International Studies Alumni: Where Are They Now?

Pursuing her passion for social justice, Tiwaladeoluwa Adekunle graduated from the University of Kentucky in 2017 with a bachelor's degree in international studies and English. Her studies explored topics in global development and Africa and the Middle East. From a young age, Tiwaladeoluwa knew she wanted to pursue a field of study that sought to understand cultural differences and societal inequities from an interdisciplinary perspective. “I knew it would give me the opportunity to better understand societies across the globe and prepare me for a meaningful career tackling the issues that most hindered individuals' lives and opportunities” she explained.

While at UK, Tiwaladeoluwa enrolled in courses that not only fueled her passion for fighting social inequities but also challenged her to think critically about these topics. By the end of her undergraduate career, she felt confident in her ability to critically assess the arguments of others as well as craft cohesive, well-researched arguments of her own. Through her coursework, she was able to pursue her passion for social justice and its intersection with health. Now a PhD student in health communication at Purdue University, Tiwaladeoluwa uses these skills to analyze how marginalized communities create meaning around their health, as well as the structural factors that lead to disproportionately worse health outcomes for minority populations.

Tiwaladeoluwa’s undergraduate experience was greatly impacted by her work in the non-profit sector and faculty-sponsored research. She completed internships with the Prison Fellowship of Gambia and Kentucky Refugee Ministries, all while serving in various leadership positions with the African Students’ Association. Through an independent research project with Dr. Charlie Zhang, Tiwaladeoluwa discovered a love for research that prompted her to pursue graduate school. In Tiwaladeoluwa’s words, “My research interest and approach is directly informed by what I learned as an IS major about development, and how I've come to understand the impact of institutions on people's realities.” At Purdue, Tiwaladeoluwa has worked as an intern for United Way of Greater Lafayette and as a research assistant for the Purdue Peace Project.

 

Graduating from the University of Kentucky in 2019, Avery Langster earned her Bachelor’s Degree in international studies with a thematic concentration in comparative politics and societies. Amidst the diversity within the field of international studies, Avery shared how her coursework as an IS major surrounded her with individuals pursuing similar interests and career goals. As an undergraduate, she was able to pursue her passion for international affairs and politics while also applying these concepts to events within Africa and the Middle East.
 
While at UK, Avery participated in two education abroad programs. In the summer of 2016, she studied regional topics while living in Angra do Heroísmo, Portugal. Upon returning, she completed one full year of Arabic studies before spending the summer of 2018 in Amman, Jordan. From these experiences, she was able to refine her language skills through classroom instruction as well as immersion within the local culture. In addition to her studies, Avery recalled how studying abroad allowed her to forge lasting connections with both students and professors of different cultural backgrounds.
 
Currently, Avery is working to complete her Master’s in legal studies from Texas State University. Using her background in international and legal studies, she hopes to complete the foreign service exam and begin her professional career with the State Department.
 

Alli Peoples graduated in spring 2018 with her bachelor’s degree in International Studies and Spanish. Upon graduation, she moved to Madrid, Spain, where she is currently working as an English Language and Culture Assistant at the bilingual primary school, CEIP Lepanto. At Lepanto, Alli not only plays an active role in English instruction in the classroom in multiple subject areas, but also in helping students to develop a multicultural mindset. In her words, “being an International Studies major helped me develop a foundation of knowledge that gave me the confidence to pursue a job abroad.” She believes her ability to help cultivate this mindset in her students was greatly enhanced by her coursework as an International Studies major, which helped her to first understand the shared values and identities of her own culture and then employ this knowledge to develop an understanding and great respect of others. 

Through the International Studies major, Alli was able to combine her academic interest in international relations and political systems with her passion for the Spanish language. On campus, she became involved with the Language Services Department with UK Healthcare where she observed patient-interpreter relationships. This experience not only highlighted the array of opportunities available for international studies students as postgraduates, but also readily prepared her to be successful in her role as a Sports Management Liaison Volunteer during her time studying abroad in Granada, Spain, during the fall 2017 semester. 

During her last year of studies at the University of Kentucky, Alli also gained an in-depth understanding of Spanish politics. For her senior capstone, she prepared a multidisciplinary research paper on the Catalonian Secessionist Movement. Upon graduation, Alli continued to explore her interest in Spanish politics while acting as an English Language and Culture Assistant in Madrid. Throughout her time abroad, Alli’s interest in Spanish culture and politics allowed her to engage with coworkers as well as connect with and understand the community around her. Upon completing her teaching assistantship, Alli returned to Kentucky where she now works as Community Outreach Coordinator for the Family and Children’s Place in Louisville.

 

Belonging to one of the first graduating classes of the International Studies major, Jon Hibbard was able to combine his interest in European art and culture with his passion for the French language through pursuing a double major in International Studies and French. Jon views the International Studies major as having given him a distinctive opportunity to explore his diverse academic interests in a manner that was complementary to his studies of French and history. In light of the multidisciplinary nature of the major, Jon explained that, “I was able to meet and form connections with many amazing professors and peers I wouldn’t have otherwise met.”

As an undergraduate student, Jon worked at the UK Medical Center to support himself through college. During his junior year, he was given the opportunity to study abroad in Saint-Etienne, France for the full academic year. Jon described his time in France as, “the most profoundly impactful experience of my life to date. The knowledge, skills, and friendships I gained during that year shaped who I am as a person and are still part of my daily life.” The flexibility of the International Studies major not only afforded Jon with a formative personal experience but also helped him solidify his career intentions.

Upon graduation, Jon began his master’s degree in French Studies through Middlebury College’s French School while living in Paris and Poitiers, France. In light of his study abroad experiences, Jon completed his master’s degree and returned to work as a Study Abroad Advisor at the University of Cincinnati. In September of this year, he returned to the University of Kentucky where he now works as an Education Abroad Advisor and Curriculum Integration Coordinator. In this role, Jon uses the global mindset he developed as an International Studies major to help current UK students pursue transformative international experiences.

 

Understanding the value of the International Studies minor in enhancing her study of politics, Willow Kreutzer graduated from UK with a major in Political Science as well as minors in both International Studies and Women and Gender Studies. To further refine her knowledge in these areas, Willow completed certifications in Peace and Conflict Studies as well as Global Studies. Each of these academic areas stood to complement the other while providing her with a comprehensive background in political theory. Willow sees the International Studies minor as having allowed her to focus her interest in political science within the areas of international relations and politics.  

During her sophomore year, Willow had the opportunity to complete coursework for her IS minor while studying abroad in Spain. She completed demanding courses in international politics that she believes greatly enhanced her ability to engage in vital discussions through applying an expanded worldview. Employing her studies of international politics abroad, Willow later worked as a research assistant for two professors at the University of Kentucky, focusing on the issues of voting in Trinidad and Tobago as well as military coups in various countries.

Upon graduation, Willow was employed as a Junior Analyst for The Cloudburst Group in Washington, D.C.. In this role, she helped administer grants for organizations working with persons experiencing homelessness. She later accepted a position as a Research Analyst in Chicago, working with data related to public and private healthcare agencies. When applying for these positions, Willow felt as though her background as an international studies major made her a competitive applicant. Her experiences abroad and interest in international relations demonstrated an openness to different viewpoints and a respectful understanding of other cultures. Currently, Willow is completing her PhD in Political Science at the University of Iowa. Her research interests focus on the intersection between international conflict, human rights, and gender.

 
 
 
Pursuing her interest in politics and the study of Latin American societies, Kendall Hitch graduated in December of 2018 with her bachelor’s degree in Political Science and minors in both International Studies and Latin American Studies. In coming to choose these fields of study, Kendall shared how, “I have always been extremely intrigued by the way in which cross-cultural experiences force you out of your comfort zone and open you to new thought processes and ideas.” For Kendall, the International Studies minor has allowed her to focus her studies in the realm of international development through interdisciplinary coursework on UK’s campus and experiences abroad.
 
In completing an International Studies minor, Kendall has been able to equip herself with the skills necessary to pursue a career in intercultural education. In order to advance her knowledge of the factors affecting the attainment of a proper education, Kendall successfully completed a social work course focused on global poverty responses. This class provided her with a theoretical foundation in international poverty reduction policies and their implementation while also introducing her to the ethical concerns surrounding them. She was then able to apply and further refine the research and critical thinking skills she developed from this course to her research abroad in South Africa, Mexico, and Argentina.
 
As an undergraduate, Kendall completed multiple internships focused on pressing issues in international development. As an intern, Kendall worked with nonprofits abroad including el Centro de Esperanza Infantil and la Fundación En Vía, where she developed literacy and language programs for children living in poverty in Oaxaca, Mexico. Kendall completed similar placements working with English language programs and community dialogue events in Lexington as well as throughout Latin America. As she applies for graduate school to further pursue her passion for the international community, Kendall has drawn upon these undergraduate experiences to make her a distinguished applicant. 
 

Graduating in the spring of 2016, Cheyenne Maddox pursued her interest in the field of international development through attaining her bachelor’s degree in International Studies with minors in Spanish, business, and international business. Within the IS major, she focused her studies in the area of global development as well as Africa and the Middle East. Cheyenne felt as though her thematic concentration coupled with her language skills and business background provided her with a solid foundation in the field of international development. 

Not only did Cheyenne’s coursework as an International Studies major prepare her for a career in her field of interest, but also connected her with valuable opportunities for involvement on campus. As an undergraduate, Cheyenne applied her knowledge of the factors constraining social and economic development through acting as Student President of SSTOP Hunger: Sustainable Solutions to Overcome Poverty. As President, she gained experience with project and budget management as well as exposure to effective marketing strategies. 

The unique skill set and knowledge Cheyenne developed through her studies at UK prepared her to pursue a career with the United Nations. Upon graduation, Cheyenne accepted a position as an Events Associate with the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) in New York City. In this role, she utilizes the skills she attained as President of SSTOP Hunger to manage the planning and execution of SDSN events such as the International Conference on Sustainable Development and Leadership Council meetings.

 

Graduating in 2012 with his bachelor’s degree in International Studies, Caleb Lucas was one of few IS students with a thematic concentration in international relations. Using the knowledge and experience he gained from focusing his studies in Africa and the Middle East, Lucas worked for a nonprofit in Detroit where he assisted newly-arrived refugees from the Arab world. In this role, Caleb helped establish an English Language Program as well as construct a four-season greenhouse all while continuing his Arabic studies at a local university. 

While at UK, Caleb sought to combine his interest in political science and the Middle East through the International Studies major. He explained that, “The interdisciplinary nature of the program was appealing as I was exposed to both quantitative social science and ethnographic anthropology.” Now enrolled in a PhD program at the University of Michigan, Lucas feels as though his coursework in international studies has equipped him with both a substantive understanding of the Middle East and the theoretical frameworks employed to explain social phenomena within the region. 

As an International Studies major, Caleb was also able to pursue his interest in learning the Arabic language both on campus and abroad. Through his study abroad experiences in both Morocco and Syria, he was able to directly translate what he learned in the classroom regarding authoritarian governments to the events unfolding around him. Caleb’s ventures in the Middle East continue to inform his research as a PhD student and serve as the basis for further developing his Arabic. These student experiences made him a distinguished applicant in the eyes of both employers and graduate schools.

 

A recent graduate of the class of 2019, Rachel  Lietzow  obtained her bachelor’s  degree from UK in International Studies with a focus in comparative politics and societies in East, South, and South East Asia. To further refine her knowledge in the realm of Asian affairs, Rachel earned a second bachelor’s degree in Chinese and International Economics (FLIE). When asked how she came to focus her studies in internationally oriented disciplines, Rachel shared that, “I enjoyed studying other cultures and learning languages, especially pertaining to the region of Asia. I was also interested in international relations and worldwide issues, so this major fit me well.”   

As an undergraduate, Rachel completed rigorous coursework within the International Studies major. She explained how, because her coursework in American Foreign Policy, International Conflict,  and Asian Philosophy were especially challenging, they were able to greatly enhance her understanding of how comparative politics and cultural differences between the East and West influence states’ relations across regions. Rachel’s studies have enriched her world perspective as well as increased her awareness of current global political issues and the history of international politics.  

Not only did Rachel challenge herself through rigorous academic coursework, but also through participating in multiple internships and on-campus activities. Having interned with the UK Education Abroad Office, Kentucky Governor’s Office, and Foreign Service Institute of the U.S. Department of State, she has learned important workplace skills while enhancing her knowledge of other cultures. Additionally, Rachel served as a correspondent for Chinese and East Asian Affairs with the Sigma Iota Rho Journal of International Relations where she published op-eds and blog posts for the Journal. Rachel sees these experiences as not only having enhanced her scholarship of soft and hard diplomatic tools but also as having prepared her to attend graduate school. Come fall 2019, Rachel will be studying to obtain a Master of Chinese Economic and Political Affairs (MCEPA) at the University of California, San Diego.

 

Courtney Evans graduated in the spring of 2012 with a Bachelor’s Degree in International Studies. Her focus area was Global Development and Latin America. After graduation, Courtney began her Master’s program at Tulane University and received her Master’s in International Development. During this time she was able to complete three internships for the UN, International Labor Organization, and Pew Research Center, respectively. 

After She had completed her Master’s Degree, Courtney joined the Peace Corp and worked in Ecuador for 27 months teaching English, drug and alcohol prevention, sex education, human rights, and domestic violence prevention. Upon returning to Kentucky, Courtney worked as the Global Partnership Director for Mission 108, a local anti-human trafficking organization that works in the United States and India. Currently, Courtney works as a Regional Director for Big Brothers Big Sisters in the Boston Area.

Courtney began her time at UK as a History and Political Science major, but after being inspired by a Seminar speaker who asked the group, “Think of a time when you were most at peace. Can you make that a career?”, Courtney, realizing her love for travel, found the IS major and switched in her junior year of college.

Courtney most appreciated the freedom the International Studies major allowed. While she was able to study a variety of issues, she was also able to focus on the topics she was most passionate about.

 

Jason Hope graduated from the University of Kentucky with both a B.A. in International Studies as well as a B.A. in Spanish and a minor in French. Jason says that his degree in Spanish and minor in French were great compliments to his IS degree. Within the IS major, Jason focused his study on International Relations and in the area of Europe. Jason feels that the interdisciplinary nature of the IS degree allowed him to take courses in a wide variety of areas, which “offer the best mixture of all my interests in a way that not only allowed me to study each of them but to understand how they were deeply interconnected.”

While an undergraduate, Jason worked as a private language tutor, as well as a volunteer ESL tutor for the Kentucky Refugee Ministeries. Jason also participated in the Mary C. Bingham Seminar, a competitive program that offers a funded study-abroad experience.

Upon graduation, Jason continued to work as a private language tutor for US students for two years before beginning his academic career at Midway University. In 2012, Jason returned to his Alma Mater, UK, as an Operations Manager for Education Abroad. Now he is the Director of International Health, Safety, and Security for Education Abroad. He has participated in multiple panels and interviews on the topic of International Risk Management as well as presented on this topic at multiple conferences. Jason felt his interdisciplinary study at UK through the IS major, allows him to look at problems from multiple perspectives and have a basic understanding of many issues. 

 

Daniel Stephens, a recent graduate of the class of 2020, pursued his Bachelor’s degree in international studies with a focus in Latin America and global development. He also earned minors in Political Science and History all while seeking out formative international experiences. During his junior year, Daniel traveled to the Dominican Republic with the University of Kentucky Alternative Service Breaks program as well as studied abroad in Valparaiso, Chile. While abroad, he was able to refine his Spanish language skills as well as learn about regional human rights topics. These experiences have not only helped him understand the cultural diversity within Latin America, but come to deeply appreciate it.

As an international studies major, Daniel sought to understand complex topics within global development through an interdisciplinary perspective. To that end, he completed coursework in history, Spanish, geography, anthropology, and Latin American studies. These classes helped him develop the cultural competency necessary to forge lasting relationships while abroad. As Daniel approached his senior year, the culmination of his experiences and interests in Latin America inspired him to complete his capstone on the Venezuelan crisis. Through this capstone, Daniel traced the shifting ideologies within Venezuelan politics beginning in the late 1990s to the present.

Daniel’s formative experiences as an undergraduate extended far beyond the classroom.He has completed internships with both UK Education Abroad and Exchanges and Congressman Thomas Massie’s office in Washington, D.C. Currently, Daniel serves as a temporary staff assistant to Congressman Massie before attending the Patterson School of Diplomacy this coming fall. When asked about these experiences, Daniel shared how working in Congress has proven foundational to his understanding of politics and its intersection with cultural values on the international stage. Upon earning his Master’s degree, Daniel hopes to pursue a career with the U.S. Department of State as a Foreign Service Officer.

 

Pursuing her interest in Latin American culture and arts, Calli Brooks recently graduated from the University of Kentucky with her Bachelor’s degree in international studies as well as Spanish language and linguistics. For Calli, the flexibility and inclusivity of the IS program ultimately drove her to pursue this field of study. She shared that she was able to easily mold her coursework to her career interests through refining her Spanish language skills and learning about globalization from an interdisciplinary perspective. 

Through the international studies capstone, Calli was able to further explore the impacts of globalization on language. More specifically, her research focused on Latinos’ incorporation of Spanglish into their daily speech. In Calli’s words, she “never really had the freedom to investigate a topic that interested me and pertained to my major like that, so it was really sweet to dive into the specifics while having the help of my professor every step of the way.”

Upon graduating, Calli has continued to pursue her passion for the Spanish language through multiple teaching assistantships abroad. In 2019, she moved to Lugo, Spain where she worked as an English Language and Culture Assistant at Colegio Público Menendez y Pelayo. Calli later returned to the U.S. where she completed coursework in clinical research and medical translation before moving to Ijuí, Brazil in February of 2020. There, she worked as a Fulbright Teaching Assistant before her program was cut short. Despite this setback, Calli has continued to pursue her passion for teaching and translation through applying to the Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF) beginning later this year.

 
 

Beginning his undergraduate studies in chemical engineering, Jakob Burnham soon came to discover his interest within the broader field of social psychology. Upon receiving feedback from professors and friends, he decided to pursue his Bachelor’s degree in international studies due to the flexibility it provided him to forge his own path and pursue his interests. Come 2016, Jakob graduated from the University of Kentucky having centered his studies around the international relations of Europe.

While at UK, Jakob took advantage of the many opportunities available for students to study abroad. Through the Kentucky Institute for International Studies, he was able to spend a summer in Paris, immersed within the multiculturalism of the city. In Jakob’s words,  “Experiencing and participating in the cultural accommodation necessary to live in Paris really changed how I thought about the topics covered in the classes that I took on campus when I returned.” 

For Jakob, the IS program allowed him to explore the many frameworks through which scholars study international relations. Although he values the insights of interdisciplinary approaches, Jakob came to find that historical inquiry offered the most engaging and interesting discussions. As such, he chose to continue his studies in this area through pursuing his PhD in History at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. When reflecting on his undergraduate coursework, Jakob shared that, “The exposure I received from the IS major at UKY set me on a path to continue this kind of interdisciplinary research through to my graduate training.” 

 

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