international development goals.

IC faculty also host several SIS practica, in which teams of students partner with organizations across sectors to serve as short-term consultants as their program capstone project. We've hosted practica focused on strategic communication, cultural diplomacy, intercultural leadership development, and assessment in international education. We've partnered with organizations including Save the Children, the Atlantic Council, Global Ties U.S., Teach for China, and the Alliance for International Education and Cultural Exchange.

How does the program engage its alumni?

We engage our alumni in our program in many different ways to ensure the preparation of our students for careers after graduation. This year, we have piloted a series called the "IC Student-Alumni Collaboratories" in which alumni of the program volunteer to come to campus for a Saturday afternoon to share their knowledge with students about specific career-ready skills they've developed through their work. We also regularly invite alumni to build networks with students through various events, such as the annual IC Community Reception. We've also encouraged alumni and students to create new projects to enhance their professional skills through our inaugural IC Program Innovation Fund.

What is a typical IC student like?

Our students are active, engaged, and passionate. They are diverse, drawing from various backgrounds and professional pathways prior to joining IC. They are deeply curious and seek to deepen their understandings of the complex ways that culture and communication shape international relations.

Learn more about the IC program here: http://www.american.edu/sis/ic/

Read profiles of current IC students here: http://www.american.edu/sis/ic/meetourstudents.cfm

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newsId: 22B8CBD7-5056-AF26-BE9EFE93250C0823
Title: SIS Alumna Helps to Raise Funds for Small Nonprofits in NYC
Author: Stephanie Block
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Abstract: Dana Williams, SIS/MA '86 wears two hats as a real estate professional and nonprofit fundraiser.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 05/14/2015
Content:

Having the unique privilege to meet and work with people from around the world with fascinating lives is the best aspect of her work, says Dana Williams, SIS/BA '86.

When the economy declined a few years ago, the real estate professional sought other sources of income and experience. Through her search, Dana discovered The Funding Network USA (TFN) New York and enthusiastically approached the organization on various occasions to serve on their team.

Beyond the hardships that came as a result of the economic downturn were glimmers of sunshine, Dana says. "I realized how drawn I am to supporting grassroots projects with positive, sustainable solutions to complex problems," she adds. She serves as project director for TFN NY in addition to maintaining a successful real estate career with Sotheby's International Reality and acting as vice chair of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation's Brokers Partnership.

TFN is a global organization that hosts live crowdfunding events on behalf of grassroots, social impact non-profit organizations. The first organization to benefit from TFN's fundraising work is Harlem Grown, a small non-profit with a mission to inspire youth in Harlem, N.Y. to live healthier and more ambitious lives through mentorship and hands-on education in urban farming, sustainability, and nutrition.

Dana has also served as a board member for Habitat for Humanity NYC, as gala co-chair and mentor for Children's Aid Society and volunteered at the 1st Tribeca Film Festival.

Dana was attracted to AU's School of International Service mostly because of her lifelong intrigue with Keyna. "SIS encouraged a study experience abroad, so I chose to study in Kenya for a semester," she explains. "Going to school in Washington, DC was an exceptional opportunity that I never took for granted."

Dana's memories of her undergraduate experience are certainly fond. "I remember a small group of us meeting at the Tavern after Professor Duncan Clarke's energetic and inspiring lectures to simply talk about the world," she shares. "Some of my activities included mentoring and interning on Capitol Hill with an organization that lobbied for U.S. sanctions against the South African government."

From showcasing an apartment with a balcony overlooking Central Park to traveling to Harlem Grown to coordinate TFN's summer event which they will host in its garden, no two days are ever the same for Dana.

Regardless of how busy her days get, Dana says always has time to stay connected with friends from AU. "I made the most valuable and lifelong friendships at AU," she says. "I have a core group of close friends from AU that live in Australia, California and nearby."

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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.
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Title: SIS Graduate Student Studies Development in Africa
Author: Antoaneta Tileva
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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
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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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