newsId: E0CBBA39-031A-424C-3E14299188A39744
Title: The US Will Have to Accept Second Class Status in the Middle East
Author: Gordon Adams
Subtitle:
Abstract: The US was once the dominant force in the Middle East. That old order has disappeared. Now the new powers are Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Russia – and the US needs a new policy for the region.
Topic: International
Publication Date: 09/21/2018
Content:

You may not have noticed it – the chair that wasn’t there.

The seven-year long Syrian civil war is ending with a government victory, aided by Russia and Iran. Talks to end to the war are accelerating.

Who is at the table in those talks? Russia, Turkey and Iran. Noticeably, not the United States.

The missing U.S. was starkly obvious from recent photos of the leaders of Iran, Turkey and Syria negotiating the next steps.

Yet despite the major military presence of the U.S. in the region and a legacy of deep involvement in the Middle East, the U.S. is not among the faces of those who are determining Syria’s fate.

As a scholar and practitioner of foreign affairs, I believe that nowhere is the erosion of U.S. global power more evident than in the upheavals in the Middle East.

The power shifts are not temporary. The old order, in which the U.S. was the most influential force in the region, cannot be rebuilt, and the U.S. is going to have to adjust to this diminished status.

The region remembers

The decline of the U.S. as the regional balancer, some argue, is the result of President Barack Obama’s decision not to enforce his red line in Syria after President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons in 2013.

Others say it is President Donald Trump’s fault for taking sides in some of the region’s central conflicts.

Both are wrong.

Obama’s leverage in Syria was always weak unless he was willing to deploy U.S. ground forces.

A one-off U.S. missile strike on Syria in 2013, after Assad attacked his citizens with chemical weapons would have had no more effect on the outcome of the war than the Trump administration’s strike after a similar incident in 2017.

And Trump’s policies simply accelerate the rebalancing already well under way.

It’s time for realism. Power has shifted in part as a direct result of U.S. policies and actions that for at least 50 years supported autocrats and undermined democratic efforts in the Middle East. Those actions are long remembered in the region.

The U.S was not alone in supporting autocrats. The United Kingdom and France joined the U.S. in supporting strongmen in the region for decades and fiercely opposed anti-colonial nationalists like Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser. The U.S. and U.K. joined to overthrow the democratic, reformist government of Mohammad Mossadegh in Iran in 1953. The region remembers how the CIA helped overthrow him and put in place Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who was heavily dependent on the U.S. as leader of the country.

The best-laid plans

The invasion of Iraq in 2003 was facilitated by U.S. planning for a regional military role that had been underway for some time. That newly assumed role, intended to restore order or overthrow regimes, led to military actions that had negative consequences for U.S. standing in the region.

As a foreign policy scholar, I visited the Tampa, Florida, headquarters of the Joint Rapid Deployment Task Force in the early 1980s for an unclassified briefing. I learned about the planned network of bases, landing and overflight rights, storage facilities and military exercises that would make U.S. intervention in the region possible.

Through these plans, Spain, Libya, Egypt and countries in the Gulf region would allow U.S. fighters and bombers to fly to the heart of the Middle East. They would provide storage locations for American military equipment, fuel for American operations and joint exercises that would enable them to operate with U.S. forces.

Using this network, the U.S. military was able to eject Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in 1991. This intervention included the first ever U.S. military deployment in the region. The network also paved the way for the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, which overthrew Saddam’s regime, unraveling the regional balance of power. This intervention and the presence of U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia provided a propaganda godsend to al-Qaida, the Islamic terrorist organization first led by Osama bin Laden.

The 2003 invasion, regime change and disastrous occupation opened a Pandora’s box of troubles, destroying U.S. credibility and any capability it had to stuff the troubles back into the box.

The subsequent chaos from Iraq to Syria to Lebanon had many parents, including national, religious and ethnic forces repressed by authoritarian leaders.

But the massive strategic blunder of invading Iraq and the declaration of a “Global War on Terror,” gave Iran and al-Qaida huge incentives to expand operations, rebalancing power in the region.

Removing Moammar Gadhafi in Libya spread the chaos further. No amount of reconstruction strategy and funding after he left could prevent it. The parallel effort to bring democracy to the Middle East revealed the ineptitude and ignorance of U.S. policy. The region remembers.

Trump administration policy has further distanced the U.S. from a leading role.

  • Withdrawing from the Iran nuclear agreement has not changed Iranian policies or actions; it has only reinforced the extremists.

  • Proposing a U.S.-Israel-Saudi Arabia-Gulf states alliance to confront Iran exacerbates the Arab-Persian confrontation and elevates Saudi Arabia and Israel as regional powers.

  • Picking fights with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has alienated the Turks.

Trump’s policies are an “accelerant,” hastening the decline of U.S. credibility across the Middle East and stimulating further rebalancing.

Who’s in charge?

The old regional order is dying fast. The rising powers are Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Russia.

Only the Saudis and Israelis are close to the U.S. and it seems they, not Trump, are driving U.S. policy. Iran is not contained. Its influence in the region was clearly enhanced by the removal of Saddam Hussein.

Iran’s extension of political and military power across Syria to Lebanon and Hamas, partly a defensive response to the U.S., has made it a player.

Turkey, supposedly a U.S. ally, has clearly moved away, taking an independent stance on Syria, building friendly relations with Russia, and exploring stronger security ties with China.

Russia has long been a player in Syria. Despite the overall decline of Russian power since the USSR disappeared, Putin plays a weak hand well, expanding Russia’s influence more broadly in the region.

US continued interest

In my view, the U.S. will not roll back these changes, though it still has a stake in the region.

Terror attacks are a threat to the U.S. and others. The use of force to eliminate terrorist organizations by the U.S. has increased, rather than diminished this threat. An uninterrupted flow of Middle Eastern oil continues to be an important goal, and it is a shared interest of producers and consumers around the globe. Preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons is critical, which is why others support the Iran nuclear agreement.

Trump’s confrontational strategy is a counterproductive approach to promoting these interests. The only way back to the table, I believe, is for the U.S. to step back to a more neutral position, shrink its military presence, engage all the parties – including Iran – and commit to multilateral approaches.

Peace will not come soon to the Middle East. U.S. influence demands a dramatic change in attitude and approach. Power has shifted and other parties now have the biggest stake and role in the outcome.

This article was written by Professor Gordon Adams and originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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newsId: E773A1ED-A980-C90F-D36B054B160B08A3
Title: Governing Solar Radiation Management
Author: Kay Summers
Subtitle:
Abstract: What is solar radiation management and how can governing it help both people and the planet? Professor Simon Nicholson details how our Forum for Climate Engineering Assessment convened international environmental policy researchers to tackle the issue.
Topic: International
Publication Date: 09/21/2018
Content:

On October 1, the School of International Service’s Forum for Climate Engineering Assessment (FCEA) will release a report titled “Governing Solar Radiation Management.” The report is the result of a two-year process in which prominent environmental policy researchers from the US, Europe, and New Zealand convened multiple times to debate the proper objectives of Solar Radiation Management and the best way to meet them.

The report and the process of convening the workgroup exemplify American University’s emerging position as a leader in sustainability and environmental policy research. We caught up with Simon Nicholson, SIS professor and co-founder of FCEA, to ask him a few questions about Solar Radiation Management and what this report will tell us about managing it.

What is Solar Radiation Management?

Solar radiation management (SRM), or solar geoengineering, is a proposed method of responding to climate change. The idea is to reflect a little bit of sunlight back into space before it can warm the planet—for example, by depositing tiny reflective particles in the upper atmosphere or spraying salt into clouds over the ocean to make them brighter. The technologies to do this don’t actually exist yet, but some scientists argue SRM could become a useful supplement to cutting greenhouse gas emissions—though they’re also quick to emphasize that SRM is by no means a replacement for emissions reductions.

Is SRM in the mainstream of climate change solutions?

Definitely not—but it’s getting a lot more attention than it used to. Fifteen years ago, almost no one talked about SRM. It was really a fringe idea. Now there’s a rapidly growing body of academic literature on it and growing awareness among the public and policymakers. For a good indicator of SRM’s status, look to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which periodically summarizes what we know about climate change and how to respond to it. Their last big assessment report, published in 2013 and 2014, mentions SRM, but only briefly. So, it’s in there, but not in a way that presents as a serious option, at least in the near term. The IPCC is about to release a special report looking at the consequences of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, along with the challenges of doing so, and based on a leaked version of the report’s summary, it’s likely to have basically the same tenor when it comes to SRM: “Some people have suggested SRM, and there’s some chance it could help, but we don’t know enough about it.”

Why is this the right time to consider how SRM might be governed?

Research into SRM is moving ahead without adequate oversight or deliberation. The lesson from other emerging technologies is that it’s important for governance to stay out ahead of the technology. In the case of SRM, the world just isn’t ready to govern SRM research or the technologies it could create. Existing institutions can govern different bits of it here and there, but there’s currently no coherent means of governing the whole enterprise. It’s going to take time to develop those institutions, which means we need to get started.

We’re also at a crucial moment in the conversation about SRM. Up to this point, research into SRM has been almost exclusively theoretical—computer modeling, social science, that sort of thing. At least a couple of research groups are now talking about taking their research outdoors and doing some small-scale experiments to better understand whether and how these technologies might work. There’s no direct environmental risk from these proposed experiments, but they’re an indication that we need to get the ball rolling on governance, too.

How did this Working Group come together, and what makes it special?

The Forum for Climate Engineering Assessment wanted to bring new voices into the SRM conversation, and we wanted a group that could produce actionable recommendations based on a deep understanding of how governance works. With that in mind, we invited global governance experts who hadn’t previously worked on this issue. We convened this group for five meetings over more than two years and brought in many of the world’s leading experts on SRM to inform their deliberations. In the process, our working group has made themselves into experts on SRM governance. At the end of that process, while they remain divided on the ultimate wisdom of SRM, they’ve coalesced around a set of near-term steps that should be taken regardless of where you stand on SRM. We’re really proud of the report that they’ve produced, which advances the governance conversation from one about principles to one about the essential next steps the international community, national governments, and civil society can take to begin governing SRM.

What are the main recommendations contained in the report?

The report offers twelve recommendations about essential, actionable steps that international organizations, national governments, and civil society can take to govern SRM over the next five to ten years or so. Those recommendations fall into three buckets: creating politically legitimate deliberative bodies to facilitate an inclusive, international dialogue about whether and how SRM might fit into global climate policy; leveraging existing institutions, such as the institutions in the UN system or national-level climate assessments, to govern SRM more effectively; and making research transparent and accountable.

What do you hope policymakers take away from this report?

We want policymakers to recognize that the time to start governing SRM is now and that there are essential, actionable steps that they can and should take in the next few years to begin doing so.

How can a report like this one affect policies that impact people?

SRM isn’t something that’s going to happen tomorrow. But if it were ever developed and deployed, it would literally change the world forever. Every single person on Earth would be affected by it. While that’s still a distant prospect, the decisions we make today will shape whether and how SRM technology and the tools for governing it get developed. This report points policymakers in the right direction.

I can easily imagine my kids’ generation facing world-changing decisions about using SRM. The world will need institutions capable of making those decisions wisely. The actions recommended in this report would lay the foundation for those institutions.

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newsId: 11A032FE-926C-2B4B-487893D5550D2496
Title: Defending our Right to Clean Water
Author: Lizzie White
Subtitle:
Abstract: John Noël, an School of International Service (SIS) alum, turned his passion for environmental issues into a career. He protects drinking water through research, policy, and advocacy.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 09/17/2018
Content:

If the oil and gas industry went unregulated, toxic waste could be flooding local wastewater treatment plants in certain parts of the country. As a result, public health and drinking water would be at risk of contamination.

In fact, it was, until Clean Water Action, an environmental advocacy group, and John Noël, Global Environmental Policy (GEP) graduate, helped get the practice banned.

As National Oil and Gas Programs Director at Clean Water Action, Noël is curbing the pollution of extractive industries, both to the earth and our democracy. He protects water resources—and the public’s best interests—by researching long-term impacts of natural gas production, improving environmental policies, and exposing what happens when industry isn’t properly regulated.

“My goal is to help protect and make sure people understand the devasting impacts the oil and gas industry can have on families, communities, and water resources.”

The wastewater issue arose when there were no set disposal standards for fracking wastewater, so companies started shipping their waste to local municipalities, which weren’t designed for the highly toxic chemicals that arose from oil and gas operations. Understanding the dangers this posed, Noël, SIS/MA ’13, advocated that local plants should not be responsible for such waste, as they didn’t have the technology to treat it properly.

When the EPA finally did set standards, they sided with Clean Water Action and Noël. “Now, across the US, oil and gas companies are not allowed to utilize these local wastewater treatment plants and must figure out other ways to manage their waste,” Noël says. 

The Dangers of Unchecked Climate Change

Although he always held an interest in the subject, John’s passion for environmental issues crystalized in 2012 after Superstorm Sandy damaged his family’s home in Ocean City, New Jersey.

“When the storm hit, it was the first time you could point to an event influenced by climate change impacting me personally. Seeing that line up with everything I had been reading, and seeing it play out in real time, was pretty startling.”

His interest increased further during his time at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). While working in the Office of Water on issues related to hydraulic fracturing and wastewater disposal, he learned of the access and influence the oil and gas industry had over their own regulatory process.

To highlight these issues, and expose the dangers of them, Noël wanted to enter the NGO realm. But before he could fully dedicate himself to the environmental movement, Noël wanted professional training. So, he turned to American University’s School of International Service (SIS).

From Passion to Profession

Noël credits the GEP degree for catalyzing his passion and transforming it into professional skills. “The master’s program focused my interest in climate change into something manageable and applicable in the policy world,” he says.

He chose the program because of its international perspective, strategic DC location, and focus on environmental justice. As opposed to other, similar programs that acted as pipelines to the private sector, GEP focused on careers in the public realm, like NGOs and the Peace Corps.

Lessons extended beyond the classroom, as Noël and his classmates often attended environmental protests together, specifically those related to the Keystone XL Pipeline and climate change. He enjoyed being part of a cohort that wanted to solve hard problems from a well-rounded understanding of how humans interact with the natural world.

What stood out most about his experience were the opportunities the program presented. He was able to travel to China to discuss fracking and air pollution issues at Beijing Normal University, and he visited Cuba to see the country’s sustainable agriculture process first-hand.

It was through pursuing his degree that Noël’s career path changed from international negotiations to the devasting impacts of extractive energy. “I saw how fossil fuel production drove the long-term climate crisis, destroyed rural water sources, and impacted air, soil, and public health in a way that destabilized family and community cohesion,” Noël says.

Combating Contamination

As National Oil and Gas Programs Director at Clean Water Action, John protects drinking water through research, policy, and advocacy.

“A lot of the time, industry innovates at a faster clip than regulation can evolve, so that leaves drinking water vulnerable to contamination,” he explains.

Keeping abreast of industry ensures that Clean Water Action’s advocacy has maximum impact, so his role involves researching industry trends, production techniques, and the long-term impacts of oil and gas development. It also involves working with the EPA to update and improve environmental protections.

In 2016, Noël helped convince the EPA to revise a five-year, multi-million-dollar assessment of fracking’s impact on water resources. He convinced the agency to remove misinformation proposed by lobbyists that downplayed the risk to drinking water.

“It was highly suspicious, and it turned out that the industry was leaning on the EPA and the administration to make sure the study didn’t implicate them in water contamination.”   

From water protection, to climate change, to renewable energy—when it comes to environmental issues, public opinion and current policies don’t always line up.  Noël strives to bridge the disconnect and help people understand the importance of environmental protections.

“Over time, I want to start normalizing some of the policies we are going to need in the future to meaningfully address climate change.”

--
Learn more about AU’s graduate program in Global Environmental Policy.

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Title: Track II Diplomacy: Taking Matters into Your Own Hands
Author: Caleb Schmotter
Subtitle:
Abstract: Professor Akbar Ahmed traveled to Pakistan over the summer to share some of the lessons from his newest book, Journey into Europe and met with state leaders to actively promote Islam’s core concepts of humanity and kindness.
Topic: International
Publication Date: 09/10/2018
Content:

Rising to the Challenge

Diplomacy can get a bad rap, sometimes even characterized as all talk and no substance. But on top of that, good diplomacy is difficult to do. To be successful, diplomats are called on to be both personable yet professional, knowledgeable yet deferential, and open to compromise while still representing the interests of their home country.

When official government representatives find themselves limited by the political climate, private citizens can find that they are in a better position to promote a cause than officials. Individuals who rise to this challenge are partaking in a process called Track II diplomacy. In doing so, they perform some of the same functions as government-sanctioned diplomats.

As a former ambassador, Professor Akbar Ahmed takes to diplomacy like a fish to water. This summer, he went on a world-wide tour to share some of the lessons from his newest book, Journey into Europe. Throughout, he took the opportunity to promote the importance of dialogue. In the United States his tour included events at institutions such as Harvard University. In the United Kingdom, the book was launched by the Woolf Institute at Cambridge University. Chatham House hosted an event that was presided over by Baroness Pola Uddin, and Professor Ahmed called on former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams. He then took his book to Pakistan, determined to continue this momentum.

Before becoming a full time academic, Prof. Ahmed served three decades as civil servant throughout Pakistan, which earned him a reputation as a successful administrator. His reputation made it possible for him to connect with some of Pakistan’s top leaders during his visit to challenge them to actively promote Islam’s core concepts of humanity and kindness.

From addressing the top Islamic jurists in the country, to visiting Azad Jammu and Kashmir where he emphasized the importance of protecting the rights of women and minorities, meeting with the Pakistani Chief of Army Staff to discuss the need to coexistence with religious minorities, and even hosting a book launch, Prof. Ahmed’s trip was a whirlwind of activity.

All Things in Moderation

The Council of Islamic Ideology, a constitutional body that advises the legislature in Pakistan on the compatibility of laws with the tenets of Islam, hosted Prof. Ahmed on June 7th for a historic and unprecedented lecture and opening of the fast.

As he addressed some of the highest-ranking Islamic scholars in the country, Prof. Ahmed urged the Council to pursue a modernist vision of Islam with proactive engagement with the West.

With more than 200 guests in attendance, including prominent women’s rights activists and minority leaders, it was an extraordinary gathering of both traditionally orthodox religious scholars and more pluralist and inclusive voices.

Prof. Ahmed reflected, “I emphasized too, the importance of treating minorities with respect and dignity and with treating women with full rights under the law and full honor in society, as promised by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s founder and first Governor-General.”

The Path Less Traveled

Later that month, Prof. Ahmed stepped into Azad Jammu and Kashmir, a Pakistani-administered region of the former princely kingdom of Jammu and Kashmir. Following independence from Great Britain, and the partition of British India, a series of wars between Pakistan and India has left the official status of Kashmir in dispute for more than 70 years.

Travel to and from Kashmir is limited because of ongoing conflict, ultimately restricting the exchange of ideas between people. This made Prof. Ahmed’s time in the region that much more valuable.

Because of this, he was keen to waste no time. In addition to meeting with President Masood Khan, Prof. Ahmed was invited by the president to give lectures at two separate universities, Azad Kashmir University in Muzaffarabad(the capital of Azad Jammu and Kashmir), and Mirpur University of Science and Technology, located in southern Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

In his remarks Prof. Ahmed urged the rediscovery of Islam’s lost ideals of compassion, courtesy and knowledge. “No one has the right to bully or annoy anyone else for their religious beliefs, rituals or creed,” he stressed, while also warning against western media conflating cultural practices with Islamic teaching. Yet, Prof. Ahmed remained optimistic: “visiting Azad Jammu and Kashmir these past few days has given me great hope for the future of Pakistan and the future of Kashmir.”

Meeting the Chief

Of all the stops during Prof. Ahmed’s trip, perhaps the most important came last. On June 29, he met with Pakistan Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, in his office at General Headquarters in Rawalpindi. Throughout Pakistan’s history to current day, the military has carried significant governing power within the country. As the Chief of Army Staff, General Bajwa ranks among the most powerful and senior government officials.

“In our detailed discussions, I gave an overview of my projects and their relevance in today's world. We also spoke of the Quaid's [Muhammad Ali Jinnah] Pakistan and the importance of being inclusive of minorities in Pakistani society,” says Prof. Ahmed. “General Qamar himself has shown his commitment to the minorities of Pakistan, even having participated in Christmas activities to honor the Christian community.” He specifically suggested hosting a dinner for the bishops and Cardinal of Pakistan.

While the fruits of diplomatic work are not always visible, even a small act can have wide-reaching implications. A few weeks after Prof. Ahmed departed Pakistan, General Bajwa took his advice and hosted a dinner in honor of the leading bishops and Cardinal of Pakistan.

Diplomacy: 1; Haters: 0.

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newsId: 08742AEA-BA06-0ABC-A4BB2A39E1E0E647
Title: Mortal Doubt: Transnational Gangs and Social Order in Guatemala City
Author: Jennifer Byerly
Subtitle:
Abstract: SIS Professor Anthony Fontes’ first book, Mortal Doubt: Transnational Gangs and Social Order in Guatemala City, explores the country’s new social order as seen through the intimate lives of local gang members.
Topic: Research
Publication Date: 09/05/2018
Content:

SIS Professor Anthony Fontes’ first book, Mortal Doubt: Transnational Gangs and Social Order in Guatemala City, explores the country’s new social order as seen through the intimate lives of local gang members.

The Fresh Start

After nearly 40 years of anti-communist demagogues and military dictators jockeying for power, Guatemala’s Civil War finally ended in 1996. In that time, political opposition met violent ends and the genocide of more than 250,000 (mostly indigenous) people left deep wounds on the country’s collective psyche. Abroad, the United States began deporting large numbers of criminally involved Central Americans and Mexicans back to their countries. In this newly born crucible of violence, a very different threat to Guatemala’s safety and security grew: gangs.

“Cold War conflict eviscerated public institutions and social organizations, especially among the poor,” says Fontes. “The violence that Guatemalans live with today, though, is of an entirely different species – it’s gone urban. Here’s a quote I heard many times when I was working there: ‘At least during the civil war, you knew where the bombs would fall and who would come after you. Now, you could walk out your door and you don't know who might be in a gang, who might be waiting around the corner to rob you.’ And for many urban Guatemalans, that kind of insecurity appears more impactful than any kind of insecurity that they experienced en masse during the civil war.”

Fontes explains how the terror of yesterday began to evolve into daily insecurity and fear: “Rich or poor, anyone you talked to in Guatemala City, the only place they feel safe in is their homes – and many of them, not even there. After seven o'clock, most places are totally empty because of the fear of public space.”

In the wake of the civil war, widespread judicial corruption gave rise to vigilantism with banks systematically working to protect the elites and inadvertently allowing gangs to operate with financial impunity. The perfect storm for growing inner-city violence. Post-war life in Guatemala was supposed to be better, but it instead led to a new kind of social order – one that left the average urban family facing more day-to-day danger than ever before.

Political Pandering

Guatemala’s dangerous reputation is well known. US lawmakers and news media frequently arm themselves with rhetoric about the encroaching threat of gang-related violence. The lawmakers do so in order to engage their political bases, and the news media use violence to drive web traffic to their sites with sensationalized “click bait” headlines. Fontes encourages us to focus less on dire statistics and instead relay the human dimension: “Guatemala is the fifth most violent nation in the world, but impacts on real human lives can be erased by those numbers. For instance, once you look more closely at those body counts, you realize that 80 percent of the people killing and dying are males between the age 15 and 25, and a large percent of that violence occurs in cities. For many of these young men, gang association might be the only solution for security because the state has never been present in their lives as a protective force.”

And those politicians sensationalizing the gangs? Professor Fontes explains that their demonization only speaks to people’s desperation: “Total uncertainty begets imposing a sense of certainty, using whatever tools you have at your disposal. That’s what makes gangs so powerful: they’re an image upon which people can pour their fears and trauma. Incarcerating gangs provides society a sense of order, born out of considerable disorder.”

Humanizing the Homies

Fontes’ entry into the world of gang members was rife with danger, but he was determined to see past the headlines and visit the prisons where gang leaders refined and franchised their cruelty. This became the center of his fieldwork as he worked to gain both prisoner and judiciary trust by researching “the blurred line linking the law and lawlessness by working with police and special local precincts. I did ride-alongs and spent hours and hours in extortion and murder hearings to make relationships with judges, prosecutors, investigators. From there, I spread my net as wide as I could,” he says.

He discovered that the inhumane conditions that govern prison life were being continuously exported to the ethos of gang members on the street. Fontes explains: “Incarceration keeps the violence of our society out of view, put into a place where we can ignore it. But it’s a false sense of certainty, because it results in multiplying the violence by linking aspiring gang members to networks of other criminals.”

Seeing both sides gave Professor Fontes a unique glimpse into the world of police and ruthless Guatemalan gangsters, and left him uncertain about the efficacy of efforts to stem the violence: “These gangs will only grow, and if not the gangs, then something else. The gangs are not the problem; they are an extreme expression of the problem. You have to get beneath them and use them as a lens to understand and look at those deeper structural problems.”

Ultimately, Fontes explores how living with such intense everyday violence creates extreme existential and ethical uncertainties. To capture and convey this “mortal doubt,” the book delves into not just the politics and history, but also the fraternity and faces, of Guatemala’s gangs. It is an ethnographic exploration of gang culture in Guatemala, but at its core, it explores human nature under daily oppression and questions what constant insecurity does to the basic foundations we use to order daily life and judge between right and wrong.

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Title: Full Circle: Christine BN Chin Discusses Her Role as SIS Dean
Author: Gregg Sangillo
Subtitle:
Abstract: Chin talks about her upbringing, academic career, and dreams for SIS in the 21st century.
Topic: International
Publication Date: 08/27/2018
Content:

As the new dean of American University’s School of International Service, Christine BN Chin’s leadership position is not just professionally satisfying. It’s a personal milestone and a sign that she’s come full circle. She earned her PhD at SIS in the 1990s, and now she wants to elevate her beloved institution to even greater heights.

“The job has been challenging, but it’s been exhilarating at the same time. And I think that comes with the pride of leading one’s alma mater,” says Chin, who had served in an interim capacity since August 2017. “As a doctoral graduate and faculty member, I’ve already seen how this school has moved and grown.”

Chin was chosen for this position after AU conducted a national search. In a recent interview, she discussed her upbringing, academic career, and dreams for SIS in the 21st century.

 

Waging Peace

 

To imagine where SIS is headed, Chin ponders where it has been. That means contemplating SIS’s founding, when President Dwight Eisenhower attended its groundbreaking ceremony in 1957. Despite his cachet as World War II hero and five-star military general, Eisenhower encouraged SIS students to “wage peace” in the world.

“Waging peace had to do with diplomacy, and understanding how people are born into, and operate from, different cultural perspectives. So one of the major courses offered when SIS first became a school was human behavior,” Chin explains.

Sixty years later, SIS remains a “human-centered” institution with a peace-building DNA. Now, she notes, the faculty roster, student population, and alumni network are all much larger, giving SIS more human capital to solve problems.

“We are very much focused on addressing the big challenges of our era: environment, security, inequality, diplomacy, intercultural communication, peace and conflict resolution, international economics, and global/local development,” she says.

She also stresses that this is the School of International Service, and she’s hoping to expand SIS’s reach. “My vision for the school is that we should have a global presence and footprint, because the issues we deal with recognize—but also don’t recognize—borders,” Chin says.

 

Crossing Borders

 

Chin has grappled with the idea of “borders” throughout her life. She’s a respected, widely published scholar on transnational migration and political economy. And she’s lived on several continents and experienced globalization firsthand.

Part of an ethnic Chinese family, Chin was born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. At an early age, she was sent to an all-girls boarding school in the idyllic English countryside. Chin and her friends knew little about US colleges, so they utilized a Princeton Review book and applied to the Ivy League and “Seven Sisters” schools. Acceptances rolled in, but with continued uncertainty, they let fate decide and put their college options into a hat. She picked Wellesley.

After receiving an invitation to visit, Chin was immediately taken with Wellesley and its ice skating pond. “When I got on campus, I thought, ‘Oh my god, this is like a country club. It’s like freedom!’” she recalls with a laugh. She self-designed her major around East Asian studies—including language, philosophy, politics, and economics—with a nod toward understanding her Chinese family heritage. She applied for graduate schools in East Asian politics, with one exception. For University of California, Berkeley, she examined a program on Southeast Asia.

“At the end of the day, I was born in Malaysia, a part of Southeast Asia. So this was a journey of coming to terms with my identity,” she explains.

At Berkeley, she took Southeast Asia-centered courses in literature, linguistics, and development economics. Yet, after earning her master’s degree there, she still couldn’t envision a career path in this area. Leaving California with an “all-but-PhD,” she headed to Washington, DC.

One day, while browsing through Kramerbooks & Afterwords in Dupont Circle, she met the program director for doctoral studies at SIS. After some discussions, he convinced her to enroll at AU. She earned her PhD here in 1995, started teaching full-time, and eventually took a tenure-line position.

The late Provost Robert Griffith hired and mentored Chin. “He used to say that I could be a really good scholar-teacher, and eventually build a career in administration. And I said, ‘Oh god, you must be joking,’” she remembers. “But, for me, getting to serve as an SIS program director and now dean, I owe to his mentorship.”

 

 

Research Passions and Asking Questions

 

At AU, Chin won the 2010 Outstanding Teaching in a Full-Time Appointment Award. Her most recent book, Cosmopolitan Sex Workers: Women and Migration in a Global City, examines the relationship between transnational migration and sex industries. She’s also the author of In Service and Servitude: Foreign Female Domestic Workers and the Malaysian “Modernity” Project and Cruising in the Global Economy: Profits, Pleasure and Work at Sea.

Her research revolves around a simple question, with numerous complicated answers: Why are people, especially women, willing to travel thousands of miles, leaving their families and countries behind, in search of work?

“Migrants are responding to conditions and circumstances in their lives. It’s not just the economic conditions, but the way different states negotiate and distribute resources,” she explains. “And I factor in the cultural and identity dimensions. You can’t understand how groups of people see and interact with the world unless you take into account the dominant cultures into which they’re socialized.”

 

Swimming with Sharks

 

When Chin has time away from work, she goes deep sea diving. In her SIS office, she has pictures of herself literally swimming with sharks. And despite that obvious joke—is working in academia a metaphor for shark-infested waters?—she notes her appreciation for SIS and AU.

“I’ve led a really, really blessed life. I’ve gotten my degrees, and I ended up doing work that I really want to do,” she says. “And I write books not for career advancement, but because I have something important to say.”

After becoming interim dean, she was initially reluctant to take the next step and officially lead the school. Nowadays, she thinks it’s the right choice at the right time.

“I think it’s coming to terms with where I am in this particular phase in my life,” she says. “It’s about how I may be of service moving forward.”

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Title: Political Warfare: SIS Prof. on Rethinking Military Strategy
Author: Gregg Sangillo
Subtitle:
Abstract: Benjamin Jensen coauthored recent books on 21st century defense and cyber strategy.
Topic: Research
Publication Date: 08/21/2018
Content:

You’ve probably heard the jaw-dropping budget figures. According to a May report from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the United States spends more on national defense than the next seven countries combined. But despite that commitment, policymakers of all ideological stripes have noted the limits of US power—from Iraq to Afghanistan to Syria.

Benjamin Jensen, a scholar in residence at American University’s School of International Service, says the problem isn’t necessarily one of resources or capabilities. In a recent book, Military Strategy in the 21st Century: People, Connectivity, and Competition, Jensen and his coauthors propose US military strategies more appropriate for population-centric conflicts. And as part of the solution, he suggests that what we conventionally think of as “the military” should be more expansive.

“We need to think more broadly about strategy, and start to prioritize other instruments of power,” Jensen says.

In an interview, Jensen expanded on these ideas and discussed findings from another book he recently coauthored, Cyber Strategy: The Evolving Character of Power and Coercion.

 

Before Precision Strikes

 

Jensen draws on both his research and real-world observations. He’s been in the army since 2002, switching to the reserves while earning his PhD at AU. He cowrote Military Strategy in the 21st Century with other current and retired military officials. Jensen jokingly calls it the “therapy book,” as they shared frustration over US counterterrorism efforts while envisioning new approaches.

“We keep doing these very sophisticated—and required—missions to hunt down malign actors who would threaten civilian populations, or US interests directly. We’re conducting a series of high-profile raids,” Jensen says in the interview. “But our concern is that we aren’t investing enough time and energy in a broader strategy for unconventional warfare, which could make us not have to rely upon the raids. How do we understand people, so that we can shape those networks enough that we prevent conflict before we do precision strikes?”

That’s a key point Jensen drives home. How much can you learn about a local population before conventional warfare is necessary? Through the years, this was sometimes called a battle for “hearts and minds,” the title of a celebrated Vietnam War documentary. But Jensen says efforts need to go beyond “bumper sticker” slogans.

“If it’s just where I walk up and interview you through sunglasses, holding my rifle and telling you, ‘I’m trying to win your hearts and minds,’ you’re going to answer every question how I want to hear it,” he says. “It’s really getting to know local actors, their interests, thinking about that as a form of intelligence, and actually using data resources to understand people.”

Jensen gives this example: Buying a single F-35 costs roughly $80-$95 million, depending on the variant. That’s a plane that won’t operate alone—so the airpower costs will be significantly higher—and that type of conventional campaign may be ineffectual, he says.

“Why wouldn’t I take that cost alone and think about more tailored social media campaigns to try to limit people’s interest in a particular malign actor? Or some series of development assistance to increase broadband productivity, so that those [digital] campaigns would be more effective,” he notes. “It just requires a much more creative approach to strategy.”

 

Cybersecurity and the Russia Model

 

In Cyber Strategy, they studied how major states, such as United States, Russia, China, North Korea, South Korea, India, and Pakistan, are utilizing their cyber capabilities. By constructing a database of publicly attributed cyber operations from 2000-2014, they discount the notion that this is “fundamentally changing” the nature of war.

In fact, Jensen explains, it’s much more like traditional political warfare. Russia’s work to influence the 2016 presidential election tells us a lot about contemporary cyber operations, he says.

“The things that the Russians did were actually crude. Nothing was that complex. It was a spearfishing attack. As if I changed an email of someone you recognized by a few characters and sent you a link to get you to click,” he says. “The sophistication came in the people they were targeting, and how they then leveraged that with botnets and paid for social media campaigns to reach millions of people.”

Russia wanted to discredit American democracy, he opines, to impede a potential domestic uprising against the Russian oligarchy. He also delineates how other kinds of warfare can be much worse. “I would rather Russia attack the integrity of the US electoral system than shoot down US airliners,” he says. “So, it doesn’t mean that it’s not scary, but let’s look at the range of possibilities in great power conflicts. Election hacking compared to nuclear detonation is much more manageable.”

In a democratic country like the US, this type of battle requires an informed citizenry, he says. Yet that’s difficult to attain, because traditional gatekeepers—like, say, evening news anchors—are being replaced by unfiltered information that can lead to conspiracy theories.

 

Influence and Information

 

Despite these risks, Jensen believes US foreign policy officials should embrace overt influence campaigns. This can be achieved not just through tailored social media, but by shifting funding to programs like Voice of America.

“It doesn’t even have to be some type of complex, subversive campaign,” he says. “Just by being more aggressive in that space—that’s not hurting anyone. You’re telling your story, and you tell it consistently.”

Political warfare isn’t new. In the Military Strategy in the 21st Century introduction, they highlight the 216 BC Battle of Cannae. Carthaginian general Hannibal used knowledge of Roman political and economic networks to undermine internal support for Roman dictator Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus, and Fabius was later stripped of his supreme command.

World War II was filled with unconventional campaigns, and the US deployed political warfare throughout the Cold War years. “It worked in the Cold War because we did it. I think we somehow became enamored with our own military and economic power, and we stopped being creative.”

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newsId: 06A3A319-E9FF-6AA5-C6E3A05CDA46392B
Title: Running the Great Wall: AU Student Goes the Distance at Majestic Site
Author: Gregg Sangillo
Subtitle:
Abstract: The ROTC rising senior spent the past year in China.
Topic: International
Publication Date: 08/13/2018
Content:

If you’re going to run a marathon, you might as well do it on an architectural marvel. For Sarah Melton, it wasn’t just pavement and gray American skies. She surpassed 26 miles on the Great Wall of China, running in a May 1 marathon while studying abroad.

As students return to AU for the fall semester, they’ll probably share anecdotes of how they spent the past few months. Melton’s experience was both fascinating and transformative: She not only ran the marathon, but spent an entire year in China, learning the language and living with a host family.

“My goal was mainly to improve my Chinese, but I felt like that wasn’t enough. So, I started Googling races, because a marathon was on my bucket list. And I thought, ‘Oh, if there’s one in China, why not run there?’ And then I found the Great Wall Marathon,” recalls Melton.

 

What Keeps You Running?

 

In China, there’s a cultural concept of mianzi, or “saving face.” Melton was thinking about this while planning her big run.

“I went about making it public, so there was no way for me to back out without losing face. That was my way of convincing myself to keep working towards it.”

She originally planned to run a half marathon, but she’d clicked the wrong button while signing up and she was registered for 26.2 miles. At the race, Melton confirmed with officials that she could run 13.1 miles. But, amazingly, she decided—in the spur of the moment—to go the distance.

“I’d been keeping pace with a couple of the people who were running the full. So I said to them, ‘If you guys keep going this pace, I think I can keep up. But are you going to finish?’ And they said, ‘Yeah! We’re going to finish,’” she recounts. “And I actually ended up running with them until the end of the race.”

 

Chatting and Laughing

 

This was a communal event, and Melton fondly remembers chatting with fellow runners during the race. Her sister, visiting from the US, ran that day, and Melton made some friends along the way.

“I think that’s mostly what made the experience. Just the people, not only the run,” she says. “You can run anywhere. But just to be there with all those people, climbing and running the Great Wall, was incredible.”

They ran through a village and locals handed out tuna sandwiches, Gatorades, and not-quite-right crunchy bananas. “One of the guys I ran with adamantly refused. He kept saying ‘I will not eat those crunchy bananas!’ You take every laughing point—any reason to laugh when you’re that exhausted.”

As you’d expect, it was a grueling nine-hour affair. And since the race took place outside Beijing’s urban center, she woke up at 3:00 a.m. and biked 45 minutes before it all started. While the initial two miles were flat, it got mountainous in parts. “There was a part of the Wall that you can’t really run up,” she says, “so we were essentially hiking it.”

Running is an obvious way to relieve stress, but this is amplified while living overseas. “It’s partly the foreign language. You’re always working to understand, even if you don’t realize it, and the little stress from that just built up and built up. And if you don’t have a way to relieve it, you’ll go crazy.”

The marathon represented just a tiny sliver of the Great Wall, which is an estimated 13,000 miles long. By the afternoon, the sun came out and she could view a vast, picturesque landscape.

 

Loving a Challenge

 

Melton just finished up her time at Peking University, and she’ll come back to AU for her senior year. An ROTC Air Force cadet, she’s earning her degree from the School of International Service.

Melton hails from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and apropos for the football-crazed area, her life was changed at a Super Bowl party. Her FBI agent-neighbor hosting the party talked about his job, and she was immediately intrigued. She later took a tour of an FBI field office in Pittsburgh, though she wasn’t inclined to be a traditional agent. But through her inquiries about intel work, a couple ideas materialized: She should major in international affairs and study a foreign language.

As a high school student, she also took an aviation class and began flying planes out of a Pittsburgh airport. “That’s where I met a whole lot of military people who encouraged me to go Air Force. It wasn’t until after I got to AU, and I realized how much I missed my airport, that I needed to come up with a solution. And that was, ‘OK, let’s join the Air Force,’” she says.

If there’s a pattern to all these decisions—marathon, ROTC, language immersion—it’s probably this: Melton loves a challenge. She even searched for the hardest languages to learn, coming up with Arabic and Chinese. Since Arabic had an alphabet, she went with Chinese.

“I tend to do things the hard way,” she says. “It’s a fatal flaw, I suppose.”

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newsId: DA3F618C-099C-A54A-27C12528FFF0B45E
Title: 10 ways to reduce food waste in Washington, DC
Author: Lesly Baesens, SIS/MA ’18
Subtitle:
Abstract: The United States wastes 40 percent of the food it produces every year. A recent graduate outlines ten ways DC can cut food waste and serve as a model for food waste reduction.
Topic: In the Community
Publication Date: 08/02/2018
Content:

Approximately 40 percent of food produced each year in the US is wasted, from farmers discarding part of their crops due to supermarket demand for aesthetically pleasing produce to consumer over-reliance on expiration dates. The resources and human labor necessary to grow, transport, and process food that will never be consumed have negative environmental, social, and economic repercussions. Notably, food rotting in landfills emits methane, a major contributor to climate change.

Federally, there are no laws, incentives, or enforceable requirements to reduce food waste. However, cities and states have stepped up and made pledges to reduce food waste. Washington, DC, aims to reduce food waste with the long-term goal of establishing curbside organic waste pick-up for composting. While preferable to sending food waste to landfill, composting should be a second-to-last resort as the resources necessary to produce the food have already been expanded.

I recently submitted my paper Leading by Example: 20 Ways the Nation’s Capital Can Reduce Food Waste to the DC government. This paper explores the ways DC can comprehensively tackle food waste. To develop these suggestions, I spoke with and included the input of city government staff, civil society, and private sector food waste stakeholders. Here are ten of the most critical recommendations for reducing food waste in the District:

Include a food waste reduction target in the Sustainable DC Plan, which aims to make DC “the healthiest, greenest, and most livable city in the United States.”

Having a specific target could help the city move beyond its compost-focused waste reduction strategy and address food waste more holistically by considering source reduction and reuse measures, such as donating food to food banks.

Require grocers to measure and publicly disclose wasted food amounts.

There currently are no requirements for retailers to publicly report the amount of food they trash. Bringing transparency to the amount of food discarded would incentivize retailers to waste less.

Require grocery stores to donate unsold food.

DC could require grocery stores to donate unsold food, just as France did on a national scale in 2016.

Run a city-wide consumer education campaign through both one-on-one and virtual interaction. Engage consumer-facing businesses in this campaign.

There are several models DC could use to run a consumer education campaign. For example, engaging residents on social media, collaborating with retailers to provide shoppers with recipes on how to use leftovers, or through direct engagement at city events.

Create public-private partnerships to make donating extra food easier.

The lack of a reliable food pick-up system can prevent businesses from donating their excess food. DC could increase food rescue organizations’ capacity by connecting them with food donors and with volunteers who can help transport donated food.

Create an enabling environment to encourage innovative food waste reduction models.

DC should encourage innovative business models that improve food access while reducing food waste. For example, grants could be awarded to businesses that are proposing new and innovative ways of reducing food waste, such as working with local area food banks to start an at-home food distribution system for low income residents.

Create a website dedicated to food waste reduction efforts and execute a marketing campaign driving traffic to it.

DC should create an interactive, consumer-friendly website dedicated to combating food waste. This website would serve a variety of purposes for both businesses and individual consumers, such as featuring local businesses participating in food-waste reduction efforts and providing consumers with ideas they can implement in their own lives.

Develop a brochure to educate restaurants about the potential economic benefits of reducing food waste.

Restaurants have a lot to gain from wasting less food. Restaurants could save an estimated $1.6 billion annually by adopting food waste reduction measures. DC could provide them with a brochure highlighting the economic benefits of and methods for food waste reduction specific to the industry.

Turn Rescue Dish DC into a higher visibility event.

The DC Food Recovery Working Group (FRWG) organizes an annual “Rescue Dish DC” event, which invites chefs to make creative dishes with “castoff” ingredients. To increase the number of chefs that showcase their talent and creativity, DC could consider partnering with FRWG to give Rescue Dish DC more visibility. Such an event would not just give these restaurants recognition, but also allow them to think of new and inventive ways to cook with unused food.

Incentivize food waste reduction measures in grocery stores by engaging them in a high-visibility, public-facing campaign.

DC could provide a retail-specific checklist of items to reduce waste. Retailers who fill the greatest number of checklist items could be featured on social media, as well as be provided with a special logo that they could display in stores, in circulars, and online.

In her bid for reelection, Mayor Muriel Bowser should consider implementing some of these recommendations, as they would align DC with other US municipalities in addressing food waste. Implementing them all could turn DC into a model of food waste reduction both in the US and internationally. At the same time, these recommendations could save the city money, create jobs, improve food security, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This in turn would contribute to reaching DC’s goal of being the nation’s most sustainable city.

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Title: Sowing Opportunity
Author: Lizzie White
Subtitle:
Abstract: Dilanthi Ranaweera has forged a path of public service from Washington, DC to the rural farms of Myanmar and Kenya. The School of International Service (SIS) alumna helps smallholder farmers develop a better quality of life.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 08/02/2018
Content:

Dilanthi Ranaweera has forged a path of public service from Washington, DC to the rural farms of Myanmar and Kenya. As part of the field operations team at One Acre Fund, a US-based NGO, the School of International Service (SIS) alumna helps smallholder farmers develop a better quality of life.

Most of the world’s poor live in rural areas, says Dilanthi, SIS/MA ’15, like the rice fields of Myanmar. The rural, smallholder farmer does not have access to certain resources, like money for education or health care, and lives in perpetual debt. His or her entire livelihood depends on agriculture.

One Acre Fund works with these farmers to increase their harvest and household profits. By removing the income barriers standing in their way, Dilanthi strives to increase their access to opportunity – whether that be better technology, health care, or simply the chance to take a vacation.

“Improving the farmers’ crops and yields and, as a result, their whole household income, not only improves his or her family’s livelihood and well-being, it also provides food for the community and the world,” says Dilanthi.

Putting Farmers First

One Acre Fund first started in Kenya in 2006 and has since grown to serve over 600,000 smallholder farmers. Dilanthi was a field operations lead for the organization’s first-ever pilot program in East Asia, where she recruited, trained, and assisted farmers directly in the field. After the Myanmar pilot shut down in May, Dilanthi joined the organization’s Kenya program.

Dilanthi wanted to continue working for One Acre Fund because she believes in the organization’s mission, and she chose to remain in the field operations department because it maintains the most direct contact with farmers.

“One Acre Fund strongly believes in putting the farmers first,” says Dilanthi. “We care deeply for their well-being. I love working for an organization that insists on putting the customer – our farmers – at the center of every decision we make.”

Like One Acre Fund, Dilanthi believes the best way to serve her clients is to live and work in the same area as them. She can see the farmers’ fields from her office in Kenya, and while in Myanmar she lived 30 minutes away from the farms and visited them often to understand any challenges her staff faced firsthand.

“I literally got my feet muddy with our farmers regularly. I traveled to their fields and houses to understand their farming needs, and to support them with cultivation.”

In Kenya, Dilanthi works on the field staff management team that recruits, trains, and manages the performance of the field team, which numbers more than 2,500. Instead of interacting directly with the farmers, she now trains staff from local communities to perform that role, empowering them to be the changemakers.

Developing a Career at SIS

Dilanthi credits SIS, a top-10 school of international affairs, and the International Development master’s program, one of the best established in the world, for planting the seeds of her success.

She was first introduced to development work in her home country of Sri Lanka, which experienced a civil war from 1983 to 2009. Relief work was inescapable in the country’s formerly war-torn rural areas. It was while working in those areas that Dilanthi realized she wanted to focus on income generation for rural, low-income populations.

She chose AU for graduate school because of the curriculum, which balanced theory and practice, the prestige of the SIS, and the ability to cater her degree to her specific interests.

What stands out most about her AU experience were the connections she made – the people she got to know, learn from, and grow with. Many of her internships came to her through alumni connections, and she learned about her current role through a classmate.

“I think for graduate school in general, one of the biggest things you want to accomplish is having that network, that community, and SIS provides it so well.”
 


Learn more about AU’s graduate program in International Development and request information.

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newsId: D4AFBC67-5056-AF26-BEB05C1EA74843E3
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.


 

Tags: Alumni,College of Arts and Sciences,Giving,Kogod School of Business,School of Communication,School of International Service,School of Public Affairs
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Title: Jorhena Thomas, SIS/MA ’04: From AU to Homeland Security
Author: Patricia C. Rabb
Subtitle:
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.

Tags: Alumni,Alumni Board,Alumni Relations,Alumni Update,Mentor,School of International Service
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Title: SIS Alumna Helps to Raise Funds for Small Nonprofits in NYC
Author: Stephanie Block
Subtitle:
Abstract: Dana Williams, SIS/MA '86 wears two hats as a real estate professional and nonprofit fundraiser.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 05/14/2015
Content:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Title: 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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Title: First Generation SIS Alumna Inspired by Parents’ Work Ethic, Family Values
Author: Stephanie Block
Subtitle:
Abstract: Gloria González-Micklin, SIS/BA ’80, immigrated to America in 1972. Her parents made extreme sacrifices to provide a better life for their six children.
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 03/13/2014
Content:

Gloria González-Micklin, SIS/BA ’80, born in Bello, Colombia, immigrated with her family to New Holland, Pa. in 1972. Her parents, textile factory workers, made extreme sacrifices to provide a better life for their six children. Without their guidance and sacrifice, González-Micklin says, she would not have achieved the professional and academic milestones in her life.

“Who would have known that the daughter of two working class immigrants would be the individual charged with arranging major events requiring high security protocol for China’s leadership and their U.S. cabinet counterparts,” González-Micklin says. 

As Director of Programs for the US-China Business Council (USCBC), a non-partisan, non-profit organization of American companies involved in trade and investment with China, Gonzalez-Micklin executes major meetings and high security events for key stakeholders in U.S.-China relations, including China’s ranking officials, their American counterparts, senior U.S. business executives, and scholars during their visits to Washington, D.C. and New York City. In addition, González-Micklin manages her department and annual gala fundraiser. 

“I launched the USCBC Gala in 1998 to mark the Council’s 25th anniversary,” González-Micklin says. “This past December, as we celebrated our 40th anniversary, we honored Dr. Henry Kissinger for his many contributions to contemporary U.S.-China relations over the past four decades.” 

González-Micklin earned her master’s degree at the University of Texas, Austin and lived in China from 1992 to 1996 accumulating experiences and memories to last a lifetime but also gaining cross-cultural skills that proved invaluable in her subsequent career in Washington, DC. 

She has had the privilege of meeting every Chinese leader (President and Premier) since Zhu Rongji, including current leader Xi Jinping. 

Her work on key events for visiting Chinese officials regularly puts her in direct contact with China's most senior diplomatic representatives, and with key figures in the U.S. Congress, the State, Commerce, Treasury departments, and other agencies engaged in US-China bilateral relations. “It has been fascinating to be part of these historic events, which must be flawlessly executed,” González-Micklin says. “It is also rewarding to know that, in a small way, I am contributing to the ongoing and expanding dialogue between the two largest economies in the world.”

González-Micklin holds a special place in her heart for American University and the School of International Service. “I give of my time by participating in SIS alumni chapter events here in Washington as well as helping the next generation of international relations leaders by advising and mentoring students.” In 2001, she received a recognition for her contributions to the AU community at large. She is also active with the Hopkins-Nanjing Center where she established the Jim Townsend and Sandy Perry Memorial Endowment Fellowship in 2003.

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Title: Alumna Creates Cause-Based Marketing Firm to Promote Do-Gooders
Author: Kristena Wright
Subtitle:
Abstract: Alexa Loken, SIS/BA ’10, launches Loken Creative to aid nonprofits and caused-based organizations
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 10/09/2013
Content:

When alumna Alexa Loken, SIS/BA ’10, found herself on AU's campus, she was intrigued by the steady buzz of motivated young people ready to change the world. With a few dreams of her own, she had no problem fitting in and expressing her interests. It wasn’t until after meeting her now husband Erik, another AU grad, that she was truly able to hone in on her niche.

“He told me I was destined to be a sales person but I knew I didn’t want to sell products. After graduating from AU and NYU, I figured out that I could definitely sell a service, and I knew I was passionate about it.”

Alexa believes her experience at American University is one of the major contributors to her career success thus far. So we asked her more about it.

Alexa says, “This may sound really cheesy but I really wouldn’t be where I am today had I not gone to AU.” An international relations major, she participated in the Washington Mentorship Program, studied abroad in Malaysia and China, was a member of Alpha Phi Omega co-ed community service fraternity, and Eco-Sense. “I was able to meet so many different people through my involvement at AU, which showed me that if you see a need that isn’t being filled, why not go out and fill it yourself if you have the expertise, financial capabilities, and passion to pursue it?” she says.  

Alexa’s resume shows off work all over the country, including New York City, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Hawaii, and an overseas venture to Beijing. Gaining experience in online marketing, search engine optimization, advertising, print marketing, and grant writing are just a few of the things she has done. During her eight-year stint in the environmental world, she fell in love with non-profits and knew that she wanted to embark on a journey that would utilize her expertise to help organizations reach their full potential through creative marketing services.

In 2013 Alexa launched Loken Creative, a marketing agency for cause-based organizations where innovation, idealism, and expertise create opportunities for good. “I always loved the process of working on a project and moving on to the next project so that I could take the organization to the next level piece by piece. Now, I always tell my clients we want to be their niche, we want to be their extended arm. We aren’t looking to take over their world, only to make their world an easier feat to tackle.”

With 12 staff members, seven of whom are also AU graduates, Alexa shares the advice she has for current students:

“Be sure to dabble in as many different internships, classes, and jobs as you can to really figure out what you like and don’t like in regards to a work environment. Find mentors that will give you constructive criticism and ensure that they are from different walks of life to give you the best well-rounded outlook on life. If you're looking to start your own business, be sure to run a pilot program so that you can scale up over time. Lastly, as long as you can make it work financially, do exactly what you want to do. Sometimes you have to work a second job for a while, but finances should never hinder you from following your dreams.”

Tags: Achievements,Alumni,Marketing,Marketing and Advertising,School of International Service
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Title: SIS Alumnus Nur Ali Followed his Dream and Traveled the Fast Track from SIS to NASCAR
Author: Stephanie Block
Subtitle:
Abstract: Since he was a little boy, Nur Ali, SIS/BA ’98, dreamt of racing cars. His dream became a reality very soon after graduating from American University.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 01/11/2013
Content:

Since he was a little boy, Nur Ali, SIS/BA ’98, dreamt of racing cars. His dream became a reality very soon after graduating from American University.

“Education is so important, and I am glad I had the opportunity to go to such a reputable school,” says Nur. “But racing was what I wanted to do since I was a little kid.”

Nur was born in Pakistan and raised in Germany until the age of eight. His family then relocated to Fort Worth, Tex.

Fluent in German, Urdu/Hindi, and English and raised by parents who were proponents of education and supportive of following one’s dreams, with no prior race car driving experience, Nur went to Ohio to attend the Skip Barber Racing School just after graduating from AU.

After graduating from racing school, Nur went back to Texas, and, in 2005, he received an invitation to serve as the Team Leader for Team Pakistan in the A1Grand Prix – World Cup of Motorsport – an international racing series – making him the first driver of Pakistani descent to race professionally. President Musharraf launched Team Pakistan announcing Nur as the leader at an exclusive, extravagant affair.

Nur raced internationally for a few years with the intention to transition into NASCAR, which he did at the Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway in the NASAR Nationwide Series on October 20, 2012. News spread quickly in his home country of Pakistan that Nur had become the first Pakistani-American to race NASCAR.

“I would not be where I am without my education from American University,” Nur says. Outside of racing, he serves the community by mentoring and educating children about the importance of education. “Because I completed my education, I always have something to fall back on.”

In mid-December 2012, Nur attended a three-day practice drive in Daytona Beach, Fla. and is continually striving toward his next goal. “I am either in the gym working with a personal trainer, strategizing with my public relations team on how to secure sponsorships, or serving the community,” he says. He also is working closely with NASCAR to bring more visibility to the sport internationally.

Nur hopes to be either a part- or full-time driver with NASCAR in 2013. He is already scheduled to race a few junior races, including the NASCAR K & N Pro Series and the ARCARacing Series.

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