|International Studies Program Still Young, but Offers Global Perspective
Lebanon Valley College’s international studies program is just three years old but is already providing high impact and meaningful opportunities for its students. Its graduates have gone on to graduate programs at American University and the New School while others are completing work for the United Nations and organizations in places like Kosovo, Serbia, Thailand, South Korea, China, and Norway.
Last semester, four current students participated in undergraduate research in conjunction with Dr. Christopher Dolan, director of the international studies program. Ashley Ferrari ’13, Katheryn O’Hara ’15, Susanna Chehata ’13, and Genevieve Hugenbruch ’14 were invited to present that research at the International Studies Association Northeast conference in Maryland last November. It was there that they presented in front of a panel of professionals and experts.
While many students exude a passion for learning about international affairs, the real opportunity is in the research, conferences, and real-life experiences, as these women can attest.
“The program has been more than I ever could have imagined with all of the research we’ve done and all of the conferences we’ve attended,” said Hugenbruch, who “accidentally” spoke to Dolan at LVC Live and later discovered the program actually fit her interests.
While Dolan led the research, the students played an essential and active role in the decision of the topic and the research itself.
“When you’re doing faculty and undergraduate research at LVC, you don’t do what the professor wants you to write about. You really collaborate and try to find something you are all interested in,” Hugenbruch said.
Hugenbruch was also selected to present at the State University of New York-Buffalo for accomplishments with her own individual research paper. She was the only undergraduate student selected to present there and her work will appear among Ph.D. candidates in the self-published volume of that conference’s research presentations.
“To see her [Hugenbruch] stand in the same light as professionals and hold her own was absolutely amazing,” recalled O’Hara, who attended the conference with Hugenbruch for support.
“I wouldn’t be at any conference or writing any of these papers that are being published — or have the potential to be published — if it wasn’t for LVC’s international studies program,” Hugenbruch said.
While writing research papers is a commendable accomplishment, some experiences within the department are less visible, such as traveling extensively during their undergraduate careers.
“It’s very interdisciplinary,” said Ferrari, who studied abroad in Spain and went to Mexico with a Spanish professor to aid in research. “Those experiences have been beneficial to me in that, instead of just writing about things or reading about them, I’ve actually experienced being in that culture and living in it. I think it makes me relate more to the work I do about other cultures,” she said.
Each of the four women plans to integrate extensive traveling into their life post-graduation and has aspirations of using their degrees in different ways.
Chehata chose international studies because she was born into an Egyptian family and lived in the United Kingdom for nine years – she wanted to learn about cultures beyond her own. She also majors in economics and plans to use her two majors to complete law school with a concentration in international law.
Ferrari has a less solid grasp on her future plans but knows her general direction, “I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I do know that I love the academic atmosphere,” she said. Ferrari has also considered working in international government embassies, to make use of her three majors in international studies, political science, and Spanish.
Hugenbruch shares Ferrari’s love for academia, saying, “I plan on going to grad school for international studies or international relations with a concentration in security studies.” Afterward, Hugenbruch intends to work in a think-tank or earn a Ph.D. in hopes of becoming a professor. She is triple majoring in history and German in addition to her international studies pursuits.
O’Hara, also a Spanish major, plans to work internationally and hopes to pursue research in South America. She, too, has aspirations to become a professor so that she can apply her own experiences in the classroom. “I’m from a military family, so traveling has been my life. I’m always interested in what’s going on overseas; I love learning about different cultures,” O’Hara said.
All four women agree that the department’s leadership has contributed to their experience and led them to aspire further in the field.
“Dr. Dolan has watched us grow. The mentoring, guidance, and growth we are getting from working with someone like him is extremely beneficial,” Chehata said.
Hugenbruch added, “The faculty and rigorous research really pushes you to work hard, do your best, and put yourself into what you’re working on. But you have to have a passion for what you’re doing.”
The students’ research includes:
• “Gender, Feminism, and Political Advocacy in the Contemporary Middle East,” by Chris J. Dolan, Susanna Chehata, and Genevieve R. Hugenbruch. Relates gender to the complexities of international relations and global events, such as the Arab Spring. The goal is to understand a more comprehensive view of political activism in relation to gender.
• “Internet Activism in the Arab Awakening: A Critical Assessment,” by Chris J. Dolan, Ashley Ferrari, and Katheryn J. O’Hara. Focuses on the use of social media by movement activists, specifically in the Arab Spring.
• Supra-National Organization Membership as Conflict Resolution: the European Union and Case of Bosnia-Herzegovina by Genevieve R. Hugebruch. Evaluates the paths of utilizing an EU membership to build lasting peace in the country in a non-violent manner.