Stories by Doug Dolan and Amy Longstaff
Peter Munk’s dream was to create a school of global affairs that would expand Canada’s influence by educating promising Canadian and international students, who would go on to use their new skills and knowledge to tackle problems around the world.
Today, Munk students and alumni are working on five continents, addressing the toughest international issues, from peacemaking to governance, from refugee settlement to climate change.
Here are a few of their stories.
ECUADOR FIELD RESEARCH PROGRAM
Emily Evans, Stephanie Xu, Jillian Sprenger
PEACE, CONFLICT AND JUSTICE STUDENTS
MUNK ONE STUDENT
Gitanjali Goolsarran, Kyle Jacques, Daniel Sanchez, Benjamin Windeler
Hannah Dos Santos and Olivia Hazleton
LATIN AMERICAN STUDIES STUDENTS
Ecuador’s Yasuní-ITT Initiative was a six-year attempt to deal with climate change by keeping oil reserves in the ground in exchange for international compensation. Teresa Kramarz, Co-Director of the Munk School’s Environmental Governance Lab, put together a project to study public support for the initiative, and sent a group of students to do the fieldwork, financed by the Dean’s Fund for International and Indigenous Initiatives. The students, who had various levels of academic training, language skills and research experience, took part in an initial five-week training program, and then spent 10 days in Ecuador doing interviews and site visits.
“The impact that the oil industry has on the country and its people—these were things we’d only discussed in academic terms, so seeing the actual impact on people was eye-opening,” says MGA student Kyle Jacques. “To have a real-life reference for things we were researching and writing about, that was really important to me.”
While pursuing her MGA, Alyssa Horvat earned a coveted internship with the International Organization for Migration in Geneva. That internship really paid off: after graduating, Horvat was hired as a program support officer for the organization’s Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis Response. She is now based in southern Bangladesh, where a sprawling refugee camp is home to nearly 600,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees from nearby Myanmar.
“In many ways I wasn’t prepared for the sensitivity and feelings of empathy that being here brought out in me,” Horvat says. “As a student, you tend to view world events through an analytical lens, developing opinions and hypothesizing about their ramifications. It’s shocking at first to be confronted by reality in such a big and tangible way.”
In 2011, Noura Al-Jizawi was a student activist who helped ignite the civil uprising in Syria. Today, she is heading into her second year of studies at the Munk School. Forced to flee her native country after being targeted by authorities, Al-Jizawi started an NGO to help victims of torture and female survivors, and to advocate on behalf of Syrian refugees. She went on to become a vice-president of the Syrian opposition—one of the few women leaders in the coalition that would ultimately sit down to negotiate with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Al-Jizawi came to the Munk School through the Scholars-at-Risk program. She is also a recipient of the Paul Cadario Fellowship in Global Affairs.
“For the future of Syria, we won’t need only activism experience,” Al-Jizawi says. “For a country destroyed totally, we need academic experience. We need to be thinking about innovative development strategies.”
Up until August 2018, Nick Dagostino was the Director of RightsCon, a fast-growing global summit on human rights and technology, headquartered in New York. RightsCon has built a community of more than 3,000 technologists, business leaders, human-rights defenders, and representatives of government and civil society organizations. Dagostino, who is now at the HIV charity (RED), brought the annual gathering to Toronto, helping showcase Canada’s leadership in this area. The organization is now creating a platform to sustain collaboration beyond the three-day summit, connecting engaged stakeholders in over 120 countries.
“RightsCon’s goal,” he says, “is to create an interactive platform for organizations around the world to come together on some really challenging issues: freedom of expression, censorship, mass surveillance, artificial intelligence, the future of work, etc. Many of these groups work in hostile, isolating areas, and RightsCon is a home for them to connect with like-minded groups, as well as major companies and governments.”
GLOBAL JOURNALISM FELLOW
As a physician working with Médecins Sans Frontières, Sarah Giles believed she had a responsibility not only to help the people in front of her, but to inform the world about what she was witnessing. “When you read about people drowning in the Mediterranean,” she says, “you normally read about 5,000 people. What’s missing are those individual voices to really make people care.”
Giles enrolled in the Munk School’s Fellowship in Global Journalism to develop her ability to write about the experiences and insights she was gaining as a physician. Since then she has published pieces in The Walrus, The National Post and other publications, bringing an important first-hand perspective on health care to the national conversation.