Who We Are / Our Projects

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Brittany Borg

Bio:  Brittany Borg received a B.S. in Finance and a Certificate in Non-profit Leadership from Minnesota State University.  After receiving her degree, she headed to the Dominican Republic to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer for three years.  While there, she led local economic development programs.  Brittany left the Peace Corps to attend Fordham University in pursuit of a dual M.A. in International Political Economy and Development and Economics.  She will graduate in August 2013.

Project Abstract: Substantive transformation is necessary to achieve human rights, development, and social progress in Myanmar. The country’s government is undergoing rapid and sweeping political changes, perhaps the largest changes in the last 50 years, yet strong civil society must emerge for these changes to be lasting, meaningful, and to reach all of Myanmar’s citizens. INGOs in the country, therefore, are taking a different approach to aid and development. In addition to providing traditional assistance (such as infrastructure and small enterprise development), the overt, underlying goal is that of human capacity building.

I will research various local capacity building initiatives currently being realized in Myanmar.  I seek to understand how international NGOs decide to implement local capacity building initiatives, their underlying goals, their process of implementation, and their preliminary accomplishments.  In the context of Myanmar, this work should develop citizens ready to participate in the active, more free and democratic society that is developing.

As a part of the Santander group of awardees, I hope this research brings an on the ground account of human capacity building practices in one of the world’s most rapidly changing and complex social environments.  This account should juxtapose similar accounts in other environments as well as some of the more theoretical and philosophical work being undertaken.

Annie Carter

Bio:  Annie Carter is an M.A. candidate in Public Communications at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. She received her B.A. in 2012 in Communication and Media Studies at Fordham College Rose Hill, with a minor in Visual Arts. Her past internships include the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York and Artists for Peace and Justice, an NGO committed to bringing education and healthcare to international impoverished communities. This summer, she will travel to Haiti to research digital media use and its impact on socioeconomic development.

Project Abstract:  The 21st century has seen a drastic increase in Internet use and digital technologies across the globe. But while advanced societies turn significant parts of their economies, public discourse, education, governance, and social services over to the digital world, developing nations have fallen behind. Much debate has ensued over this “digital divide” and whether or not new media technologies will contribute to socioeconomic development or simply put these countries at an even greater disadvantage due to exclusion from globalization. Among them is the Republic of Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. By studying the extent of Haiti’s Internet use and the availability of digital technologies, I hope to assess where Haiti stands within this gap and the strengths, weaknesses, and overall quality of the nation’s media industry. Extensive interviews and focus groups will be conducted with educators, students, NGO employees, tech executives and media professionals, in addition to touring school computer labs, Internet cafes, and media studios. Attention will also be paid to media use before, during, and after the 2010 earthquake. The overall purpose is to observe the extent to which media technology and digital tools have been introduced to Haitian society and economy, especially through education and training. This field has become important to the success of developing nations and I wish to use Haiti as a case study. The Santander Summer funds will give students such as myself the chance to educate the public on international social justice issues in addition to allowing us to learn from each others’ projects, as we may find many overlapping subjects among our different disciplines.

Laura Groggel

Bio:  Laura Groggel, a native of Omaha, Nebraska graduated from St. Olaf College in 2008 where she earned a B.A in Music, Women’s and African Studies.  From St. Olaf Laura pursued a three-year stint with the United States Peace Corps in Togo, West Africa as a Natural Resource Management and Food Security Volunteer. Her time in the Peace Corps solidified her vocation to work in international development.  She is currently an M.A candidate at Fordham University’s International Political Economy and Development (IPED) program.  She hopes to pursue development in the field in sub Saharan Africa after her studies.

Project Abstract:  This past February Laura was selected from 700 applicants to intern with the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Office of Economic Growth in Uganda.  In sub-Saharan Africa, USAID works to help African governments, institutions, and organizations advance good governance principles and innovative approaches to health, education, economic growth, agriculture, and the environment.  In Uganda, USAID began its assistance immediately after independence in 1962.  USAID recognized the country’s potential as the “bread basket” of Africa, with its rich natural resources, and significant rural population.  Although priorities have evolved over the past five decades, USAID’s commitment to Uganda continues to focus on improving people’s livelihoods.  The USAID office in Uganda has five program areas: Peace and Security; Governance and Democracy; Health, HIV and Education; Humanitarian Assistance; and Economic Growth. Uganda’s office for Economic Growth focuses primarily on the natural resource and agriculture domain.  They advance broad-based growth by working comprehensively in specific crops (maize, beans and coffee), on improving nutrition, especially among the most vulnerable people, and on addressing the environmental aspects of the oil industry and ecotourism.  As a summer intern Laura work full-time for three months in the USAID office in Kampala, Uganda splitting time between the office and the field.  This opportunity allows her to use her coursework in an interdisciplinary and professional setting.  She hopes this summer internship will allow her to continue a professional an international career in advocacy and justice.

David Grunner

Bio: David  Grunner is a native New Yorker working on his PhD in philosophy under the direction of Dr. Jennifer Gosetti-Ferencei. A graduate of Regis High School, David received both his B.A. and M.A. in philosophy from Fordham University in 2009 and 2010, respectively. He focuses on 20th century continental thought (phenomenology, hermeneutics, existentialism, etc.) and specializes in philosophy of literature and philosophical aesthetics. Given his interests, he dedicates a portion of his research to exploring related themes in literary studies and art history. David dedicates whatever little spare time he has to photography and writing.

Project Abstract: I take the phrase human capital to point towards the transformation of human life (and consequently worth, dignity, etc.) into capital. That is, I see the very real tendency to transform the human being into a resource, into a standing-reserve for production and economic gain. The transformation of human beings into capital is a process bound to myriad violences, committed both in the material realm (concrete instances of a physical abuse of force) and the normative/symbolic realm. Both the literature of the 20th century and the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas open us to a world wherein these manifestations of violence can be articulated, addressed, and, in the best of all possible cases, wherein possibilities for violence’s redress can be arrived at. My project will be two-fold: I will spend time at The Weiner Library for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide in London, England where the primary focus of my research will be the history of Holocaust literature and Holocaust memorialization (with an emphasis on the unique method of memorialization known as die Stolpersteine, or ‘stumbling stones’). Both Holocaust literature and memorialization present us with two different methods both wedded to the restoration of identity and dignity in the wake disaster. I will conclude my research by participating in a weeklong seminar Levinas- Ethics, Politics and the Problem of Violence The seminar will be hosted by The University of Tilburg in the Netherlands and will be led by Dr. Simon Critchley of The New School for Social Research.

Susan Kibe

Bio: Susan Kibe is a third year PhD (Economics) student at Fordham University specializing in Development and International Economics.  Her research interests are on the building of savings and access to credit among women in developing countries as a long-term pro-active poverty reduction strategy and the evolution of Savings and Credit Cooperative Societies in Africa in partnership with governments, NGOs and microfinance institutions as entrepreneurial training and capital resource providers. Before joining Fordham University, Susan lectured Advanced Finance courses at Strathmore University’s School of Finance and Applied Economics. She has an undergraduate degree in Economics, an MBA (Finance) degree from the United States International University (2007), an MA – International Political Economy Development degree from Fordham University (2011) and is a CPA (K).

Project Abstract:  There is an overwhelming presence of Savings Cooperatives and Credit Societies (SACCOs) in Sub-Saharan countries where women make the majority. Although the societies have been successful in mobilizing informal savings and lending, the potential of increased efficiency that could result from partnering them with microfinance institutions remains untapped. Solutions to lack of access to credit and finance in developing countries seem to lie not only in innovations drawn from the vast fields of Finance, Development Economics and Social Justice but also in the efficient use of already present resources.

This study will focus on testing new financing mechanisms for housing through the Akiba Mashinani Trust (AMT) – a financial services venture of the Slum Dwellers Federation of Kenya. AMT acts as a guarantor of larger loans from microfinance institutions on behalf of its members where savings, used as seed capital, are combined with AMT guaranteed loans to obtain new housing. The organization employs the leveraging of savings and SACCO style payment history into accessing much larger loans thus allowing its members a path out of poverty. The study will document how AMT works, the extent of its success, analyze the problems experienced by the AMT members and suggest ways in which these could be resolved. The possibility of replication or expansion of the model and its control systems into other slum areas will also be explored. As part of the Santander Fellowship Group whose pedagogy efforts are geared towards understanding and upholding human rights, this study is expected to contribute to the improvement of the living conditions of people who live in extreme poverty.

Elena Konopelko

Bio:  Elena Konopelko is an MA Candidate in Economics at Fordham University, specializing in economic development. She had moved to US after receiving Fulbright grant. Native Russian she had graduated from St. Petersburg University with a degree in economics and had worked for the US-Russia Center for Entrepreneurship. This summer Elena is traveling to India to work on the refugee vocational training program “New Beginnings” administered by Salesian Mission.

Project Abstract:  Since 1983, ethnic violence in Sri Lanka forced seventy thousands of Sri Lankan Tamils from their homeland in search of safety and a new life in Tamil Nadu, India. Currently, refugees live in about 112 camps in 15 districts of Tamil Nadu, and receive a monthly allowance of 20 US dollars from the Indian government, which is barely enough for subsistence living. As a response to those dire conditions and in order to improve lives of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees the Salesian Mission offered a unique vocational training program “New Beginnings”. The program is funded by the US Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration and is a direct answer to UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) efforts.

The training program lasts for nine month and focuses on job skill training in such areas as carpentry, electrical repairing, stitching and sewing, desktop publishing, etc. The purpose of the internship with the Salesian Mission would be to evaluate the impact of graduating from the vocation school and to answer the question if vocational training improves refugees’ incomes, standards of living, and facilitates their integration into society. To achieve the aims of the internship and to evaluate the effectiveness of the “New Beginnings” project I would use the project evaluation techniques such as data collection through surveys and community interviews, and data analysis using regression analysis and SAS programming language.

Christine McCarthy

Bio:  Christine E. McCarthy is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Theology at Fordham University, specializing in systematic theology and theological ethics.  Her dissertation topic focuses on Catholic Social Teaching and family planning.  Other academic interests include issues of sex & gender, religious difference, ecumenism, and theologies of liberation.  As Chair of the Theology Graduate Student Association, Christine represents and advocates for her peers to the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences’ Graduate Student Association.  She is an active member of the Community of Sant’Egidio, an international ecumenical prayer and service organization under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Church.

Project Abstract:  I am thrilled to be selected as one of this summer’s Santander Universities’ awardees and look forward to working alongside such gifted young scholars.  My research takes me to South Africa where I will interview HIV-positive Catholic women on their experiences of and recommendations for family planning.  This grant will allow me to use the experiences of women in sub-Saharan Africa as one of three groups from diverse global locations including New York City and Santa Cruz, Bolivia, to carry forward the Catholic Church’s teachings on family planning.  This qualitative social research will intersect with theological, philosophical, and educational research to provide new ways of interpreting human experience alongside the response and responsibilities of the Catholic Church toward HIV-positive women.

Thomas Moviel

Bio:  Thomas is a Peace Corps Fellow in Fordham’s IPED program. He began his career as an investment analyst, and then served for two years as an Economic Development Advisor with the Peace Corps in Romania, before spending six years consulting small businesses and startups. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, he also taught high school English and co-hosted a weekly radio talk show. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Finance from Kent State University.

Project Abstract:  The project will entail researching Bolivia’s educational policies and their effect on improving the country’s human capital. It seeks to understand if there is a link between human capital and the underdevelopment of Bolivia. In recent decades, several neighboring countries have seen their economies boom, including Brazil, Chile, and now Colombia. But Bolivia continues to be one of the least developed countries in South America, despite being blessed with natural resources such as petroleum. This project intends to discover if a low level of human capital is a major culprit. The research will include interviews with academics, researchers from international finance institutions, and current and former Bolivian government officials.

Peter Murray

Bio:  Peter Murray is a third year PhD student in the English Department at Fordham University. Concentrating on 20th century British and Anglophone literatures, Peter’s research examines representations of the child in both colonial and postcolonial literatures in order to disturb and disrupt the rhetoric of “not yet” that proclaims to protect children from that which they are not yet ready to handle—namely, sexuality. Reading from the intersection of queer and postcolonial theory, Peter’s dissertation not only illuminates the presence of queer children in literature, but also reads their failed education as a successful critique of imperialism and its reiteration in neoliberal capitalism.

Project Abstract:  This summer I will travel to the University of Pretoria in order to study education reform in post-Apartheid South Africa. My research will explore if and how International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs) hamper South Africa’s spirit of reconciliation through the infusion of neoliberal capitalism and its ideology of individuation. I consider whether or not Neoliberalism perpetuates a racial segregation reminiscent of Apartheid, and, if so, how this plays out in an educational field. As such, I will collect data on primary and secondary school curricula in order to question not only the pedagogical goals, but also the agenda(s) that these curricula promote. By understanding this context more clearly, I can then analyze the curricula of secondary education to see the impact on childhood literacy standards, how the history of Apartheid is taught to children coming of age in post-Apartheid South Africa, and how sexual health education is (or is not) taught to these children. This information will help illuminate contributing factors leading to the formation of human capital in post-Apartheid as well as provide my own research into literary representations of children with HIV in contemporary South African literature with a firm historical framework. The Santander fellowship’s promotion of research that is interdisciplinary and international in nature allows me to pursue a project that will draw attention to the social injustices facing South Africa’s most vulnerable population. Putting my personal research into conversation with my fellow Santander participants, moreover, will expand my own understanding of human capital throughout the world and the necessity for diplomacy our current era of globalization.

Christy Pottroff

Bio: Christy Pottroff is a PhD candidate in American Literature at Fordham University. Bringing together a combination of queer theory, rural studies, and communications history, her work examines the shifting national landscape of the United States during the 19th Century. She is currently working on a project that unpacks the relationship between literature, letters, and the United States Postal Service and their impact on national and international politics. In addition to her research, Christy writes literary nonfiction.

Project Abstract: I hope to examine American literature through “the mail gaze” of domestic and global postal services. Today the postal system is one of many institutions that transmit information. In fact, mailing a letter by standard international post is arguably one of the least efficient modes of communication. Conversely, at its establishment in 1874, the Universal Postal Union (UPU) was on the cutting-edge of international communication. In my Santander Summer, I want to investigate the implications of a standardized, reliable, and affordable system of international mail delivery by answering the question: how did public access to a private system of communication influence politics and literature?

 Earlier systems of unregulated postal exchange were quite expensive, but the rise of the UPU allowed most people to communicate privately for the low price of a stamp. This change let the disenfranchised—immigrants, women, people of color, the poor—share secrets. The goals of my summer research are two-fold: 1) to track the geographical expansion of the UPU 1863 and 1914—from the earliest attempts at inception to the inclusion of nearly all independent nations; and 2) to uncover the role of marginalized people as workers, communicators, and subjects within the emergent postal network. To accomplish these goals, I will conduct archival research in London, Bern, and Washington DC and read literature of the period. With the tools of literary study, my project will treat the communications birth and adolescence of the Universal Postal Union and, more broadly, the immense changes it brought for globalized business, politics, and cultural life.

After sufficient and thoughtful research on this topic, I will create a website that houses a combination of resources that reflect my findings. New media will allow this site to reflect the complexities and connectivity of local groups across the globe. These twenty-first century hyperlinks will show the nineteenth and twentieth century postal links between communities.

Louie Dean Valencia García

Bio:  Louie Dean Valencia García is a teaching fellow and Ph.D. candidate studying Modern European History at Fordham University in New York City. Louie studies cultural history, the production of space, and everyday dissent in youth and subaltern cultures in contemporary history. He has researched, presented, and written internationally on questions related to the creation of democratic and pluralistic spaces. He has also received fellowships from the Spanish Ministry of Culture and the Swann Foundation at the United States Library of Congress. Louie holds an M.A. in History, a B.A.I.S. in International/European Studies, and a B.A. in Spanish Literature. In his spare time, Louie is an advocate for children’s rights, writes poetry, and is an artist.

Project Abstract:  What role do young people have in creating democracy and pluralism? To answer this question, this interdisciplinary project studies how young Spaniards living under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco subverted the régime in their everyday life. Despite living under a dictatorship, Spanish youth critiqued the Francoist régime by participating in a libertine and democratic youth culture that sought to free itself from the grip of Francoism, drawing inspiration from the New York Underground, British Punks, and May ’68ers.  Through interviews and extensive archival research, this project analyzes the emergence of a public sphere and the creation of democratic ideals needed to transition successfully to democracy. By focusing on how young Spaniards of the 1960s and 70s challenged authoritarian oppression through everyday acts of dissent, this research connects the cultural and political changes necessary for a successful transition to democracy. This de-centering of the creation of democracy away from a strictly political narrative not only presents valuable insights to scholars of modern Spain, but also provides comparative examples for scholars examining the Soviet collapse, democratic transitions in twentieth century Latin America, and more recent events such as the Arab Spring of 2011.

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