A Real-World Education
Through courses and internships sponsored by Tufts' Feinstein International Center, students have an opportunity to gain real-world experience in the field of humanitarian aid.
On a recent project examining the use of microcredit to support refugees in Africa, Karen Jacobsen, director of the Refugee and Forced Migration Program at Tufts' Feinstein International Center, worked closely with an undergraduate and three graduate students from Tufts' Fletcher School. Partnering with students on projects, says Jacobsen, is a great way to integrate field research with their academic work.
"Here we are at a university and we have all these fantastic students who are smart, full of energy and willing to travel to remote places," says Jacobsen, who, like other researchers at the Center, is encouraged to integrate her field research with her classroom teachings.
"We are clear in our minds that the courses we teach have to be based on real research and real experiences," says Feinstein International Center Director Peter Walker. "They have to be up-to-date and, therefore, based on research that is ongoing."
While it's important for practitioners to share their field experiences with students, the Center also encourage students to spend some time working with a non-governmental organization to experience life on the front lines of humanitarian aid work. According to Walker, the Center offers a number of scholarships for graduate students to take on internships after they have completed the first year of their program.
2005 graduates of the Feinstein International Center's Master of Arts in Humanitarian Assistance (MAHA) program
"We use our money to really try to encourage people to do gain field experience—not just go and hang around with an NGO, but actually carry out a piece of structured work, which they can then report back on," says Walker. That way, he adds, students gain experience in the field, while also learning how to write budgets and proposals.
Jacobsen hopes students who are introduced to the field of humanitarian assistance through courses and internships at the Center may choose the field for their career.
"We really see it as being important that we bring people into this field and find ways for them to pursue their interests," she says. "We try to light up their interest in this work because we really need young and new people coming in all the time. The field of humanitarian assistance needs them."
Profile written by Meghan Mandeville
Top photo by Joanie Tobin, Tufts University Photo. Middle photo provided by Feinstein International Center.
This story originally ran on Sept. 18, 2006.