2021 Mundt Peace Fellowship Scholars 

Nine SDSU students accepted virtual international service-learning internships this year

By Leslie L.J. Reilly

From Jordan to India to Vietnam and beyond, students at SDSU worked with an international cadre of NGOs and humanitarian organizations this year, albeit from their own homes. These virtual internships provided the Mundt Peace Scholarship winners a rich service-learning experience with organizations they are passionate about.  

The internships, supported by the College of Arts and Letters with a gift from the William R. Mundt Peacemakers Fund, gave SDSU students opportunities to participate in the work of non-governmental agencies (NGO), governmental aid agencies, combined public/private aid/peace efforts, humanitarian organizations and social entrepreneurships seeking to alleviate social and economic inequalities. 

Dean Monica J. Casper said, “These internships invite cultural exchanges and build understanding to prepare the next generation of global and local social justice leaders.”

In previous years, the Mundt Peace Fellowship scholars traveled to Cambodia. This year, due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, the students remained at home, but it didn’t derail their work, or their enthusiasm as they engaged in important work abroad. 

During a virtual luncheon with Mundt fund co-trustees Andrew Mundt and Davida Huchel, the scholarship recipients shared their experiences. Mundt asked the students about their greatest takeaways as they pursue peace — the fundamental goal of the scholarship. Each student shared their heartfelt response. 

“These experiences become the core of your identity,” Huchel told the students. “You are my kind of people.”

Here we highlight six of the nine scholars, who held virtual internships during the spring semester. Hannah Berman-Schneider, Tran Tran, and Lawson Hardrick, will participate in virtual internships during summer.

EMMA TSZTOO | INDIA 

Emma

Psychology major Emma Tsztoo worked with two nonprofit NGOs in India: the Comprehensive Rural Health Project, and Snehi, an organization for psychosocial support and mental healthcare. Both organizations tackle aspects of healthcare that Tsztoo is passionate about — mental and rural community health. 

She is studying public health, community action, and the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in India. “This is such a great opportunity to learn about another culture and witness the real-time effects of health policy on a pandemic response,” Tsztoo said.

“Because of my academic and extracurricular experiences at SDSU, I know I can make a meaningful contribution to these organizations.” she said. “I have learned so much and have a chance to impact such important causes.”

The internship helped her connect with people around the world and provided a deep understanding of cross-cultural communication and international health issues. “It will help me provide empathetic healthcare in the future,” she said. “My experience has also sparked a greater interest in public health policy, and I am looking into different post-graduation options that incorporate this field.”

Tsztoo said, “Receiving this scholarship not only provided the financial support to intern abroad, it also strengthened my confidence and pre-existing dedication to service. I am so grateful for the structure and means to delve into a different culture while impacting communities in need.”

KILIAN TAAY COLIN  | JORDAN

Kilian

Environmental engineering senior Kilian Taay Colin found an internship in Jordan. 

“I chose to intern at this project because I was a refugee in this region for seven years,” Colin said. ”I witnessed firsthand the struggle of this region with a shortage of water and deforestation, which are very similar to the environmental challenges faced by my communities in Southern California.”

The Watershed and Development Initiative (WADI) is a national NGO that informs decision makers and restoration practitioners on best practices for aquifer recharge and healthy ecosystems. Through the experience, Colin said,I have come to appreciate soft engineering as a more affordable approach to fighting environmental challenges and keeping the ecosystem in balance. Moreover, it is often the only viable approach for communities that lack large funding and support.

Colin used community organizing skills to work on the community awareness effort to fight deforestation and water shortage. Colin helped the government of Jordan, local NGOs, and the local community to deploy landscape-scale water conservation projects such as dam checks, dike contours, bench terraces, and Vallerani basins to enhance the capture and storage of rainfall. 

Without the Mundt Peace Fellowship, Colin believed they would not be prepared to secure an engineering job in the U.S. or internationally. “This internship made me realize that I need to go back to school to study more on soft engineering approaches in environmental and civil engineering.” Colin said. “I applied for graduate school at SDSU and I am hoping to continue my education this coming fall.”

ADAM PACHECO | JORDAN 

Adam

Adam Pacheco, a fourth-year criminal justice major, chose to work with the National Center for Research & Development (NCRD). The organization develops scientific capabilities in research areas that include nanotechnology, biotechnology, energy, and more to improve the lives of Jordanians through innovation.

“In working with a government in the Middle East, I’ve learned about both the sociopolitical and environmental factors facing people in the region,” Pacheco said. “My research with biotechnology program director Dr. Mohammed Al-Faqieh centered around utilizing technology to create jobs that financially empower women outside major cities like Amman.”

“This program allowed me to use my academic skills in my work, for the first time – something I found incredibly fulfilling,” Pacheco said. “During the internship I used research methods I learned in my coursework at SDSU.”

Pacheco found that the program helped his cultural awareness and allowed him to connect academic theory to real-world practice.I had only studied issues like global poverty and women’s empowerment through textbooks, but the internship allowed me to work on a project to create substantive change in peoples’ lives,” he said.

“I would encourage any student to pursue international experiences regardless of their circumstances – there is great value in making connections with people around the world, even if it's through Zoom,” Pacheco said.

PEPIN PAYZANT | VIETNAM 

Pepin

Pepin Payzant, a fourth-year child development major, interned with the Research and Training Center for Community Development in Hanoi, Vietnam. The organization serves young children and families in rural Vietnam where Payzant hopes to make a difference in their lives. “It is not uncommon for these families to lack formal parental education opportunities, so through the creation of various videos and infographics, we raise awareness of the importance of healthy child-rearing and discipline practices,” Payzant said.

“This experience is without a doubt the most intense cross-cultural interaction I have ever been given the opportunity to enjoy,” Payzant said. “In the future, I hope to utilize everything I’ve learned to encourage a more inclusive and diverse community, college campus, and place of employment.” 

“I have come away from my internship with a clearer understanding of how my field operates both nationally and internationally, and I can’t wait to employ all I’ve learned inside my preschool classroom,” she said.

She is grateful for being chosen for the Mundt Peace Fellowship. “This invaluable experience has opened my eyes to the importance of studying abroad and just how much it can add to your perspective of life,” Payzant said. “I learned more about myself than I ever thought an international experience could teach me, and thanks to this opportunity, I am a better, wiser, and stronger version of who I was before this experience.”

MAREN APPERT | INDIA

Maren

Maren Appert is a fourth-year environmental sciences major with a minor in interdisciplinary studies in Weber Honors College.

Appert’s post-graduation goal is to help run an NGO, so real-world experience was key in choosing an internship with an NGO in India called Citizen's Action Network (PondyCAN), whose mission is to “preserve and enhance the natural, social, cultural and spiritual environment in Pondicherry.” 

Since PondyCAN is a fairly small organization, Appert had direct access to the administration, scientists, and community organizers. It provided Appert with invaluable exposure to the inner workings of NGOs. 

A highlight of her work was a proposal she crafted for a “toolkit” that provided information on community outreach and other initiatives to foster self-reliance. “Laying down my fishing rod and opting for the ‘teach a man to fish approach’ was a motivational game changer for me,” she said. The toolkit allows volunteers and employees the ability to create their own graphics, post on social media platforms, and work to develop citizen science data. 

“My efforts and contributions feel purposeful and I am grateful for being able to make a tangible difference,” Appert said.

“Thanks to this experience, I have solidified my desire to pursue environmental stewardship

abroad,” she said. “I am planning to acquire my master’s or Ph.D. in environmental science in a foreign country — ideally through a Fulbright Scholarship. I have not decided where I want to continue my studies, but I am eager to experience even more countries and their cultures to expand my knowledge and contributions on a global level.”

ANGELICA ESPINOZA | INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS

Angelica

Angelica Espinoza is a graduate student in SDSU’s Graduate Program in Homeland Security. She worked with the Red Cross, and said, “I chose the Red Cross because I was impressed with their action-oriented focus. My intent to focus on Mexico stems from my desire to further understand my own culture and heritage. I knew that this work environment would be diverse and would provide me with unique challenges.”

Initially she did not consider emergency management as a possible career option. However, Espinoza found that “this fellowship has been so enriching and rewarding that I want to continue this path and see what other opportunities present themselves within this field.”

“I hope to continue building a bridge between the Red Cross and marginalized communities,” Espinoza said. “Oftentimes immigrant communities, and people globally who are unfamiliar with the Red Cross are hesitant to accept our help. I want to continue to bring awareness to the work we do and improve our community relations so that people will feel comfortable coming to us in their moments of crisis.”

Espinoza said. “This scholarship has helped me merge my love for serving others and my passion for national security into one incredible experience,” Espinoza said.