During both winter and spring break, master's students from across SGS programs conducted fieldwork through the Global Perspectives Grant, which is supported by a generous gift from the Friends of Stanford University Foundation in Taiwan. Here are a few highlights from their experiences abroad:
The Effects of Climate Change on Indigenous Communities in Colombia
Latin American Studies
For my research, I visited several national parks and agricultural regions in Colombia to study the effects of climate change on indigenous communities, rural villages and farmers. I was hoping to conduct a comparative study of communities in the Colombian Andes versus the Peruvian Andes. I have completed fieldwork in the Peru in the past, and was hoping to enrich my understanding of the spectrum of climate change adaptations by visiting communities in the northernmost reaches of the Andes. In the Eje Cafetera, or the “Coffee Axis,” I stayed with and interviewed the owner of a small coffee farm outside of Montenegro. I spoke with him about how to reduce the effects of excessive heat by rotating crops, using shade and cover crops to protect young coffee plants, and the importance of planting coffee in an area with abundant natural water supplies.
In the north of Colombia, I visited Tayrona National Park, which is named after the Tayrona indigenous people who continue to inhabit the land. The park is a fascinating mix of jungle, tall coastal mountains, and white sand Carribbean beaches. The Tayrona people largely live deep in the jungle, and although I was not able to interview any Tayrona people, several park staff mentioned that they had seen an increase in the park’s notoriously strong undercurrents, and that rain had been heavier and more frequent. There was frequent mention of El Niño but not climate change, echoing the observations I heard from land stewards in other parts of the country. My guide through the coffee region did mention that he has seen a drastic difference in weather and the ability of coffee crops to thrive since he was young. He mentioned that climate change was making crop rotation and shade crops more necessary, and made frequent reference to the melting glaciers in Los Nevados National Park and the changing water flows that these could create. All of these informal interviews helped to shape my perspective on how farmers, national park employees, indigenous communities, and other land stewards view climate change and periodic strong weather events like El Niño & La Niña.
The Paradox of Military Humanitarian Intervention During the Rwandan Genocide
I am researching the French military mission during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, called Operation Turquoise. I was drawn to this topic during a visit to the Murambi genocide memorial last year, where the French, upon discovering thousands of bodies after a massacre, buried them in mass graves and built basketball and volleyball courts on top of the graves to hide the recently disturbed earth. This was done to help protect the image of the regime perpetrating the genocide, who were close allies of the French government. I was shocked upon learning this, and had to learn more. During this research trip I was able to access a significant amount of new data, mostly through the various archives and libraries concerning the genocide in Rwanda. It was an incredible opportunity for me to visit some of the memorials and massacre sites where the French were implicated and hear from witnesses directly about what happened. Nothing I could have done on Stanford's campus could have been that moving and powerful, and was such a contribution to my research.
Archival Research: Spanish Colonies in Latin America and the Pacific
Latin American Studies
Over spring break, I visited the Archivo General de Indias, an archive based in Spain that holds and preserves hundreds of thousands of documents regarding Spain's colonies in Latin America and the Pacific. As a historian, it is expected for students to have background in archival research. Doing research at the Archivo General de Indias is a "rite of passage" of sorts for Historians focusing in colonial Latin America. I study the Taíno natives that inhabited the Caribbean prior to the Encounter; however, there is very little documentation about this population from chroniclers. Going to the archive provided me with an opportunity to read the accounts of more "ordinary" people, that is, not the famous chroniclers such as Bartolomé de Las Casas and Gonzalo de Oviedo. An archivist helped me search for documents that mentioned the Taíno as early as 1514 and as late as the 18th century. This was a ground-breaking moment for my research, which tries to prove that the Taíno did not cease to exist within a few decades of the European arrival, as the common discourse claims. I learned that others also wrote about the abuses inflicted upon the natives. This was a fascinating discovery for me because de Las Casas had been the only person to document the abuse and mistreatment of natives by the Spanish in the Caribbean. The archivists were extremely helpful because they taught me how to navigate their website, recommended key word searches for my topics, and showed me how to request specific documents. Seville is truly a gem because of its vibrant culture and history. In fact, Christopher Columbus arrived to Seville with Taíno natives from the New World. These natives were domestic slaves in Seville until they gained their freedom, but standing in the colonial center of Seville and thinking about these people in time and space was indescribable. Thank you again for providing me with this unforgettable experience and for inspiring me more than ever to dedicate my research to what some would consider an invisible population today in the Caribbean.
Heritage Site Preservation & Museum Culture in South Korea & Japan
East Asian Studies
For my thesis topic, I am interested in examining the growing state investment in heritage site preservation and museum culture in South Korea and Japan. I wanted to explore the need to balance often competing national historical narratives with increasingly globalized cultural diplomacy. During my field research, I visited several heritage sites and national museums including Gyeongbok Palace, Seodaemun Prison, Seoul Museum of History, and the National Museum of Korea in Seoul, as well as Hashima Island, the Atomic Bomb Museum and Memorial Hall, and Glover Garden in Nagasaki. The level of government investment in courting UNESCO heritage site designation as well as maintaining these sites is incredible, especially as I compared it to the state of public funding for the National Endowment of the Arts and National Endowment of the Humanities in the United States. In making my way through these historic sites and exhibits, I found that the most tragic points in national histories were conveyed in poignant, evocative ways, using mixed media, new virtual reality technology, and contemporary art to retroactively interpret the significance of the events. Although it was not my first time being in either country, it was my first time traveling on my own internationally for academic purposes. My academic curiosity and openness to learn helped guide my phenomenological experiences, especially as a foreigner to both countries. Through Stanford grants, study abroad programs, and internship opportunities in my undergraduate career, I was able to build my travel experience. However, this most recent trip as a Master’s student was a self-driven culmination of all those past experiences in my pursuit of more extensive research in my field.
Haitian Migration to Brazil
Latin American Studies
I researched Haitian migration to Brazil. I had done research in Winter quarter in Tijuana, Mexico, on Haitian migration to the United States and Mexico. The migrants I interacted with in Mexico usually came from Brazil immediately preceding heading to North America, so I wanted to understand the push factors on the Brazilian side. The research trip was an amazing experience and I was able to work with the Brazilian NGO Viva Rio, that has a specific branch devoted exclusively to helping Haitians integrate into Brazilian society, called Haiti Aqui. I spoke on several occasions with the coordinators of Haiti Aqui, an extremely friendly Franco-Haitian couple that invited me to their offices and even into their home for a meal of Haitian food. It was an incredible experience that, along with my trip to Tijuana earlier this year, will stay imprinted in my memory as one of the greatest experiences from my year at Stanford.
The Internationalization of Higher Education in Russia
Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies
During my research trip examining internationalization of Russian higher education institutions, I was able to travel to four different universities in three cities to examine how these institutions have become "international organizations." I had planned several meetings with administration and faculty members. These interviews will tie directly into my capstone project and contribute to case study examinations of Russian universities. Although I was extremely busy, the entire trip went rather smoothly and I even had time to travel from Moscow to St. Petersburg and back in one day for a seven hour visit at one university. This research was absolutely critical to my capstone, and was also a high point in my master's program generally, as I was able to work on my individual research, practice my language, and make connections with leaders in Russian higher education. The research resulted in over 18 hours of substantive interviews, which completely exceeded my expectations.
How Japan & India Could Collaborate on Infrastructure Projects in Sri Lanka
International Policy Studies
In this project, we are examining how Japan and India could collaborate with each other to work on infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka. In order to gather information related to stakeholders’ needs, interests and concerns, I conducted interviews in Sri Lanka with the Embassy of Japan, the Japan External Trade Organization, the Japan International Cooperation Agency, construction companies, as well as investment and consulting firms. Through these meetings, I believe that we succeeded in identifying a project in which Japan can work with India, and we gained a rough idea regarding a new framework for collaboration. In addition, we visited the site of China’s Port City project.
After this visit, my image of Sri Lanka has changed. Although Sri Lanka is not popular for Japanese companies, I believe that Sri Lanka can be a bridgehead for Japanese companies in South Asia. The biggest reason is that the Sri Lankan people tend to get along well with the Japanese. Therefore, Japanese companies can expand their business in the region by working with Sri Lankan companies. In the next quarter, based on the information and insight we gained in Sri Lanka, we will think about how Japan can collaborate with India in infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka.
Intensive Nahuatl Language Training in Mexico
LATIN AMERICAN STUDIES
I was curious to learn about Mexico's current efforts in revitalizing the Nahuatl language, the indigenous language most widely spoken in Mexico, which is also at risk of eventual demise. More specifically, I wanted to investigate the specific efforts made by non-governmental agencies which did not face the constraints and bureaucracy that governmental programs had. This winter, I visited Instituto de Docencia e Investigación Etológica de Zacatecas (IDIEZ) in Zacatecas, México, a Mexican non-profit dedicated to teaching, research, and the revitalization of indigenous languages and cultures in Mexico.
During my stay at Zacatecas, I interviewed six different people working at IDIEZ who shared their experiences growing up in their small indigenous communities, and migrating out to the big cities. They also spoke about IDIEZ's efforts to revitalize the language, and their thoughts on these efforts and their effectiveness. What I learned from these interviews was that one of the main methodologies the institute uses to revitalize the language is encouraging participants to conduct their own research and publish works in Nahuatl. By doing so, they are demonstrating how this language can be used in modern-day life. Additionally, the institute encourages its participants to publish children's books and games in Nahuatl, which can later be taken back to the communities to encourage youth to learn the language. They informed me about the importance of reaching out to the youth who are the least likely to use the language nowadays. They also informed me about the importance of a bilingual education for these indigenous children.
I also participated in the intermediary Nahuatl course while in Zacatecas, and noticed that my Nahuatl speaking and reading comprehension skills exponentially improved. The instructors at IDIEZ whom I also interviewed discussed the constant modifications they made on their course materials in order to make it the most effective learning environment for the students. The most memorable experience was meeting students from all over the United States and Mexico who gathered for the common purpose of learning the Nahuatl language, and in efforts to revitalize the language and culture with their own research. Coming back to Stanford, I feel even more empowered and motivated to continue my Nahuatl studies. I also feel a deeper understanding and sense of purpose for the work I am doing.
Jessica L. Sanchez Flores
LATIN AMERICAN STUDIES
As a Nahuatl language student, the winter program at Zacatecas was a rewarding experience because I was able to interact in person with the instructors, something we do not have here at Stanford because the language class is virtual. During the program, I was particularly interested in the indigenous migration that exists within Mexico from the perspective of a female. The explored texts were written in Nahuatl by female migrants and it was especially interesting because it is a topic that is not often discussed within the Nahuatl community. Therefore, the existence of the texts about migration and the experiences of female individuals is important because not only those who are learning the language (like myself) can be informed about the issues and difficulties that this particular group experiences; but also the communities and the younger generations from these communities.
One of the most interesting findings, is that many of the younger generations are being forced to exit their communities because they are in the search of better educational opportunities. The concern with this exodus is that many of the Nahuatl speaking individuals do not continue to practice their culture. Overall, the gathered conversations in the trip complemented well with my learning of the language and the culture, which also allowed me to explore and connect ideas with gender in literature, and migration studies; particular topics I plan to further explore in my doctoral studies.
Lenica Morales Valenzuela
Latin American Studies
I first started my journey in learning Náhuatl at Stanford University. Through my language learning experience, I've become privy to the way in which certain indigenous groups in Veracruz think about the world differently, but also have a specific manner in which to communicate certain ideas. By taking part in the intensive language program for Náhuatl in Zacatecas, Mexico, I refined the manner in which I could communicate in Náhuatl, and learned from regional and indigenous scholars about the expansion (and barriers) for the Náhuatl culture. This program has given me insight on the future direction of my research on indigenous rights within Latin America.
Bioenergy & Environmental Policy Research in Sweden and Norway
International Policy Studies
At the close of the 2015 Paris COP, nations across the globe made a historic pact to limit increases in global temperature by 2 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels, by mid-century. To achieve this, many scientists and policymakers are betting on biomass energy carbon capture and storage (BECCS), a negative greenhouse gas mitigation technology. Most scientific scenarios predicting pathways to the 2 degree C limit have BECCS providing 10-30% of the world’s primary energy in 2100. Ironically, feasibility research is still ongoing, despite the fact that the international community has, to some degree, pinned its hope on the technology.
I traveled to Scandinavia, one of the regions where the technologies to deploy BECCS are among the most advanced in the world. I wanted to learn about the environmental policy there which has nurtured a healthy bioenergy industry in Sweden, and best in class CCS projects in Norway. These two nations are useful case studies on the formulation and impact of environmental policies, notably in the form of emissions taxes, and provide insights as I think about the types of policies that would most support the success of BECCS.
My research trip was incredible. In northern Sweden, I met with business and academic experts in the bioenergy space at a forest innovation center, and in Trondheim, Norway, I met with the oil and gas giant Statoil. The conversations I had were enlightening and underscored the importance of well-designed government policies as mechanisms to drive climate mitigation strategies.
Field Research in China's Hebei Province
east Asian Studies
Thanks to the generous support from the Stanford Global Perspectives Fund, I was able to conduct field research at two counties in China’s Hebei province. Without this funding I simply could not have made it. This research trip, during which I saw the political and socioeconomic reality at these two localities with my own eyes and had direct dialogues with local people and government officials, helped me to overcome the obstacle that there is a lack of sufficient information and existing academic literature on this research topic. The two counties I visited were both included in China’s national poverty alleviation program for the 2001-2010 period. Whereas one of them developed substantially and successfully went off the “national poor county” list in 2012, the other one remained underdeveloped and was once more chosen for the 2011-2020 national poverty reduction campaign. What makes the comparison between the two counties I selected interesting and worth investigating is their identical characteristics. The richer one was once a part of the poorer one; they were split into two independent jurisdictions only in the 1960s; they share the same geological conditions, ethnicity and resources; the county that is now poorer was for a time actually in a better economic situation than the one that is now much richer. So what is the political factor that led to the economic divergence? Now I can go ahead and move on to the next stage of research that must be based on the identification of this intermediary variable.
Environmental Policy Implementation in China
East Asian Studies
Environmental policy implementation has long been a hot topic in learning Chinese bureaucracy and public policy. Previous scholars argue that the process of environmental governance in China is hindered by the low efficiency and possible collisions happening among local governments. However, with the strengthened central environmental regulations and increased pressure from citizens, local governments have changed their attitudes and strategies in protecting the environment. Particularly after the new central regulations that connect environmental outcomes with cadre promotion, environmental protection has become a major task in most provinces in China.
Inspired by this knowledge, I planned a long-term topic in China on learning the incentives of local environmental enforcement, the challenges on environmental protection in local government, and the prospects of future environmental protection in China. I went to Leshan City, one of the most famous prefectural cities in Szechuan province, and Chengdu City, the capital of the province. With the help of Tsinghua alumni, who is also the district mayor in Shizhong District, I interviewed with local officials from Environmental Bureau, Economic Bureau, and Development and Reform Bureau in both Leshan City and Shizhong District, which is the most memorable part in my journey.
I was surprised to find that local government like Shizhong District is facing so many challenges in environmental protection caused by complex reasons, such as local industrial needs, geographical restrictions, and citizens' habits. These challenges are far beyond the statistics and literature that I learned previously. This experience was really an unforgettable experience for me, because it not only fueled my research, but also let me know about the reality behind the academic articles, and broke my previous misunderstanding of local Chinese government. After returning to Stanford, I will continue with this project, and discuss further with professors who are also interested in Chinese environmental policy. My goal for this project is to publish my own research paper and co-authored papers in both English and Chinese journals.
Smoking's Death Toll in Russia
Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies
I traveled to Russia to speak to students about their perspectives of mortality in Russia with a focus on smoking. This involved a comparison between students at institutions in Moscow and Ufa, which allowed me to determine the impact of differences in social status on student perspectives. This trip helped me realize the role that gender plays in smoking, and the strongly negative ways that students described women smokers. My time abroad this winter break allowed me to narrow my thesis topic to an analysis of this gender role. In addition, I loved the process of translating and conducting research in both Russian and English. I have returned with fresh ideas and results that have enriched my overall project; however, the grant has been most impactful on a personal level. Traveling alone and learning to structure my research process in a foreign setting has been incredible fulfilling.
Female Opinions of China's New Population Policy
East Asian Studies
My research is about women's opinion on Chinese new population policy. When the Chinese government first announced the nationwide two-child policy, millions of Chinese young women posted their dissatisfaction on social media, which is not what Chinese government expected. So I was curious about women's true opinions and suggestions to this policy change, and I did a pilot questionnaire survey early this year. This research in China is part of my master's thesis at Stanford, so I really appreciate to have this chance to finish this research. I would like to give my sincere appreciation to all the donors, who could support me to conduct my research in China. This is a great chance for me to continue my research in population policy in developing countries, as well as my thesis-writing. Thank you so much!