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What We Did This Summer: SIS Students and Faculty Share

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Over the summer, SIS professors Hrach Gregorian and Carolyn Gallaher led a group of students in a practicum titled Peacebuilding in Northern Ireland: Assessing the Impact of WAVE Trauma Centre.

Summer break has officially ended, and we are thrilled to see our students and faculty back on campus and in the classroom! In honor of the start of the new semester, we asked a few SIS students and faculty to reflect on their summer internships, practicum experience, and research:

Abdullah ElOraby stands in front of UN buildingAbdullah ElOraby SIS/MA ’24

Abdullah ElOraby, SIS/MA ’24, spent his summer as a legal intern at the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (UNCTED), where he aided his team in curating reports and critical data. ElOraby initially found this internship on the UN Hiring Portal, and he chose to apply because of the unique opportunity and the relation to his studies at SIS.

“As an International Peace and Conflict Resolution student, I believe that counterterrorism is critical to the promotion of peace and reconciliation. SIS provided me with the critical analysis tools and research methods that I was able to utilize throughout this internship,” ElOraby said

As ElOraby returns to his studies at SIS, he reflected on the lessons he learned and the experience he gained during his time at UNCTED: “This internship was an extremely eye-opening experience into how the world of international organizations and public international service works. I believe the internship equipped me with a unique insight to understand different conflict situations that are still active around the world.”

Bailey SchiffBailey Schiff SIS/BA ’25

Bailey Schiff, SIS/BA ’25, spent the summer as a legislative intern in the office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif). Specifically, Schiff interned on Sen. Feinstein’s foreign policy and national security team in Washington, DC.

Schiff’s internship involved writing policy memoranda, sitting in congressional hearings, proposing policy, and briefing her team’s legislative assistant on international developments. Schiff specifically sought out an internship in Congress with a member with a strong foreign policy background.

“My courses at SIS prepared me well for this opportunity, even in regional and thematic areas outside of my own,” Schiff said. “In particular, exposure to international relations theory at SIS helped me understand the partisan divide when approaching international relations.”

Schiff said her experience on the Hill this summer—particularly learning about the inner workings of Congress, the legislative process, and defense appropriations—will help her as she begins an internship with the State Department this fall.

SIS professor Hrach Gregorian with studentsHrach GregorianSIS professor

SIS professor Hrach Gregorian led a group of students to Belfast, Northern Ireland, this summer, alongside SIS professor Carolyn Gallaher, in a practicum titled “Peacebuilding in Northern Ireland: Assessing the Impact of WAVE Trauma Centre.” WAVE Trauma Centre was founded in 1991, seven years before the Good Friday Agreement—a peace accord that ended 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland known as “the Troubles.”

According to Gregorian, WAVE supports all persons impacted by the Troubles, regardless of background, and “utilizes a psychological approach” that combines counseling services, legal and medical advocacy, educational initiatives, and social clubs.

“AU students examined the impact decades of WAVE programming has had on its clients, particularly the ways in which WAVE programs contribute to giving voice to victims and survivors, the degree to which WAVE as an organization promotes inclusivity, the exploration of WAVE’s contribution to trauma education, and WAVE’s influence at the socio-political level,” Gregorian said.

As an expert who has been engaged in Northern Ireland since the 1990s through Catholic and Protestant youth workshops, Gregorian said the practicum is “closely related to applied fieldwork I undertake to help increase social cohesion in divided societies.”

SIS professor Carolyn Gallaher with a group of studentsCarolyn GallaherSIS professor

This summer, SIS professor Carolyn Gallaher co-led the peacebuilding practicum in Northern Ireland alongside SIS professor Hrach Gregorian. Gallaher has researched post-conflict Northern Ireland for more than two decades. Most of her work is focused on documenting loyalist paramilitary violence after the 1998 peace accord, as showcased in her book, After the Peace: Loyalist Paramilitaries in Post-Accord Northern Ireland.

Gallaher described the experience of learning about WAVE Trauma Centre’s research as an experience that was both humbling and uplifting: “It put into graphic and personal relief what my academic analysis showed—that paramilitary violence caused lasting trauma for everyday people on both sides of the conflict.”

She added that the group’s time at WAVE was uplifting because the organization “helps clients live with their trauma and to find ways to have meaningful lives in the wake of such horrific loss.”

“We learned, among other things, how important humor is in the process, why social isolation makes things worse, and how simple things—like joining a chorus at WAVE—can bring back some semblance of normalcy for folks affected by the conflict.”

After her experience this summer, Gallaher is planning on writing an article this year updating her work on loyalist paramilitaries.

Joel OlivaresJoel Olivares SIS/BA ’24

Joel Olivares, SIS/BA ’24, spent the summer as a pricing intern at BDO, a global tax consulting firm. During his internship, Olivares worked with a team of consultants to “help multinational companies correctly price their transactions between entities abroad within their corporate group.” His internship consisted of examining economic and industry trends, preparing company analyses, and reviewing documentation reports for clients to ensure they were complying with international tax regulations.

“As an international studies major with a thematic focus on the global economy, I applied my knowledge of globalization and the political economy to help design and create new development strategies for businesses navigating the tax landscape and its evolving regulations,” Olivares said.

Through the internship, Olivares developed a new technical skill set he hopes to apply to an industry that focuses on the development of global business affairs.

Keith HarrellKeith HarrellSIS/MA ’24

Keith Harrell, SIS/MA ’24, was a Pathways intern with the Bureau of Consular Affairs at the US State Department this summer. He found this internship program through the USAJobs site and commented on how his studies at SIS prepared him for success in his internship.

“As a master’s candidate majoring in International Affairs and Policy Analysis, this position really allowed me to understand and analyze difficult documents. The research aspect of my studies has been essential in this job, and SIS has certainly helped prepare me for it,” Harrell said.

Harrell’s experience with the State Department predates this internship; he previously served in the HR office of the US Embassy in Kuwait and the political sector of the US Embassy in Panama. His experience at embassies abroad, his Pathways internship, and his studies at SIS are paving the way for a successful future career path.

“This is a great start to a future career in the US government, and it’ll open many doors for me in this field,” said Harrell. “I plan to use the things that I’ve learned in this position to spread my wings and see where it can take me.”

Marissa HarroldMarissa Harrold SIS/BA ’23

Marissa Harold, SIS/BA ’23, spent the summer studying Korean at Pusan National University in Busan, South Korea, as part of the Critical Language Scholarship Program. She learned of the scholarship program through the AU Office of Merit Awards, which provided informational sessions and support through the application process.

“I took intensive and immersive classes during the mornings and spent my free time hanging out with friends, including my language partner and roommate. During my free time, I not only continued to practice my Korean conversational skills, but also learned a lot about Korean culture and history through cultural excursions, spending time with friends, and exploring Busan,” Harold said.

Studying in a foreign country was initially difficult for Harrold, as she only had three years of Korean language instruction and was facing both language and cultural barriers. She found herself struggling to extend herself in social situations but realized that it was part of the learning process. As she spent more time in South Korea, her confidence grew, and she was able to interact with more locals, thanks in part to her instruction at SIS.

“I had taken a few classes at SIS related to the history of the Korean Peninsula and US-Korea relations. I found that the knowledge I gained from these classes allowed me to have really interesting conversations with locals!” said Harrold.

Harrold hopes to build upon her experience in South Korea as she continues to study the Korean language and improve her skills. She wants to return to South Korea soon to continue developing cultural knowledge that will help her pursue a career in diplomacy, supporting bilateral relations between the US and South Korea.

Matea StanisicMatea Stanišić SIS/MA ’24

Over the summer, Matea Stanišić, SIS/MA ’24, participated in the peacebuilding practicum in Northern Ireland led by SIS professors Hrach Gregorian and Carolyn Gallaher. As part of the practicum, Stanišić spent a week in Northern Ireland with a group of students at the WAVE Trauma Centre where they worked with victims and survivors of Troubles-related traumas as well as trauma-informed counselors and specialists.

Before she began pursuing her master’s degree at SIS, Stanišić worked in the immigration law field, where she interacted with clients who had experienced trauma. At the time, Stanišić said she did not have the knowledge or experience to assist the clients with their trauma, though she tried to help any way she could.

Through interactions with victims and trauma-informed counselors at WAVE, Stanišić said she learned about her “own personal epigenetic and transgenerational trauma,” as well as “how to approach others who are dealing with their own trauma from the experiences they have faced.” She added that her experience also helped her gain awareness and understanding “of some of the experiences that the people we spoke to went through during the conflict within their own country.”

In the future, Stanišić said she believes aspects of the WAVE programming could be applied in other regions outside of Northern Ireland, including in the Balkan region.

“As the daughter of a Serbian mother and a Croatian father, the Balkan region is my area of focus,” Stanišić said. “There are aspects of WAVE programming that I believe could be beneficial if applied to ongoing peacebuilding efforts in the Balkans; however, these approaches are not one-size-fits-all, and there are several context-specific challenges that arise across many conflict/post-conflict situations.”

Mei MillerMei Miller SIS/BA ’25

This summer, Mei Miller, SIS/BA ’25, studied abroad with the Global Scholars Program for a total of six weeks split between Brussels, Belgium, and Madrid, Spain. During her time abroad, Miller completed two intensive courses—one on the European Union and the other on historical and contemporary Spain. She said these courses provided her with a better understanding of the EU and a chance to apply her French and Spanish language skills.

“My regional focus is on Europe, and having never been abroad prior, this program has helped give me a better understanding of what I am studying in SIS,” Miller said. “SIS helped give me the skills that were necessary to navigate my time abroad.”

Miller said she will use what she learned during her internship throughout the rest of her time at SIS, “especially my newfound flamenco skills!”

Nina YamanisNina Yamanis SIS professor

SIS professor Nina Yamanis spent the summer leading a practicum experience for nine master’s students in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The practicum focused on economic empowerment and HIV prevention for youth, and the students got to experience a variety of excursions while they conducted their research.

“I enjoyed seeing Dar es Salaam through my students' eyes,” Yamanis said. “Our two weeks in-country were jam-packed with excursions and research. My favorite excursion was the Dar es Salaam reality bike tour. We all rode bikes through bumpy, windy dirt roads in the city. We learned about Swahili traditions and customs; visited markets, traditional healers, and food vendors; and learned about the strengths and challenges affecting the people living in Dar es Salaam's informal settlements.”

This practicum was part of Yamanis’ ongoing research with adolescent girls and young women in Dar es Salaam, which is funded by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health. The students were able to evaluate part of a pilot intervention, and their research allowed Yamanis and her team to examine what was needed for economic empowerment among this group of girls and women.

Yamanis is already using research from the practicum students in a new grant proposal, and their work has become embedded within her own.

“As my team and I are in the process of applying for more funding to fully evaluate the intervention, the students' input as to what was needed to enhance the group’s economic empowerment has been invaluable to me and my research team,” said Yamanis.