In the College of Arts & Letters, our students are as diverse as they are numerous. Our students are hardworking, creative, intelligent, committed to their personal development, and passionate about leaving a positive impact on the community.Our students come from a variety of backgrounds and have a wide range of interests, both academically and personally.
Meet some of our students who make the College of Arts & Letters a great place to be:
Q & A with Ashley McMichael, ISCOR Major and UK Fulbright Scholarship Recipient Studying in Belfast
By Leslie L.J. Reilly
With only two-and-a-half weeks to prepare, Ashley McMichael, a freshman majoring in International Security and Conflict Resolution (ISCOR) took on the daunting task of applying for a UK Fulbright scholarship. She spent “a ridiculous amount of time” writing and reviewing her 1,395-word application and 749-word essay. She passed the rigorous application stage and was invited in for a personal interview. McMichael didn’t feel she performed well during that interview, so when she received the acceptance notice, she had to read it several times before she believed that she, indeed, was selected as one of three scholarship recipients from SDSU. “I was completely overwhelmed and in disbelief.”
Fast-forward to July and she’s now studying at Queen’s University Belfast, in Northern Ireland. This is her first trip abroad. I caught up with her between side-trips and studying to ask about the first half of her four-weeks on the Emerald Isle.
Q: Tell me about your focus area and studies in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
A: I’m studying conflict transformation in Belfast. As an ISCOR major, this has been a completely unparalleled opportunity to study my focus area. My program has largely focused on conflict transformation during and after the era of the Troubles, and thus far, we have covered areas such as transitional justice, dealing with the past, trauma, borders, and policing, all in the context of the Troubles.
Q: Have you had a chance to research and connect with people impacted by the Troubles yet?
A: Throughout the entire program, we have heard snippets of peoples’ lives from the era of the Troubles. We have heard from people in securitization aspects as well as people whose everyday lives were impacted forever by acts of violence. However, it is during the field trips and excursions out to the town that I feel that I have truly been exposed to the reality of the situation. From hearing about Bloody Sunday from a relative of one of the men killed during the event to the perspective and experiences of people at pubs, the memory of the Troubles truly is everywhere in Belfast, and I have been able to hear about it from both sides.
Q: How do you expect meeting them will change, inform, or enhance your research?
A: Meeting these people and hearing their experiences has truly made the Troubles real for me. Hearing about a subject from an academic lens is one thing, but it is completely different to listen to people who have personally experienced events. That has been one of my favorite parts of being here and of studying this subject matter, as I feel that it is what has really made me understand the Troubles best. Putting a face and emotion to something so broad makes it more understandable. In terms of enhancing my research, I would say that this has truly opened my mind and solidified my understanding of the knowledge that we are gaining in class.
Q: What are examples of cultural differences/similarities you have noticed during your first time abroad?
A: I suppose it’s easier to look at the differences than the similarities, as those are what we notice first. One cultural difference that really surprised me and continues to throw me is that pedestrians don’t have the right of way here, and that drivers don’t stop. My friends and I have almost been run over a few times while we’ve been walking across the street. Something else that has been very different is the fact that most places, whether they are pubs or restaurants, don’t split the check. There’s a “round buying culture” here, and that has proven very difficult for me and my friends to wrap our minds around when we’re out eating, as we’re so used to each paying for our own meals.
One of my favorite cultural differences is the abundance of live music in this city. It absolutely comes alive at night, and there’s a great appreciation for live music that I haven’t seen as much in the U.S. People here have been very friendly so far, and that has been such a pleasant experience, especially with this being my first time abroad.
In terms of similarities, there are still many things that remain the same between the cultures. People enjoy having fun and they love socializing. Especially because the language is the same and our culture is so tightly connected with this part of Western Europe, many things have been very similar, and I’ve appreciated the familiarity and universality of that.
Q: Where are you conducting your studies? What is unique about the city?
A: I’m currently studying at Queen’s University Belfast, which is in the center of Belfast, Northern Ireland. It’s an absolutely amazing university that looks like a castle on the outside and has a completely modern interior, and I adore it. This city is so unique because it has so much history in it, especially given the events of the Troubles in the latter half of the 20th century. This history is still very much alive in the memories of people, but you can also see much of it in the conflict architecture (ie the peace walls). This is something that I haven’t seen anywhere else; the landscape of this modern city bears the scars of the conflict itself. The city is also trying to rebrand itself, and you can see that everywhere you go. It’s making its way out of the shadow of the Troubles and is making an effort to become a tourist attraction, and this is something that I’ve found fascinating while I’ve been here.
Q: Tell me about your cohort.
A: In my program of Conflict Transformation, there are about 58 students. Amongst the three programs, I believe there are around 90 students. It is a very international crowd; many are either from the U.S. or Australia, but there are also people from Austria, Spain, Germany, Israel, and Canada whom I have met. I originally expected that the students would all be undergraduate students, but there are actually quite a few people who are taking a gap year or who are in some sort of postgraduate work. The ages themselves range from 18 to 65+; it truly is a diverse group. As far as studies are concerned, I have met people from an array of studies within Conflict Transformation. Sociology, political science, international relations, criminology, and law are the most common ones that I have heard, but we really do have some of everything.
In the Fulbright group itself, there are six of us total, and two in each of the summer school programs. They’re from all across the country, with four of them being from various places in the Midwest and one from Georgia.
Q: How do you think this experience will impact your life?
A: Already, I have been exposed to so much that I would not have been able to see otherwise. From learning to be independent to adapting to a new country to having the opportunity to see these amazing sights, I know that this experience will stick with me forever. Within the educational aspect, I’ve learned an enormous amount about my area of study in such a short time, and I know that I’ll be able to bring this experience back to my classes at SDSU. I honestly think that this independence and being adaptable will return home with me, as it is very confidence-inspiring to know that I am fully capable to deal with some of the situations I have been presented with during my time here. Beyond that, however, the friends who I have made are such genuinely wonderful people with such bright futures ahead of them, and it is inspiring to know that I will have them in my life. Overall, the first two weeks of this experience has already helped to provide me with more direction and desire to see the world.
Although I’m only halfway through the program, this has already been one of the most life-changing events of my life. I never expected to be doing something like this after my first year of college, and it has exceeded all of my expectations. I’ve been able to see and do things that I didn’t imagine myself doing for another few years, from hiking up Cave Hill to visiting Giant’s Causeway to casually strolling around eight-hundred-year-old castles. The friends I’ve made through Fulbright and through the program itself are people with whom I definitely intend to stay in contact, and their company has contributed to this trip being as excellent as it has been. I truly only have the best things to say about this experience.
Victor Beck Selected to Intern in Washington, D.C. with the Panetta Institute Congressional Internship Program
By Leslie L.J. Reilly
SDSU junior Victor Beck isn’t going to have a typical summer. This political science major, Webers Honors College interdisciplinary minor, and incoming president of SDSU’s Mock Trial team, will participate in a summer internship on Capitol Hill offered by the Panetta Institute.
Founded in 1997 by Leon and Sylvia Panetta, the Panetta Institute serves the entire California State University system plus several other schools. Under the direction of Secretary and Mrs. Panetta, the Institute provides a variety of study opportunities in government, politics and public policy, and sponsors a range of other programs.
The Congressional Internship Program gives selected students from throughout the CSU system, along with Dominican University of California, Saint Mary’s College of California and Santa Clara University, an opportunity to get a firsthand look at the legislative process by working in a congressional office in Washington, D.C.
Politics and Public Policy – Beck’s Journey Begins
Beck’s interest in politics began as a senior at San Diego High School, where was Inspired by a political science class. From that point, Beck had a plan. He knew he wanted to go to law school, so majoring in political science at SDSU seemed the right choice.
Within his political science course of study, he recalls meeting with his pre-law advisors. One was Ronnee Schreiber with whom he felt a good connection. Beck respected her work. Schreiber said, "Victor sat in the front in of my Political Science 102 class, never took a single note, aced the exams, and was actively engaged. He's clearly passionate about politics, which is wonderful because he is also compassionate. I look forward to his many future successes!"
Another influential advisor was Assistant Professor Dr. Kimberley Fletcher. In a capstone class, Beck recalls that Professor Fletcher pushed him “in a good way.” He said, “She made me strive to be better.” About Beck, Fletcher said, “As Mock Trial advisor it has been a pleasure to work with Victor, first as the chair of communications and now as the president of this growing student organization. Victor's commitment, his energy and his capacity to meet the demands of the classroom and that of a time-consuming student organization is a credit to Victor's organizational skills and his devotion to always give 110%.”
The Road to Washington, D.C.
As a freshman, Beck remembers going to an admissions event for the Webers Honors College. There he heard a past Congressional Internship Program recipient make a presentation. He was inspired to apply at that moment. However, two years passed before he applied as an incoming junior.
Beck had to pass rigorous interviews to seal the nomination and obtain the internship invitation.
First, Beck interviewed with two administrators at Webers Honors College — Dr. Martha Enciso, associate director and Michelle Knowlton, adviser. Dr. Enciso said, “Victor’s major along with his honors minor have equipped him with the proper foundation to put theory into practice. Victor is a thoughtful, inquisitive individual that is eager to learn more about the field of public service. His curiosity for learning makes him an excellent representative for SDSU.”
Next, he interviewed with President Adela de la Torre. “That was really cool! She is really awesome,” Beck said. It gave de la Torre a chance to get to know him. Each year only one candidate from each CSU is selected by the president of the university to attend the Panetta Institute Congressional Internship Program. President de la Torre selected Beck.
He flew to Monterey to interview with a three-person panel including Sylvia Panetta. During the Panetta Institute interview, he was asked about the issues he cares about. Beck shared his top areas of interest: health care, foreign affairs, and foreign relations. “In public health care, it is the failure of the systems and how they affect people. I think it is very important,” he said. “In foreign affairs, there are alot of problems in the world due to the lack of knowledge. To be a representative of the U.S. would be really cool.” When asked about the biggest problem facing America today, Beck answered, “Partisanship and the implications of policies. It’s made to please the constituents and special interest groups.”
Hands-on Opportunity on Capitol Hill
Beck has never been to Washington, D.C. and looks forward to being immersed in the culture during his two and one-half month internship. He hopes to do policy research, and to take memos. “I’ll learn so much and be exposed to so much,” Beck said.
Beck continued, “In law school you learn about the legal basis for the law. I feel that in D.C. it is the application of the law. It will be nice to have hands-on knowledge with public policy. Now, I sit in class, and I study about how the foundations of how policies work. During the internship, I’ll see it upfront. I’ll be with the people working on them.”
Beck will determine if the East Coast is the right fit for future law schools and his career trajectory. During his internship, he hopes to find out if public policy is his true future focus. “It really supplements my educational experience. To literally go and live it, will be great,” Beck mused, “I could end up in the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — that would be crazy!”
MORE ABOUT THE PANETTA INSTITUTE CONGRESSIONAL INTERNSHIP PROGRAM
Each fall, the Panetta Institute hosts students for its Congressional Internship Program beginning in mid-August with an intensive two-week course at the Institute and continuing in Washington, D.C. through mid-November.
“We are proud that our program has earned the reputation of being one of the finest internship programs in the nation,” says Secretary Leon E. Panetta.
Interns first attend an intensive two-week course at the Panetta Institute, where discussions range from United States foreign and defense policy to cybersecurity issues to fiscal and monetary policy to practicalities of what interns can expect once they arrive for work on Capitol Hill. During this training session, students attend lectures led by an array of experts from diverse disciplines.
Each intern is then assigned to work for two and one-half months in the Capitol Hill office of a member of the California congressional delegation. In addition to their work in congressional offices, participants attend weekly seminars on policy issues and different aspects of government.
Meet Undergraduate Research Journal of the College of Arts & Letters (URJCAL) Editor-in-Chief Jana Jarvis
By Leslie L. J. Reilly
Preparation for the job of editor began early in life for Jana Jarvis, an English and Comparative Literature Comparative and English Literature major. When she was in high school in San Antonio, Texas, she was editor of “The Jabberwocky,” a literary magazine. In that capacity she learned how to analyze work and meet deadlines -- skills she utilizes today as she reviews 3,000 to 7,000 word essays based on student research in humanities and social sciences for the Undergraduate Research Journal of the College of Arts & Letters (URJCAL). When it comes to continually enhancing her writing skills, Jarvis said, “I've been a regular attendee at the Gemini Ink: San Antonio Writer's Conference every summer since 2017 and was an active participant in the local poetry groups of San Antonio, such as the Sun Poet's Society.”
For Jarvis, working on the URJCAL editorial team offers networking and professional development along with a camaraderie found nowhere else. Together, the staff reviews arguments, logical structure, and evidence-based facts. Jarvis offers feedback and advice on how to modify arguments. Along with the editorial board, she proposes edits and encourages students to strengthen perspectives. Feedback from faculty advisors allows for additional fact-checking.
“This is an amazing opportunity for undergrads to be taken seriously as an author and scholar,” Jarvis said. For some students, an accepted submission to the journal offers a glimpse into being published for the first-time and offers the prestige of being recognized for their research. URJCAL is published every summer and highlights the work of eight to 10 students.
“It’s a true stepping stone, no matter what,” Jarvis continued. “This is a chance to assert yourself and to be taken seriously.”