Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Students Describe Summer Work on Democracy, Community Radio, and More

January 27, 2010

Recipients of Watson Institute summer fellowships presented their research at the Institute last semester, sharing with audiences the challenges and successes of international engagement. Though their projects varied greatly in regional and thematic focus, students agreed that their research will shape their future endeavors at Brown and beyond.

Several of their presentations are summarized below:

Tessa Lee ’10, an international relations concentrator, worked with the NGO Fractal in Serbia in order “to see how theories of peacekeeping operate outside of Brown’s lecture halls.” Given a large amount of independence by the organization, Lee spent a portion of her time encouraging Serbians to vote in elections, an unpopular activity given that a vote could be interpreted as an implicit endorsement of Kosovo, she said. Lee also helped organize consultations with youth groups as part of a coalition for truth and reconciliation about war crimes in the countries of former Yugoslavia. This project not only influenced Lee’s plans for the future, but also gave her the satisfaction of having an immediate impact. The coalition “has such potential to bring healing in the Balkans,” Lee said.

Under the auspices of the Ringer Fellowship, Cherilyn Tran ’11 worked with the Hoi An Foundation in Vietnam, an organization committed to improving health care in central Vietnam. As an intern, Tran had the opportunity to both shadow professionals and perform her own research, conducting a randomized survey in rural areas to gauge the risk factors for chronic diseases. Though Tran foresees a research as opposed to a clinical career, the people she met and the skills she learned at Hoi An have stayed with her. “There’s not a day that goes by when I don’t think about the things I did in Vietnam,” Tran said.

Alexander Wamboldt ’10 blended his interests in anthropology and religious studies in his work at Egypt’s Arab West Foundation, an organization promoting dialogue and understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims. Interested in media representations of the marginalized Arab-Christian community, Wamboldt conducted field research to investigate how well media reports matched experiences on the ground. The realization that most reporting does not account for on-the-ground realities has continued to inform his academic work, Wamboldt said.

Chantal Berman ’10 approached media from a different perspective, working as a producer for a community radio station in Ghana. Berman used her experience working on Brown student radio to assist with the production of pieces on local issues, install key programs on station computers, and hold workshops on interviewing skills. Berman returned from Ghana with affirmed faith in community radio as a “platform for engagement that reaches across differences of gender, race and class,” she said.

Megan Brattain ’10.5 worked with Israel’s Hotline for Migrant Workers. In Israel, Brattain was charged with the task of relaying the stories of imprisoned migrant workers to NGOs and media sources. Brattain witnessed the multinational nature of social justice work firsthand on one prison visit, when she found herself collaborating with a Belgian prisoner translating for a prisoner from Burkina Faso. Like others in her cohort, Brattain’s project both shaped her long-term scholastic plans and allowed her to make an immediate impact on the ground. Because of the media exposure fostered by the Hotline and other groups, the government postponed a roundup of migrant families, and is currently considering changes in policy, Brattain said. Bringing migrant’s issues to public awareness “made a huge change,” she said.

The Watson Institute administers summer undergraduate research and community service fellowships such as the Richard Smoke Summer Fellowships, the McKinney Family Internship, the Jack Ringer '52 Summer Internship, and the Marla Ruzicka International Public Service Fellowship.

By Watson Institute Student Rapporteur Juliana Friend '11