newsId: 09BA7B49-5056-AF26-BEDB1945281EE2C2
Title: Professor Stefanie Onder joins SIS faculty
Author: Sarah Quain
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Abstract: Professor Stefanie Onder, a development economist who studies the trade-offs between economic development and sustainability, joined SIS this past fall.
Topic: International
Publication Date: 01/17/2018
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Professor Stefanie Onder joined SIS this past fall from the World Bank, where she was a senior environmental economist focusing on natural resources management. In addition to her training as an economist, Onder brings years of hands-on international development experience with the World Bank into the classroom.

How would you describe the field of environmental economics?

This field studies the effects of the economy on the environment, from the extraction of natural resources to air pollution and climate change, as well as the effects of the environment on the economy. Individual incentives and growth can end up hurting the environment, so environmental economists look at how we can best create sustainable policies and environmental solutions that take these interactions into account.

Why is environmental economics a critical area of study?

The environment is often overlooked, especially from a development perspective. When trying to lift people out of poverty, we focus on generating an income. But the problem is, by pursuing a pure growth agenda without considering how sustainable that growth is, we might pollute or destroy resources beyond repair. We all know that resources, and especially natural resources, are limited, but we typically take them for granted without really thinking about the economic value or how much they contribute to our daily lives. Bringing that sustainability aspect to development is critical.

Acknowledging that the poor strongly depend on natural resources is also an important part of the development discourse more broadly. Many of the world’s poor live in rural areas and survive by extracting the resources around them. If you want to help the poor, you have to understand how they depend on these resources.

How do environmental economics encourage sustainable economic growth?

People in the environmental community often don’t talk in economic terms. They talk about the biodiversity and about protecting animals and trees, but this doesn’t resonate with a finance minister or someone in a ministry of planning who has to make a financial decision. I think translating the value of the environment and ecosystem services into economic language that everybody can understand is very important. We need to take growth and sustainability, for not only this generation, but future generations, into account.

Do you bring any experience from outside the classroom to your position at SIS?

Working at the World Bank has shown me a lot of the world that people coming from a European or American context normally would not see. It’s hard to understand fully how poor people can be unless you’ve been in a shed with a Chinese farmer who owns one pig and feels rich. It’s quite incredible to understand what absolute poverty really means. Seeing absolute poverty in person was an eye-opening experience for me, and I’m hoping it will be helpful experience to share with students going forward.

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Title: SIS’s living peace legend: Abdul Aziz Said
Author: Kaitie Catania
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Abstract: Professor Emeritus Abdul Aziz Said shares how he championed an active approach to peace and came to serve as an SIS faculty member for nearly 60 years.
Topic: Faculty
Publication Date: 01/09/2018
Content:

From the day the School of International Service (SIS) first opened its doors to aspiring service leaders in 1958, one member of the SIS community has called the school home: triple American University (AU) alumnus and Professor Emeritus Abdul Aziz Said, ’54, ’55, ’57. In fact, Said attended the SIS groundbreaking ceremony as both an AU faculty member and a graduating PhD student in 1957.

A fixture at SIS, Professor Said taught at the university from 1956 until his retirement in 2015. During his nearly 60 years on SIS faculty, he became the senior ranking professor at AU; became the first occupant of the Mohamed Said Farsi Chair of Islamic Peace, which was endowed for him; founded and directed the popular International Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR) degree program; wrote more than 16 books; and inspired thousands of students and alumni.

However, Said’s greatest achievement has been developing and advancing peace studies at SIS and around the world.

“Traditionally, when we spoke about peace in the past, it primarily meant the absence of war or absence of violence. But increasingly, we have become more precise and understand that peace is not only an absence of violence, but a presence of justice, a presence of equality, and a presence of cooperation,” he says.

His introduction to conflict and peace

Said’s understanding of active peace stems from his familiarity with conflict. Growing up in French-occupied Syria, he experienced a period of time in the 1940s when his father—a Syrian nationalist leader—was exiled, his family was displaced, and bombings during World War II were common. One of the most harrowing, yet formative, experiences he faced growing up was when his three-year-old brother was struck by a French military truck and passed away in Said's arms. "That experience had a tremendous impact on me in terms of the evils of conflict and need for pacific resolution," he says.

When he came to Washington, DC, for his undergraduate studies at AU in the 1950s, Said experienced a new kind of conflict: racial discrimination. In comparison to the international friends he made in DC, many of whom were Lebanese, Said was considered “colored” as an Arab Syrian: “My upbringing and experience deepened my sensitivity about discrimination and prejudice because I was a victim of that as a foreigner.”

The injustice of discrimination and prejudice was a lesson that stuck with him. Shortly after joining the SIS faculty, Said recalls a time when a group of Jewish students approached him and asked for his help establishing a new fraternity. With various pre-existing fraternities on campus from which to choose, the students explained that no chapter would admit them because they were Jewish. Said took a bold stance among faculty and helped the students establish an AU chapter of Phi Epsilon Pi, a Jewish fraternity.

“I did it because I saw students were deprived of full participation in education because of the color of their skin or their religious faith. I did it, probably because I was a minority as a Christian Arab in the Middle East, probably because I had experienced that myself,” explains Said. Of the vast awards and honors that decorate Said’s office walls, he pinpoints a Living Legend Award from the Phi Epsilon Pi National Jewish Fraternity as one of his most prized awards.

Becoming a fixture

Since those early days at SIS, he grew to become a favorite among students and colleagues alike for his values and lessons on peace. He famously retrieved members of the AU community from arrests at peaceful protests and was an active participant in demonstrations against violence, discrimination, and injustices around the world, from the Vietnam War to South African apartheid. In particular, Said recalls the 1963 March on Washington as a powerful moment in his and his students’ careers in peace studies.

“That was unbelievable. For me, that was my opportunity to practice what I’d learned,” he says of the march. “I have been thinking about that recently, talking with one of my former students who was with me in the march. It was exhilarating and inspiring. It felt like I had been learning how to drive and now I’m driving; I’d been learning how to walk, now I’m walking; I’d been learning how to talk, now I’m talking. I felt like a child discovering what I can do. It was great in that sense.”

On and off campus, Said mentored peace leaders like German activist Petra Kelly, SIS/BA ’70; paved the way for understanding Islamic and world peace in academic institutions, government sectors, and nonprofits; and advised the UN, the US Department of State, the US Department of State, and the White House Committee on the Islamic World. Above all, he incorporated education and his students into his long career in international peace, conflict, and cultural understanding.

“No other faculty member at the university has given as many years of service as Professor Said,” says SIS Interim Dean Christine BN Chin. “His dedication to the pursuit of knowledge and building a more peaceful world is second to none, and—I believe thousands of alumni and faculty will echo this—he has made a deep and lasting impression on not only those who sat in his classroom, but in the field he helped build.”

Training future peace leaders

In 1995, SIS established the IPCR program with Said at the helm as founding director. In the years it took to get IPCR off the ground, Said says the creation of this popular program would not have been possible without the increase in scholarly work on global peace and conflict resolution or the decades-worth of demand by the SIS community for more curricula on the subject: “Although my name is associated with founding the program, it is really the result of collaborative efforts of faculty and students.”

Since the program’s founding, it has graduated thousands of students and grown to offer four degree options and four concentrations designed to address the world’s most complicated conflicts. Today, IPCR students can focus on culture, identity, negotiation, justice, and more through the program. Many incorporate practical experience abroad into their curriculum and attain successful careers that a young Said could not have imagined would exist today.

“Above all, the IPCR program connects theory with practice and provides experience overseas. It also provides an opportunity to learn more about other people around the planet,” he says of the program’s unique strengths.

Lessons from a living legend

Said maintains a deep connection to the subject he helped shape as an expert. He’s seen many global conflicts come and go around the world, but says poverty continues to be one of the heaviest threats to peace: “The lack of resources by many people on the planet has always hit me very hard. Poverty leads to the rise of dictatorships and to the rise of systems that are not democratic, and those are threats to peace.”

Though his marching days may be behind him, Said looks to education, literacy, and knowledge as powerful tools for change and peace. Fortunately for SIS, Said’s gift for teaching and ability to supply those tools for change are what sustained him through nearly 60 years on faculty at the school, where so many have come to call him teacher, colleague, and friend.

“I never felt the need or the pull or the push to do something else because I liked teaching and I liked the content. I liked to see what happened to the eyes of a student during an ah-ha moment and I really felt a commitment to be involved in the pursuit of knowledge,” he says.

 

Learn more about the 60th anniversary of the School of International Service.

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Title: SIS welcomes Professor Naomi Moland
Author: Sarah Quain
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Abstract: New SIS Professor Naomi Moland talks about her research interests and the importance of studying intercultural communication today.
Topic: International
Publication Date: 01/04/2018
Content:

Professor Naomi Moland joined the School of International Service (SIS) from Teachers College at Columbia University this fall. An anthropologist interested in cultural globalization, Moland examines how ideologies are circulated around the globe—especially via education and media—and altered in different cultural contexts. Her book, Can Big Bird Fight Terrorism? Children's Television as Soft Power in Nigeria, is under contract at Oxford University Press.

What are your main areas of research?

My doctoral work focused on the Nigerian version of "Sesame Street." I looked at the show as a form of multicultural education aimed at teaching diversity, tolerance, and unity among the different religious and ethnic groups in Nigeria, but also as a form of cultural diplomacy. The US government has funded about 10 versions of "Sesame Street" around the world over the past 15 years. My work looks at how American ideas about multiculturalism, human rights, tolerance, and unity are circulated around the world and adjusted in different countries through adaptations of this popular children's show.

My second project is about the global circulation of LGBT rights discourses around the world and how these discourses are adapted or rejected in different contexts. With a colleague, I've done about 40 interviews with LGBT activists in different countries to learn how they address cultural and religious challenges to LGBT rights. We're studying how activists respond to commonly held beliefs about homosexuality—such as homosexuality being incompatible with a certain country's culture. How do activists combat those claims? This research explores complex dynamics of cultural imperialism, post-colonialism, and human rights.

What interests you about the global circulation of ideas?

The speed at which different ideologies are circulated around the world has increased with changes in media and changes in travel; we are becoming more and more connected. But even if ideologies or rights movements in different countries look similar on the surface, they're actually culturally specific. They are still very connected to the histories, cultures, and religions of those countries and regions. And there are very complex power dynamics involved in the circulation of ideologies that we need to be constantly aware of.

What brought you to the study of anthropology?

Before I began my doctorate, I taught immigrants in the United States for five years. I was very interested to see how the American school system was enculturating immigrants and trying to help them adapt, linguistically and culturally, to American society. I also studied bilingual and bicultural education in Spain to learn how another country deals with issues of immigrant integration and national unity with diverse populations. Those two experiences led to my interest in how countries "manage" diversity and attempt to build unity or peace among the different populations.

You are teaching intercultural relations and cross-cultural communication this year. Why are these important areas for SIS students to study?

Understanding culture—and how cultures evolve—is critical to understanding any international relationship. Every aspect of international relations must bring in and be conscious of complex cultural dynamics. In international relations, the concept of culture can easily become simplified. It's common, for example, for government programs or development aid organizations to say they want culturally sensitive initiatives, but then create programs that are only appropriate or relevant to a certain sector of society. People who study intercultural communications have to consistently interrogate the concept of culture, look at the power dynamics involved, and be very cognizant of the tendency for cultural sensitivity to lapse easily into reductive and stereotypical versions of cultural understanding.

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Title: SIS professor works to build global environmental peace
Author: Kaitie Catania
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Abstract: Professor Ken Conca, an expert on water and environmental peacebuilding, discusses his work and upcoming Al-Moumin Award and Distinguished Lecture on Environmental Peacebuilding.
Topic: Environment
Publication Date: 01/04/2018
Content:

Growing up near Providence, Rhode Island, School of International Service (SIS) Professor Ken Conca remembers shell fishing in the bay with his father. Like many area locals, Conca’s family enjoyed fishing as a pastime and also as a supplemental income. When the bay became polluted during Conca’s teenage years, he noticed the impact it had on his community, which relied heavily on the bay. Conca recalls: “I was sensitized about it—how ‘safe’ is the water and can we even eat the shellfish?”

Years later, Conca’s relationship with water has sustained and taken him around the world as an expert in global environmental governance, environmental peacebuilding, and United Nations environmental policy. “I see an enormous international cooperative, peacebuilding, and relationship-building potential for countries that work together on environmental issues. Water is such a good example of these kinds of issues because it flows. If you don’t cooperate with people upstream or downstream, you can’t do much with it. It’s a wonderful illustration,” said Conca.

He cites a real-world example in which water issues heighten a longstanding conflict: Israel and Palestine. Each summer, Conca and colleague Eric Abitbol lead a group of students in a practicum in which they travel to the Middle East to explore water and environmental peacebuilding efforts between Palestine and Israel. “Water is a contentious issue between Israel and Palestine because they struggle to cooperate on certain issues and, as a result, come into conflict over it,” said Conca. In the practicum, Conca and his students study, assess, and critique projects that civil society organizations in the region are developing to help Israelis and Palestinians work together on water issues: “The hope is that those organizations can do their work more effectively from a peacebuilding sense.”

While international environmental conflicts such as the one between Israel and Palestine occur worldwide, in recent years, concerns have risen over the impact climate change has on national and international security. Recently, Conca co-authored a policy brief regarding the role of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in climate change and global security. The brief cites the future of small-island states, growing resource competition, and the prospect of climate-driven displacement of vulnerable people  as examples of how climate change could generate international tensions.

Conca, who is a member of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Expert Advisory Group on Conflict and Peacebuilding, says this issue has come up periodically for the UNSC during the past 10 years, but “with Trump pulling us out of the Paris Climate Accord, we’re having a moment of growing urgency in global climate politics. There are countries that are desperate to move the dial on this,” he says. By getting the Seurity Council engaged, however, Conca’s brief suggests that interested parties should question whether the UNSC could take it on effectively. “Be careful what you wish for,” Conca warned on this issue.

Though this issue is experiencing a wave of momentum, Environmental Peacebuilding, a book Conca co-authored 15 years agowith former student Geoff Dabelko, is widely considered one of the foremost publications to tackle environmental links to global peace and conflict. Conca’s role in the UN Environment Programme’s Expert Advisory Group on Conflict and Peacebuilding stems from his recognition that the agency was one of the first organizations to act on environmental conflicts as peacebuilding opportunities in such a way as discussed in Environmental Peacebuilding.

On January 30, Conca and Dabelko will be honored with the prestigious Al-Moumin Award and Distinguished Lecture on Environmental Peacebuilding, named after Dr. Mishkat Al-Moumin, Iraq’s first Minister of Environment and a human rights and environment lawyer. The award recognizes leading thinkers who are shaping the field of environmental peacebuilding. “It’s a great honor. People who have been recognized through this award in the past are true leaders,” Conca said.

At the lecture, Conca and Dabelko will address their work in environmental peacebuilding and the challenges that lie ahead: “The conflict risks are real when it comes to environmental changes, but so are the peacebuilding opportunities.”

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Title: Why SIS’s Nora Bensahel signed #metoonatsec
Author: Kaitie Catania
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Abstract: Distinguished Scholar in Residence Nora Bensahel shares why she published an article about her personal experience as a woman in the national security field and what the response to her article has been.
Topic: First Person
Publication Date: 12/12/2017
Content:

On November 28, more than 200 women in the national security field signed the #Metoonatsec Open Letter on Sexual Harassment in National Security, which calls for the field to “take a comprehensive set of actions to reduce the incidence of sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace.” The women who signed identified as survivors or allies of survivors of sexual harassment, assault, and abuse. One of those women was Nora Bensahel, a distinguished scholar in residence at the School of International Service and a US defense policy expert at the Atlantic Council.

Following her signature on #Metoonatsec, Bensahel published a personal article sharing her own eye-opening experiences with gender-based inequality and harassment in the field. She describes herself as lucky, having only experienced a few minor—albeit disturbing—instances. That very same day, Time announced “The Silence Breakers,” people who have come forward to report sexual misconduct, as their 2017 Person of the Year.

We asked Bensahel to further discuss this pivotal moment for women and her thoughts on the #metoo movement, and what ultimately inspired her to share her personal experiences in a male-dominated field.

In your article, you explained why you chose to sign the #metoonatsec letter. But what made you decide to share your experience in such a public way? What do you hope readers take away from your article?

I was struck by how much attention the #metoonatsec letter got and I felt like it was a very important step forward. But I also realized that the details and the reasons why I and the other women who signed weren’t necessarily apparent. A number of my colleagues were disturbed to see so many women sign the letter, but I realized they had no idea why, because many of us have never talked about our experiences. I felt that sharing my own story would help educate people about the scope of the problem and help to move a solution forward.

What kind of responses have you received to your article?

I have been overwhelmed with the outpouring of positive support from friends and colleagues, including some people I’ve never met before who have reached out to thank me and tell me how much my article meant to them. But I did receive one response that proves why articles like mine are important. The man who was responsible for one of the specific incidents I mentioned wrote me a note congratulating me on publishing the article and telling me he had shared it on Facebook. I am absolutely, positively convinced he has no idea at all that one of the stories was about him. The fact that he did something in the past that mattered enough to me to include in this article—yet he cannot recognize himself in it—is exactly why the culture needs to change.

Why do you think women are speaking out about this in ways they never have before?

I think that one of the key catalysts for the whole #metoo movement, not just in national security, was that Donald Trump, despite having bragged about assaulting women in the Hollywood Access tape, got elected. That, combined with the extent of the revelations about Harvey Weinstein, made many women realize that they needed to take action to change the status quo. And as more women speak out, even more women feel empowered to do so. One of the reasons I wrote my article, for whatever small bit of good it did, was to help ensure that this is not part of our culture that just gets covered up.

In your article, you describe an “ongoing tax” that women pay in their careers. What habits have you adopted that others can too to reduce this tax?

I’ve been fortunate that these issues are not on the forefront of my mind on a daily basis—but they certainly are a part of my professional life. One strategy I’ve adopted is to try to call out that behavior on behalf of others whenever I see it. As I wrote in the article, it’s fairly common for me to share an idea that gets overlooked, but when it’s repeated by a man, suddenly it’s brilliant and insightful. When I see that happen to another woman, I will go out of my way to say: “Yes, that’s a great idea that Jane had earlier” to try to give credit where it is due. It’s much easier for me to do that now that my career is established, and occasionally I’ll feel comfortable enough calling that out when it happens to me. But if you’re more junior and vulnerable in your career, that is obviously much harder to do.

How often are you the only women, or one of very few women, in the room for meetings?

It happens regularly, especially when I’m meeting with senior military leaders. It’s a bit better if it’s a meeting with the broader national security community, but it does happen regularly. I’m almost always aware of how many women there are in the room and often find myself counting them without realizing that I am doing so. I know many other women who find themselves doing that as well. I once made a small tally list on the piece of paper in front of me, and then realized that the woman sitting next to me had done the exact same thing.

We’ve focused on the downside about being a woman in the national security field, but are there any positive aspects?

Yes, and to me the biggest one is that I tend to stand out to people, precisely because there are not that many women in the field. Standing out isn’t always a good thing, of course, but it does help people remember who I am. At this point in my career, it’s fairly common for people to come up to me after a presentation to tell me that they remember hearing me speak in the past—sometimes many years ago. They remember me because I am a woman and I don’t look like everyone else in the room. Military people don’t often encounter female civilian defense experts and that’s been a benefit to me.

There is also a very strong sense of community among the women in this field to help other women, especially those who are more junior. The generation of women before me in the national security field worked very hard to establish that culture, and their values have continued on. That’s not always the case in other fields and it’s something I both appreciate very much and work hard to maintain.

In your article, you mention fear of backlash as a result of women coming forward—can you elaborate on that?

I fear two kinds of backlash. First, I fear a general backlash from men (and some women) who say that this has turned into a witch hunt, especially as the number of very prominent men who are caught up in this seems to increase every day. I worry that many men will feel defensive, as though all men are being targeted, and that they will try to swing the pendulum in the other direction against openness and accountability. On a more individual level, I fear that even very well-meaning men, who really do want to help and encourage women, will alter their behavior in ways that unintentionally hinder progress. I worry that they will become afraid of working too closely with women, because they may fear allegations against them or are unsure of what they might have done in the past. I do understand some of their concerns, because this is a very confusing time when both men and women are trying to absorb the sheer scale of the problem and navigate the shifting boundaries of what constitutes acceptable behavior. But I fear it will make men more cautious in working with and helping women, even subconsciously, which would move things in exactly the wrong direction.

You mention in your article that men should proactively mentor, sponsor, and provide opportunities for women if there is to be change. What else needs to be done?

Women certainly need to continue speaking out and sharing their experiences, but women’s voices alone are not going to change the culture. Men are going to have to be the ones to lead the charge, because in most situations, they have more power than women. It is the powerful who need to say: “Harassing and abusing women is absolutely unacceptable, we will investigate every allegation fully and completely, and we will call out this behavior whenever we see it.” That’s what sustainable change will require.

What do you hope to see come of this movement?

It has already sparked a national conversation that I could not have dreamed of a few months ago and that conversation needs to continue. Men and women both need to be open and honest about the huge scale of the problem, the challenges it poses, and how to achieve lasting change. That won’t be easy, to be sure, but I believe that some of the recent progress is irreversible and that we will continue to move in the right direction.

 

Want more? Bensahel has commented on and discussed gender issues for War on the Rocks and for Center for New American Security (CNAS).

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Title: Davenport Coffee Lounge serves up rich aromas and a rich history
Author: Sarah Quain
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Abstract: "The Dav" wasn’t always the beloved coffee purveyor we know today. Its history extends back decades to a time when SIS was only an idea.
Topic: International
Publication Date: 12/12/2017
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The Davenport Coffee Lounge is a School of International Service (SIS) institution. Its coffee fuels everyone from the early riser making the finishing touches on a paper to the professor prepping for classes, and it serves the aficionados who wouldn't know where else to get a decent cappuccino on campus.

Affectionately known as "the Dav" across campus, this student-staffed coffee shop has a history nearly as old as SIS itself, but it's only the Dav's most recent incarnation that serves coffee, tea, and pastries.

After American University (AU) first received funds from the Methodist Church needed to establish SIS in 1956, Ernest Griffith was selected to lead the school as its first dean. Griffith approached his mother-in-law, Edith Andrews Davenport, about bestowing the newly-conceived School with an endowment. Davenport agreed. As part of her funding, she requested that a chapel be built in the school in honor of her late husband, Frederick Davenport, himself a political science professor who was particularly devoted to his students of politics and international affairs. No stranger to AU, Frederick Davenport had delivered the 1943 commencement address to graduating students.

The Davenport Memorial Chapel opened for its first service of 1959 on Wednesday, March 25. The Easter service, titled "The Meaning of the Resurrection," was led by the university chaplain, Edward Bauman, and ruminated on the questions of whether Jesus of Nazareth's resurrection was spiritual or physical.

The chapel served the entire American University community, not just SIS students, until Kay Spiritual Life Center took over that role on campus in 1965. Over the course of its years as the Davenport Chapel, the space held regular Methodist services and Catholic masses, as well as occasional Episcopalian and Presbyterian services.

After Kay opened, the Davenport Chapel was briefly used for storage before it was converted into the Davenport Memorial Lounge, a place for SIS students to study, read, and meet with peers and professors. The space also hosted student group meetings and academic lectures.

Originally situated near the main entrance of what is now the East Quad Building, the Davenport Lounge housed a large world map, marble tables that once served as the chapel's altar, shelves stuffed with newspapers and magazines, and books "from Mao to Marx," as one Eagle writer put it. The Davenport Lounge served as a gathering place for students and professors alike.

Then, in 1979 and 1980, SIS's international affairs students witnessed increased turbulence around the globe. The persistent threat of the Cold War, which served as the basis for SIS's founding, grew more menacing when the Soviet-Afghan War pitted the Afghan government and Soviet forces against rebels in Afghanistan in December 1979. Ultimately, the war displaced millions of Afghans and led to the US boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. At the same time, the conclusion of the Iranian Revolution in February 1979 saw a change in leadership that was not supported by the US. That November, Iranian students took 66 people in the American embassy in Tehran hostage, holding 52 of them for more than a year.

The world was changing, and students of international affairs wanted a place where they could discuss current events, engage in scholarly debates, and befriend other globally-minded students outside of their classes. As it turned out, the space already existed, and it only needed one addition to foster the kind of community SIS students needed: coffee.

In 1980, both the undergraduate and graduate student councils sought the approval of then-Dean William Olson to start selling coffee in the lounge. The Davenport Coffee Lounge had arrived.

An entirely student-run initiative, the Dav sold coffee and tea at cost and relied on student volunteers who staffed the Dav in two-hour intervals from 9 a.m.-10 p.m., Monday to Friday. If you wanted a cup, you poured it from the coffee pot yourself and dropped some change into a tin to pay. A cup of coffee or tea would set students back as little as $0.30. All money went directly back into keeping the operation stocked with coffee, tea, cream, sugar, cups, and filters.

In an April 1985 Eagle article, a student journalist complimented "such tongue-tingling flavors of coffee as French Breakfast, Java & Mocha, and Colombian" served regularly at the Dav. Beyond just selling coffee, the Dav achieved its primary goal of bringing together the SIS community. That same Eagle writer commented, "I was struck by the variety of faces I saw and the multitude of languages I heard."

Over time, the Dav became much more than a study lounge with a pot of coffee percolating. It evolved into a full-service, non-profit coffee lounge that employed work-study students.

The Dav fell on rocky times in 2000, when the university was considering replacing the student-run lounge. The university requested a major change to operations that temporarily sidelined the Dav: the coffee lounge would have to become a licensed coffee shop. The demand meant that the Davenport would have to operate as a business and pay full salaries to employees, who were federal work-study students with subsidized pay. During this period of uncertainty, the Dav couldn't make any sales; instead, self-serve coffee was available for free.

In October 2000, AU President Benjamin Ladner decided to allow the Dav to pursue a non-profit organization license and open its doors once again.

In 2010, the Dav migrated to its current location in the new SIS building. "Business took off when we moved to the new space," said manager Becky Regan. Entirely self-sustaining, the Dav doesn't receive any money from the university or SIS and uses all profits to purchase products and pay the work-study students behind the counter.

So how much do students, staff, faculty, and visitors enjoy their drinks from the Dav? The Dav goes through about 300 pounds of locally roasted coffee per week. In 2017, the Dav served more than 27,000 cups of coffee; 33,000 fresh pastries from local vendors; 18,000 chais; 15,200 iced coffees; and 12,200 lattes.

"The mission of Davenport is to have a space on campus for faculty, students, and staff to come together," said Regan. "We feel lucky to be part of the SIS community, which has always been so supportive of the Dav."

Learn more about the 60th anniversary of the School of International Service.

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Title: SIS welcomes Megan Stewart to faculty
Author: Kaitie Catania
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Abstract: New SIS faculty member Megan Stewart shares her research interests and background.
Topic: International
Publication Date: 12/08/2017
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Professor Megan Stewart, an expert on state formation and civil war, joins the School of International Service (SIS) this fall from the University of Virginia, where she was a post-doctoral research associate. Her research on civil wars and state formation has taken her around the world to Egypt, Lebanon, East Timor, Australia, and the United Kingdom. Professor Stewart is currently working on her first book project, Governing for Revolution, which focuses on the long-term strategic goals of insurgencies.

We spoke with Stewart about what led her to SIS, her research interests, and why the study of sovereignty is important to understanding foreign policy challenges.

Tell us about your background. From where are you joining the School of International Service?

I did my undergrad degree at New York University and I was really interested in the idea of states within states. I did some research as a senior on the Muslim Brotherhood and I was in Egypt about a year before the Arab Spring. That research got me hooked and interested in pursuing scholarly work, so I went to Georgetown to get my PhD. This past year I’ve been at the University of Virginia working in the Politics Experimental Lab on a research grant from the Air Force. Essentially I was tasked with understanding the psychological implications of exposure to violence amongst civilians.

What research have you conducted about states within states?

I was really interested in the idea of states within states, how sovereignty emerges and how it’s contested. When I was in Egypt, I interviewed members of the Muslim Brotherhood, civil society in Egypt, and other stakeholders who were invested in Egyptian democracy to try and get a sense of the history and reality of the Muslim Brotherhood’s relationship with the Egyptian state over time. That idea has developed into how organizations contest sovereignty and create their own orders: how they rebels within states and how they fight against states, using violence and social service provisions, to create pockets of different orders within a state.

Why do you think sovereignty is important to study right now?

I think it’s important to study right now because it speaks to real challenges that the US is facing in maintaining and establishing hegemony globally. In Syria or Afghanistan, I think sovereignty is important to understand that just because a country has a specific set of borders and boundaries doesn’t mean that the power of the national government is actually going extend to those borders. Even if the national government is trying to get to these underserved places, they might not actually be reaching them.

I also think it’s important for the modern conflict dynamic to help reduce humanitarian crises or at least mitigate them. For example, if rebels are expected to provide social services as part of their repertoire, you can start to mitigate or at least direct resources in a better way to not have people dying because they don’t have access to health care.

Are you working on any current research projects or publications?

Right now I’m working on a book project that makes the case that certain rebel organizations look to one another and try to copy their governing institutions. These organizations also look to other states and try to copy those institutions as a way to gain legitimacy domestically and internationally and to achieve their goals.

I’m also working on a project about Reconstruction in the United States after the Civil War. What I find is that when the federal government provided freedmen and freedwomen sufficient resources as part of Reconstruction, inequities between blacks and whites in terms of education and employment were reduced. But in those same places where inequities were reduced, you also saw an increase in the likelihood of whites lynching blacks and whites.

What courses are you teaching and what are you most looking forward to as you settle in at the School of International Service?

I’m teaching a senior capstone called “Strategies of Rebellion: From Mao to ISIS,” which looks at what civil wars are and why they happen. It looks at how rebel groups behave within the context of civil war, how they organize and operate on a domestic level, and also how they engage with the international system and what that really means. In the spring, I’ll be teaching the capstone again, as well as a graduate-level research design and methods course.

I’m most looking forward to working with my colleagues at SIS. The diversity of intellectual interests and faculty members was something that really attracted me to SIS in the first place. AU was my first choice out of all the positions that were on the market that year and a large part of that was due to who my colleagues would be.

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Title: 13 things that made history in 2017
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Abstract: We asked SIS faculty members what they think will make the history books from the year 2017. Here are 13 moments from 2017 our experts say we’ll remember for years to come.
Topic: International
Publication Date: 12/08/2017
Content:

In the 12 months that have passed since we last polled our faculty on what events, news, and developments would be written into the history books, much has transpired. At times, 2017 seemed to be one endless news cycle. From transition in the White House in January to the #metoo phenomenon and resulting revelations this fall, if nothing else, 2017 was a year when norms seemed to change by the day. 

To help put it all in perspective, we checked in with faculty at the School of International Service to weed out which moments, news, and developments from 2017 will be ones for the history books. The following 13 things, listed in no particular order, are what our experts say will be remembered for years to come.

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Title: Seeds of Change
Author: Patty Housman
Subtitle: AU’s New Antiracist Research and Policy Center
Abstract: Professor Ibram X. Kendi establishes the groundbreaking Antiracist Research and Policy Center at AU.
Topic: On Campus
Publication Date: 12/08/2017
Content:

Late last summer Professor Ibram X. Kendi arrived at American University with a serious mission: to establish a groundbreaking, first-of-its-kind Antiracist Research and Policy Center at AU—a place that would identify and dismantle the discriminatory policies that produce racism in the United States and across the world.  

"The College joins with the School of International Service in being exceptionally proud to have brought Dr. Kendi to AU," said Peter Starr, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. "We look forward to seeing his vision for the Center become reality."

In September, Kendi shared his early plans for the Center. It will organize, house, and support six teams behind six key policy areas: justice, economy, education, environment, health, and politics. The teams will be composed of scholars from American University and around the world, as well as journalists, policymakers, and advocates. "We want to bring these people together on teams where each person can do what he or she does best," Kendi said, "as part of an intellectual assembly line where problems of inequity become policy solutions, and where solutions become change."

The Center's first major initiative is building the world's largest virtual and user-friendly library of data on racial inequality. "This library will allow scholars and journalists and policymakers and activists—and you and I—to have all sorts of data on inequality at our fingertips, all in one spot," said Kendi.

The Center will also host a series of debates on race, "bringing together thinkers from two sides of the intellectual equation to debate the most serious and critical racial issues of the day."

Kendi is confident that the timing is right and that the Center can make a real difference in the United States and around the world. "The world's racial problems are quite big. Discrimination is rather bold," he says. "We need big ideas, and we need bold centers. We need serious research, practical policies, and innovative ways of bringing about change, and we can't wait. We can no longer sit on the sidelines of history as inequality passes on to another generation. This center will not sit on the sidelines. We will be a force of change."
 

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Title: Racism in America
Author: Gregg Sangillo
Subtitle: Professor Ibram X. Kendi Discusses Award-winning Book
Abstract: AU Professor Ibram X. Kendi gives an interview on his National Book Award-winning book, Stamped from the Beginning.
Topic: Achievements
Publication Date: 12/08/2017
Content:

Ibram X. Kendi was just 34 years old when his book, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, won the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2016. Kendi recently joined American University as a professor of history and international relations in the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of International Service. He's also launching the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at AU. Here, he discusses research on racism in America, past and present.

When you wrote this book, what were you seeking to find?

I was seeking to discover and chronicle the history of racist ideas in America. And I initially had to define what a racist idea is, and I ended up defining it as any idea that suggests a racial group is superior or inferior to another racial group in any way. I didn't really expect to go as far back into history as I did. I did not expect to leave America and go back to England. And leave England and ultimately arrive at the beginning of racist ideas in fifteenth-century Portugal. I was as surprised as anyone that these ideas stretched back so far and were as pervasive. And that they're still pervasive today.

Is your theory that racist beliefs actually stem from racist policies?

Yes. I began the research assuming that people created racist ideas to suggest there was something inferior about black people, born out of ignorance or even hate. And then I assumed that these people who had these ideas were the very people who instituted, or even defended, policies like slavery, segregation, or even mass incarceration. But through doing the research, I started distinguishing between the producers of racist ideas and consumers, and decided that I wanted to write a history of the producers. I realized that these people who were producing these ideas were producing them to defend existing racist policies. And typically those racist policies benefited them in some particular type of way—either economically, politically, or even culturally.

One thing you've written is that we can have racial progress and racist progress at the same time. Can you expand on that a bit?

That was what I called sort of the dual racial history of America. You had this continuous racial progress. And we've seen this and we've lauded this—from ending slavery to ending Jim Crow. But what's actually happened was, when we have ended particular policies or systems, new and even more sophisticated systems emerged in their place. In many ways, sharecropping in Jim Crow was a more sophisticated way of exploiting cheap black labor than slavery was. And in many ways, mass incarceration of black bodies is more sophisticated. And denying those individuals the ability to vote, to have access to any sort of public funding or public housing when they get released, is an even more sophisticated form of discrimination than Jim Crow. Yes, Jim Crow has ended, and we should champion and applaud that, but a new, even more sophisticated system has emerged in its place.

You've talked about three strands: Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, and All Lives Matter. It sounds like you're saying that this debate is not new, even if the terms are new.

I chronicled three positions of trying to answer this question of why racial disparities exist in our society. One side, which I call the segregationist idea, states that there is basically black inferiority. The other side, the anti-racist position, states that the racial groups are equal, and if racial groups are equal, disparities must be the result of racial discrimination. And then the third side, which I call the assimilationist side, states that it is both. That it is the case that black people are, in certain ways, inferior, but it's also the case that they are being subjected to racial discrimination. So, in the debate about race and policing, Black Lives Matter essentially targeted and challenged discrimination, while Blue Lives Matter essentially targeted and challenged the people who were being subjected to police violence. And then the All Lives Matter crowd has tried to basically stand in the middle.

You've written about the problem with calling things "post-racial." Whenever there's a triumph−say the Civil Rights Act of 1964−is this sort of a double-edged sword? Because then white people think that racism is over.

I think that's the danger. A racist idea is like a post-racial idea. From the beginning of this country, we've been dealing with post-racial ideas, with people trying to turn away the notion of discrimination or slavery or Jim Crow. And they'll say, "No, black people should be enslaved. There's nothing wrong with it, this is normal. We don't have a racial problem."

Tags: CAS Connections,College of Arts and Sciences,Diversity,Faculty,History,History Dept,Race Relations,School of International Service
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Title: Unlocking Opportunities: Advice from Alumnus David Teslicko
Author: Gwen Coleman
Subtitle:
Abstract: David Teslicko, SIS/BA ’09, WCL/JD ’12, on how AU influenced his career success.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 08/11/2017
Content:

When David Teslicko, SIS/BA '09, WCL/JD '12, first visited AU's campus the summer before his senior year in high school, he says the campus was "welcoming" and "warm" and that he was "excited to be at AU." It was this feeling that not only solidified his love for the campus, but also his choice to obtain two degrees here. He wanted to study at a place that "had both that sense of community, of public purpose, and a general approach to ensuring that everyone succeeded together."

This sense of empowering students to meet their goals has stayed with him since he graduated. He reflected on his experience as a Student Trustee, working with the board on a strategic plan for the university that struck a balance between extracurricular activities and academics. He remembers being moved by the board's mission to "ensure that the university supported students both inside and outside the classroom to create holistically developed young adults to go out into the world."

Following his undergraduate commencement, David stayed involved with his fraternity, Sigma Phi Epsilon, as part of their Alumni and Volunteer Corporation. He remained active with them throughout law school and his move to New York. In New York, he also became involved with the Young Alumni Chapter and focused on growing the organization and creating programs to reconnect alumni with AU. This desire to build a sense of community among alumni drove him to further engage with AU as a member of the Alumni Board.

David is now an associate at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP. He works on a variety of matters, including antitrust clearances for proposed mergers, investigations of alleged cartels, and white-collar fraud. Work allows him to travel around the world, but David says his favorite part of the job is the people with whom he works. "It's a group of highly motivated, really intelligent individuals, who at the same time are very welcoming, open, and supportive. [They are] really focused on creating teams that work well together and can help each other succeed in the firm."

David got a start on his career during law school. He worked as a summer associate at a law firm that hired him through the on-campus recruitment program at the Washington College of Law. Directly following his graduation, he worked and traveled with a federal judge on the U.S. Court of International trade who had also hired several other AU students in the past. He assisted her on several cases on the Court of Appeals for two years before returning to his firm.

In giving advice to students who may want to follow in his footsteps, David remarks that it's important "to look for opportunities out there. Even if an opportunity doesn't immediately seem like it's going to contribute to your ultimate career path; be open to those opportunities because you never know what kind of resources, skills, or connections you might make that somewhere way down the road would be super important to you or useful in getting you to the place that you ultimately want to be."

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Title: 2017 Alumni Association Scholarship Essay
Author: Alex Li, SIS/BA '21
Subtitle:
Abstract: My mom is both a caregiver and advisor to me. She was an AU Eagle. I applied to American University because of her.
Topic: Student
Publication Date: 06/28/2017
Content:

My mom is both a caregiver and advisor to me. She was an AU Eagle. I applied to American University because of her. She inspires me because of her passion to learn which was sparked by her years learning and working at AU. She provided inspiration when teaching and caring for each everyone within the family. My outlook in life is mainly shaped under her guidance because she is a very good listener.


My mom is a caregiver in many ways. She provides care for myself, dad, and my sister who has a disability. She carries out special teaching strategies for my sister after school daily. Also, she is quick and decisive with an eagle's eye when a problem arises. She has also taught me thinking strategies for problems which I could use when solving problems. For instance, she has provided me with thinking strategies about how to look from different angles and to open my mind when solving problems. I have taken this strategy to heart and have applied it to important decisions. I have used this strategy by asking my mother where she went to college and AU was no doubt on my list of best choices.


My mom also provides me with advice during my life. She tells me how to do certain tasks and chores at home and when shopping. She even evaluates and guides me when I make mistakes or gives me improvement advice when I succeed. She tries to incorporate her own teachings from what she learned in anthropology from AU when we travel or talk. For instance, she uses her skills she learned at AU to explain to me new concepts for social interactions and cultural groups. Furthermore, my mother keeps reminding me to "look at the bigger frame of things." This made me consider what I wanted to do after college. I then considered how my mom graduated from AU and how I could follow her in her footsteps.


My mother graduated with degrees in Anthropology and Business. The journey at AU has ignited her passion to learn. Her degrees have given her credibility and expertise which she uses to teach me and my sister when we are at home. I have taken to model her passion for learning and excelled to learn as hard as her in school. Also, my mom worked hard during AU as an assistant to academic counselors. Her job placement has allowed me to consider AU as a promising place to work and study at the same time.


Overall, my mom provides advice and cares for our family and is a fantastic person. She has also showed me that working toward my dreams is an ongoing process and not just a goal. Also, her accomplishments and teachings can mainly be attributed to her study and work at AU. Her passion to learn has given me incentive to discover and consider AU as a main choice for college. Therefore, mom's commitment has given me insight that AU can provide an excellent and worthwhile education to any student.


This scholarship will impact me in a number of ways. For instance, I will be able to use this money to pay off any loans and focus more on my education. I will also be able to uses this scholarship to help me fund trips overseas like the study abroad program. Furthermore, I would be able to use this money for research-based projects or altruistic purposes. That is how this scholarship will impact my life in collage.


I plan to impact the AU community by planning to incorporate technology for humanitarian purposes or research. I will spend my time at AU doing community service and possibly helping students with disabilities. Furthermore, I would like to improve and increase the knowledge of incorporating technology like flying rescue devices or health monitor machines during my stay at AU. For example, if I introduce a faster method or device which is cheap and automated to send supplies or medical equipment to a remote location, I could save and sustain lives while acquiring funding from the government or another institution easily. This will create an impact on the AU community by allowing technology to be another avenue for helping and assisting people. Therefore, that is how I will impact the AU community.

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Title: SIS Alumna Spends Free Time Advocating for Women
Author: Stephanie Block
Subtitle: Shayna McCready, SIS/MA '14 shares with the Alumni Association her experiences as an ambassador and founding member of the DC committee for Ladies Get Paid
Abstract: Shayna McCready, SIS/MA '14 shares with the Alumni Association her experiences as an ambassador and founding member of the DC committee for Ladies Get Paid.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 03/08/2017
Content:

While her day job is spent as a federal contractor for the US Department of State, Shayna McCready, SIS/MA '14, stays plenty busy and passionate outside of work as an Ambassador and founding member of the Washington, D.C., committee for Ladies Get Paid (LGP).

The educational and community-based organization provides tools and resources to help women advocate for their value in the workplace, which hopefully leads to increased recognition and rewards.

"When I am not managing U.S. funding for diplomacy and development, training for a race, or volunteering at my local Yoga studio and the Washington English Center as an ESL tutor, I am organizing and bringing women together across the DMV," Shayna says. "Since launching LGP in New York in 2016, we've hosted seven town halls with over 700 attendees. Our community is global with over 3,000 members."

Shayna feels the momentum LGP is building will evolve into a global women's movement. She credits her American University School of International Service (SIS) graduate program experience as well as her career in global diplomacy and peacebuilding for her passion in building networks to expand female expectations.

The AU experience provided Shayna with opportunities to engage in various fieldwork experiences. She completed a Graduate Practicum researching factors influencing economic resilience in Rwanda with Global Communities as well as an Alternative Study Abroad (also in Rwanda) and volunteered for needs assessment research in Haiti.

"I wanted to attend SIS to have the opportunities to engage directly with the leadership shaping the world of international diplomacy and development," Shayna expresses. "Washington, D.C. is a unique place to study in that you can read and study a topic in a book and then physically head over to dialogue with individuals working in the US federal agencies, working groups, and forums where the topics you read about are being discussed in real-time."

During her studies, she recalls working under Professor Loubna Skalli Hanna, which provided her the unique chance to explore research on the intersection of development, politics, gender, youth, culture and communication.

"In many places around the world including the US, when women's rights are threatened and systems of equality are undermined, everyone suffers the collateral damage," Shayna says. "No society is immune from backlashes, especially in relation to gender and equality. There is a continuous need for vigilance for women's and girls' full enjoyment of their social, political, and economic rights."

Read more about LGP.

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Title: Making the most of the SIS network
Author: Erin Kelly, SIS/MA & SIS Alumni Relations Program Assistant
Subtitle:
Abstract: SIS graduate student Erin Kelly shares how spending time with alumni at annual SIS events eased her networking nerves.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 03/06/2017
Content:

Like any graduate student, I was skeptical about the role networking would play in my academic schedule at American University. But, at the student-alumni events I attended my first semester, I learned that true networking is about the personal connections you make. So forget the fancy reception rooms and high-powered lunches, real AU wonks can network anywhere: including next to the giant panda habitat at the National Zoo.

One event I attended to build my networking skills was the annual SIS Deans Reception, which brought 21 graduate students, staff, and faculty together with 19 alumni for a casual evening of cocktails and a tour of ZooLights, the National Zoo’s holiday light display, hosted by Dean James Goldgeier. Between appetizers, ice breakers, and a speech about the new SIS Office of Career Development, students and alumni alike felt the strength of the AU connection—as we all say: "Once an Eagle, always an Eagle."

While networking can be tough, I found that the informal setting and lighted pathways of the National Zoo allowed graduate students and alumni to truly come together. At the reception, I saw my fellow students meet alumni who worked throughout DC. Most students are only aware of a handful of career options, and meeting alumni who have paved unique career paths broadens our horizons.

 

Several of the alumni I chatted with began discussing SIS. Between recommendations about classes to take and professors to meet, I learned which skills alumni had learned at AU have served them best in the workplace. Perhaps the most important moment of networking for me was hearing about the job searching process from alumni who had been in the position I am in now. Listening to the tips they had picked up and the careers they have now made me more confident about finding my next step after AU.

 

Events like the Dean's Reception not only expose students to new possibilities, but keep alumni close to the university community as well. AU's office of alumni relations puts on a variety of events that bring students and alumni together. Students who are nervous about learning to network can use the SIS Office of Career Development to broaden their skills. Once you have your business cards, check out which upcoming alumni events are right for you!

 

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Title: AU Launches Crowdfunding Platform
Author: Joanna Platt
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Abstract: UFUND is a platform the AU community can use to directly fund projects and initiatives.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 12/15/2016
Content:

American University's Office of Development and Alumni Relations recently launched UFUND, a crowdfunding platform just for the AU community. This is a new way for alumni, parents, faculty, staff, and friends of the university to directly fund the projects and initiatives they care about most.

AU faculty, staff, and students are planning ventures to shape the future of the community, nation, and world. By making a gift, donors support the development and success of these projects.

Currently, UFUND features five initiatives – The Eagle Innovation Fund, the DC-Area High School Ethics Bowl, an Alternative Break in Cuba, the Skills for Success Career Seminar, and production of the documentary In The Executioner's Shadow.

Members of the AU community are invited to submit new projects to be featured on UFUND.


 

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Title: Jorhena Thomas, SIS/MA ’04: From AU to Homeland Security
Author: Patricia C. Rabb
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Abstract: Jorhena Thomas is an AU Alumni Board member and homeland security expert.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 09/09/2015
Content:

"With my MA from SIS in hand, I was very competitive in the field I wanted to go into," says Jorhena Thomas, SIS/MA '04, while describing the benefits of receiving a master's degree from the School of International Service. "My coursework at AU forced me to think critically, which has served me well in my career progression," she adds.

Born and raised in the Chicago area, Jorhena describes herself as "a Midwestern girl through and through." She earned a bachelor of arts in international studies from Oakwood College in 1998 and a master of arts in international affairs from AU in 2004. Jorhena formerly worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigation as an intelligence analyst for eight years. During this time, she spent five years focused on international terrorism investigations at the Washington Field Office and three years in the International Operations Division as the intelligence program manager for the FBI's 11 Legal Attaché offices in the Americas region.

Jorhena is now deputy director and operations manager for the Washington Regional Threat Analysis Center, which is a division of the DC Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency. In this role, Jorhena ensures that relevant intelligence information and analysis products get to the right people at the local, state, and federal levels, with a particular emphasis on public safety issues in the District. "I can only do this through a wonderful and dedicated team of analysts, liaisons from partner agencies, and interns," she exclaims. WRTAC focuses on all public safety issues—including terrorism, law enforcement, emergency management, and critical infrastructure protection.

During her time at AU, Jorhena remembers watching the buildup to the Iraq war while taking a class with Dr. Clovis Maksoud. She recalls him providing "incredible insight and perspective" as events developed over the course of several months in that region. Jorhena also joined a "wonderful array of dedicated and passionate fellow students" as a member of the Student Organization for African Studies while on campus. 

As an alumna, Jorhena enjoys giving back as a member of the AU Alumni Board and as a SIS alumni-student mentor. The experience of being a mentor to a current AU student is something she finds extremely rewarding. "I've learned as much from my mentee as she's learned from me," she says.

In her spare time, Jorhena enjoys reading biographies, getting great deals in thrift stores, and traveling to exciting destinations with her two children: an 11-year-old daughter and a nine-year-old son. One recent highlight was taking her children on their first international trip. The family traveled to Guatemala where they enjoyed time with a host family, learning how to harvest fruit from trees, wash laundry by hand, and hand-grind coffee. "It was eye opening, humbling, and fun," she says.    

Although she is undoubtedly busy with both work and family, Jorhena is impassioned about volunteering. "I volunteer at AU because I think it is a great institution and I want to continue to be a part of what makes it great," she says.

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

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

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

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

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

5 things Tony Silva says his AU experience taught him: 

  1. Be curious and remain curious.
  2. Stay engaged and interested in many things.
  3. Bring new thinking into the workforce.
  4. Allow and accept the evolution of communication.
  5. Stay connected with people. Staying connected helps operating in this world a little bit better.
Tags: Alumni,Alumni Update,International Communication,School of International Service,SIS Career
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newsId: D865A1EC-E4CE-7F77-0DF01C5A5707D0C7
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: SIS Alumna Writes to Showcase Modern Challenges in U.S. Identity
Author: Karli Kloss
Subtitle:
Abstract: Carla Seaquist, SIS / BA ’67 strives to give space to many of the complicated, and at times, ephemeral social and political issues facing our country.
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 05/08/2014
Content:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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