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Top of Their Game

Arjun BanerjeeFirst year graduate student Arjun Banerjee traveled to Ghana over the 2018 summer break upon invitation from an Accra-cum-Yaounde-based NGO, African Center for Science and International Security (called AFRICSIS) and the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC). He was able to conduct a one-on-one interview of a former director general of the Nuclear Regulatory Authority of Ghana and nuclear engineers working with GAEC about the feasibility of expanding nuclear power in Ghana and West Africa, regulatory and operational hurdles in the path of the government, the motivation of the nation to become nuclear-savvy and plans for tackling proliferation and terrorism challenges.

Banerjee visited the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Technical Cooperation Programme Center at Accra and interacted with officials and scientists from across Africa and the Middle East from nuclear-hopeful/ fledgling countries while they were training. He also interviewed a few civilians from various strata of society to ascertain their familiarity with nuclear energy and nonproliferation topics. He plans to expand this research in the form of a paper and perhaps an online survey in the near future.

Allison CritcherAllison Critcher is conducting fieldwork in the Middle East this fall, which she also did during the summer. She is collecting data in Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates for her dissertation, which focuses on women’s political agency in the Gulf. Critcher was the recipient of the competitive Thomas Fellowship, which is funding this project. She is interested in how women worship and participate in their religious communities and in their secular lives. These countries combine traditional values and roles with the ultra-modern. Additionally, she continues to study Arabic to increase her fluency to aid in her research. While in the Gulf, she is also working with colleagues at Kuwait University and NYU Abu Dhabi. She is also teaching an online course for our department.

Erik BeuckErik Beuck, a fourth year PhD student, is a visiting scholar at the Institute of Political Science at Leiden University in the Netherlands. Leiden, which has a department of approximately 50 faculty members, was established in 1963. The focus on the study of institutions at the national and international level has resulted in consistent ranking among the top political science departments in Europe. Beuck was awarded a McClure Grant to attend Leiden where he is studying international law and territorial dispute settlement as part of his dissertation research. In addition to his work at Leiden, Beuck will be spending time doing archival work at the Peace Palace Library. This is one of the oldest libraries dedicated to international law. The library’s primary charge is to assist the institutions based in the Peace Palace, including the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration. The library itself has more than a million titles on different areas of public and private international law. Beuck’s time at Leiden University and the Peace Palace Library, however, is not the most exciting news in his life. In July, Beuck got married in Athens (Tennessee).

Mark WatsonMark Watson is not your typical graduate student. Watson is finishing his PhD fitting in classes, his dissertation, and his research with his job. Watson practices what he learns as the city manager of Oak Ridge. In April, he was invited to visit and participate as a guest professor with the China University of Political Science and Law in Changping District, Beijing, China. 

He was one of nearly 50 guest professors from universities around the world, including such places as Trinity College in Dublin, Wellington University in New Zealand, and Edinburgh College in Scotland. Watson taught a Local Government Policy Processes in the United States course. Teaching involved lectures and project work for four hours a day for eight days. He had 35 students from around China. Chinese students are required to take class from international professors in a foreign language. He taught students seeking course work in law, public administration, and politics. The final class project involved identifying and utilizing taught process on a policy to enhance the university.

Watson said he was very impressed with the openness, engagement, and friendliness of the student body. Taking a university-level course and taking it in a foreign language is challenging. Watson said this was an incredibly rewarding experience and students quizzed him about what was occurring in the United States. When he was not in the classroom, Watson took advantage of the visit to see/experience China with visits to Shaolin, Zhengzhou, Luoyang, and Beijing. He climbed the Great Wall.

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