By Peggy McInerny
International Institute, July 11, 2012 —
That pizza will attract undergraduates to a meeting is an established fact. But pizza and research papers? That was the combination that drew a number of International Institute Interdepartmental Program (IDP)
students together at the end of Spring 2013 quarter to learn about one another’s research projects.
These two women help intrepid International Institute IDP students navigate the UCLA academic labyrinth, register for courses across departments and fulfill IDP graduation requirements — all the while lending them moral support and cheering them on.
Mike Lofchie, Chair of IDS, greeted the students warmly. He noted that IDP students can sometimes feel without a home, given that their studies are interdisciplinary by nature, and wholeheartedly recommended that such get-togethers become a regular feature of their life at UCLA. International Institute IDP students have an excellent reputation among UCLA faculty, said Lofchie, noting that whenever he asks department chairs about IDP students, they invariably identify them as their best students.
International Institute IDP students are dedicated, added Mike Thies, as it takes effort to figure out how to put the courses together that will meet their major or minor degree requirements — you don’t just follow a set of requirements set out for you. Thies is Chair of both the Global Studies and International & Area Studies programs. When he teaches Global Studies students, he said, it’s clear they are a different group than political science students – more passionate about international politics.
A number of International Institute IDP students, many of whom would graduate in less than two weeks, then presented research papers or made presentations on international volunteer work. Two, Katherine Parkinson and James Walker, presented findings from their senior theses for the Global Studies program.
Parkinson analyzed programs and the literature dealing with the reintegration of former armed combatants into civilian society, a process known as DDR (disarmament, demobilization and reintegration). She argued for a rethinking of the paradigm for such programs, recommending that they focus on building the capacity of local societies to understand why former soldiers took up arms in the first place and engage them in defining what DDR will mean in their communities.
Walker spoke about his research on the impact of international criminal tribunals on national sovereignty, using three case studies on:
General Augusto Pinochet, a former head of state (Chile), who was arrested in London on an indictment issued by a Spanish magistrate and eventually returned to Chile for trial;
Slobodan Milošević, a deposed head of state (Yugoslavia, then Serbia), who was tried by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia; and
Omar al-Bashir, a sitting head of state (Sudan), for whom the International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued several arrest warrants but continues to govern his country and travel freely in North Africa.
Walker noted that the normative progression of prosecutions had culminated in a denial of the sovereign immunity of national leaders, with the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (which established the ICC) outlawing any law that could block a leader’s culpability for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression.
IDS students Caity Campos and Priscilla Mapelli then spoke about their work with nonprofit organizations in developing countries. Both young women have engaged in multiple humanitarian endeavors as UCLA students, both in the Los Angeles community and abroad. Campos spoke in particular about Global-7, a nonprofit that she founded while attending high school in Argentina with the idea that one school can be a model for development.
After fundraising for the organization upon her return to the United States, Campos created a number of programs for students in the Argentine school, including trash collection, recycling and repainting over graffiti; an after-school program; and college scholarships. She went on to establish similar programs in Granada and Nicaragua in 2010, the administration of which she passed off to seven high school students whom she chaperoned to the region in 2013.
Mapelli discussed her extensive volunteer work with UCLA UniCamp
and Global Brigades at UCLA
. She traveled with the latter organization to Honduras five times and Ghana twice to help build local clinics and work on clean water projects during her four years at UCLA. Mapelli will join Global Brigades as a staff member after graduation to foster similar such partnerships in that country.
Finally, two students pursuing majors under the International & Area Studies IDP presented their research projects. Andrea Avila, a B.A.-M.A. student in Latin American Studies, examined the impact of displacements caused by three generations of civil conflict in Colombia (about 50 years). According to Avila, the country has the second-highest number of displaced people in the world, the greatest number of whom are women (often widows) and children.
Continual displacement accompanied by great violence has resulted in a number of impacts on this population, said Avila, including the spread of infectious and skin diseases, anxiety and depression, malnutrition, land mine injuries, habitation in areas with poor infrastructure and inadequate access to health services.
Angela Arunarsirakul, a Southeast Asian studies major, spoke about her research on why Thai students go abroad for education, based on a small sample of Thai students currently studying at UCLA. Her research looked at the push-pull factors involved in the decision, with Thais going abroad in increasing numbers and UCLA aggressively recruiting foreign students. Among her findings was that the median family income of Thai students at UCLA was quite high (although this average had been skewed by a few cases), as were their SAT scores.
The presentations and the collegial atmosphere of the afternoon reflected the kaleidoscope of interests, intellectual curiosity and passion common among IDP students at UCLA. They may not have a typical departmental home, but they certainly recognize one another. And so do their professors.