UMass Boston

Graduate Student Snapshots

PhD Students, Global Inclusion and Social Development 

Shauna Murray



Started program in: 2021

Country of origin: USA 

Degrees held:
MA Sociology, University of Massachusetts Boston
BA Sociology, University of Massachusetts Boston

Research interests: Climate Change and Health; Early Childhood Development; Social Protection

SGISD in a nutshell: The diversity of the faculty and students as well as the transdisciplinary nature of the program.

Ideal job after graduation: Continue to work with governments in East Africa and Caribbean at the intersection of policy and research.

Fun fact: I am a board member for a non-profit called Project Sarafina which focuses on reducing barriers school-aged girls from vulnerable communities face in their attempt to receive an education.

Sharonne Taitt



Started program in: 2021

Country of origin: USA (proud first generation American from Barbadian parents)

Degrees held:
MS Intensive Special Education, Simmons University
BA History and Political Science, University of the West Indies (Cave Hill, Barbados)

Research interests: Disability Access for BIPOC youth in MA and the Caribbean.

SGISD in a nutshell: It is a true honor to be a part of a group of brilliant people from around the world - to be taught by a world class faculty who provide a safe space for students to explore, share their lived experiences and perspectives, and to truly develop and reach my academic and personal goals.

Ideal job after graduation: To effectively bridge the widening gap between social agents of change (human rights, education, medical, socioeconomic) and marginalized Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities in the US and the Caribbean.

Fun fact: I love music, all genres. I am also a classical pianist.

Lola Akinlapa



Started program in: 2021

Country of origin: USA

Degrees held:
MA Public Administration, Roger Williams University
BS Sociology/Criminology, University of Rhode Island

Research interests: Employment, Disability, Research, Data Analytics, Program design and development, and Inclusion

SGISD in a nutshell: I enjoy working with individuals with disabilities and assisting them in becoming self-sufficient. Most of my professional career has been focused research design and program evaluation. The GISD program will allow to learn new methods, best practices and adopt a better way of thinking and promoting full inclusion for all individuals with disabilities into society.

Ideal job after graduation: My ideal job is to be employed by the state government in Nigeria where I can continue working and expanding on my GISD research to design or expanded upon existing services in Nigeria and ensuring equal access to all while promoting and advocating for disability awareness.

Fun fact: I love adopting animals and I am a full-time PC gamer.

Khong Meng Her



Started program in: 2021

Country of origin: Thailand

Degrees held:
MA History, University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire
BA History, University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire

Research interests: Transnational Hmong identity development, Hmong diaspora, Asian American Studies, Refugee studies, and indigenous students.

SGISD in a nutshell: I love the diversity of the cohort and the knowledge everyone brings to the table. We all learn together and from each other. The faculty are super supportive and take the time to understand and learn from their students as well.

Ideal job after graduation: I hope to land a job that will allow me to travel and learn about different minority groups in Asia. Otherwise, work in a non-profit organization somewhere.

Fun fact: I enjoy the outdoors and being active.

Jaime Suvak



Started program in: 2021 

Country of origin: USA

Degrees held:
MS Counseling Psychology
BA Psychology, Spanish Minor

Research interests: Trauma and Disabilities. I am specifically interested in researching Peer Support for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are survivors of sexual assault.

SGISD in a nutshell: I am excited to broaden my lens through the experiences of and discussions with others. I am hopeful to engage with this program of study in order to bring a wider lens back to my own area of research.

Ideal job after graduation: I would like to continue working towards meaningful inclusive survivorship in the areas of prevention of, response to, and healing from sexual violence.

Fun fact: After trying a myriad of exercise and self-care activities over decades, I have found that boxing is the means for me. I have been an avid boxer for the last several years focusing on technique and strength-training.

Chidimma Ozor Commer



Started program in: 2020

Country of origin: USA (US-born Nigerian)

Degrees held:
MSW, University of Michigan, Concentration: Interpersonal Practice, Practice Area: Health
MA, University of Michigan, Liberal Studies, Concentration: Organizations
BA, University of Michigan, Organizational Studies

Research interests: Social impact organizations or enterprises, indigenous rights, "helping" as a concept, equity and inclusion

SGISD in a nutshell: I'm thrilled to be working alongside a diverse group of brilliant individuals who have a plethora of lived experiences globally.

Ideal job after graduation: I would like to continue educating, consulting, and leading anti-racist, anti-oppressive, diversity, equity, and inclusion trainings with my consulting firm and continue with my private therapy practice serving Black women, Black folks, and LGBTQ+ members. Moreover, I look forward to returning to higher education as a BIPOC faculty member and researcher since we are rare (despite the US' obsession with diversity, equity, and inclusion) and are still underrepresented in the ivory tower, and especially in predominantly white institutions. Ultimately, in anything and all that I do, I have a deep desire and duty to make my ancestors proud and to leave a legacy that allows me to be a good ancestor to the ones who are coming behind me.

Fun fact: I am deeply introverted and yet I have been the host of two social justice podcasts. I am always on a quest to find the best french fries and red velvet cake and/or cupcakes (and never anything else red velvet related)! I also decided to return to school and start my MSW program as I drove past the Turkish embassy in Kampala, Uganda in April 2018. That decision took seconds and I earned my MSW in July 2020!

Sonie M. Johnson



Started program in: 2020

Country of origin: Jamaica

Degrees held:
Master of Social Work, Macro, Concentration: Children Youth and Families, Boston College School of Social Work
BA, English & Sociology, Magna Cum Laude, The University of Texas at San Antonio
Associate of Arts, Northwest Vista College, San Antonio, TX

Research interests: Education, housing, homelessness, trauma, and wellness for survivors of domestic violence

SGISD in a nutshell: SGISD's commitment to equity and social justice allows me to continue collaborating with government, community agencies, and universities to improve outcomes for families at risk for homelessness. I am excited to work with individuals who support an intensive approach to diversity and inclusion to utilize our differences including gender, ethnicity, and immigration status, to build healthy communities for all.

Ideal job after graduation: I will collaborate with educational institutions, governments, policymakers, and the United Nations to address the limitations, unintended consequences of social services, and policies to create equitable outcomes, especially survivors of domestic violence.

Fun fact: I developed and taught a scholarship workshop at the Student Support Services at the University of Texas at San Antonio, at which I still teach today. I assist students in re-entering the classroom from underserved populations, including low-income, first-generation college students, survivors of domestic violence, single parents, and immigrants.

HuyenTran Vo



Started program in: 2020

Country of origin: USA

Degrees held:
MEd, Vision Studies, UMass Boston
MEd, Special Education, George Mason University
BA, Elementary Education, George Mason University

Research interests: Vision impairments and blindness; disability studies; international special education; universal design; inclusion; assessments; cultural diversity

SGISD in a nutshell: The transdisciplinary approach of SGISD program will provide me with multiple view points, education, and opportunities to help accelerate my goals to make an impact on people with visual impairments or in the special education field on a global scale. 

Ideal job after graduation: I would love to travel to different countries to help support development in teaching students with vision impairments/ blindness, including for those with multiple disabilities. I am most interested in the South East Asia region since that is where my family is from. I would also like to be a professor to train aspiring teachers. 

Fun fact: I have a strong biological clock. One summer I traveled to 6 continents (all but Antarctica) and I did not get jet-lagged!

Wael "Lilo" Atali

Wael_Lilo_Altali_sgisd_Oct2020_200x200.jpg (49.3 KB)


Started program in: 2020

Country of origin: Syrian Arab Republic

Degrees held:
Master of Public Administration, Northeastern University
Graduate Certificate, Philanthropy and Social Change, Northeastern University
BS, Health Care Management, Newbury College

Research interests:

  • Social innovation, entrepreneurship, and Design Thinking
  • Nonprofit/government responsiveness and Agile
  • Arab-American studies and the Arab diaspora
  • Gender and sexuality in Arab countries
  • Legacy of colonization and neo-colonialism

SGISD in a nutshell: Where creative scholars and practitioners from multiple disciplines come together to discover, play, and explore – guided by the north star of global inclusion. There is no better place to be!

Ideal job after graduation: Educator and researcher in social innovation.

Fun fact: My most recent travels were Turkey, Germany, and Ireland – I love to explore new places. I am also a complete foodie and love trying new foods.

Nicholas Johnson



Started program in: 2019

Country of origin: USA

Degrees held:
MS, Global Studies & International Relations, Northeastern University
BA, International Studies & Human Comm Studies, Shippenburg University

Research interests: Indigenous & Afro-descendant transnational organizing, human rights, anti-racism, conflict resolution, international development

SGISD in a nutshell: I am ecstatic to continue learning and building on models that lead to the celebration of the different walks of the human experience. The courses provide an opportunity to think more radically about the role of social justice in all relational space.

Ideal job after graduation: I would love to transition into a global anti-racist practitioner. I want to be a part of processes of systemic decolonization and the development of liberatory systems.

Fun fact: I am trained in restorative justice practices and enjoy helping others to hold space.

Abigail Francis

MA student Abigail Francis 

Started program in: 2019   

Country of origin: USA  

Degrees held: BS, Psychology and PreMed, LCSW

Research interests: Equity in STEM

SGISD in a nutshell: I appreciate working with colleagues with such a depth and breadth of experiences and interests. I look forward to working across disciplines and honing my research interests in social justice, equity, and inclusion.

Ideal job after graduation: I want to create lasting organizational change to reduce exclusions and inequities in higher education, especially in the STEM fields.

Fun fact: I love working with nerdy, geeky students. Also, with my wife, I’m the proud parent of two biracial kids, one who is gender-fluid with a disability.

Bwanda DeCola Albert

Started program in: 2019

Country of origin: USA

Degrees held:
MEd, Education and Administration, American International College 
BA, Africana Studies, UMass Boston

Research interests: Education, human rights, & African-diaspora cultural heritage

SGISD in a nutshell: To learn to understand and to include all walks of life. A place to be and feel safe and to connect with like-minded, open-minded people. Together, we make up the human experience and will change the view of the world.

Ideal job after graduation: Expand my nonprofit I founded in 2010, the Institute for Pan African Cultural Education, Inc., and also work for and/or partner with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Fun fact: At the age of 14, I danced at halftime in the Superdome for the New Orleans Saints when they played the Redskins.

Linh Vu

Started program in: 2019

Country of origin: Vietnam

Degrees held:
MA, Clinical Social Work (LICSW)
BA, Psychology

Research interests: Colorism and racism in Vietnam, trending from Amerasians from the Vietnam War

SGISD in a nutshell: I want to call others into practicing healthier social justice practices when it comes to supporting non-white populations. SGISD will help me with the right tools to systematically, interpersonally, and personally foster this passion.

Ideal job after graduation: I would like to start my own practice with other racial, ethnic, and cultural minorities.

Fun fact: I still have battle scars from an unintentional fight with the Great Barrier Reefs in Australia.

Stephanie Peña

Started program in: 2019

Country of origin: USA

Degrees held:
MA, International Educational Development, Teachers College, Columbia University
BA, Gender, Women & Interdisciplinary Studies, University of Washington

Research interests: Gender, human rights, education, & disability inclusion

SGISD in a nutshell: I am excited to have finally found a program that allows me to combine all my passions into my research with faculty that are specialists within those fields.

Ideal job after graduation: I would really like to work with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs with the Division for Sustainable Development Goals.

Fun fact: I just completed my service as a Peace Corps Response volunteer in Grenada, where I helped create a special education guided curriculum for teachers.

Deborah Chat Dauda

Started program in: 2019

Country of origin: Nigeria

Degrees held:
MA, African Studies & MPH, Community Health Sciences, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)
BA, International Development Studies, UCLA

Research interests: Africa and Diaspora social justice movements, gender and security sector reform, education in emergencies, peacemaking, youth civic participation, health care delivery in post-conflict settings, and self-care practices of black women.

SGISD in a nutshell: SGISD has incredible scholars and practitioners with a wealth of experience in various fields that fit my academic and professional development goals. I am excited to learn from and work with colleagues in SGISD and the UMass Boston community to co-create inclusive societies and build a more equitable world.

Ideal job after graduation: I would like to work with organizations/institutions such as the African Union, UNDP, and grassroots organizations in Africa and Africa-Diaspora communities with a focus on gender mainstreaming, peacemaking, and collaborative policymaking.

Fun fact: I am a dancer and I love Afrobeat music. I also have a personal project called the LEPA (Leading Everyone to Participate in Africa) Initiative. The mission is to empower, inspire, mentor and build the leadership capacity of African and African-Diaspora youth.

Thalia Viveros Uehara

Started program in: 2019 

Country of origin: Mexico

Degrees held:
MSc, Environmental Policy and Regulation, London School of Economics and Political Science (United Kingdom)
Bachelor of Laws, University of Veracruz (Mexico)
Bachelor of Environmental Engineering, University of Veracruz (Mexico)

Research interests: Economic, social, cultural, & environmental rights; poverty & inequality; sustainable development

SGISD in a nutshell: Passionate about undertaking research in a global and multidisciplinary environment. An inspiring academic space where critical thinking and debate are fostered day by day. Transformative ideas are at the core of the studies to contribute to positive and knowledgeable change in global problems.

Ideal job after graduation: International organizations tackling the world’s poverty and environmental degradation through local projects such as the United Nations Environment and Development Programmes.

Fun fact: I love sports and photography! I am also keen on learning languages. Apart from Spanish and English, I speak German and French. I dream of being fluent in any of Mexico’s native tongues.

Kim Soun Ty    

Started program in: 2019   

Country of origin: USA  

Degrees held:
MS, Transnational, Cultural, and Community Studies, UMass Boston
BA, Sociology and Asian American Studies, UMass Boston

Research interests: Cambodian American communities, environmental justice, refugee and immigrant communities, critical ethnic studies

SGISD in a nutshell: I am excited to learn more about the topic of global inclusion and social development and how frameworks and approaches in this field can be used to critically examine racial, class, health, and educational disparities facing local Cambodian American communities today.

Ideal job after graduation: Professor in Asian American studies

Fun fact: I have been a team member of the Digital Storytelling in Asian American Studies Platform at UMass Boston since 2012, where I co-produce multimedia storytelling projects with students and community members.

Jeremy Szteiter

Started program in: 2019

Country of origin: USA

Degrees held:
MA, Critical and Creative Thinking
BS, Cognitive Science

Research interests: Adult and community education, reflective practice, adult learners from immigrant populations, communities of practice of educators around inclusion development

SGISD in a nutshell: I’m looking forward to continuing to explore the intersections between lifelong learning, inclusion, social change, and human development. I’m excited to be engaged with a community of faculty and peers experienced in and committed to social justice.

Ideal job after graduation: I’m interested in development of programs to support educational practitioners to perform action research to improve the inclusion of adult learners in their environments and help share knowledge more effectively across this field. I plan to establish a partnership or resource to help connect practitioners to research opportunities.

Fun fact: I am a mentor for high school students in an afterschool college readiness program in Boston.

Jimi March Mistler

PhD student Jimi March Mistler

Started program in: 2018

Country of origin: USA

Degrees held: BS/MS, Clinical Laboratory Science

Research interests: LGBTQ access to health care, health care gaps, equity in health care

SGISD in a nutshell: I am very excited to be part of such a diverse environment, and to be working with both students and faculty from around the world.

Ideal job after graduation: To work with legislators, hospital administrators, and health care faculty to bridge the gaps and better serve LGBTQ  individuals and their communities.

Fun fact: I work part-time in a hospital laboratory helping to diagnose diseases and health care issues.

Ashley Stone

Started program in: 2019

Country of origin: USA

Degrees held:
MA, Global Inclusion & Social Development (with a concentration in Human Rights), UMass Boston
BS, Therapeutic Recreation

Research interests: Disability rights with an emphasis on the right to education and community access

SGISD in a nutshell: SGISD is a community that fosters an individual’s curiosity and passions while encouraging students to build meaningful connections with each other and those in your field of interest to help improve inclusive practices locally and globally.

Ideal job after graduation: My ideal job after graduation would be in program evaluation to help influence public policy and future program design for persons with disabilities.

Fun fact: I grew up in Michigan where public transit isn’t an option, but didn’t learn to drive until I was in my 30s and living in Boston where public transit is readily available.

Ana Alejandro 

Started program in: 2018

Country of origin: Uruguay

Degrees held:
Master of Social Work
University of New Hampshire

Bachelor of Arts, Sociology
Saint Joseph's College of Maine

Research interests: Military veterans & service members, marine sociology, outdoor conservation

SGISD in a nutshell: Richness in the diversity of the faculty as people as well as within their specialties and experiences.

Ideal job after graduation: Being able to teach, research, and practice simultaneously in the fields of social work, inclusion, and outdoor conservation and marine sociology.

Fun fact: My most recent travels were to Antarctica and Patagonia—I love to explore the world! 

Ashka Naik

PhD student Ashka Naik

Started program in: 2018

Country of origin: India

Research interests: Impacts of neoliberalism and globalization on livelihoods, ecology, and society; effects of privatization and commodification of the commons; indigenous rights and sovereignty issues; right to cultural heritage and land.

SGISD in a nutshell: This institution's holistic commitment to social justice and inclusion, the diversity and richness of expertise within its faculty and students, as well as its outstanding network of leaders, practitioners, and change-makers, are a few of many reasons for joining this flourishing community.

Ideal job after graduation: I wish to work with communities of the most vulnerable ecological regions of the world. Roles within civil society or governmental organizations that allow me to lead policy making for these communities would be ideal. I would also like to keep my connection with academia alive with teaching and research positions.

Fun fact: I love to grow food in my garden, with a dream of running a farm one day. However, it is the family that keeps my life spicy and delicious. I also like to teach yoga to kids, and learn a lot more in return from them!

Ashley Lazarre

SGISD student Ashley Lazarre

Started program in: 2018

Country of origin: Haiti

Degrees held:
Master of Public Administration, Suffolk University
BA, Healthcare Management, Colby-Sawyer College

Research interests:

  • Disaster management
  • Storytelling
  • Collective trauma
  • Vulnerability and resilience
  • Policy development

SGISD in a nutshell: SGISD and I both share the vision of having and creating a seat at the table for all.

Ideal job after graduation: My goal is to build a career that empowers vulnerable groups to overcome their collective trauma through storytelling. I plan to contribute to the post-disaster management field by collaborating with governments and international NGOs to develop inclusive disaster management policies.

Fun fact: I bungee jumped from the highest bridge in the world in South Africa. I am starting my own podcast so I look forward to you tuning in!

Dadasaheb Tandale

Started program in: 2018

Country of origin: India

Research interests: Global inclusive policies, health rights, Dalit women rights and anti-caste approach

SGISD in a nutshell: The program shares my world view of an inclusive and just society, preparing us to stand for marginalized and unheard voices. I'm so excited to expand my learning and develop skills on inclusion and social development from faculty members and my cohort.

Ideal job after graduation: I aim to contribute to inclusive policy making, either with government or international organizations, focusing on the right to health and gender equality. My long-term goal is to contribute to development of inclusive democratic institutions through active political participation and representation.

Fun fact: I love playing soccer and badminton. I get my buzz from Bollywood and social media.

Shymaa Allam

Started program in: 2018

Country of origin: Egypt

Research interests:

  • Poverty alleviation
  • Women's economic empowerment
  • Financial inclusion

SGISD in a nutshell: The interdisciplinary methodology the school focuses on is widening my scope of research and view of poverty studies and women's economic empowerment. The global lens we always have in our discussions is so enriching and makes me believe in how humanity is a common solution for all world-threatening issues.     

Ideal job after graduation: I would love to teach undergraduate and graduate students courses related to poverty and women's empowerment.

Fun fact: I am a music lover, to the extent that I worked as a communications manager to one of the most famous Egyptian composers and pianists, as if it wasn’t enough to be a fan!

Hannah Taverna

Started program in: 2018

Country of origin: USA

Degrees held:
Master of Social Work, Bridgewater State University
BA, Social Work, Bridgewater State University

Research interests: Human rights, international development, refugees/immigrants and unaccompanied youth, international child welfare practices  

SGISD in a nutshell: SGISD has given me the opportunity to expand upon my social work background by learning with and from students from transdisciplinary backgrounds who all care deeply about inclusion and social development. The diversity of viewpoints, experience, and knowledge promotes a sense of curiosity and an understanding that bringing people together is critical to addressing our world's most pressing issues. 

Ideal job after graduation: I currently work for the state of MA as a child welfare social worker, and would like to move into a management or policy position. I'm also interested in teaching for a university, nonprofit management, and/or research and consulting.

Fun fact: I played ice hockey in high school and still enjoy playing on pick-up teams! 

Sandy Jambawai

Started program in: 2018

Country of origin: Sierra Leone

Research interests: Labor market dynamics and youth employment in fragile states

SGISD in a nutshell: The program has fully met my expectations. I am excited about the direction and emphasis on a practical approach in exploring the intersections of social development in communities across the globe. Global social inclusion is a rich field with limitless space for problem solving, and the focus on supporting populations who experience exclusion, cultural inequality, and injustice makes SGISD a singular choice for my doctoral degree.

Ideal job after graduation: Managing a non-governmental organization working with grassroots people or working with donor institutions such as the World Bank or foundations

Fun fact: I won several karaoke singing contests during my stay in the Philippines, and I also like and play soccer very well.

Matthew McClellan

Started program in: 2018

Country of origin: USA

Research interests: LGBTQ+ and gender studies, immigrant and refugee rights, nonprofit leadership, social and cultural issues, organizational change

SGISD in a nutshell: In my master’s program, I used a cross-disciplinary approach for my thesis research. SGISD offers a transdisciplinary approach and has a focus on inclusion and rights. Working in the LGBTQ+ field, I feel this combination will support my interests the best.

Ideal job after graduation: Upon finishing my degree, I would like to work in higher education, continue research, and work with nonprofits. I would love the opportunity to work with UNICEF in some capacity.

Fun fact: In fall of 2017, I taught myself how to “throw” or create pottery on the potter’s wheel.

Dawn Anderson

Started program in: 2018

Country of origin: United States

Degrees held:
MA, Spanish Literature
BA, English Literature

Research interests: Social justice using inclusive education and historic preservation

SGISD in a nutshell: While SGISD offers and provides opportunities for personal growth and professional development, it happens while tackling real-world, local problems. 

Ideal job after graduation: I want to be an inclusion strategist, teaching and working on policy development in the fields of education and historic preservation.

Fun fact: I’m a photographer and love to travel.

Shahrzad Sajadi

PhD student Shahrzad Sajadi

Started program in: 2017

Country of origin: Iran

Degrees held:
MA, Journalism, Emerson College
BA, Law, Allameh Tabatabai University, Iran

Research interests: Disability rights, advocating for disability rights in Iran, women's rights, human rights

SGISD in a nutshell: I have enjoyed meeting people from around the world in the program and I am open to finding my interest and concentration as the school year progresses.

Ideal job after graduation: Working/running a nonprofit advocating for disability rights in developing countries like Iran, or doing research in a university.

Fun fact: I have made a few super short films in Iran and in the UK and I have been a juror for several international film festivals in Iran and in Italy in my teen years.

Melinda D. Asiamah

PhD student Melinda D. Asiamah

Started program in: 2017

Country of origin: USA

Degrees held:
MA, Criminal Justice, Boston University
BA, Sociology, UMass Boston

Research interests: Mental health illnesses in immigrant populations, human rights

SGISD in a nutshell: I really enjoy the supportiveness of the SGISD program. As a new student, I've already learned so much from other students and faculty while we engage in conversation. It's refreshing to have so many different perspectives and feel fully supported.

Ideal job after graduation: I would like to become a program director or program manager for a government agency/nonprofit that will allow me to provide effective mental health services to immigrant populations.

Fun fact: I love buffalo wings.

Courtney Mulligan

PhD student Courtney Mulligan

Started program in: 2017

Country of origin: USA

Research interests: Disability studies, intersection of disability and higher education, disability rights in the developing world

SGISD in a nutshell: This program seems to share my world view, and I'm so excited to expand my knowledge of inclusion and social development. My focus has been disability for a very long time, and while that's my passion, I look forward to learning about other excluded populations.

Ideal job after graduation: Possibly teaching at the university level, while consulting for colleges and universities on how to make their campuses and programs more inclusive.

Fun fact: I am a little person and am presently very involved with Little People of America, but I did not meet another little person until I was 19 years old!

Susan Telingator

PhD student Susan Telingator

Started program in: 2016

Country of origin: USA

Degrees held:
MA/MS, International Public Services Administration, DePaul University
BA, English, Barnard College, Columbia University

Research interests: Gender issues, specifically in Africa

SGISD in a nutshell: I was looking for a PhD program that would allow me to study gender issues in more depth. I came across the program from my connection to the Peace Corps. When I asked about professors with a gender specialty, I was given Professor Mnisi Weeks’ name and found out her specialty was the subject of my master’s thesis! It seemed like destiny.

Ideal job after graduation: I have a strong communications background and I want to pivot to full-time gender issues so anything in that area would be great!

Fun fact: I love all things African (I spent six years in Senegal and two in Namibia), and my African name is Aisha Sow.

Katherine Aronson-Ensign

PhD student Katherine Aronson-Ensign

Started program in: 2016

Country of origin: USA

Degrees held:
MA, Development, Management and Policy, Georgetown University and UNSAM (Argentina)
BA, International Affairs, Lewis and Clark College

Research interests: Refugee/internally displaced people issues, sport for peacebuilding

SGISD in a nutshell: The diverse student body and professors enrich all classes that teach us theory and practice on how to solve the world’s most pressing problems.

Ideal job after graduation: Working for an international organization focused on Sub-Saharan Africa and sport for peacebuilding.

Fun fact: I teach yoga and am a member of the November Project.

Prisca Tarimo

UMass Boston PhD student Prisca Tarimo

Started program in: 2015

Country of origin: Tanzania

Degrees held:
MA, Human Development, Washington State University
BA, Sociology, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Research interests: Global health inequalities, women’s and gender issues, the rights of people with disabilities, poverty and social inequalities

SGISD in a nutshell: The program prepares us to be leaders, to stand as voices for those who are socially excluded in our communities, and to make the world a better place. Being a graduate assistant, I also appreciate the hands-on experience that prepares me practically for my future career. The faculty and staff are awesome people to work with, too.

Ideal job after graduation: Research/policy-making with either governmental or international organizations, especially those focused on health, gender, and development

Fun fact: I used to stumble trying to pronounce the word “Massachusetts.” Now that I’m here, I can say it better.

Caro Narby

Caro Narby, PhD student

Started program in: 2015

Country of origin: USA

Degrees held:
Master of Public Policy, Brandeis University
MA, Gender/Cultural Studies, Simmons College
BA, Women's and Gender Studies, Wellesley College

Research interests: I am interested in the experiences of transgender youth with developmental disabilities.

SGISD in a nutshell: As a research assistant, I have found that the research staff are supportive of and invested in my development as an academic.

Ideal job after graduation: Right now I am generally aiming for a high-level administrative position with a university or a research hospital. 

Fun fact: I love horror movies.

Uchenna Nwangwu

Started program in: 2015

Country of origin: Nigeria

Degrees held:
MSc, Environmental Management, University of Hertfordshire (UK)
BSc, Microbiology, University of Calabar (Nigeria)

Research interests: Poverty and development (the rights of excluded populations, such as people living with disability in developing countries)

SGISD in a nutshell: As an international student, settling down for school in a new country can be stressful. Here at SGISD, everyone was helpful and gave support in every way that I needed. I have gained a better understanding of how to approach issues that have to do with marginalized populations and human rights. What I find interesting about the program is the diverse mix of talents, and the multidisciplinary approach to solving today’s complex social issues.

Ideal job after graduation: To work in an international institution focusing on development work for excluded populations

Fun fact: I love to travel and see the world, though I haven’t travelled much.

Tracy P. Beard

Started program in: 2015

Country of origin: USA

Degrees held: BS, Mass Communication, Middle Tennessee State University

Research interests: Using Applied Theatre Methods, such as Theatre of the Oppressed (Legislative Theatre) and Playback Theatre, to explore issues concerning gentrification in working-class communities of color.

SGISD in a nutshell: I love the transdisciplinary focus of SGISD. The faculty and students have varied interests and research focuses so that I am constantly learning something new, which allows me to think about my research from multiple perspectives.

Ideal job after graduation: My ideal job is to lead a community-based arts organization that is focused on equitable place-keeping in gentrifying communities of color.

Fun fact: I am a poet. I perform (not as much as I would like) my work with a poetry-jazz fusion group.

Odgerel Dashzeveg

PhD student Odgerel Dashzeveg

Started program in: 2015

Country of origin: Mongolia

Degrees held:
MA, Sustainable International Development, Brandeis University
Bachelor of Economics in Accounting, Institute of International Business and Economics, Mongolia

Research interests: Women’s studies, human rights, international development, social and cultural issues in community development

SGISD in a nutshell: I am really enjoying my time at SGISD. The program courses expand my knowledge of global social and development issues, including human rights, cultural competency, inclusive development, etc.   

Ideal job after graduation: Joining international development organizations, or becoming a researcher in academic or social fields

Fun fact: In the medical office, a nurse tries to pronounce my name, then asks where I'm from. I say: Mongolia.
Nurse: Where is Mongolia?
Me: In Asia.
Nurse: Hmm, I didn’t know that. How did you come here to the US?
Me: By horse.
Nurse: Really!?
Me: Yep.

Barbara Knabe

PhD Student Barbara Knabe

Started program in: 2015

Country of origin: Germany

Degrees held:
MS, Rehabilitation Counseling, UMass Boston
MSc, Public Health Promotion, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (UK)

Research interests: Global health promotion with a focus on mental health and inclusion, migrant and refugee health

SGISD in a nutshell: I was looking for a PhD program that allowed me draw on my background in public health and rehabilitation counseling. The program has been very flexible to cater to my needs, and the focus on inclusion and exclusion gave a perfect angle to my holistic public health approach.

Ideal job after graduation: Working part time as a mental health counselor and part time as a consultant designing public health/mental health programs that are holistic in approach.

Fun fact: To reduce stress, I like to listen and dance to Turkish/Arabic music.

Lydia Landim

PhD student Lydia Landim

Started program in: 2015

Country of origin: USA

Degrees held:
MS, Global Studies and International Affairs, Northeastern University
BA, Cultural Anthropology, Bridgewater State University

Research interests: Rights of indigenous women; state implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW); gender-based violence among indigenous populations; inclusion of women in peace-building processes and post-conflict reconstruction

SGISD in a nutshell: As part of both an interdisciplinary program and a diverse cohort, the opportunity to look at issues from various angles has been endless. Sussing out the complexities that enshroud every topic we cover continuously leads to robust and lengthy discussions.

Ideal job after graduation: Continued research that uses the CEDAW framework to look at how states are working towards substantive equality and protecting the rights of women. I also plan to start an NGO that monitors the implementation of the CEDAW in Cape Verde and hopefully, one day, the U.S.

Rayna Verbeck

PhD student Rayna Verbeck

Started program in: 2014

Country of origin: USA

Degrees held:
Master of Business Administration, Babson College
BA, Political Science, University of Oregon

Research interests: Economic and entrepreneurial opportunities for marginalized populations

SGISD in a nutshell: SGISD is a unique learning environment. It brings together smart, passionate people from around the world who are  motivated to improve the systems marginalized populations interact with in different ways.

Ideal job after graduation: Consulting with businesses and future entrepreneurs to improve economic opportunities for marginalized populations.

Fun fact: The first business I owned was an ice cream parlor.

MA Students, Global Inclusion and Social Development

Slandy Sukaina (Suky) Sanon

Started program in: 2020

Country of origin: Haiti

Degrees held: I am currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Latin American and Iberian Studies (Spanish).

Research interests: Human rights and inclusion

Ideal job after graduation: After graduation I want to work with immigrants. I want to be an interpreter with the immigration system.

Fun fact: I went skydiving in hopes of getting rid of my acrophobia, but instead my fear got worse. Next year, I am planning on going bungee jumping.

Matthew Jameson

MA student Matthew Jameson

Started program in: 2019

Country of origin: USA

Degrees held: BA, Psychology, UMass Dartmouth

Research interests: Disability rights, discrimination, program development in the advocacy realm

SGISD in a nutshell: I appreciate the passion that I have seen that characterizes the faculty and students. I hope to broaden my network and serve as a role model.

Ideal job after graduation: My ideal career is to work as a director of disability services at a college or university.

Fun fact: I am actively involved in various disability rights organizations.

Coleman Nee

MA student Coleman Nee

Started program in: 2018

Country of origin: USA

Research interests: Workforce development for people with disabilities; veterans' rights

SGISD in a nutshell: I was attracted by the opportunity to study and advance inclusionary thinking in our society and the global perspective offered by so many of my fellow students.

Ideal job after graduation: Leading an agency or team in reforming social services and economic policies to be more inclusive of individuals with disabilities, especially veterans.

Fun fact: I am working on climbing all of the 4000-foot mountains in New England.

Joy C. Solon

MA student, Joy C. Solon

Started program in: 2021

Country of Origin: U.S.A.

Degrees held: Bachelor of Science in History and the Law

Research interests: Climate Justice and Climate Action in the Philippines and the Pacific using a Gendered and Indigenous Framework

SGISD in a nutshell: I am most excited to explore my research interests amongst peers and colleagues who bring a wealth of knowledge, experience, and a whole lot of heart. 

Ideal job after graduation: I am interested in work that provides services to marginalized and underserved communities where my education and preparation will come into play.

Fun fact: I have been to the top of Stairway to Heaven and it was magnificent.

Kristen Cunningham

MA student, Kristen Cunningham

Started program in: 2021

Country of Origin: U.S.A.

Degrees held: Bachelor of Psychology, University of Miami

Research interests: Non-profit management, inclusion and equity, youth services

SGISD in a nutshell: I am looking forward to learning about social development issues on a macro level to make change on a personal level. I am excited to examine issues through a variety of lenses and learn from the varied experience of other students.  

Ideal job after graduation: I would love to use my experience managing programs and events for a nationwide non-profit like the Special Olympics. On the flip side, I am also interested in diversity and inclusion in corporations, and how creating innovative programs can make Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion feel like curiosity, unity, and exploration.

Fun fact: A dream trip would be to visit an elephant sanctuary and care for the guests. 

Emma Lavenberg

MA student, Emma Lavenberg

Started program in: 2021

Country of Origin: U.S.A.

Degrees held: Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education

Research interests: Human rights in relation to individuals with disabilities, equal educational opportunities

SGISD in a nutshell: Some things that excite me about this program are the colleagues and the wealth of knowledge they bring into the program, as well as the opportunity to customize the program to your area of interest.
Ideal job after graduation: Working for an organization that advocates and works to increase equal and high-quality access to education internationally.  
Fun fact: I'm ambidextrous. 

Elizabeth Duseau

Started program in: 2021

Country of origin: USA

Degrees held: Currently working towards a BA in Psychology at University of Massachusetts Boston

Research interests: The intersection of human rights and criminal justice, the Trans experience within prison, as well as the intersection of psychology and Human Rights.

SGISD in a nutshell: SGISD is a welcoming diverse environment which encourages education in a vast array of fields. The program provides the opportunity to critically engage with numerous sets of viewpoints surrounding the fields of human rights and social justice. I am excited to be a part of such a wonderful program and am looking forward to growing my knowledge and skill set.

Ideal job after graduation: I would love to incorporate what I have learned through SGISD to practical in the field work. Specifically, I would like to work with juveniles or adults recently released from prison by uplifting their voices to inform policy changes.

Fun fact: I teach swim lessons over the summertime!

Torrence Chrisman

Started program in: 2021

Country of origin: USA

Degrees held: BA History and Theatre, University of Massachusetts, Boston

Research interests: Disability inequalities, accessibility and inclusion, social justice

SGISD in a nutshell: When I was looking for programs this one stood out because the program focuses on how issues affect humanity and what we could do solve these inequalities. I hope to gain unique perspectives as I progress from the diversity of the students and professors.

Ideal job after graduation: I hope to work at a disability nonprofit or advocacy group. There will probably a memoir in there somewhere which would talk about my experiences living with a disability.  

Fun fact: My great-grandmother on my father’s side was Scottish. That would make me 1/4 Scottish. This puts Scotland on deck as the next country I want to travel to.

Karina de Brum

Started program in: 2021

Country of origin: USA

Degrees held: BA Sociology, Saint Anselm College

Research interests: Human rights-based work in the Pacific Region.

SGISD in a nutshell: SGISD excites me because of its flexible and very inclusive approach to learning and sharing ideas. I am thrilled to be working with and learning from a diverse group of instructors and classmates.

Ideal job after graduation: I’d love to return to working in the Pacific or with the UN HRC system on improving human rights systems for smaller countries.

Fun fact: I have a long-term blanket project where I have been using leftover yarn from family, friends, and my own projects to knit and crochet different patterns, shapes, and sizes that I intend to quilt together one day. I have been making these swatches for at least 12 years now... I call it the ugly blanket project.

Christa Preston

Started program in: 2021

Country of origin: USA

Degrees held:

Post-graduate Social Impact Strategy, University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School of Business
Post-graudate Disability Studies, Cape Town University
BA, Business Management, Account/Finance Boston College

Research interests: Intersection of Economics and Disability Studies; Economics of inclusion; Behavioral economics

SGISD in a nutshell: A critical examination of ourselves is equally as important as the critical examination of society. We have the ability to interact globally, which means we have the opportunity to influence globally. To do this responsibly we need to examine and break down our own assumptions and biases. SGISD helps us develop in our roll as global citizens

Ideal job after graduation: I am to be a consultant to major development agencies (UN, USAID, etc) and participant in think tanks that influence policy development at the global level as it affects investment in disability programs.

Fun fact: I have sung karaoke with Irene Ntale, a leading pop star in Uganda.