Hometown: Austin, Texas
Concentration: International and Public Affairs
Anushka Srivastava, a junior concentrator in the Watson Institute's International and Public Affairs (IAPA) program, is taking a leave of absence during the spring 2023 semester to intern in the office of United Nations Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield.
The U.N. is not where she expected to find herself at this point in her college career. "I came to Brown intending to concentrate in physics and French," she said, "Actually, I was pretty sure I wanted to study physics, but I wasn't 100% sure." That slight uncertainty is one of the reasons she found Brown's Open Curriculum so attractive. "At Brown, I knew I would have complete freedom to pursue whatever I found interesting. I didn't think I would have that same freedom at a school primarily focused on STEM or humanities," she said.
"Once I got to Brown, I didn't take a single physics class," said Srivastava. "I was so eager to take advantage of the freedom to choose my entire course load that I took a bunch of humanities classes that I knew would take me out of my comfort zone."
One course, in particular, led her to IAPA. "During my second semester at Brown, I took Gender and Sexuality in the Middle East with professor Nadje Al-Ali," she said, "that was the most thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating class I had ever taken. I loved professor Al-Ali's way of thinking, and I loved the way that she pushed us to critically evaluate our own viewpoints."
Moving out of her comfort zone led to a shift in perspective on how to think about problems. "I ended up finding out that I liked the uncertainty of the humanities compared to STEM," said Srivastava. "In STEM, you get a sense of closure, the feeling that you have something fully figured out. But in the humanities, you never really get that," she said. "You can always look at the same problem from a different perspective or with a different set of parameters and arrive at a completely different understanding, and I found that nuance intellectually rewarding."
Within Brown's Open Curriculum, Srivastava found IAPA particularly conducive to cultivating creative thinking and independence. "IAPA is a concentration where you don't select one thing," she said. "You're not a sociology major. You're not an economics major. You're learning how to assess the world critically, and that requires you to constantly switch your lens and examine things from different perspectives," she said.
"I didn't want to commit to one field of inquiry or one way of looking at things. I like to switch my lens by taking classes in multiple disciplines while still working towards the goal of understanding the world and its complexity a bit better," said Srivastava, "that was a huge part of the appeal of Watson."
Srivastava says her studies at Watson have helped instill a sense of purpose in her. "My biggest drive is to make sure that I have a purpose and that I'm doing something that will contribute to positive change," she said.
During her time at Watson, Srivastava developed a particular interest in security, which led to her U.N. internship. "I like working in an environment where I get to look at issues that are affecting different parts of the world and analyze all of the different actors, especially in crisis situations," she said. "I want to explore how we can amplify local understandings of power to tailor policy solutions that better help people in crisis. I'm trying to find the best way to contribute and be a part of something bigger than myself."
Srivastava will return to Brown in the fall of 2023. She said that after graduating, she would like to work, continue her studies in graduate school, and is also interested in volunteering in the Peace Corps.