Author: Megan Humphreys

IRIS Academic Programs: A Year in Review

It’s been a great year for IRIS! Last month, 144 students graduated with a major and/or a certificate from one of the Regional Centers. With eight area studies centers in IRIS, six of which are Title VI National Resource Centers, as well as the International Studies major, there were many opportunities for students to study the world. Here are the number of certificates and majors awarded this year, along with photos from the Centers’ ceremonies and other highlights:


African Studies: 47

East Asian Studies: 20

European Studies: 55

Middle East Studies: 7


Russian, East European, and Central Asian Studies: 8

South Asia: 6

South East Asia: 10


International Studies: 103

Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies: 11

LACIS Undergraduate Advisor, Sarah Ripp (on left) with three graduating seniors.


Two European Studies certificate students discuss their time at UW and future plans

The Center for European Studies is pleased to announce that 55 undergraduates received the European Studies Certificate this May. Our graduates majored in diverse disciplines, including History, International Studies, Economics, Journalism, Business, Biology and everywhere in between! We wish to congratulate all the graduates and wish them the best in their future endeavors. Here are profiles of two Certificate students:

Amelie von Below
I studied Marketing, International Business and German at UW-Madison. I grew up bilingual in Germany but lost much of my German after moving to the US. As German wasn’t offered at my middle school, I began to learn French and continued to study it through part of college. However, I was still interested in getting back up to a fluent level of German, so I began to take courses at UW, and studied abroad through the Academic Year on the Freiburg program. After returning to Madison and finishing the German major, I was eager to learn a new language and to learn more about areas of Europe with which I was unfamiliar. This prompted me to begin taking Danish courses. I received a FLAS (Foreign Language and Area Studies) fellowship for the study of Danish in my senior year, during which I also studied abroad (in my last semester) at the Copenhagen Business School.

Adding the European Studies Certificate to my education was a way to point out an undercurrent that had permeated my studies all along: European cultures and languages. Ever since my first semester of university, I had selected every class that focused on Europe that fit into my required coursework. I remember being excited about taking Food in Italian Literature to fulfill the literature requirement, and Global Marketing Strategy as a marketing elective.

Marketing fits nicely with my interest in European Studies, as understanding people is at its core, and the attitudes and values that people have are heavily influenced by culture and language. I am currently interviewing in Germany within the field of Marketing. I plan on working in Europe for three years before applying for my MBA in Marketing, and eventually building a career in international brand management.


Josh Kowalczyk
Josh Kowalczyk was a double major in Economics and International Studies with a Certificate in European Studies. His chief academic interest was the global political economy and its relationship to sustainable development, geopolitics, and macroeconomic policy. Additionally he was a student of Italian language, and he spent a semester abroad at John Cabot University in Rome. Beyond academics, Josh was a celebrated player on the Men’s Rugby Club at UW-Madison, while also serving on the team’s executive board as the recruiting chair.

 Josh concluded his undergraduate studies this past spring as a participant on the UW’s Wisconsin in Washington DC academic internship program, where he interned at the Delegation of the European Union in the Economic and Financial Affairs Section. In this role, Josh was granted the opportunity to research transatlantic economic policies, shadow top-level EU diplomats, and attend meetings at various organizations and government agencies (including the Department of Treasury, the US Capitol, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank).

Going forward, Josh’s post-graduate career will continue in Washington, DC at the Bipartisan Policy Center, where he will be a summer intern working on financial regulatory policy.

Two International Studies students receive Newman Awards

Newman Family Scholarship for International Studies @ UW-Madison
2017 Recipients: Michelle Lam & Emma Strenski

Biography of Michelle Lam

Michelle Lam is a current Junior majoring in International Studies, with a focus on Global Politics and Economy. Michelle was born in Hong Kong, but her family immigrated to Eau Claire, Wisconsin when she was 5 years old. While originally planning to become a doctor, Michelle instead decided to major in International Studies as she realized her passion to understand global ties and the positive and negative impacts of political economy on the daily lives’ of regular people.
International Studies 101 was what first sparked her interest in International Studies and pushed her to declare her major with the IS department, while still pursuing a pre-medical track. However, with her participation in the Taiwan-America Student Conference during Summer 2016, she realized her devotion to International Studies. Consisting of 20 American delegates, and 20 Taiwanese delegates, the conference facilitated the discussion on current issues in Education, Media, Environment, Trans-Pacific Affairs, and Education in today’s world. Both a fun and educating experience, Michelle now has cherished relationships with students ranging from across the U.S. to Taiwan. Wanting to pursue more international and cross cultural experiences, Michelle decided to drop the pre-med track to study abroad in London during Spring 2017 and participate in the Wisconsin in Washington D.C. program during Spring 2018. Currently studying abroad at the University of Westminster in London, she is already gaining different perspectives of the United States’ role in World Affairs, especially International Law and Politics. As people of all backgrounds study in London, their narratives have provided insight into the dominant role of the U.S. in International Relations, its resulting positive and negative consequences and oppositions. She is particularly interested in the Middle East and Southeast Asia and will continue to take Economics and Politics courses focused on these areas.
With graduation looming next year, Michelle plans to head out to Washington, D.C. to pursue graduate school, or a career with a think tank or in public policy. Ideally, she would like to pursue a job that will allow her to continue to study and learn International Affairs. No concrete plans have been made, however, and she is willing to keep an open mind to various opportunities that come her way.

Biography of Emma DeLaney Strenski

My name is Emma DeLaney Strenski and I am from Indianapolis, Indiana. I graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas School in 2010 and from Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in 2014. It was at Brebeuf, in a class called Genocide and Holocaust, that International Studies first caught my attention. My teacher, Mr. Tague, introduced me to the study of other cultures in times of extreme, unthinkable violence. I would like to especially thank him for that. Ever since I took that class, I knew that I wanted to focus my future studies on the history of genocide, the politics of war, and foreign policy measures.
At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I have taken classes geared toward this end goal, including classes on the Holocaust, World War II, Vietnam and Cambodia, US Foreign Policy, and US CIA Covert Warfare. These courses within the International Studies and History departments on campus have helped me gain a vast, diverse knowledge of conflict and resolution in modern history. This will culminate in my senior thesis, entitled “Preserving the Dayton Peace Accords with the Brcko Arbitration.” In this thesis project, I will trace the international arbitration and decision about Brcko, made under the Dayton Peace Accords, in order to examine America’s stances on human rights and individual sovereignty in the late twentieth century. I hope to explain the American approach to arbitrating multiethnic spaces using the case of Brcko, Bosnia as compared to other American interventions in the twentieth century.
The International Studies Major and my internship with the Columbia Support Network has helped me to channel my passion and interest in Latin America into preparation for a profession. In the future, I plan to use what I have learned about Latin America in my International Studies classes in the Peace Corps and law school. Immediately following my graduation in May of 2018, I hope to enter the Peace Corps for a two-year post teaching English as a second language to kids in Latin America. After completing a two-year tour in the Peace Corps, I intend to apply to the Georgetown University Law School. I will pursue a law degree with a certificate in Refugees & Humanitarian Emergencies. I want to learn about the law behind international human rights, the way it works, and how effective it is as a whole. I want to learn as much on the subject as possible, to best prepare me for a career in the field.
In short, what I have learned from my internship and my International Studies classes has influenced what I want to do with my life. This major program has helped to shape my future. I would probably be doing something completely different, perhaps something I would not be as passionate about, if I were not involved in the International Studies Major.

Four UW-Madison Students Receive Boren Awards

Four UW–Madison students have been awarded prestigious Boren Awards. The awards will allow these students to study languages overseas, enhancing their own academic pursuits and developing essential language skills.

“Boren Scholarships and Fellowships present exceptional opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students,” said Guido Podestá, vice provost and dean of UW–Madison’s International Division. “The expertise these students will develop through studying critical languages and regions not commonly selected for study abroad programs uniquely positions them for success in their careers and future research.”

A Boren Scholarship has been awarded to Emma Johnson, a languages major who will be studying Russian in Kazakhstan. Johnson is currently in the Russian Flagship Program.

Three UW–Madison Ph.D. candidates have accepted Boren Fellowships. Each proposed a project that further facilitates the awardees’ language learning and academic interests.

Philip Cerepak, history, will study Tagalog in the Philippines. His project is titled, “A Commodity History of Coconut Oil and Insurgency.”

Catriona Miller, history, will study Khmer in Cambodia. Her project is titled, “Historicizing Gender and Development.”

Nicholas Zeller, history, will study Mandarin in China. His project is titled, “National Liberation, Global Revolution: China, Thailand, and the Formation of Asian Marxism.”

“I’m very happy the Boren Fellowship program elected to fund my language study and doctoral research,” Zeller said. “Overseas research in non-European languages takes a long time, not only to learn the language, but to learn the people, their culture, their sense of their own history. There are many people keeping gates along the well-worn but nonetheless confusing and oblique road to a Ph.D. Receiving a year-long award like the Boren means at least one of these gates has been flung wide open. Without it and similar grants, serious academic research outside the United States would be almost unthinkable for nearly all graduate students.”

David L. Boren Scholarships and Fellowships are sponsored by the National Security Education Program (NSEP), a major federal initiative designed to build a broader and more qualified pool of U.S. citizens with foreign language and international skills. Boren Awards provide U.S. undergraduate and graduate students with resources and encouragement to acquire language skills and experience in countries critical to the future security and stability of our nation. In exchange for funding, Boren award recipients agree to work in the federal government for a period of at least one year. “The National Security Education Program,” according to Dr. Michael A. Nugent, NSEP Director, “is helping change the U.S. higher education system and the way Americans approach the study of foreign languages and cultures.”

This year, the Institute of International Education, which administers the awards on behalf of NSEP, received 791 applications from undergraduate students for the Boren Scholarship and 194 were awarded; 340 graduate students applied for the Boren Fellowship and 114 were awarded.  Boren Scholars and Fellows will live in 44 countries throughout Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America, and the Middle East. They will study 36 different languages. The most popular languages include Arabic, Mandarin, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese, Swahili, and Korean.

Since 1994, over 6,000 students have received Boren Awards. Boren Scholars and Fellows represent a vital pool of highly motivated individuals who wish to work in the federal national security arena, and program alumni are contributing to the critical missions of agencies throughout the federal government.

Mark Lilleleht, assistant director for awards, serves as the campus representative for Boren Fellowships. Graduate students can learn more about Boren Fellowships by contacting him at Matt Geisler, assistant director of International Academic Programs, serves as the campus representative for the Boren Scholarships. Undergraduate students can learn more about Boren Scholarships by contacting him at

Written by Steven Barcus

LACIS Faculty Releases New Book

Pablo F. Gomez is assistant professor in the Department of Medical History and Bioethics and the Department of History & also part of the LACIS core faculty. Check out his latest book “The Experiential Caribbean“!

Opening a window on a dynamic realm far beyond imperial courts, anatomical theaters, and learned societies, Pablo F. Gómez examines the strategies that Caribbean people used to create authoritative, experientially based knowledge about the human body and the natural world during the long seventeenth century. Gómez treats the early modern intellectual culture of these mostly black and free Caribbean communities on its own merits and not only as it relates to well-known frameworks for the study of science and medicine.

Drawing on an array of governmental and ecclesiastical sources—notably Inquisition records—Gómez highlights more than one hundred black ritual practitioners regarded as masters of healing practices and as social and spiritual leaders. He shows how they developed evidence-based healing principles based on sensorial experience rather than on dogma. He elucidates how they nourished ideas about the universality of human bodies, which contributed to the rise of empirical testing of disease origins and cures. Both colonial authorities and Caribbean people of all conditions viewed this experiential knowledge as powerful and competitive. In some ways, it served to respond to the ills of slavery. Even more crucial, however, it demonstrates how the black Atlantic helped creatively to fashion the early modern world.

Summer 2017 Language Opportunities

Have you ever wanted to learn a new language and study a foreign culture? Are you still deciding what to do this summer? Consider a summer language institute! Four centers are offering language institutes for 28 different languages and multiple levels of study. All institutes run from June 19th to August 11th. Applications are still open so check out these great opportunities now!

Arabic, Persian, Turkish Language Immersion Institute (APTLII)

Central Eurasian Studies Summer Language Institute (CESSI)

South Asia Summer Language Institute (SASLI)

Southeast Asian Studies Summer Institute (SEASSI)

UW-Madison Professor Scott Straus Appointed to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council

Scott Straus, Professor of Political Science and International Studies at UW-Madison, was appointed as a member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council by President Barack Obama at the end of December. The Council, which established and serves as the Board of Trustees for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, plays an important role in genocide prevention discussions today. Dr. Straus says, “The Museum has been a pioneer in linking the lessons of the Holocaust to issues of contemporary genocide and mass atrocity. I think my appointment is reflective of a continued commitment in that regard.”

The White House notified Dr. Straus of his appointment a few days before the New Year. He is “thrilled and honored to serve our country in this capacity” and hopes “to honor the memory of the Holocaust and to encourage the Museum to continue to focus on contemporary issues of genocide and mass atrocity.”

Dr. Straus worked as a freelance journalist in East and Central Africa in the mid-1990s and says he has “been devoted to understand[ing] genocide and mass violence since those formative experiences.” He has written several award-winning books on genocide and mass atrocities, including The Order of Genocide: Race, Power and War in Rwanda and Making and Unmaking Nations: War, Leadership, and Genocide in Modern Africa, both published by Cornell University Press.

This is not Dr. Straus’ first experience with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. In 2011, he was named a Winnick Fellow at the Museum. Another collaboration with the Museum over the past three years resulted in the textbook Fundamentals of Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention. Dr. Straus describes the work as “a textbook on atrocity prevention that is accessible to policy makers and a lay audience” and states that working on it “was a rewarding experience that will inform my work on the Council.”

Dr. Straus has been a professor at the UW since 2004, and currently serves as Associate Chair/Director of Graduate Studies of Political Science. He is “grateful to the university for supporting [his] research and teaching on genocide” and hopes that through his service on the Council he can “reaffirm the great values that underpin the Wisconsin Idea.”

Center for South Asia Receives Educational Innovations Grant

The Center for South Asia and the South Asia Summer Language Institute is pleased to announce that our project was selected for a UW-Madison Educational Innovations grant of $10,000! This support will supplement costs associated with designing an Elementary Hindi blended course in Canvas and PressBooks. The development of these blended course materials, led by UW-Madison SAFLI Hindi-Urdu Language Coordinator Sarah Beckham, will enhance student proficiency outcomes by creating a flipped classroom experience in which learners acquire and apply foundational knowledge in a distributed learning environment. This approach maximizes face-to-face interaction with instructors in the target language to produce integrated learning outcomes.  In collaboration with the Blend@UW initiative, this course will be piloted during the SASLI 2017 summer program and further developed to create open-access training resources and materials for instructors.

College of Menominee Nation Partnership

On December 5, 2016 in Keshena, WI, members of the UW academic community and the Menominee Nation came together for the final meeting of a sustainable development and indigeneity seminar that ran last fall. The seminar was presented by the College of Menominee Nation (CMN) and the Sustainable Development Institute in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It was coordinated by doctoral candidate and IRIS Project Assistant Reynaldo Morales. In this final session, participants and members of different tribal communities in northeast Wisconsin celebrated the completion of the seminar, and shared their thoughts on the importance of this collaboration and its potential impact on future sustainable development achievements.

Supported in part by Department of Education Title VI funded regional centers of the Institute for Regional and International Studies, the seminar was part of these centers’ commitment to expand its collaboration with minority serving institutions to internationalize their curriculum. Beginning in 2014, several of the regional studies centers worked with the College of Menominee Nation to increase its connections with the Global Indigenous Movement. Prior successes of this collaboration include the participation of College of Menominee Nation faculty and administrators in the Workshop on Indigeneity in Southeast Asia at the UW, and sending a joint College of Menominee Nation delegation to the 15th session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in 2016. The seminar in the fall was the next step in what all parties hope to be continued collaboration on sustainable development and indigeneity.

The focus of the 14-week seminar was on sharing sustainable development research and practices between the UW community and the Menominee Nation. Alberto Vargas, Associate Director of Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies at the University of Wisconsin and one of the organizers of the seminar, stressed the value of this sharing of ideas. “[T]his is a two-way collaboration and we at UW have a lot to learn from the wisdom and accumulated knowledge about sustainability from the Menominee Nation and in general from all the First Nations in the state.” The content of the seminar used the framework of the Menominee Model of Sustainable Development consisting of six interrelated components: land and sovereignty, environment, institutions, technology, economics, and human behavior/perception.

The seminar and the collaboration between the University and the Menominee Nation was so fruitful that it has been transformed into a for-credit course at UW-Madison this spring. Environmental Studies 402, Global Indigeneity and Sustainability, is being offered through the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies as a one-credit seminar course. Students of the College of Menominee Nation and of the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College in Hayward, Wisconsin will also be taking the course, joining by Skype each week.

The format of the spring 2017 seminar will be similar to the seminar this past fall, with academics and researchers from multiple disciplines presenting on their projects related to indigenous communities. In addition to sustainable development, presentations will focus on Indigenous Knowledge Systems in the context of environmental science, global health, geography and international law, among others. Environmental Studies 402 is scheduled for Fridays from noon to 1:55 pm, in room L150 Education Building.

Meet Visiting Professor Thierry Cruvellier

During the Fall 2016 semester, the University of Wisconsin-Madison hosted noted journalist and author Thierry Cruvellier as a visiting lecturer. Mr. Cruvellier has spent much of his career covering war crimes trials and has attended all of the international tribunals of the post-Cold War era. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University in 2003-04, and has a master’s degree in Journalism from the University of Paris – Sorbonne. Mr. Cruvellier served as a Reporters Without Borders representative in the Great Lakes Region of Africa in 1994-95 and is a former editor of the online newsletter International Justice Tribune. He has written two books, one on the Rwandan genocide tribunals and the other on the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. His most recent work, soon to be his third book, is focused on Sierra Leone.

Mr. Cruvellier has been involved in many events and activities on campus this fall including giving lectures at the African Studies Program and the Center for Southeast Asian Studies and as the keynote speaker for the IRIS Fall Welcome Event. He also guest-lectured in courses in the Department of Political Science and the Law School, contributed to workshops at the School of Journalism and the Law School, and participated in Middleton High School’s Human Rights Week by speaking to Middleton students about war crimes trials and transitional justice.

The highlight of the semester for Mr. Cruvellier was his course, International Studies 601, titled “International Criminal Justice: Models and Practice.” The focus of the course was the conflicts and human rights tragedies in Cambodia, Chad, Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, and Sierra Leone. Mr. Cruvellier said the course was not easy, noting the substantial readings and the density of the issues and that “realizing the harsh realities of international justice at work can sometimes be difficult because it is questioning our ideals.” He was impressed with the twenty-two students in the class and how they “bravely hung on, facing the challenge while resisting the trappings of disillusion, I hope.” The course was also an opportunity for him to engage with the material and students in a new way. “It was humbling for me to try and share all these experiences, and it was also exciting and sometimes enlightening to have their feedback and reactions.” While the course and his other commitments did not leave him much time for his own research, he said his experience “has been delightful” and that “[i]t was fulfilling to share with such different audiences” and “a way to give back what I have received.”