International Studies Program Newsletter Summer 2020
A Message from the Director
International Studies (INST) has certainly taken on even more relevance during our current experience of a global pandemic—and through our resulting shift to online programs like Zoom, Skype or WebEx to keep the university community connected. Despite the many challenges that the pandemic and ensuing transition to distance learning threw our way this semester, I am impressed by the ability of our university community and of our INST majors and minors to have adapted so very quickly to the new learning environment.
One of the achievements that gratified me the most during this spring semester was the ability of the team of INST seniors to create a grant proposal to support US Together, Toledo, a refugee resettlement agency in Lucas County. Eve Cervenka, Andréa Lockett, Brandin Sturgill, Elizabeth Tepper, and Isabella Zettler created a grant proposal to help launch an Early Childhood Education program for New Americans under the umbrella of US Together. We particularly thank Nathanael Smucker, Support Services Coordinator, and Corine Dehabey, Director of US Together, for the helpful presentations, insights, and meetings that guided this initiative. In a few months, we should know if the grant proposal for $63,000 has been accepted. This project emerged out of the team-taught senior seminar, INST 4000, team-taught by Dr. Stefan Fritsch and me, and we hope to continue to offer the choice of academic or community-based research for our seniors in the INST capstone seminar in the future.
The collaboration with BGSU’s Center for Public Impact also continues to yield excellent results. Dr. V. Rosser, director of the CPI, and Ms. Molly Kosnak, Returned Peace Corps Fellow (Mongolia) and Coverdell Fellow in the MACIE program, and I worked together to guide students through the Peace Corps Prep Program. We are pleased that in this second year of its existence, we had five students receive the PC Prep Certificate: Victoria Ashley; Olive Bartholomew; Andrew Harper; Elizabeth Klear; and Andréa Lockett. Congratulations!
Another highlight of the 2019-2020 year was the “first annual” Transnational Forum in February. Organized by ISN [International Studies Network] and EAG [Environmental Action Group], under the leadership of ISN president Claire Oglesbee and EAG president Olive Bartholomew, faculty and students analyzed a contemporary controversy that will continue to haunt us: Climate Refugees. The format of the Transnational Forum highlights the need for an interdisciplinary approach to tackle large socio-political and environmental issues and therefore included cogent discussions by faculty in Environmental Justice, International Development, Political Science, History, and Philosophy whereas five INST majors sketched in the impact of climate change around the globe (see below).
Finally, this May, the university has approved the International Studies Program’s proposal to create a Graduate Certificate in International Studies, which will allow professionals and graduate students enrolled in other programs to build on their linguistic and intercultural skills while developing expertise in the sectors identified as critical by the Peace Corps (such as Global Health, International Education, International Business, and Environmental Science/Policy).
We invite you to explore Volume 7 of our International ResearchScape Journal, which features articles from the disciplines of World Culture, History, English, and Health (Yoga).
Our ability to deal with the challenges of the global pandemic and financial fallout has not been all positive, unfortunately. Tracy Susko, the Senior Secretary for International Studies (and for Africana & for Asian Studies) will not be here in the fall to welcome our INST community back to BGSU. Tracy has been a mainstay for the program since spring 2016 and has created a welcoming environment in Shatzel Hall while making sure that the many details associated with running a program were handled smoothly.
It is also time for me to take my leave from the position of INST director. My four-year plus one term has come to a close, and I am pleased to start off on a research leave for AY 2020-2021. It has been such a pleasure for me to work together with the many students and colleagues engaged in international research at BGSU. I wish the INST community well and look forward to continuing to support the new initiatives that are surely around the corner.
NEWSLETTER ARCHIVE: To view previous newsletters, visit the International Wire Archive.
Embracing Global Engagement Conference (October 2019):
Students from International Studies, World Languages & Cultures and from Colleges across the BGSU campus met to present to one another and to rising generations of students interested in education abroad. Student presenters chose to present orally or through posters or videos where they studied and what they were able to accomplish while abroad—whether by working with faculty at other institutions, getting involved in internships or by pursuing academic or community-based research on-site. Our INST students were well-represented: Jacque Elama on Business Practices in China; Julie Haber on interning in the BGSU 4900 program in Lisbon, Portugal; Andréa Lockett on her internship with a local journal in Chengdu, China; and Siri Petersen on (Art) Restoration and Conservation in Florence, Italy.
Grant-writing Initiative with US Together
Students in the INST 4000 course worked with US Together, Toledo, on a community-based grant.
First Steps: Grant-writing and other applicable skills are becoming more and more important for students of International Studies. In November, Dr. V Rosser, director of BGSU’s Center for Public Impact, met with International Studies students to discuss tips for writing effective grant proposals for those interested in pursuing non-profit work. Beyond providing examples of successful grant proposals, Dr. Rosser also worked with students to identify strategies that would aid students in developing the skills necessary to craft their proposals.
En route: Meeting with Women’s Empowerment Group, US Together, Toledo to understand the community for whom we wished to propose the grant.
Collaboration with Nathanael Smucker, Support Services Coordinator for pointers on grant-writing, feedback on the proposal and tips on setting up a budget for the Foundation.
"My experience working with US Together was a positive one. We only met once with the Women's Empowerment Group, but that one meeting was very influential and meant a lot to me. I felt that it was really eye-opening to hear the women speak about programs that they wanted through US Together in the future. It was also empowering to listen to their stories and hear that the women want to learn how to use computers so they can sell products online or take a cooking class that will show them how to market their food to sell in a shop or from home. To me, their aspirations were very empowering to hear and make me want to work harder to achieve my goals as well."
Experiential learning, community-based learning, service-learning, whichever term one prefers, provides a different set of skills and experiences than a traditional research-based class. It allows students to develop in different ways, encouraging them to apply their learning to real-life problems. International Studies, as a multidisciplinary program, prepares students to think about issues from a variety of backgrounds, thereby expanding the toolbox of methods and techniques students have at their disposal. Service-learning allows students to develop their civic capacity, their ability to apply their intellect, knowledge and experience to find solutions to community challenges (Cress et al.) This not only benefits those of us who have hopes to take on careers in the non-profit sector; it also helps all students who will end up being part of a larger community. It allows students to recognize their place in a community web of interactions while working with international populations, in particular. This allows students to envision themselves within a global community without even having to leave the country.
This project has allowed me to grow professionally, as I look forward to further study and work in the non-profit sector, as well as the opportunity to critically consider my growth in the area of cultural competency. I have gained practical skills in cultural competency, adaptability, and critical reflection. The whole of my work with US Together has helped me recognize a need in my community and others and pushed me to consider how I can help meet that need and participate in solving those problems.
Transnational Forum (February 20):
In February, the International Studies Program, in collaboration with the Department of Political Science and the BG Environmental Action Group, hosted the Transnational Forum on Climate Refugees. The event served as an interdisciplinary dialogue about the topic, From the Arctic to the Amazon: Global Challenges and Strategies. A panel of students and faculty provided insights into different areas of the world that may face the growing problem of people displaced by climate change, as well as strategies from many different disciplines in tackling the issue.
People fleeing their homes for climate-related reasons are not currently recognized under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, so their legal status is in limbo. Other factors considered at the forum included whether countries have a duty to accept refugees, whether the climate crisis also constitutes a political crisis, the effects of climate change on indigenous communities, the notion of “green imperialism,” desertification and other slow onset ecological disasters, the effect of the Nexus pipeline in Bowling Green, and the question what needs to be done to combat climate change. This event represented the first of a soon-to-be annual Transnational Forum, aimed at addressing the pressing global issues of today in a productive and meaningful way. Special thanks go to Dr. Abhishek Bhati, political science, for suggesting the forum.
Dr. Abhishek Bhati, International Development
Dr. Amilcar Challú, Environmental Humanities
Dr. Holly Myers, Environmental Justice
Dr. Marc Simon, International Governance
Dr. Ian Young, Global Ethics
Olive Bartholomew, Ohio
Aislinn Bill, Brazil
Alexandrea Crawford, Alaska
Justin Mascarin, China
Claire Oglesbee, Middle East/N. Africa
International Studies Photo Contest
1st place – Camel in the back of a pickup truck at a gas station in Sur, Oman; photographer Sarah Mehler
2nd place – Marketplace in Mombassa, Kenya; photographer Lyndah Wasike
3rd place – Landscape of Te Puia Rotorua, New Zealand; photographer Meredith Dixon
Outreach with our INST Alumni
William Manson, Deputy General Counsel, Lubrizol Corporation speaks to majors on The Economics of Regulation in International Trade:
Bill Manson has been the leader of the International Affairs Section in Legal for the Lubrizol Corporation. Since joining Lubrizol in 1995, Bill has provided legal advice in a wide range of matters from questions regarding contracts and product distribution to the resolution of complex commercial and patent disputes. Bill received his BA and his MA in Economics from Bowling Green State University in 1974 and 1975 and his Ph.D. in Economics from Virginia Tech in 1980. He received his law degree, with distinction, from the Emory University School of Law in 1985. His visit to BGSU in early February included presenting the “Economics of Regulation in International Trade” and taking time with INST majors to talk about ways to prepare for a career in International Business and Legal Studies.
Charlie Polinko speaks with International Studies majors:
In late October 2019, the BGSU International Studies Program hosted an alumni speaker event. Charlie Polinko is a 2013 graduate of the program and graciously visited BGSU to speak to current students about his experiences both as a student in the International Studies Program and as a graduate. He discussed how he used the resources available at BGSU to develop his focus area of study and provided students with numerous examples of the type of jobs that would be open to them with a degree in International Studies. He emphasized the importance of tangible skills to employers and advised students to be intentional about the experiences they would like to have. He advised students to always be open to new paths and opportunities, and to build their network wherever possible. Mr. Polinko also discussed the new Master’s in International & Regional Studies (MIRS) at the University of Michigan. He currently serves as a Recruitment Specialist/Graduate Student Advisor for the Master’s in International and Regional Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Cultural Casualties of COVID-19
International Film Festival, “Insider/Outsider” with collaboration with the Consulate of Canada, Detroit
Pallister French-Canadian Lecture Series, featuring Québécois film-maker, Geneviève Dulude-Decelles and the screening of her A Colony [Une colonie].
Eve Cervenka: A Global Citizen in China and Ohio
I actually learned how to adapt different, new situations, for instance, navigating the subway system, planning a trip somewhere, going to buy train tickets. This might seem normal, but it is a challenge to have to learn to figure this out in a different cultural context.
Some of the highlights of my stay in China included: Field Study to the rural province of Guizhou where I learned about different minority cultures [there are four different ethnic villages, and the Chinese government policies have impacted villages]. We studied the effects of tourism, which changes some of the cultural aspects and forces individuals to choose what is preserved versus packaged as a marketable commodity. I particularly appreciated getting to see parts of China that people often don’t get to see, the breathtaking scenery (like mountains). I did recognize the invasive role of government, although for me that was most noticeable when watching imported American films like Bohemian Rhapsody, where sections of the film simply were not translated. I was able to speak with villagers, the guides who were in charge of international outreach about the status of censorship, which often occurs online. We American students noticed it less in daily life.
Surprisingly, I mainly had to deal with a lot of pre-departure anxiety and learn to go with the flow, try new things, be spontaneous. I would say that it is important to prepare yourself mentally, not get stuck in what is tried and true.
What I would have liked to have done before leaving: bring more food, American comfort food like macaroni and cheese. We were also advised to watch American films when we would feel homesick, which I did three or four times, and much to my surprise, this strategy actually works. I also found reading Agatha Christie novels was helpful.
It has been hard for me, since BGSU does not have a huge program. I’ve had to study on my own and prepare for the Chinese proficiency test (HSK). I make a point of staying in touch with my Chinese friends and texting with them in Chinese. Students who go to other countries probably find it easier to maintain their language skills, since there are more upper-level courses available.
I already knew about US Together through the international service-learning course that Dr. Guenther taught through INST in spring 2017. I was also aware of the Cleveland branch, since I’m from there. I actually applied for internships while I was still in China. I checked out the website and just started emailing, describing my interests. You just need to do a lot “Google searching” and have an idea of what you’re interested in. At US Together, Cleveland, I actually could choose the department where I wanted to work.
I was an intern in the Reception and Placement department. I was supposed to meet newly arrived refugees when they arrive at the airport. US Together is responsible for integrating the new refugees during the first 90 days, so there is also a fair amount of pre-arrival prep.
The services provided by US Together: find a place to live (work with certain landlords in the city); purchase “kitchen essentials” at low cost; fill out a lot of pre-arrival paperwork [e.g., sign up for Social Security, SNAP and welfare, set up Medicaid…a whole range of organizational details).We also picked up furniture at different individuals’ homes when they made a donation; we managed donations and handled safety measures (e.g., explaining how to use gas stoves safely).We also provided them with emergency contacts. Our responsibility did not end with pre-arrival. Post-arrival responsibilities included: pick up prescriptions for the refugees, take people to medical appointments (explain which translation service was needed via phone), set up alternate modes of communication. I learned how to be their advocate.
I have to admit that the experience pushed me out outside of my comfort zone, but the thought that this is important and urgent work, that they needed to find out where the Food Bank was, for instance, helped me to move beyond my comfort zone.What was stressful but also very valuable: I learned to navigate the city and realize now that I could accomplish tasks with minimal instruction and figure things out as I went. I knew what the end goal was, so I could be flexible.
What was important to learn, too: develop intercultural competency. What does that mean? It means recognizing that one is working with immigrant populations, that people’s backgrounds (being traumatized by having experienced much violence) needs to be factored in when you are working with refugees. I could step back from the experience somewhat and be more careful with my language, consider more deeply with whom I was talking.
With the world being as crazy as it is, I have decided to apply to grad school. I am also looking at AmeriCorps positions at US Together. Right now, the job market is chaotic, so I am still feeling out my options.
My long-term goal is to do more work in immigration and refugee services. I would like to work for a large-scale NGO. The non-profit service industry is where I want to be right now.
Absolutely follow your interests. You have room in the major through the focus area, the choice of a second language. Take what you want and what is interesting to you. You will figure out what you want to do with that if you feel passionate about it.
Don’t be afraid to pick up a second minor; it is worth it in the long run. Find faculty mentors, get closer to your professors, which can open doors for you. Immerse yourself more deeply in extra-curricular activities, meet people, take on interesting activities like Model UN, College Democrats, club sports.
Incidentally, if you are looking for the International Studies Program: go to Shatzel Hall, first (ground) floor, turn right to find the director’s office.
Andrew Harper: A Global Citizen in Romania [CURS Scholarship]
I completed my project during the month of January (J-Term) in Făgăraș Romania.
The topic of my project was "Do students from public secondary school have access to notions of global citizenship in post-communist nations? The case of Romania." I was inspired by previous work I've done with different NGOs regarding youth and ideas pertaining to global citizenship. Also, I was very intrigued by Eastern Europe, specifically Romania, because of how different the culture is from Western European countries and how little attention Eastern European countries receive compared to their western counterparts.
One of the most memorable experiences took place during the first hours after I arrived. I landed in Romania on December 31st and immediately after I arrived, I was welcomed to a New Year’s party which is tradition in Romania. After I ate and socialized at the restaurant, the party was being held farther away, and I walked to the main square to watch a firework show and ring in the New Year. It was a bit overwhelming in the best possible way as I got to experience a cultural event that I otherwise would not have had the chance to. It was a very eventful way to begin my stay.
Yes, I absolutely would recommend BGSU’s CURS program to other International Studies majors. I believe that the CURS program provides an amazing opportunity for students to really understand the world of scholarly research as they get an opportunity to pursue a project that they feel passionate about with the security of a grant from the school to use in their endeavors. Furthermore, it provides an opportunity for students to travel and gain valuable field experiences that otherwise would not be possible.
“I had a passion for international cultures before coming to BGSU, but International Studies allowed me to delve deeper. My favorite degree requirement was studying abroad! My time abroad in Alcalá de Henares, Spain inspired my move to Madrid post grad and my semester at a Dutch university (Vrije Universiteit) allowed me to take classes in English that gave me an entirely new academic perspective of similar topics I was learning about at BGSU. If you have a passion for international topics of any kind, International Studies gives you the structure to explore them deeper and pursue a related career.”
“Another important experience the major gave me was a generalist education that allowed me to focus on my niche area while still interacting with students who studied all kinds of fun and exciting areas. I'm not sure how it's run now, but INST 4000 is amazing, it's your chance to showcase in a paper what you have been working on and it's so cool to see how your interests have diverged away from those of your peers.”
Tyler Way is a 2018 graduate of BGSU and is currently pursuing a master’s degree, studying Space Policy at the Elliott School at George Washington University in Washington D.C. He is also an intern with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Aerospace Security Project. The biggest pieces of advice he has for current International Studies students are to find their niche, be open to change, and not be afraid of changing parts of their degree that don’t feel quite right. Tyler believes his background in INST has helped him become more aware of the complexities in the world, which has been helpful for contextualizing space-policy issues. Since the INST degree is a broad, interdisciplinary one, Tyler recommends homing in on a focus, not just by choosing a focus area, but also by connecting with professors who conduct research on subjects that interest you and by joining organizations that relate to those interests. When asked what current students should take advantage of during their time at BGSU, he suggested that for those with graduate school in mind, it helps to engage with professors and see if you can work with them on research. For those seeking a more direct entry to the workforce, Tyler recommends joining organizations that provide you with leadership opportunities or tangible skills. While he doesn’t know exactly what the next 5 years hold in store for him, Tyler noted it really doesn’t matter to him, as long as he is happy and doing something he loves.
“There are two skills I use every day that are integral to an International Studies degree: writing and speaking well. Knowledge can be found at a moment’s notice or studied “on the job”. Good writing and speaking skills take time to develop (I’m definitely still working on mine), and I cherish my International Studies degree for teaching those skills to me.”
Declan Wicks is a 2018 graduate of BGSU and is currently interning with the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Abshire-Inamori Leadership Academy in Washington D.C. He notes that there are three things that he would have liked to know as he worked through his undergraduate degree. The first is that it helps to start looking ahead at what you want to do after you graduate early on. International Studies is a flexible degree, and it helps to have an idea of what you can do with it. He suggests reading the publications of organizations that interest you to get an idea of your options. Secondly, he advises students to consider the skills they have developed through their studies and not to sell themselves short on their resumes. Thirdly, he advises students not to worry if they don’t hear back from job applications; “It takes time, but you’ll get there.” Declan notes the importance of cultivating one’s writing and speaking skills and is thankful for the International Studies Program for helping him develop them. He advises that students take advantage of BGSU-specific scholarships such as the Givens Fellowship and Hoskins Scholarship as these are wonderful opportunities to pursue independent projects.
“My experiences working at the NGO in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (the West Bank) paved the way for more research into how the occupation and presence of Israeli soldiers affected children living in refugee camps. After graduation, I moved to Washington DC where I worked as an intern at the Palestinian Liberation Organization's Delegation to the United States. While there, I created videos highlighting Palestinian experiences with occupation which got 1 million views.”
Michaela Schrum is a 2017 graduate of BGSU, having majored in International Studies and created her own minor in North African and Middle Eastern Studies. As a recipient of the Hoskins Global Scholarship, she traveled to the Occupied Palestinian Territories to work with an NGO. Currently she is a graduate student at American University in Washington D.C. studying International Development and Global Health. Michaela stresses the importance of having a hard skill to complement all of the soft skills acquired through International Studies. She believes that International Studies helps one understand the world and puts it into context. When asked what current students should take advantage of at BGSU, she recommends applying for scholarships and fellowships such as the Hoskins and Givens, finding a faculty mentor who has experience in whatever you want to do with your life and making sure to eat at El Zarape! As for future plans, Michaela will be working as an EMT during her graduate studies and plans to move abroad after getting married next October. She sees herself working in the field and will continue going back to Palestine to advocate for the rights of her friends.
SPECIAL THANKS TO THE 2019-2020 INTERNATIONAL STUDIES ADVISORY COMMITTEE!
Kristie Foell, World Languages & Cultures/German
Stefan Fritsch, Political Science
Alberto Gonzalez, School of Media & Communication
Minjie Huang, Economics
Matt Schumann, History
Marc Simon, Peace & Conflict Studies; Political Science
Irina Stakhanova, World Languages & Cultures/Russian
Rachel Walsh, English and International Studies
Yu Zhou, Geography
Instructors of INST 2000: Vibha Bhalla, Ethnic Studies; Christina Guenther, World Languages & Cultures/German