Michael Ai is pursuing a Masters in International and Regional Studies with a specialization in Japanese studies. He graduated from Brandeis University with a B.A. in East Asian studies and economics (2019). His research focuses on the so-called junbungaku or pure literature movement in the post-war era. In his senior year at college, Michael tackled works from the iconic Japanese author, Kenzaburo Oe with theories of sexuality.
Jessie Bakitunda is pursuing a Masters in International and Regional Studies with a specialization in African studies. She earned a B.A. in education from Makerere University (2014). She was an exchange student at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, and has worked as a life-skills facilitator with Hive Colab on the Nile Explorer, a program of the United States Embassy in Uganda.
Katherine Downs is pursuing a Masters in International and Regional Studies with a specialization in Middle East and North African studies and a separate degree in social work. Her research interests include the societal and individual trauma inflicted by colonialist policies, attitudes, and doctrines in the Middle East, particularly the trauma and resilience of Palestinian women. Before coming to the University of Michigan, Katherine volunteered as a facilitator of psychosocial support activities for adolescents in Amman, Jordan, and worked as an editor at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C. She received her undergraduate degree in Middle Eastern studies from the College of William and Mary.
Tere Elizalde is pursuing a Masters in International and Regional Studies with a specialization in Japanese studies. She graduated with a B.A. in international studies concentrating on East Asia, with minors in Japanese, history, and sociology from Saginaw Valley State University (2019). Her research interest is modern Japanese history, particularly the early Meiji period to post-World War II, and the societal and political development of modern Japanese society.
Amanda Hardy is pursuing a Masters in International and Regional Studies with a specialization in Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies, and earned a B.A. in international studies and German from the University of Michigan in 2019. She speaks German and Russian and reads Ukrainian. Amanda has volunteered as an English partner for international students, working at the non-profit International House Ann Arbor, and served as a German-speaking research assistant with the Department of Political Science.
Sophie Hasuo is pursuing a Masters in International and Regional Studies with a specialization in Japanese studies. She graduated from Soka University of America in 2019 with a B.A. in liberal arts, concentrating in international studies. She completed her study abroad at Kansai Gaidai in Hirakata, Japan, and spent six months at Eurocentres in Kanazawa. Her research interests include minority rights and representation, transnational ethnic tensions between South Korea and Japan, and identity formation.
Shōhei Kawamata is pursuing a Masters in International and Regional Studies with a specialization in Japanese studies. From Chiba, Japan, he earned a B.A. in Japanese studies and music studies from Earlham College (2019). His academic interest is sociopolitical issues of collectivistic and individualistic identity, contemplating the construction of and interactions between the ideas of “I” vs. “we” and “them” vs. “us”.
Nicholas Kolenda is pursuing a Masters in International and Regional Studies with a specialization in Middle East and North African studies. He graduated from the University of Michigan (2018) with a dual major in political science and Near Eastern studies, and received the George G. Cameron Award. His research experience was in the field of critical discourse analysis, researching the discursive and rhetorical changes in the New York Times' coverage of Muslims and Islam following 9/11.
Emma Lerman is pursuing a Masters in International and Regional Studies with a specialization in Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies. She holds a B.A. in Russian language and literature, and theatre, from Hampshire College (2016) and an M.A. in Slavic studies from Brown University (2017). Emma is interested in adaptations and translations of folklore and poetry, especially the genres of magical realism and absurdism. She studies early Soviet literature, focusing on the use of folkloric language and traumatic language of poetry and prose.
Danielle Lightfoot is pursuing a Masters in International and Regional Studies with a specialization in Middle East and North African studies. Danielle's research interests lie in the history of international law and humanitarian law, focusing on the law of military occupation, the U.S. role in carrying out and supporting humanitarian violations (particularly in the Middle East), and the role of social movements in international criminal justice.
Elinor Lindeman is pursuing a Masters in International and Regional Studies with a specialization in Japanese studies. She graduated from The Ohio State University in 2019 with a B.A. in Japanese and history. She began studying the Japanese language in middle school and became interested in the religions of Japan during her undergraduate career. In 2017, Elinor studied abroad in Kobe, Japan, where she researched contemporary college students’ relationships to traditional festivals.
Ian McDaniel is pursuing a Masters in International and Regional Studies with a specialization in African studies. He earned a B.A. in political science, international relations, and German language studies from Western Washington University (2017). Ian was a teaching assistant at HBLFA Raumberg-Gumpenstein agricultural academy and research center in Austria, and plans to study African socio-political institution development and security politics while at U-M.
Haralambos Missler is pursuing a Masters in International and Regional Studies with a specialization in Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies. He holds a B.A. in history and modern Greek from the University of Michigan (2018). While his area of study has centered around Southern Europe, he plans to further his research into the Balkans, Eurasia, and Eastern Europe, with a focus on modern history, cultural exchange, and the significance of nationalism in shaping each region.
Suyeon Seo is pursuing a Masters in International and Regional Studies with a specialization in Chinese studies. She graduated from Seoul National University (2015) with a B.A. in Chinese language and literature and a M.A. in Chinese language and literature (2018). She worked as a researcher at the Kyujanggak Institute for Korean Studies. Her primary research interests are in the representation of sound in text and in the oral aspects of canonization and translation, and she hopes to extend her research into East Asia.
Wenjia Song is pursuing a Masters in International and Regional Studies with a specialization in Chinese studies. She earned a B.A. in English language and literature from Tsinghua University (2019). Her academic interests are in the sociolinguistic condition in China, and people’s identity construction through language use under globalization. She is currently looking at how people position themselves in relationship to the Chinese exports market.
Alexandria Spofford is pursuing a Masters in International and Regional Studies with a specialization in Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies. She graduated with a degree in comparative literature from the University of Washington (2019), where she studied German and Russian. She intends to begin her study of the Czech language in order to continue researching the cultural and political interaction between Germany, Russia, and the Czech Republic.
Joshua Chun Wah Kam is pursuing a Masters in International and Regional Studies with a specialization in Southeast Asian studies. He earned a B.A. in history and classics at Hope College (2017) and has crisscrossed the Pacific for most of his life, dividing his time between Malaysia, Michigan, and Montana. He continues to explore the ways myths and national heroes are interpreted in Island and Peninsular Southeast Asia. He is returning from a year as a Fulbright Fellow where he researched perceptions of sea deities in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
Tessa's interest in China began at a young age, when she started taking Mandarin lessons at her middle school—soon followed by a cultural immersion trip to China. She has continued to study Chinese and has developed a deep interest in U.S.-China diplomatic relations. She spent the summer of 2015 interning at the DaCheng Law Firm in Shanghai. Since receiving her B.A. in International Relations from Michigan State University, she has worked in administrative roles within the university’s Asian Studies institutes and the University of Notre Dame.
Chad earned a B.A. in Chinese and History from Calvin College in 2015. As a college freshman, his passion for Chinese studies took off. This interest was spurred by a semester spent abroad in Beijing, as well as living in Taiwan after graduation doing language study. He has also interned in Washington, D.C. at an Asia-focused organization and, most recently, worked for a Chinese American organization in Detroit in a bilingual capacity. Chad's primary research interests are Chinese history and literature.
Marie is pursuing a J.D. and Chinese Studies M.A. dual degree program. She graduated from the College of Wooster in 2017, majoring in Political Science and Chinese Studies, and completed an undergraduate thesis that analyzed and compared disaster discourse in Chinese media after the industrial explosion in Tianjin and after the Sichaun earthquake in 2008. While in college, she also spent the summer of 2016 completing a research project at the Harbin Institute of Technology on the economic development of the northeast region of China, as well as studying in a Mandarin language immersion program. She hopes to deepen her understanding of governance and law in the People’s Republic of China while completing her master’s.
Siyin Zheng earned a B.A. in International Relations from Xiamen University in 2018. Siyin Zheng's research integrates comparative politics, international relations, Chinese politics, and Southeast Asian studies.
Molly earned a B.A. in Japanese and a B.F.A. in Art from Calvin College in 2018. She is interested in the arts as well as Japanese culture, so she enjoys researching modern and contemporary Japanese art and artists. She spent a semester abroad in Shiga Prefecture in Japan, where she was able to visit many museums and learned more about the country’s rich history of ceramics. She also served an internship with Otsuka Electronics in Kusatsu. During her undergraduate studies in Grand Rapids, she was a studio assistant for the ceramics program.
After graduating as an Asian Studies major from the University of Michigan, Andrew worked for three years in Japan as an assistant language teacher. He is now coming back in the hopes of accomplishing some legitimate academic research. He is queer and particularly interested in the politics of gender and sexuality in Japan. Here's to working with the leaders and the best, cheers!
Aaron graduated in 2014 from Bradley University, earning bachelor of arts degrees in International Studies and Religious Studies. He’s originally from central Illinois, and he is newly married. After completing his undergraduate degree, Aaron lived for a year in Kyoto, Japan, where he studied the country’s tea ceremony, worked part time in a restaurant, and became involved in his local community. Since returning to the United States, he has advocated cross-cultural communication and understanding by facilitating study groups and speaking at events related to Japanese culture. Broadly speaking, his research interests are related to contemporary Japanese religion. More specifically, he is interested in exploring questions of identity and value associated with religious affiliation and participation in religious events (e.g. festivals, pilgrimage, etc.). His hobbies include cooking, hiking, and Japanese tea ceremonies.
Adrian's experiences as an undergraduate at Florida International University developed his interests in gender roles and work-life balance in Japan. He is interested in nationalist pride and minority representation within a framework of supposed homogeneity that exemplifies the nihonjinron framework. He is also interested in the deep connection of companies, government offices, and schools across Japan in inculcating and narrowing school-work transitions in the country. Adrian first traveled to Japan as a study abroad student enrolled at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto during the summer of 2016. Traveling around the country during that time helped him re-evaluate and focus on his academic and career goals. Since graduating, he has worked as an advisor for a Department of Education grant dedicated to improving pass rates for underprivileged and disadvantaged students at Miami Dade Community College. He has experience working in various departments within higher education, and looks forward to great experiences collaborating with Center for Japanese Studies faculty, students, and others in Ann Arbor.
Ying graduated with a B.A. in Japanese from the University of Science and Technology Beijing. She is interested in studying Japanese popular culture, especially the way it was transformed and influenced by the process of globalization and glocalization. During a one-year exchange program in Tokyo, she conducted a research project that looked at the struggles of Nikkei Brazilian—inspiring Ying to reflect upon her experience living as part of a cultural and ethnic minority. These experiences sparked her interest in researching the lives of minorities in Japan and finding ways to make their voices heard.
Lauren graduated from the University of Michigan in 2017 with a B.A. in International Studies (International Security, Norms, and Cooperation) and Asian Studies (Japanese Language and Culture). She spent winter and summer semester of her junior year studying abroad in Kyoto at Doshisha University. After graduation, she spent a year teaching English at an elementary and middle school in Kumamoto, Japan, through the JET program. Her research interests include history, politics, international relations, and nation-building in Meiji-Showa Japan.
Jillian H. Locke
Jillian began her studies at St. Lawrence University and spent her sophomore year abroad at International Christian University in Tokyo. After graduating in 2012 with a B.A. in History-Asian Studies, she spent four years in Chiba Prefecture, working first as an English teacher with the JET Program and later moving to public relations at Kanda University of International Studies. Her research interests focus on Buddhist-Shinto syncretism during the premodern period.
In 2018, Meghan graduated from Ramapo College in New Jersey with a B.A. in History and a minor in East Asian Studies; her research interests include modern history and international relations. As an undergraduate, she researched modern era international relations between the West and Japan, China, and Korea. Specific research included German-Japanese relations from 1933-1945 with a focus on the role of General Oshima Hiroshi and his significance with the establishment and continuation of the two countries' alliance during World War II. She studied abroad in Japan twice during her undergraduate work. Following her study abroad experiences, she worked for the college’s international education office by promoting her experiences and explaining study abroad requirements to first-year classes, open houses, and students preparing to study abroad. Lastly, she took part in, and later co-ran, the weekly Japanese language hours held by the international education office.
Maryam graduated from Cleveland State University with a bachelor of science in Biology, and a minor in Anthropology. She plans to study societies in their transition from revolutionary to post-revolutionary states, in particular Iran. Of great interest to her is the relationship between symbols and power during this transition, as well as the psychological implications. Maryam spent a year living in Iran studying Farsi and laying the groundwork for her anticipated research.
Meghan is in both the Modern Middle Eastern and North African Studies, and Arabic Studies masters programs. She graduated from the University of Michigan in 2018 with a B.A. in International Studies and Near East Studies, and a minor in Judaic Studies. Her research interests include theoretical linguistics, pre-modern Islam, and postcolonialism in the Middle East and Africa. As an undergraduate, she was the social media and communications intern for the Digital Islamic Studies Curriculum—a unique initiative providing students at Big Ten universities a robust curriculum specializing in Islamic Studies.
Ali Al Momar
Ali graduated from the University of Michigan in 2017 with a B.A. in Public Policy. His primary area of interest is comparative politics in the Middle East and North Africa, especially in relation to electoral dynamics, democratic transitions, and identity politics. Ali previously worked at Freedom House, a Washington, D.C.–based democracy watchdog, where he assisted in managing a multi-million-dollar portfolio of human rights and democracy programs focusing on issues ranging from gender equality to justice-sector reform. He also contributed to Freedom House’s advocacy efforts, and his research was utilized in analyses and various press releases published on the organization’s website.
Mekarem earned her B.A. in both International Studies and Middle Eastern and North African Studies from the University of Michigan in 2016. Following graduation, she spent time in Haifa, where she worked at a research institution focused on Palestinian citizens of Israel. Since returning to the United States, she has worked with the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies as a program assistant. Currently, she works with the Arab Studies Institute as the editor of both Al-Diwan, the blog arm of Tadween Publishing, and the Middle East Studies Pedagogy Initiative. Her research interests center upon Palestinian citizens of Israel, specifically the processes and role of placemaking on notions of identity, citizenship, belonging, and non-belonging.
Ahmed graduated in 2016 from the University of Indianapolis with a bachelor of arts in Sociology and Philosophy. As an undergraduate, he was awarded a Fulbright U.S. Student Program research grant which enabled him to travel to Morocco and conduct field work with activists from two contemporary social movements: the 20th February Movement and Hirak al-Rif. Ahmed is also an activist and community organizer, and a founder of an Indiana non-profit, FOCUS Initiatives, that is working to develop transitional housing and re-entry programming for formerly incarcerated persons in the state. Additionally, he is organizing against Countering Violent Extremism funding in Indianapolis as part of the American Friends Service Committee's Communities Against Islamophobia project.
Asma Noray graduated from Swarthmore College in 2017 with a B.A. in both Political Science and Arabic. She is originally from Nairobi, Kenya, and grew up in Seattle, Washington. Asma has studied Arabic in Morocco, Oman, Iraq, and Jordan, and has worked extensively with refugee populations from these regions. Her research interests involve understanding refugee and migration crises in the Middle East through the lens of fiction and personal narratives. Over the past year, she has served as an AmeriCorps member at World Relief Seattle, where she worked to expand services for refugee youth in the area. In addition, Asma is also passionate about advocacy and civic engagement in the Muslim American community.
Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies Incoming 2018
Betty's research interests include the Chechen-Russian Wars, Chechen masculinity, Salafism in the North Caucasus, and ethnicity-based prejudice in the Russian Federation. As an undergraduate, she spent a summer at St. Petersburg State University studying Russian language and art. She received a B.A. in Russian and Eastern European Studies from Wesleyan University in 2011.
Kaley is a J.D./M.A. candidate. She earned her bachelor's degree in Political Science with a concentration in Slavic Studies from Barnard College, Columbia University in 2011. She was awarded a Fulbright U.S. Student Research Fellowship the same year to expand her study of democratic development in post-Orange Revolution Ukraine at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. She has worked in non-profit development in New York City and volunteered with the Open World Leadership Center. In law school, she has represented Michigan at the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition and serves as managing editor of the Michigan Journal of International Law. Her research interests include democratic development, anti-corruption efforts, and rule of law in the former Soviet Union; Ukrainian language, culture, and politics; social movements in semi-authoritarian regimes; human rights; and international law. Kaley's writing on Ukraine has been featured on Huffington Post and MJILOnline.
Jamal is a United States Army Foreign Area Officer specializing in South and Central Asian affairs. He received a B.A. in Criminal Justice from Michigan State University in 2006 and has served in the Army since. In 2017 he graduated from the Russian Basic Course at the Defense Language Institute, a year-long program that included an immersion in Daugavpils, Latvia. He is just returning from a year-long assignment in Astana, Kazakhstan, where he served in the Office of Military Cooperation at the U.S. Embassy.
Mark Dovich is a fourth-year student at the University of Michigan pursuing an M.A. in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies (REES) and a B.A. in Political Science and REES through the Concurrent Undergraduate-Graduate Studies program. He expects to receive his B.A. in December 2018. His research interests include democratization and development in Russia, the former Soviet Union, and Eastern Europe in the post-Communist period. His work experiences include internships at the International Specialized Exhibition "Astana Expo 2017" in Astana, Kazakhstan, and in the Political-Economic Section of the United States Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia; a virtual internship in the Economic Section of the United States Embassy in Moscow, Russia; and a fellowship at Human Rights First in Washington, D.C. He speaks Russian.
Justin is a United States Army Foreign Area Officer specializing in South and Central Asian affairs. He received a B.S. in health science from Armstrong Atlantic State University in 2006 and an M.A. in industrial and organizational psychology in 2015. Justin has served in the Army since 2007. In 2017 he graduated from the Russian Basic Course at the Defense Language Institute. He is just returning from a year-long assignment in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he attended the Sri Lankan Military’s Defense Services Command and Staff College.
Arakel's primary interest is in Armenian politics in the post-Soviet period, but his work has extended across multiple disciplines. His undergraduate thesis was a piece of creative fiction about Monte Melkonian, an Armenian American who emigrated to independent Armenia to fight in the Nagorno-Karabakh War. After graduating in 2018 from McMaster University, Arakel spent the summer in Armenia working for Hetq, an investigative journalism website based in Yerevan. As an M.A student, he hopes to build on his educational background and his experiences on the ground with further interdisciplinary study of the post-Soviet sphere.
Hina Haider earned a B.A. in history and a secondary teaching certification in social studies and history from the University of Michigan-Dearborn, and was named the History Honors Scholar as well as a Chancellor’s Medallion recipient. She has held various teaching positions over the past several years and has worked as a teacher in Yes for Prep, a program that provides Detroit area youth from underrepresented minority groups with an advanced academic curriculum. Currently, she works at Star International Academy as a U.S. history teacher.