SIS graduate students Giselle Lopez, IPCR ’14, and Kia Hall, Ph.D. candidate, were selected as inaugural Diplomacy and Diversity Fellows. We asked Giselle to share her experience with us.
This summer, Humanity in Action (HiA), an international educational organization, launched the Diplomacy and Diversity Fellowship, a one-month program that brought together a group of twenty-three graduate students from across the United States and Europe to engage in a series of seminars in Washington, D.C. and Paris. The program was designed to provoke intense discussions among speakers and fellows about complex issues of diversity across a range of disciplines and encompass both domestic and international issues.
Through the program, we met with a wide range of experts and practitioners from across the field of international affairs, including academics, diplomats, government officials, NGO representatives, and journalists. Following our seminars, we met with other fellows and members of the HiA community.
In Washington, we began by exploring the foundations and evolution of race politics in the United States through a tour of the exhibition , “Changing America: The Emancipation Proclamation, 1863, and the March on Washington, 1963.” From initial discussions on slavery and the civil rights movement, we launched into seminars on the importance and experience of diversity in immigration, the professional field of international affairs, and democratization efforts.
At renowned centers and institutions of international affairs in Washington, we discussed struggles for inclusion, efforts to prevent and respond to violent conflicts, and the role of non-state actors in international affairs. At Howard University, one of the premier Historically Black Universities in the United States, we engaged in discussions on issues including expanding diversity in the Foreign Service, the use of technology, and emerging issues in transatlantic relations.
Following our two weeks in Washington, D.C., we traveled to Paris, France. During our time in Paris, we explored differences in European versus American perspectives. For instance, France has a policy of “color-blindness” and a constitutional article that forbids distinguishing racial and religious groups. For example, it is unlawful in France to collect data on racial and religious minorities. We had heated debates on this issue and its implications for addressing discrimination there. We also had discussions with guest speakers on new and non-traditional actors in international affairs, the role of media organizations, and the influence of European institutions in foreign policy.
During a day trip to Brussels, Belgium, we met with members of the European Parliament and the European External Action Service to discuss transatlantic perspectives on multiculturalism and diplomacy, and we visited the Parlamentarium to learn more about the history and current events of the European Union.
Being immersed in a diverse group of intelligent, curious, and passionate graduate students was a challenging and exhilarating experience. With such a broad range of topics, the series of seminars challenged each of us to open our minds and gain knowledge. Yet, we, too, challenged the speakers to think about their work in a new light and from other perspectives.
This fellowship has been an opportunity to understand and grapple with issues of diversity and draw from our own diverse backgrounds to encourage a paradigm shift in how diversity is addressed in the field of international affairs.