This month I attended the IA academic event called “So You Think You Can Research?”. The event consisted of a panel of International Affairs scholars who were involved with various research projects. This event provided a really good opportunity for students to ask general questions about how to choose a research topic, the best way to find out position openings, and what it is really like to work on a project. An important component of this panel, which the coordinators made a great effort to include, was diversity within the students’ majors and fields of research. Their research projects ranged from analyzing terrorist threat groups, trends in German theater, working in an immunology or cancer research lab, and even interviewing individuals who have committed genocide in Rwanda. Often when research is discussed it is only mentioned in the context of hard sciences (i.e biology, chemistry, neuroscience, etc.) or certain social sciences, such as psychology and sociology. This creates the idea that there is no opportunity for research in other fields of study– such as humanities, language, or the arts– or that research in those fields are not as significant.
Questions for the panel were contributed in part by the students attending and also from a pre-prepared list of questions. I really appreciated the honesty of each of the students on the panel. The panel did a great job of expressing the realities of getting involved in research– meaning your interest in your topic is crucial due to the amount of time and energy that research requires– and even reassured us that there is no harm in trying a research project and leaving if it is not for you. They also offered a lot of great advice for starting out in research. For example, they encouraged everyone to not be shy in reaching out to professors to ask about opportunities and suggested utilizing the resources of the undergraduate research department. Overall I do not think research is something that I would enjoy being involved in as it requires a heavy time commitment and, currently, I don’t have a specific field that I am interested in studying further. However, this panel was incredibly helpful to learn about what to do if I were to become interested in research in the future.
This month I attended the IA movie night as an academic requirement. During this event we watched the documentary Human Flow, which depicts the global extent of the refugee crisis. Director Ai Weiwei documents the experience of refugees in over twenty countries with an emphasis on the human nature of everyone involved. The film opens with Weiwei explaining what inspired him to create Human Flow. After receiving his passport back from Chinese authorities, Weiwei was able to vacation on the Greek island of Lesbos. While he was there he saw refugees arriving on the shores and began to film what he was seeing. He then continues on to follow the refugee community throughout the Mediterranean, Europe, the Middle East, and Mexico. As a child who grew up during China’s Cultural Revolution, Weiwei understood the dehumanizing treatment that was faced by many refugees and, therefore, deeply identified with them and their experiences.
The film, principally, is used to convey the seriousness of the issue. However, several other themes are also presented including cause, effect, and shared responsibility. Weiwei is able to identify four main classifications of causation of refugee crises. Those classifications being: wars between states, ethnic conflicts, non-ethnic conflicts and flights from repression. Weiwei also extensively documents the effects of these large populations on their hosting nations and the effects of temporary makeshift housing on the wellbeing of refugees. Additionally, Weiwei males a point to discuss the responsibilities that come along with hosting refugees. Human Flow shows how countries, and those neighboring them, with large refugee populations require extra help and accommodation. Often with delayed responses from wealthier nations to provide additional aid.
As Wewei states, the purpose of this film is to increase public awareness of the crisis and to spark action. Weiwei does a phenomenal job of capturing the humanity of situation. This film is a brilliant piece of work that absolutely pertains to our roles within the International Affairs scholars program. As IA scholars we are tasked with educating and involving ourselves in the global community. However, it can be quite difficult to relate to or even understand a situation which you have never personally experienced. The film forged a connection between the greater audience and the refugee community based in the fact that we are all human. In fact, the title Human Flow leaves creates a sense of humanity amongst the audience that remains at the forefront of the watcher’s mind as the film progresses. This film should continue to be shown as it is an eye opening and humanizing experience for the audience and inspires the type of social activism encouraged by the IA program.
This month I attended the Latinx women leaders trivia and informational event in Smith-Steeb. I enjoyed this event immensely, as it was a good balance of fun and educational. The trivia itself included the accomplishments of Latin women in a variety of professional fields. From Selena Quintanilla’s legacy in the Tejano music industry to the first ever Latina Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the impacts of these women were monumental and are helping to pave the way for Latin women to follow in their footsteps. Although short and somewhat informal, the importance of this event was not lost on me. As a proud member of the Latinx community myself, it was a bit shocking to me that I had never even heard of some of these women. Throughout my years at school, the subject of female professional accomplishments had barely even been touched upon, let alone the accomplishments of minority females. As International Affairs scholars, we should take advantage of events like these to further our understanding and acceptance of diversity. Learning about the monumental successes of these women can also create an incentive for students to seek out cross-cultural collaboration, integrate global perspectives into their work, and participate in a diverse workforce. These types of non-IA events serve as a great opportunity for students to socialize and meet others in and outside of the International Affairs group. The game/trivia aspects of the event promote teamwork and cooperation between students, which is also beneficial to the group as a whole. Unfortunately, due to the timing and general nature of college students, only a few people showed up and the event was much shorter than originally anticipated. Despite all of this, the ideas behind this event are incredibly important and should definitely be repeated in the future–and of course, free empanadas are always appreciated!