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Student Spotlight: Kirsten Willer '17

kirsten willer
Jun 16 2017

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Kirsten Willer chose to study International Relations (IR) because it was a great blend of history and African studies classes with economics and statistics.

“I loved how interdisciplinary it was, and how I could really focus on anything,” she said. Kirsten will be receiving her B.A. this weekend, with a focus on Africa, social/community development, and wellbeing.

Kirsten studied abroad in both Paris and Cape Town. One highlight she recalls from Cape Town was hiking up Lion's Head to watch the sunset and then hiking down by the light of the full moon: “The view was magical!”

As an IR honors student, Kirsten wrote a thesis on citizenship challenges and resulting violence in sub-Saharan Africa. She worked under Stanford Global Studies Director Jeremy M. Weinstein, and traveled to Brussels to conduct archival research in several different archives. “The experience was fantastic,” she said, “I really liked learning about the research process and being able to delve in depth into a topic that I was interested in.”




Her favorite IR-related story is combing through the archives at the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Belgium and finding minutes from the Kivu Provincial Council Meeting that supported her thesis argument. “It felt like finding buried treasure at the end of a long quest. And of course, because I was in Belgium, I celebrated with a delicious beer afterwards!”

Kirsten is most proud of the friendships she has made at Stanford and the people she has been able to learn with and support.

After graduation, she will be traveling back to France with her family before starting work in Washington, DC, as a legal assistant for a law firm that takes on labor law violation cases. Kirsten hopes to eventually go to law school.

Reflecting on the IR program, she says, “The program has equipped me with many lenses through which to view the world—I can frame current events with my knowledge of history, economics, and political science theories. It helps me see the big picture of what is happening rather than just get focused on crazy news alerts that seem to occur daily. The IR program has also strengthened my reasoning and argumentation, which will be very helpful as I consider a career in law!”

Congratulations Kirsten, and best of luck in your future endeavors!

Read Kirsten's thesis, "Citizenship Contestation and Reprisal Violence in Sub-Saharan Africa," via the Stanford library.

Please join us in congratulating the class of 2017! As the academic year draws to a close, we are highlighting students graduating from across our 15 programs. Click here to view more student spotlights.

Caption: Kirsten Willer on the beach in Cape Town, South Africa.