International Day of the Girl- How One Elliott School Student is Making a Difference

Oct. 11, 2018, marked the sixth annual International Day of the Girl. The UN-sponsored event highlights and addresses the needs and challenges girls face, while promoting their empowerment and human rights. This year’s theme was With Her: A Skilled GirlForce.

Pratyusha Sibal, a graduate student in the Elliott School’s International Development studies program, is an intern with The Asia Foundation’s Women’s Empowerment Program team in Washington, D.C. She recently had an opportunity to write a blog post for the foundation about the importance of developing skills among a new generation of girls preparing to enter the global workforce.

According to the UN, of the 1 billion young people – including 600 million adolescent girls – who will enter the workforce in the next decade, more than 90 percent of those living in developing countries will work in informal sectors, where low pay, abuse, and exploitation are common.

Sibal says her interest in gender and development comes from her upbringing and experience. “I was born and raised in India, and my passion for gender issues stems from myriad of personal experiences, as well as work and study in Beijing, Bangkok, and Paris. Having witnessed gender discrimination firsthand, I wrote this article from personal observations over the years, along with extensive research.“

Sibal landed the internship with help from advisers in Elliott’s Office of Graduate Student Services. The internship is growing her skillset as a gender professional, she says. “Being able to contribute feedback on proposals and publications regarding women’s political participation, economic empowerment and their rights and security, in addition to assisting with logistics and events, is strengthening my understanding of what a career as a gender adviser entails.”

Looking forward, March 8, 2019, is International Women’s Day. At the Elliott School, students and faculty will honor the day with a public event and photo exhibition, #PressforProgress, Celebrating Women in Politics. At The Asia Foundation, there will be a range of events and activities.To learn more, visit the foundation’s website.

The Reading Room- Elliott Faculty Book RoundUp

Several prominent Elliott School faculty members recently published books dissecting urgent global issues. In four new volumes, Elliott authors cover the globe, offering insight into the plight of Palestinian refugees, Russian identity in the 21st century, the evangelical Christian movement, and the evolution of China’s foreign affairs. In case you missed the latest book-launch series, here is a round-up of writings from our world-class faculty.

llana Feldman, Life Lived in Relief: Humanitarian Predicaments and Palestinian Refugee Politics

About the Book

Palestinian refugees’ experience of protracted displacement is among the lengthiest in history. In her breathtaking new book, Feldman explores this community’s engagement with humanitarian assistance over a 70-year period and its persistent efforts to alter present and future conditions. Based on extensive archival and field research, Life Lived in Relief offers a comprehensive account of the Palestinian refugee experience in many places and across multiple generations.

Marlene Laruelle and Jean Radvanyi, Understanding Russia: The Challenges of Transformation.

About the Book

This timely book provides a balanced and comprehensive view of the multiple forces that drive contemporary Russia. While this vast nation has long inspired fear in the West, Russia itself is frightened, the authors argue. Three decades after perestroika, multiple ghosts haunt both Russian elites and ordinary citizens, ranging from concerns about territorial challenges and economic decline to worries about vulnerability to external intervention. Faced with a West that emerged victorious from the Cold War, an increasingly powerful China and struggles with former Soviet republics, Russia today often questions its identity, its path forward, and its role on the international stage.

Melanie McAlister, The Kingdom of God Has No Borders: A Global History of American Evangelicals.

About the Book

More than 40 years ago, conservative Christianity emerged as a major force in American political life. The Kingdom of God Has No Borders offers a daring new perspective on conservative Christianity, shifting the lens to focus on the world outside U.S. borders. McAlister offers a sweeping narrative of the last 50 years of evangelical history, upending much of what we thought we knew about American evangelicals.

Robert Sutter, Foreign Relations of the PRC: The Legacies and Constraints of China’s International Politics Since 1949, Second Edition.

About the Book

This cogent, comprehensive book examines the international relations of the People’s Republic of China in the decades since its founding in 1949. Sutter provides a balanced assessment of the country’s recent advances, as well as the important legacies and constraints that hamper it, especially challenged from neighboring nations — long the major focus of China’s foreign policy. Sutter demonstrates how Beijing has carefully constructed an image of a nation that adheres to morally correct policies, all the while racking up a record of inconsistent behavior and frequent episodes of violence, intimidation and coercion.


Bringing Student Experiences Abroad, Home to the Elliott School

Every year, Elliott School students travel the globe in search of international education, overseas internships and connections abroad — and of course, the thing that sets Elliott School students apart — real-life, in-the-field experiences. This past academic year was no exception. The submissions from the annual Elliott School Abroad photo competition were exceptional.

We received submissions from faraway locations including Brazil, Serbia, Norway, Chile, Uganda, and the Korean Demilitarized Zone. They depict breathtaking landscapes and stories of humanity, often focusing on visual portrayals of the international struggles Elliott School students have witnessed and hope to one day help to solve.

This year, due to the quality and variety of submissions, the Elliott School will hold an exhibition of the featured photography and host an opening reception on October 25, located in the Elliott School’s second floor atrium space. At the conclusion of the exhibit, the students will have the opportunity to take the prints home to hang as a reminder of their accomplishments and time abroad.


We are pleased to announce the winners of this year’s Elliott School Abroad Photo Contest!


Honorable Mention:
Bellín submitted by Cole Falkner, B.A. ’20

Bellín submitted by Cole Falkner, B.A. '20

“In Puerto Natales, I walked into a woman’s shop. The walls were littered with handsewn sweaters, intricately crafted jewelry and a myriad of photographs all made by local artists or herself. We spoke about the art in the shop, and I bought some photos, then she let me take her photo. Her name was Bellín.”  





Honorable Mention:
The Saharan Situation submitted by Calla Gilson, B.A.’18

The Saharan Situation submitted by Calla Gilson, B.A.'18

“This photo was taken in the desert as each member of my study abroad cohort raised their unique color of the traditional dyed scarf of the region to billow in the breeze. The contrast of the colors against the Saharan sand reflects the vivid nature of my time in such a colorful country.”





Honorable Mention
Battling the Sea submitted by Yongbao Zhuang, B.A. 20

Battling the Sea submitted by Yongbao Zhuang, B.A. ’20

Aomori, Japan
This photo was shot on the coast of the Sea of Japan in the northeastern prefecture of Aomori, and depicts a local fisherman battling against the storm while fishing for clams and oysters. The Aomori Prefecture, along with Iwate and Miyagi prefecture, are located near the Japan Fishing Ground— one of the countries and is in decline due to overfishing 




3rd Place:
Machu Picchu Sunrise submitted by Lauren Bell, B.A.’19

Machu Picchu Sunrise submitted by Lauren Bell, B.A.'19

After a 
four-day trek through the Inca Jungle, the group I was with hiked up to Machu Picchu around 5 in the morning. When we arrived at the top the sun was rising above the foggy mountains and there were more alpacas and people. It was a new, beautiful world for me. 







2nd Place:
الشاي مع الأصدقاء (Tea with friends) submitted by Shannon McKeown, B.A.’19

الشاي مع الأصدقاء (Tea with friends) submitted by Shannon McKeown, B.A.'19Wadi Rum desert, Wadi Rum Village, Jordan
This picture was taken in a traditional Bedouin tent in Wadi Rum desert in Jordan. Tea is an important part of Jordanian culture as it facilitates social interactions and a sense of community.







1st Place:
Joy submitted by Chinwe Weli,  M.A.’18

Joy submitted by Chinwe Weli,  M.A.'18

Meherpur, Bangladesh 
This photo was shot at a local school in the Meherpur district in Bangladesh. The female students are captured laughing excitedly after answering a question in class. Their school recently received a multimedia classroom from Save the Children as the government works to introduce innovative solutions to the primary education system. 




Thank you to everyone who submitted photos. It truly was the most impressive group the Elliott School has ever received. And don’t forget to capture your experiences this year! We hope to see everyone at the exhibit’s opening reception on October 25, 2018.

Beyond the Front Page: “Matters of State” Alumni Podcast

Beyond the Front Page: “Matters of State” Alumni Podcast

The weekly podcast “Matters of State” was created in fall 2015 by several Elliott School graduate students, now alumni, to explore underreported international affairs topics. We recently caught up with Kevin Fairdosi (MA ’16), Lacey Bruske (MA ’16), John Blaha (MA ’16), Bobby Shields (MA ’17), James Goymour (MIS ’15), and Lindsey Spanner (MA ’16) about their project.

How did you meet?

Lacey, John, and Kevin all met during first-year orientation, before even starting the semester. Kevin and John bonded over their Texas roots from the start. There were several other original members who have since parted ways, and we began looking for new recruits. Bobby, JB, and Lindsey all impressed us with their experience and enthusiasm.

Tell us a bit about the beginnings of the podcast.

Kevin first had the idea of starting a podcast related to our studies in international affairs, but it took the whole team (and some trial and error) to really define our goals and develop it into what it has become. We held many meetings in Gelman, coffee shops, and peoples’ apartments, where we planned our goals, defined positions and responsibilities, and deliberated over things like the podcast name and what topics to cover. Though we had many ideas for what we wanted to discuss, we also wanted to bring something unique to the table. That’s why we decided to focus on important global issues that aren’t getting a lot of attention on the front pages.

What have been some challenges and highlights?

We’ve had plenty of challenges along the way! Just producing the podcast presented a lot of technical challenges. None of us knew the first thing about recording audio or how to publish a podcast. Now we are comfortable with that, and we have the weekly challenges of creating each episode. None of us pretend to be experts on the particular issues we discuss. Rather, we present ourselves as people who spend time researching a topic and then scratch the surface of that topic on the air. Scheduling episodes, doing the required research, writing outlines, and even finding the time to meet can be challenging.  

It has been well worth the work, though. For one, we have had the opportunity to pick the brains of experts in their respective fields, such as former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul and Jamie Franklin, executive director of Mines Advisory Group America. We’ve also all become more well-rounded IR professionals, because the nature of the podcast requires us to study things that are outside of our areas of expertise. Last but not least, we’ve all built friendships through this project.

We’d love to hear how you get your ideas for each episode…

So many ways! We have regular meetings where we discuss the next month or so of episodes. Some ideas come to us from listeners or friends (contact us if you would like to share ideas!). Sometimes one of us will read a blurb about a subject that we want to dig into further. Many of the topics are also issues that we have discussed in classes, like our episode on unorthodox illicit financing.

Are there particular classes and/or professors that influenced you in your journey to create Matters of State?

A number of professors inspired our episodes. Kim Thachuk, for example, really inspired us to explore how international problems are interconnected and how almost everything is a part of a vast web. This is a common theme in many of our episodes.

Any words of advice for today’s Elliott School students who would like to make a positive difference in the world through new media outlets – or other entrepreneurial ventures?

Define your personal goals, and make a concrete plan on how to get there. This advice could apply to any entrepreneurial venture, as it is so important. On reflection, we could have reached out to more people who had already gone through the challenges we were likely to face. It can be most enlightening to speak with others who have made it in the field that interests you.

Also: contact us! We are always looking for talented people who want to contribute to our mission by doing research, speaking, managing the website, editing audio, and any other creative way possible. To those who aim to make a positive difference through media, we really think that Matters of State is an important pursuit worth taking seriously.


To contact Matters of State and sign up for the podcast, visit their website:

Freeman Fellows In Asia

Last year, 19 Elliott School graduate students set off for various destinations across Asia to intern for NGOs, the U.S. Department of State, for-profit companies, social enterprise startups and humanitarian assistance organizations. All of these students had received Freeman Foundation grants that enabled their travel, supported living expenses and offered a modest stipend to finance their otherwise unpaid internships. The students applied through and received assistance from the Graduate Student Services (GSS) office throughout the application process.

Nickolas Sorensen, M.A. ’19, headed to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to work for an Australian-owned social enterprise called SHE Investments. There, he created workshops for micro-enterprises, applying for grants in order to help the businesses achieve growth and navigate the country’s bureaucracy. This is Sorensen’s fourth stint in Asia; he has previously worked in Nepal, Taiwan and India. After graduating, Nic plans to return to Asia for full-time work in humanitarian assistance.

For Breanna Bethel, M.A. ’19, Asia was a completely new experience. Having traveled extensively in Europe, she wanted to experience something less familiar and set her sights on China. She was hired by the State Department’s Shanghai office to help manage local contracts and administration for one of the largest diplomatic posts in China. Despite experiencing stronger culture shock than she had anticipated, Bethel still dramatically improved her spoken Chinese, learned the fine art of Chinese dumpling making and gave a presentation to Chinese nationals about the differences between rural and urban America. She also is eager to explore more of Asia and next hopes to travel to Japan.

The generous Freeman Foundation grants were enabled by Mansfield Freeman, a member of the original management group that started an insurance business in China at the turn of the 20th century. The fledgling business grew into the behemoth American International Group (AIG). Freeman also was a prominent scholar of Chinese philosophy and the founder of the Freeman Foundation, created to promote mutual cross-cultural understanding between Asia and the United States.

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