Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Studies (CHRHS)

Student Spotlight: Hannah Sizelove '22

Hannah Sizelove was recently named a recipient of the Marla Ruzicka International Public Service Fellowship. The following spotlight delves into her experience interning at the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Center and is the first in a series of spotlights related to Watson student research and internship funding. To view the full list of opportunities like this one, click here

Concentration: Environmental Science, Environment & Inequality Track

Hometown: Gardnerville, Nevada

Last summer, you received the Marla Ruzicka International Public Service Fellowship and interned at the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Center. Why did you apply for this fellowship? 

Given the circumstances, I was looking for a funding opportunity. I applied to this one in particular because it allowed me to take on an unpaid opportunity. This fellowship is driven by the values of international human rights, humanitarianism, and advocacy, which helped me articulate the foundational ideas of why the Red Cross Red Crescent work contributes to meaningful causes and global knowledge networks. That's what really drew me to this fellowship, in particular.

What is the RCRC Climate Center, and what did your work focus on? 

The Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Center is a key organization within the broader Red Cross Red Crescent movement and organizations. It functions at an advisory level, as the staff works to build connections between global scientific findings and the on-the-ground advocacy and aid. The organization provides resources and tools to advocates and volunteers around the world. In addition to fostering dialogue on why climate change and disaster management, it's an essential component of humanitarian aid and activism. They're very driven by the understanding that climate change has a disproportionate impact on vulnerable populations, particularly in the Global South. They leverage their resources to help empower those communities and increase the range of stakeholders involved in those humanitarian conversations.

Your research over the summer focused on heat waves — could you explain what your research process looked like and what your findings were? 

My research focused on heat waves, which are considered a “silent killer” because they have many under-the-radar health impacts, and they haven’t been addressed in a significant, meaningful way in various countries around the world. We were looking at disaster management legislation to identify the policy gaps and the areas in which you can expand heat wave response. I worked on connecting our scientific knowledge on heat waves to on-the-ground advocacy and policy. 

My research was a legislative review, so I was considering 15 nations within the Global South, focusing on the extent to which they included heatwaves in their disaster management legislation. Specifically, I looked at the case studies of Bangladesh and Colombia, examining the challenges posed by the research gaps on heat wave impacts, and also gaps in the policy implementation. This culminated into a policy brief, which is now in its final stages of editing. The brief is intended to give regional and national stakeholders, lawmakers and advocates a better understanding of where there needs to be more focus on heat waves in their disaster management schemes. 

How was the research process and internship as a whole different this summer than it might have been pre-COVID-19? 

One major benefit of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Center is that they are already very global, so a lot of work was already being done remotely. They are used to balancing time zones and balancing many different actors across nations. That was really helpful because there was already a virtual framework. 

In a previous summer, I might have had the opportunity to interact in person with some of the U.S. based staff, and possibly attend some of the events that they host. This summer, all of the networking events were hosted online — which I think was also a really interesting example of how these new virtual tools can be leveraged to actually reach a wider audience. At the end of my internship, the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Center hosted a virtual summit on the intersections between climate change and humanitarianism. Over 10,000 participants attended from over 196 countries. I had an opportunity to connect with people at a variety of different levels of advocacy in the scientific world.  That's not something that I would have had the opportunity to participate in otherwise. In that sense, working virtually was quite beneficial.

How did the work you did this summer through the fellowship connect to your broader interests and academic goals at Brown? 

The courses I’ve taken within my concentration are very focused on international politics, public affairs, sociology, and social movements. This summer opportunity was a good way to explore how to connect the ideas that I've been writing and thinking about to tangible, real-world issues. Some courses that come to mind are “City Politics,” “Climate Futures and a Sociology of Just Transitions,” and “Knowledge Networks and Global Transformations.” These courses gave me a foundation for thinking about how to connect scientific, scholarly ideas to actual on-the-ground policy-making. The Red Cross Red Crescent, being in an advisory position, also functions as that link and helped me consider how our policies, social movements, etc, are connected to the ways in which we relate to the environment. Our response to climate change is an opportunity to reimagine the economic, political, social structures, both within the US and the global sphere. This is where I saw the connection between my summer work and Brown academics.

Why would you recommend this fellowship or recommend that students look into this type of work?

I connected with Marla Ruzicka’s story — she also came from a small town, and was passionate about learning from people with very different lived experiences than her own.  I didn’t see this fellowship merely as a funding opportunity, because it was driven by a focus on the causes and values of humanitarianism, and the forging of new connections, which are values that I share. It's really valuable when you're doing this work to have all components, including your funding, be aligned with your goals. 

The fellowship allowed me to guide my passions through my Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre work. The international focus of the fellowship and my internship was helpful in that I was able to connect with people across the U.S. and in Europe, Colombia, Bangladesh and Uganda. These connections were a key component of my summer work and pose an exciting opportunity for other students interested in the humanitarian and human rights field.

--Elise Ryan '21