A TEXT POST

2012-2013 IR Senior Thesis Research Projects

12 IR seniors are well on their way to completing senior honors thesis projects. They will present their findings at the April 19th Thesis Exchange. 

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Shauna Pierson (International Relations) is writing her thesis on the intersection of women in politics and global health. She is investigating what happens to a country’s developmental health policies when a female holds the position of Prime Minister for the first time. Specifically she is interested in the policies regarding maternal and child health, as these are historically gendered issues, yet universal in scope. For her case studies she is examining the budget allocations and health policy interventions that occurred in Pakistan under Benazir Bhutto, in India under Indira Gandhi, and in Bangladesh under Khaleda Zia. 

 

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Natasha Jessen-Petersen (International Relations and Studio Art) is writing her thesis on political art as an effective tool for human rights. She describes how political performance art is becoming increasingly ubiquitous in both the formal art world and the world in which we live. Rather than be confined by words, political art can often transcend the barrier of language. Art in Japan has therefore become an effective means of communication, in large part, because of the proliferation of information through the Internet. Political art provides the Japanese people with an outlet to express their increasing vocalization.

 

A TEXT POST

2012-2013 IR Senior Thesis Research Projects

12 IR seniors are well on their way to completing senior honors thesis projects. They will present their findings at the April 19th Thesis Exchange. 

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Sarah Schiferl (International Relations and French) is writing her thesis on a comparative analysis of the policies of France and Spain towards native minority groups within their borders. She is studying four cases: the Bretons and the French Basques in Spain, and the Catalonians and Spanish Basques in Spain.  She will first determine that differences in policies towards these groups are formed at a state level, rather than being specific to individual groups.  Then, she will evaluate theories to explain what factors motivate the creation of state policies towards native minority groups.

 

Brent Yarnell (International Relations) is writing his thesis on national interest and grand strategy in the Arab-Israeli Wars between 1967-1970. According to neorealism, the distribution of power among states is the primary factor influencing the formation of states’ national security interests and foreign policy behavior. He is investigating the extent to which domestic factors had a role in shaping the foreign policy behavior of Middle East states in the initiation, conduct and aftermath of the 1967 June Six Day War and the 1969 War of Attrition. Specifically, Brent is exploring how character of regime influenced the conduct of war and diplomacy in Egypt, Israel and Syria during this period.

 

A TEXT POST

2012-2013 IR Senior Thesis Research Projects

12 IR seniors are well on their way to completing senior honors thesis projects. They will present their findings at the April 19th Thesis Exchange. 

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Arlen Weiner (International Relations and Peace and Justice Studies) is examining the gender dimensions of environmental conflict. Feminist security scholars have argued that conflict and peace are gendered activities and gender must be incorporated more systematically into conflict analyses. However, the examination of gender has been largely absent in environmental conflict literature. Through an analysis of two case studies—the Cauvery River dispute in India and pastoralist conflicts in Turkana, Kenya—this thesis explores the gender impacts of each conflict, the gender symbolism of the natural resources parties are fighting over, and the structure of gender in society and government. The ultimate goal of the research is to bridge the gap between two sets of conflict analyses and provide a more comprehensive view of environmental security.

 

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Ilana Hosios (International Relations) is writing her thesis on China’s pursuit of energy security and the implications of said pursuit on U.S.-China relations, specifically, whether China’s oil acquisition policies are part of a broader systematic challenge to U.S. power around the world. Ilana is analyzing four aspects of China’s energy security policies: the structure of China’s energy sector, China’s maritime strategy (with particular focus on the disputed territories in the South and East China Seas), China’s oil acquisition in the Middle East (Saudi Arabia and Iran) and China’s oil-for-loan deals (Sudan and Venezuela). 

 

A TEXT POST

2012-2013 IR Senior Thesis Research Projects

12 IR seniors are well on their way to completing senior honors thesis projects. They will present their findings at the April 19th Thesis Exchange. 

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Jessica Wolff (International Relations and Economics) is examining the relationship between conflict and urbanization in sub-Saharan Africa. Through a literature review and econometric analysis using data from the UN, World Bank, World Development Indicators, and Uppsala Conflict Data Program/Peace Research Institute Oslo for 41 countries, this thesis sets out to explore if the presence of conflict can explain the apparent ‘over-urbanization’ of sub-Saharan Africa. It will explore the intricacy of the relationship between these two phenomena through both fixed effects panel data regressions and an instrumental variables regression.

 

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Mark Rafferty (International Relations and Arabic) is writing his thesis on the management of water resources shared between Israelis and Palestinians and the ways that water issues are framed. Mark is using constructivist theories to show that discourse matters; whether policymakers and academics present water scarcity as a technical, political, or economic issue leads them to recommend different policies and institutions for managing shared water. The thesis analyzes these disputes and shows the practical effects they have on regional water development policies. Mark argues that a joint management strategy in Israel and Palestine must address multiple paradigms to be acceptable and sustainable. 

A TEXT POST

2013 Senior Thesis Exchange | April 19th, Chase Dining Room

On Friday, April 19, more than 20 Tufts seniors will present their thesis research findings in a full day celebration of undergraduate scholarship. The day will be broken into five panels, organized by topic, with breakfast, lunch, and afternoon hors d’oeuvres for all panelists and guests. You are invited to attend all panels, or just the ones of particular interest to you. We do request, though, that you stay for the full duration of any panel you decide to attend.

8:30 - 9:00 | Continental Breakfast

9:00 - 10:15 | Panel 1: Topics in U.S. History

Presenters:

  • Karen Adler: A Capital Conundrum: Deciphering the Reasons Behind the District of Columbia’s Disenfranchisement 
  • Jacob Denney: "Brother Warriors": American Indian Soldiers in the Continental Army
  • Duncan MacLaury: The Black Panther Party of Boston: A Narrative History and Exploration of the Revolution Locally

10:20 - 11:50 | Panel 2: Water, Housing, Urbanization, Mining - ME to Peru

Presenters:

  • Mark Rafferty: Water Words: Discourses of Development in Israel/Palestine
  • Brent Yarnell: National Interest and Grand Strategy in Arab-Israeli Wars, 1967-1970
  • Caitlyn Doucette: The Politics of Humanitarian Aid: A Study of the Housing Sector of the West Bank
  • Jessica Wolff: Conflict and Urbanization in Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Stephanie Powell: The Cerro de Pasco: American Mining in the Peruvian Highlands

12:00 - 12:30 | Buffet Lunch

12:30 - 1:45 | Panel 3: Gender Politics and Language 

Presenters:

  • Kira Hessekiel: The “Crying Double Standard”: Addressing the Issues of Gender and Context in the Effect of Candidate Tears on Voter Affect
  • Arlen Weiner: Environmental Conflict: A Comparative Gender Analysis 
  • Charlotte Mostertz: Traditional Roles, Feminine Anxiety, and the Consumption of Peace: “Thing Buyers” in the Transition to a Post WWII World
  • Blair Read: Intra-Household Power Dynamics - Assessing Market, Governmental, and Attitudinal Determinants of Household Bargaining Power in Indonesian Families
  • Sarah Schiferl: Regional and Minority Language Policy in France and Spain

2:00 - 3:30 | Panel 4: International Health and Energy Security

Presenters:

  • Rebecca DiBiase: The Integration of Traditional Mayan Medicine and Western Biomedicine in Present-Day Guatemala
  • Perri Meldon: Soil and the Soul: The Healing Effects of Farming in Nineteenth-Century America
  • David Meyers: Impact of Mobile Technology
  • Shauna Pierson: Intersection of Women in Politics and Global Health
  • Ilana Hosios: China’s Pursuit of Energy Security 

3:45 - 5:00 | Panel 5: Europe / Russia / Art in Japan

Presenters:

  • Megan Wasson: Public Opinion and the Future of European Union Collective Security
  • Ben Van Meter: Russia’s Oligarchs and the Making of the Loyal Economy
  • Natasha Jessen Petersen: The Role of Contemporary Political Art in Japan

A TEXT POST

2012-2013 IR Senior Thesis Research Projects

12 IR seniors are well on their way to completing senior honors thesis projects. They will present their findings at the April 19th Thesis Exchange.

Megan Wasson (International Relations and Spanish)  is examining the state of public opinion in the European Union, and particularly in Spain, on both NATO and the EU’s own Common Security and Defense Policy/Common Foreign and Security Policy.  She hopes to identify major trends in public opinion on these two collective security organizations and isolate the causes behind shifts in opinion.  Her goal is to discover what future public opinion holds for the CSDP/CFSP and for the EU’s changing relationship with NATO.

 

Rebecca DiBiase (International Relations and Biology) is examining the fundamental theoretical similarities underlying traditional Mayan medical beliefs and practices and Western biomedicine. She also identifies points of disjunction between the contemporary Guatemalan and United States healthcare systems, and differences in the institutions supporting their medical practices. Rebecca conducted her investigation first-hand in Guatemala by observing and interviewing various Guatemalan healthcare providers, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, midwives, clinic administrators, traditional healers, and medical anthropologists. She compares her results with those from other documented studies conducted in the same regions of Guatemala, as well as Mayan-based communities in Puerto Rico. The ultimate goal of the study is to identify whether the theoretical and practical aspects of the two healthcare systems have enough fundamental overlap to allow for an integrated system to be successfully established in Guatemala.

 

A TEXT POST

2012-2013 IR Senior Thesis Research Projects

12 IR seniors are well on their way to completing senior honors thesis projects. They will present their findings at the April 19th Thesis Exchange. 

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Caitlyn Doucette (International Relations and Arabic) is examining the intersection between humanitarianism, aid, economic development, and politics in the housing sector of the West Bank. While abroad, Caitlyn traveled across the West Bank in order to learn about how various cities and villages’ interactions with the Israeli occupation shape the housing crisis. She was able to conduct research through two organizations that mitigate housing issues and hopes to shed light on the policies that bar hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from securing adequate housing. The project was made possible through a generous grant from the IR Scholars Program. 

 

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David Meyers (International Relations and Community Health) is writing his thesis on the impact of mobile technology such as cellphones on global health initiatives in different international contexts. The new field of mHealth technology offers a great deal of promise in changing the ways that non-governmental and governmental organizations do their public health work in resource limited settings alike. Using case studies from Kenya and Nepal, and interviews with experts in the field, the thesis aims to evaluate the effects of this new tool-set, and to look at how these tools are being used in different countries.

 

A TEXT POST

Current IR Students Engaging in the Real World

Tufts IR students discover the importance of global health through real life field experience in Guatemala

By: Rebecca DiBiase, A13

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Passion for international outreach and exploration is ingrained in every student who passes through the Tufts International Relations Program. Over winter break, a group of undergraduates put their education to practice in the highlands of rural Guatemala.

The group worked through Timmy Global Health, a national organization founded in 1997 by Dr. Charles Dietzen and named after his brother, who died in infancy. The organization empowers students to help expand healthcare access in local and global communities. Timmy currently has over forty-four student chapters across the U.S. that travel to Guatemala, Ecuador, and the Dominican Republic. Its current executive director, Matt MacGregor, was an undergraduate international relations and history major at Tufts, and received his Master of Arts in International Affairs from the Fletcher School. In addition, two young Tufts alumni, August Longino (2011) and Nitin Shrivastava (2012) currently work for Timmy Global Health in Ecuador and Guatemala, respectively.image

This year’s Tufts Timmy team is an eclectic group of nineteen students with a variety of majors and interests. Its international relations majors are Dahiana Duarte (2015), Eric Wellers (2015), Alejandra Garcia-Pletsch (2015), team trip leader Rebecca DiBiase (2013), and team president Alexa Rosenthall (2013).

For seven days this January, the students worked in Xela, Guatemala, a city 7,500 feet in the mountains with cornfields lining its roads and the volcano Santa Maria towering above it. The students worked in a number of tasks, including triaging, translating for the medical professionals, administering fluoride, and conducting pharmaceutical consultations.image

Upon returning to Boston, the students reflect on how the experience supplemented their Tufts education. “It is quite amazing being able to see how the many hours of studying play an integral role in real life work,” comments Garcia-Pletsch. Duarte adds: “I often find myself applying the information I learned when I took Social Psychology for Core Requirement 5…The theories on group and helping behavior are particularly important and integral to service work.”

The experience also helped the students craft their future academic plans. Rosenthall says: “I was eager to take classes that were related to the clinical and community experiences I had in Guatemala.” Garcia-Pletsch is incorporating the trip into a research paper this semester, and DiBiase is writing her senior honors thesis on the coexistence of traditional Mayan medicine and western biomedicine in present-day Guatemala.

The students agree that academics should be coupled with primary experience to achieve a fulfilling educational experience. Wellers remarked on how eye-opening it was to see the differing Western and Guatemalan worldviews, while Duarte marveled at how the experience “[forced] you to think beyond the realm of history as it relates to war and peace or economics, and [to] consider how health affects the everyday life of individuals in a nation.”

All the students agreed that the experiences inspired them to pursue their international relations education with heightened enthusiasm. Garcia-Pletsch shares: “The hugs we received in return for our clinical work and the many words of thanks will always stick with me as a tangible moment depicting the importance of global health.”

A TEXT POST

The Rewards of Doing Research

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What happens when the language of a people is lost or forgotten?”   Professor José Antonio Mazzotti, chair of the Department of Romance Languages, opened a recent research symposium hosted by the IR Program with this question.  As he presented his interdisciplinary research project, Documenting and Revitalizing Iskonawa in Peru, Mazzotti stated that linguists believe that at least half the world’s nearly seven thousand languages will be lost in this century. The Iskonawa language is almost extinct.

The goals of the Iskonawa project transcend language documentation and involve community development, language revitalization and cultural empowerment.  Mazzotti’s team is producing a comprehensive database in a website that will organize the basic information about grammar, vocabulary and oral tradition of the Iskonawa people.  The training and participation of both students and native speakers in language documentation, linguistic analysis and development materials will contribute to a better education of Peruvian people about the richness of their linguistic and cultural diversity. The knowledge gained through Mazzotti’s study of the Iskonawa language and people contributes to the fields of anthropology, cultural studies and linguistics.  It also helps preserve a vast legacy of cultural production in the form of songs, rituals, dances and oral narratives.   The project was funded primarily by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).  IR major Carolina Maria Reyes, A14 participated in the Iskonawa project as a research assistant through an IR grant known as Field Experience for International Relations Students (FEIRS).  FEIRS supports scholarly collaboration between IR students and faculty engaged in field research. 

After Mazzotti’s presentation, three seniors who were selected as IR Research Scholars last year presented an overview of their summer research at the symposium. Averi Becque conducted research in Cuba, examining access to and impact of family planning services.  Caitlyn Doucette spent several weeks on the West Bank, researching aid and housing under occupation.  And Arlen Weiner investigated international environmental security through a gendered analysis.  Caitlyn and Arlen are now in the midst of writing their senior honors theses and will formally present their findings on April 19th in the Chase Center (see more info about this event on page 7).   

Doing research can be a daunting task.  The rewards, however, can be immeasurable.

The primary goals are discovery, documentation, interpretation and the development of methods and systems for the advancement of human knowledge.  The exploration brings the researcher to the limits of human knowledge and then beyond.

Whether for an independent summer project, a research paper for a seminar course, or a senior honors thesis, conducting research and developing the requisite skills enables students to elevate their learning to the next level.  Academics value research, but employers, too, recognize its importance and the skills it engenders.   In just about any career, a leader is the person who poses the significant questions, obtains and evaluates the data, organizes thoughts and articulates them clearly, draws conclusions and substantiates them. 

At the recent IR Alumni Career Panels (see page 1) several IR alumni from various careers paths encouraged current students to seek courses and opportunities that will build their skill sets.  For example, Ross Thuotte, A10 described a job interview for his first position in a Washington D.C. think tank.  He said that he mentioned his senior honors thesis on regional economic integration in Africa in passing, but his interviewer kept veering the conversation back to his thesis.  Ross is convinced that completing a research project distinguished him from the other candidates for the position.  After being selected for the job, he went on to collect a salary for doing research.  Another panelist, Nick Burns, A10 also urged current students to enroll in courses where they can learn quantitative reasoning skills. Others echoed his suggestion, stating that regardless of your career choice, you will need to analyze complex data in one form or another and make sense of it.

A TEXT POST

Inaugural IR Alumni Career Symposium

One of the major goals of the IR Program this year has been to supplement its academic excellence with an emphasis on building a strong IR community. While the program has made strides in building connections among students and among faculty, one critical group had been missing: alumni.

With this in mind, the IR Program, in partnership with the IR Director’s Leadership Council student organization, organized the first IR Alumni Career Symposium, held on February 16, 2013. The full day symposium, held in the Cabot Center, welcomed over 20 alumni back to campus, with the goals of providing lifelong learning opportunities for alumni, expanding opportunities for alumni to mentor current IR students, and providing forums for alumni to connect with each other.

Participating alumni came with a wide range of work experience and background. We were joined by alumni working at the federal level, as a Foreign Service officer and with the Federal Reserve Bank; at the state level with the Attorney General’s office; and in the private sector with management consulting firms and firms advising on investment strategies in developing economies. We were also joined by teachers, journalists, Peace Corps volunteers, and even the very first student to major in International Relations at Tufts.

The day kicked off with a lunch for all alumni, students, faculty and staff in attendance, followed by the keynote lecture with Professor Eichenberg. After the keynote, attendees broke up into smaller panel discussions organized by career field and general theme, where alumni shared their work and life experiences with current IR students. The first session of panels consisted of discussions on Careers in Public Service, Careers in Business, and Careers in Journalism. The second session of panels featured discussions titled Life After Tufts: The First Few Years; Choosing the Right Gradate Program; and Setting Out on Your Own: Entrepreneurship and Self-Employment. The day wrapped up with a reception for all IR alumni participants.

The IR Program hopes the event will become an annual tradition, and that the event will help kick-start the renewal of a relationship between IR alumni, the program, and it’s students and faculty.

 

A TEXT POST

Out of Darkness, Into Light

By Anna Carolina Cardenas, A13, International Relations

Some of the most daunting humanitarian issues of our time are masked behind the many faces of dictatorship throughout the world. This past May, Sabrina Ghaus, William Luk, Vasundhara Jolly and I had the unique opportunity to attend the Oslo Freedom Forum through the Oslo Scholars Program under the Institute for Global Leadership. The conference, titled Out of Darkness, Into Light, brought the world’s most appalling human rights violations to the forefront of global awareness.  We were humbled to be in the presence of a variety of visionaries, social advocates and dissidents, all working together to shed light on and exchange ideas about how to combat civil right issues that are hidden in our society.

The conference, organized by the Human Rights Foundation, brought together activists from every field, including anti-slavery pioneers, activists and victims of oppression from Cambodia, Haiti, Nepal, Equatorial Guinea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Ecuador and Venezuela. The program featured themes of modern-day slavery, dictatorship, the drug war’s impact on human rights, Russia’s crackdown on uprisings, global censorship and freedom from poverty as an individual right. The voices of activists that were once victims, such as Somaly Mam, echoed around the auditorium. Mam, a former child sex slave, channeled her horrific experience towards helping others. She established, in 1996, the Somaly Mam Foundation, which rehabilitates young girls in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.  Speaking to her in the intimate setting of a small reception area, I came to the realization that this conference was about the reverberation of truth, a place for those unafraid to speak it, a haven where human rights are regarded “as equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family.”

During the summer, each of us was given the opportunity to intern with one of the speakers from the conference. I worked in Ecuador with Mauricio Rodas, an up and coming presidential candidate and founder of the Ethos Foundation, an organization working to promote poverty alleviation, economic development, liberty and human rights in Latin America. Through my time in Quito, I met with economists, political advisors, human rights advocates and consultants, all working towards educating the people about their basic rights and their responsibility to hold their government accountable. This experience provided me with a greater understanding of the issue of populism and human rights.

As an International Security major, this opportunity touched me, moved me, and pushed me towards incorporating truth and a deeper understanding for humanitarian issues in all my endeavors. As a senior, I encourage all Tufts students to seek out these opportunities in an effort to educate themselves about the most silenced crimes in our world.  The Oslo Freedom Forum showed myself, and everyone else that attended, that the words of just a few who have devoted their life to these studies can change the minds of many.

A TEXT POST

Disease in Delhi

By Maxine Builder, A13, International Relations

The first time that I contracted bacterial dysentery during my semester abroad in New Delhi, India was kind of comical. A week of antibiotics and a slew of references to “The Oregon Trail” later, and my dysentery was gone.

But the second time I got sick was less funny, and the third time was the worst. Three months after my arrival in India, I was lying in a private Indian hospital where I was so dehydrated that the nurses spent the better part of an hour trying to find a vein in which to put an IV. I was once again diagnosed with bacterial dysentery.

As an International Relations major with a concentration in Global Health, I had come to Delhi to learn about public health in India. Suddenly the tables had been turned, and I was on the receiving end of the healthcare system. My hospital visit was a direct result of a major public health problem in India’s major cities: endemic levels of waterborne illnesses.

This supremely uncomfortable experience did fuel an interest in the relationship between public health and the built environment. I wanted to know why these waterborne diseases, although easily preventable, were so common in Delhi. What about the sanitation infrastructure had failed, and how could it be fixed?

I conducted a month-long independent study project that looked at the Master Plan for Delhi and its solution to increase access to potable water through the widespread installation of rooftop rainwater harvest systems. But this plan – although efficient for members of the urban elite who have the financial and physical resources to install the effective technology – all but ignored the needs of the city’s most vulnerable populations.

Waterborne illnesses such as dysentery can be fatal if left untreated. Getting sick is not fun, but I am very aware of the fact that I had the resources to treat my illness while many others who contracted the same disease did not have access to the same treatment options that I did. The best way to treat waterborne diseases is to prevent them from even occurring, and the most effective form of prevention is to ensure a healthy and safe environment. This statement has become a core belief for me, and these experiences have inspired me to pursue a career in urban planning. It just took a few thousand bacteria invading my gastrointestinal tract to figure it out.

A TEXT POST

Bridging the Gap between Tourism and Microfinance

By Elly Rohrer, A11, International Relations 

I never thought my hard-earned Tufts International Relations degree would land me a job as a tour guide in Mexico. An ambitious student aiming for a career in the prestigious international non-profit sector, I never gave work in the tourism sector much consideration. What I hadn’t realized, though, is the potential that tourism has to alleviate many of the global development issues I have been interested in my whole life, such as sustainable poverty reduction and small business creation. Working with Investours, a socially responsible tourism organization, has proven to be one of the most gratifying experiences of my life. 

Tufts Investours Interns

Mexico attracts millions of warmth-deprived North Americans, Europeans, and college “Spring Breakers” a year. In fact, Mexico’s affordable yet exotic appeal makes it the 10th most visited country in the world, according to the World Tourism Organization. The resulting abundance of all-inclusive resorts, flashy nightclubs, and upscale boutiques adorning the Mexican coastlines makes it easy for the visitor to forget that Mexico is, after all, a developing country. Despite the country’s exceptionally lucrative tourism industry, half of its population still lives below the national poverty line, states Mexico’s 2010 Census.

Many travelers to Mexican destinations like Puerto Vallarta are aware of this reality, care about the local people, and are interested in learning more about authentic culture outside of all the tourist traps; unfortunately, there are surprisingly few socially responsible tourism options available. Moreover, the language barrier and the apprehensions about safety complicate the notions of “giving back” or “getting off the beaten path.”

On a tour

That’s where Investours comes in. Investours is a non-profit organization that leverages the resources generate by tourism to promote economic development in the communities surrounding Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and Dar es Salam, Tanzania. At both locations, we bring small groups of travelers into local communities where they meet men and women who need loans to start up small business projects like weaving, fishing, or bread making. By spending an afternoon with these locals, travelers gain an intimate perspective about a culture rich in traditions, cuisine, and history.  They also get to savor a locally prepared meal. This is an authentic cultural experience that travelers can feel about because Investours uses 100% of proceeds from the tour fees to empower the artisans we visit with interest-free micro-loans. 

Working at the intersection of tourism and microfinance, Investours has hit upon a truly unique way to channel resources into the underdeveloped communities surrounding major tourist destinations. So far, we have granted nearly $25,000 to Mexican and Tanzanian artisans as interest-free loans and involved over 530 travelers who have enthusiastically remained involved with our organization. Wouldn’t you consider this a success?

As the Director of the Investours Mexico program, I’ve learned so much about all aspects of running a business—from management to marketing to meeting legal and financial requirements—and, yes, running tours.  One of my favorite parts of this job, though, has been working with interns. This summer, my co-worker (also a Tufts grad) and I hosted four Tufts interns on-site. Helping them learn about Mexico, microfinance, development, and the potential tourism has to improve all of these areas was an enormously rewarding experience.  It reminded me of my Tufts years, and what it felt like to intern abroad for the first time.

We invite you to visit our website (investours.org) and Facebook page (facebook.com/investours) for more information about our organization. If you’d like to learn more about our available intern positions, please feel free to e-mail me directly at mexico@investours.org.

A VIDEO

The US Role in the Sino-Japanese Dispute Over the Diaoyu (Senkaku Islands) Yoshikazu Kato, a fellow at Harvard Kennedy School and a columnist for Financial Times, gave a lecture on October 10, 2012 on Sino-Japanese relations, particularly on recent dispute over the Senkaku Island (known as Diaoyu in China) and US role in this dispute. Kato received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in International Relations at Peking University and is the author of “Patriotic Slave,” “The Logic of China,” “China, Did I Misunderstand You?”, and more. The event was sponsored by the Tufts International Relations Director’s Leadership Council.

A TEXT POST

Women in Indonesia: Interdisciplinary Research at Tufts

Women working at Indonesian cracker factory (courtesy DMahendra, Flickr)

Women working at Indonesian cracker factory (courtesy DMahendra, Flickr)

By Menghan Liu, A14, IR Program Intern

The Tufts International Relations Program is currently researching issues of gender inequality in the Indonesian workforce and how social impediments inhibit women’s access to employment. The project’s initial phase launched this year with the objective to establish a foundational framework for policy change. Laura Babbitt, one of the project’s lead researchers and a recent PhD recipient from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, spoke with the program about her recent experiences in the field.

(Ed. note: Data from the field will soon be open to students and faculty for research purposes. To learn more and participate in bi-weekly Friday seminars this fall, contact IR Program Administrator John Taylor at john.taylor@tufts.edu).

“It was a challenge,” recent psychology PhD Laura Babbitt laughed when asked to describe her trip to Indonesia in September as one of the lead researchers for the Tufts Women in Indonesia project. 

The first research project conducted by the International Relations Program, Women in Indonesia is an interdisciplinary and open-access project uniting the collaborative efforts of Tufts University, the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), and the International Labor Organization (ILO). The project seeks to examine the unequal employment status of women in Indonesia with a long term view towards policy change.  

Laura’s experience and knowledge of social psychology landed her with the task of survey design, requiring two trips into the field this year during the project’s 2012 preliminary phase. Laura’s first trip in June aimed to identify barriers Indonesian women face, especially in terms of transitioning from the informal sector to the formal sector and receiving equitable treatment and pay. Assisted by the ILO, Laura and her team conducted key informant interviews with workers, employers, and trade unions about their day-to-day experiences. The rest of summer was then spent designing a survey that would target questions of demographics, work experience, and attitudes toward women.

Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia (courtesy Laura Babbitt)

The second trip in mid-September sought to train local enumerators to conduct the hour-long survey and collect data using new tablet computers. Laura spent a week each in the regions of East Java and North Sumatra training two teams of university students recruited by the ILO. 15 students from the University of Brawijaya would conduct 750 surveys in East Java and 13 students from the State University of Medan would conduct 250 surveys in North Sumatra, the sample size totaling 1000. 

Here the project’s trajectory took a few unexpected turns. Technical setbacks, translation issues, and cultural differences posed various challenges during the training process.  The first hiccup occurred when two tablet computers kept crashing for no apparent reason. Without extra tablets or any technical support on the ground, it took Laura almost the full first week to identify and then fix the problem – outdated graphics cards.

The students also helped identify necessary changes to the survey, including mistranslations and cultural gaps. For example, one survey question originally asked participants to distinguish between blue and green shapes on their tablet screens. However, because certain Indonesian subcultures do not differentiate between these colors, they were modified to red and purple. Similarly, one potential survey location was dropped because its residents did not speak the national language, and interpreters could not be used. “Plenty of problems had to be solved along the way,” Laura said.

Laura also encountered challenges when explaining survey methods to the students. In addition to language barriers, cultural norms occasionally conflicted with ethical norms such as informed consent and confidentiality. For example, in Indonesia it is considered rude not to enter a person’s house if invited in, although survey etiquette requires enumerators to conduct their surveys outside the home. To practice navigating such circumstances, students spent two days in the field after the initial training period and then reviewed the experience with Laura. “I think going into another culture will always present problems that are unforeseen,” Laura said. “There are always going to be technical problems as well.” 

Despite unexpected complications, Laura’s team ultimately achieved their objectives. “I would just work through as best I could,” she said. “I was there to problem solve.” She added that she enjoyed herself overall because of both the time she spent with the students and the experience of implementing a research project in another country. “It was really exciting to see that we could design something and take it all the way across the world and implement it there,” Laura said. 

Data collection from East Java and North Sumatra wrapped up in October, and the project’s next step will be to consolidate the information from all eight survey versions into a usable format by mid-December. This data will then be analyzed and used to inform pilot programs by the ILO. In the meantime, an ongoing seminar discussion by the IR Program invites faculty and students to participate in the research by making the data available for anyone at Tufts to study. For more information on the seminar, email John Taylor at john.taylor@tufts.edu.