In the fall semester, six new Fulbright students started their graduate programs in the Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security, and Global Governance at the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies. With a total of nine, the department currently hosts 90 percent of the Fulbright students on the UMass Boston campus.
The Fulbright program is a prestigious international education exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government, which aims at increasing the mutual understanding between the citizens of the United States and people of other countries. The program operates in 155 countries and offers nearly 8,000 grants each year in almost all academic disciplines and professional fields.
Salif Mangane (Mauritania) and Sami Mahdi (Afghanistan) are now in their second semester of the International Relations Master’s Program. Mangane praises the “richness and quality of the courses and the professors” that help him to “better understand and analyze the dynamics of world politics.” He hopes to acquire significant expertise in international relations to become an analyst in world politics with a focus on the West African region.
Sami Mahdi, who worked as a journalist in Kabul before coming to Boston, agrees with his classmate and emphasizes UMass Boston’s “excellent academic environment”. He enjoys working with professors, who are thought leaders in the field, and highlights the practical applicability of the program. “Afghanistan has been in the middle of regional and international conflicts for almost four decades. The International Relations Master’s program helps me to understand and analyze the roots and dynamics of conflicts in the region I am coming from,” explains Mahdi.
Fellow Fulbright students Abdul Aziz (Indonesia) and Aboubacar Naimbele (Mali) are equally excited about their Master’s Program of Conflict Resolution. Coming from countries with a significant history of conflict, both Aziz and Naimbele are especially interested in culture, ethnicity, and identity as drivers of conflict. “Mali has a really diverse human landscape”, explains Naimbele. “I’m trying to find a solution to reconcile all these different views and ethnic groups through a well-designed program that can be applied to Mali – and maybe elsewhere.”
Aziz currently investigates a Sunni-Shia conflict in Indonesia and is grateful to work with professors with extensive practical experience, who “accommodate, encourage, and are very inclusive to their students.” He enjoys the diversity on the UMass Boston campus: “It contributes to giving me many perspectives that enrich my perception about conflict resolution and international relations.”
Christopher Graham (Jamaica) and Aamer Raza (Pakistan) are working towards their PhDs. Raza, who is researching various non-military counterinsurgency approaches, chose the McCormack Graduate School because of the educational reputation of Boston and the interdisciplinary and innovative nature of the Global Governance and Human Security PhD Program. “I appreciate the diversity on campus and, more importantly, the visible drive towards achieving greater things,” he says. “It is a growth that we witness every day.”
To assist the incoming cohort of Fulbrighters prior to their arrival and during their first weeks in the Boston, German Fulbright students Bettina Specht and Charlotte Carnehl (cohorts 2013-2015) founded a network for the Fulbright community on the UMass Boston campus. “Finding a place to stay, opening a bank account, understanding enrollment rules–we vividly remember all the little challenges we were facing in our first days in the U.S.”, explains Specht. “Some of the incoming students have never been to the U.S. before so we wanted to find a way to share our experiences and make the transition as smooth as possible.”
Over the summer, Specht and Carnehl reached out to the incoming students, created a Facebook group, and organized an airport pick up. “To be welcomed at the airport was more than great. Finding two people waiting for me was amazing and I can’t say how reassuring it was. I immediately felt a sense of belonging to a community,” says Aboubacar Naimbele. A couple of days later, he picked up the next student, helped him with his luggage and orientation in the city.
In their first semester in Boston, the Fulbright students got together for dinner, held a Christmas gathering with Professors Tim Shaw and Jane Parpart, and were invited for lunch by Chancellor Motley.
Salif Mangane concludes: “The network and activities that Bettina and Charlotte have established helped me not only to feel welcome in Boston, but also to meet people from different parts of the world and make new friends. Now, it is our turn to promote this useful network and enlarge it to help the future generations of Fulbrighters at UMass Boston.”