Meet the IRIS Project Assistants

IRIS is pleased to welcome and introduce its new Project Assistants. Pursuing a wide variety of graduate degrees, each PA brings unique international experiences to their work at IRIS. We look forward to seeing all they accomplish and contribute to us and our centers.

By Laura Bunn, IRIS PA


PAship: IRIS Central and LACIS (Fall and Spring)

Field of Study: I am currently a master’s student in International Public Affairs. I was drawn to this program to develop my skills for evaluating and drafting policies, and for interpreting data to better understand complex social issues. I’m most interested in journalism and policy related to community-based development, sustainability, and immigration.

International Experience: As an undergraduate at UW-Madison, I studied abroad in Madrid, Spain, and with the Global Gateway program in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. My experience in Rio de Janeiro inspired me to learn Portuguese, and eventually return to Brazil to conduct a Hilldale research project and reporting internship with an NGO. This past summer, I also had the opportunity to complete an internship at the U.S. Embassy in Lisbon, Portugal in the Political/Economic section. I speak Portuguese and Spanish.

About the PAship: I enjoy my PAship because it allows me to interact with and learn from people engaged in both outreach and research about regions and themes that interest me. I appreciate the opportunity to learn and practice administrative skills, which will be invaluable to my future career. 


PAship: Center for East Asian Studies and European Studies (Fall), Center for East Asian Studies and LACIS (Spring)

Field of Study: I am a M.S. candidate in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction with a focus in World Language Education. While at UW-Madison, I also plan to obtain K-12 Certification for Chinese. I chose to attend graduate school to further my education and skills, as well as to increase my employment opportunities. UW-Madison’s C&I program is renowned, and one of my professors from undergraduate received her PhD through the department. From her advice and my own research of the program’s professors, attending UW felt as if it was the next chapter in my life.

International Experience: I have traveled to and throughout Korea and Japan, but my first main international experience was when I studied abroad with Rotary my senior year of high school; I lived in Taiwan with 3 host families and attended a local school. Through this immersion experience, I learned the culture and Mandarin Chinese. I decided to continue studying Chinese during my time as an undergraduate, which resulted in me studying and working abroad in China and self-designing a major in the language. In addition to Chinese, I have briefly studied French and Japanese. Other info regarding undergraduate majors: In addition to Chinese, I also received B.A. degrees in East Asian Studies and International Economics.

About the PAship: First and foremost, I enjoy the people I work with and the environment they create here in IRIS. The skills I am gaining through the work itself are administrative, which will be helpful in my quest to work in the education field.


PAship: African Studies Program (Fall and Spring)

Field of Study: I’m currently doing a PhD in Development Studies, with a focus on the gender politics of local civil society in Tanzania. I had worked in Tanzania before, and was intrigued and interested in how community-based organizations perceived and worked with international NGOs and donors.

International Experience: I was brought up in Brunei, and I worked in Korea, Namibia and Tanzania before coming to UW-Madison. My academic and work interests have thus far been centered around Africa, but I am as passionate and involved when talking about East Asian or Southeast Asian issues. I speak English, Korean, and I’m trying very hard to be fluent in Swahili. I used to speak pretty good Malay, but haven’t practiced it for over a decade now.

About the PAship: I love being able to be in the team that’s organizing all the events, lectures, seminars and gatherings related with my interests. You get to learn so much just by being on-site, and you get to meet all kinds of people doing various works in your work and study areas.


PAship: Center for South Asia (Fall), Center for South Asia/Center for East Asian Studies (Spring)

Field of Study: I’m currently a PhD candidate in the Doctoral Program of Second Language Acquisition. I’m interested in how people learn foreign/second languages and that’s why I’m pursuing my doctoral degree.

International Experience: My dissertation project is about how Chinese English teachers own language learning experiences affect their current teaching practices and I collected my data in a metropolitan city in China. I speak Mandarin and English fluently and I studied Japanese in college.

About the PAship: I enjoy my PAship because I find it’s interesting to talk to and learn from my great colleagues of diverse academic backgrounds who are working in Center for South Asia.


PAship: CREECA/European Studies (Fall and Spring)

Field of Study: I am studying for a master’s degree in Russian Studies through the Center for Russia, East Europe, and Central Asia (CREECA). I studied Russian and Political Science here at Madison as an undergraduate, so I knew that it was a great program and the faculty working in the Post-Soviet space are outstanding. Plus, since this is an interdisciplinary program, I get to explore my interests in both medieval Russian history and contemporary Russian politics.

International Experience: As an alumna of the Russian Flagship program, I have experience in both Moscow, Russia and Almaty, Kazakhstan. In Kazakhstan, I worked on transcribing Russian-language interviews at a newspaper called Business & Government. As such, my language focus to this point has been Russian.

About the PAship: So far, my work with CREECA and the European Studies Center has been engaging. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to meet a wide range of faculty and postdoctoral scholars studying theses areas, along with reviewing center-sponsored events on these regions. I’m also learning more about the EU and German governments, which I appreciate as I’m less familiar with western European affairs.


PAship: IRIS Central and Center for Southeast Asian Studies (Fall and Spring)

Field of Study: As a young professional with a love of learning, I am a returning student currently pursuing my Master’s degree to further my knowledge and continue in professional development.

International Experience: I bring to my work as a Project Assistant various international travel including previous experiences in Guatemala, South Africa, India, Australia, and have recently served 27 months in Thailand as a Peace Corps Volunteer for Youth in Development (photo taken by Elizabeth while in Thailand). Prior language learning has included French, Spanish, and Thai, with intensive instruction provided in the Peace Corps to develop a strong language proficiency.

About the PAship: Throughout my assistantship I have the opportunity to coordinate and organize events and travel while overseeing logistics. Additional projects involve intercultural collaboration with diverse groups. My involvement with IRIS fosters learning through dialogue with faculty, staff, students, and many visitors to the campus. With this appointment, I look forward to strengthening cultural awareness, utilizing language skills, connecting with Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, and continuing to provide support both domestically and internationally.