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Every spring, since 1991, the INIA Scholar of the Year Award is given to the most outstanding senior graduating with an Interdisciplinary degree in International Affairs. The criteria for this award include academic achievements (both in-major GPA and cumulative GPA), international experience, service to the community, and work to advance the field of international affairs. The award recipient is voted upon by all International Affairs faculty. Current and past recipients are listed by graduation year.
The academic achievements of our International Affairs students were, yet again, exceptional this year. Congratulations to William Goltra, the 2022-2023 INIA Scholar of the Year Award recipient.
"Over the past five years, I have been afforded an array of professional
experiences that have contributed to my candidature for “INIA Scholar of the Year” at Marquette University. The following is an account of these experiences and the role that they jointly played in my development as a competent student and young professional in the field of International Affairs.
After graduating from high school in 2018, I applied for and was accepted to a position with the Literacy Lab of AmeriCorps, an organization that aims to improve the literacy rate of K-8 students in America’s inner city school districts. During this year of service, I worked with a caseload of 17 K-3 students in Washington, D.C.’s 5th District to improve and facilitate their development as young readers. Although my year of service was only tangentially related to International Affairs, the passion of my students’ desire to learn despite the systemic realities that had undermined their development ultimately moved me to continue my academic studies at a collegiate level.
Following my position with the Literacy Lab, I enrolled at Marquette University with a major in International Affairs. My interest in International Affairs did not stem from lived experience but rather a nascent interest in America’s activities abroad in the wake of 9/11 and America’s controversial war in Iraq. After my first semester at Marquette, I gained enough knowledge to know that this was an interest that I wanted to pursue in greater detail. By partial consequence, I applied for and was accepted to a position as a research fellow with Nonviolent Peaceforce, an organization that seeks to promote and apply unarmed civilian protection (“UCP”) practices in areas of conflict around the world. This fellowship entailed a months-long research project that I effectuated with two graduate students from the University of Minnesota. During this project, we carried out a comprehensive literature review and interview process with UCP practitioners to understand how UCP “best practices” are practically applied in areas of violent conflict. At the end of the project, we produced a 40-page outcome document that outlined our findings and their implications on the effectuation of UCP.
This opportunity afforded me an array of insights into the field of International Affairs via a disciplinary approach in human rights. Ultimately, this experience coupled with the written and oral skills that I acquired over the course of the fellowship encouraged me to further pursue my budding interest in International Affairs. During the second half of my sophomore year at Marquette, I returned to Washington, D.C., to partake in the Les Aspin Center for Government. During the program, I worked as an intern for a lobbying firm called Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough. As an intern, I worked for the firm’s Qatar team, during which I produced daily political memos for representatives at the Embassy of Qatar. In brief, these memos analyzed contemporary political developments vis-à-vis U.S.- MENA relations and were used to inform the perspectives of embassy staff. By the end of my internship, this immersive experience in U.S. policy in the MENA region had affirmed my interest not only in International Affairs but its application in the Middle East.
At the start of the spring 2022 semester, I left the United States to pursue a work-study opportunity in Amman, Jordan, a critical ally to the United States in the Middle East. During the first half of the program, I was enrolled in a handful of courses dedicated to the regional politics of the Middle East; during the latter half of the program, I worked as an intern in the Za’atari Syrian refugee camp that runs along the border between Jordan and Syria. Throughout this internship, I worked with Syrian refugee youth in the camp’s psycho-social support (“PSS”) program and assisted in the effectuation of course activities. Ultimately, my internship culminated in the production of a research paper on the role that Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) plays in the camp’s PSS program. On a professional level, my semester refined certain written and oral communication skills that contribute to my development as a young professional.
On a more personal, emotional level, my time in Jordan led me to appreciate the humanitarian character that connects all human-beings, regardless of national origins, religious affiliations, or ethnic identities.
Up until my return to the United States in July 2022, my professional trajectory was directed beyond the borders of my motherland. However, my time in the Middle East endowed me with a unique perspective on the United States that I would have never developed had I not worked and studied abroad. In a word, my time in Jordan inculcated in me both an appreciation for the institutions that facilitate the bon fonctionnement of U.S. government and a realization of their fragility in the face of a
non-pluralist nationalist movement. It is because of these developments that my focus has shifted inwards to the preservation and amelioration of America’s democratic governing institutions.
To-date, I am working as an assistant to a paralegal and community prosecutor in the Milwaukee District Attorney’s Office. Although I do not intend to pursue a career in law, this experience has served as a helpful first step in the pursuit of my new-found focus. Following graduation, I will work for the government of California as a policy analyst in the State Auditor’s Office. As a policy analyst, I will examine the effectiveness of the state’s public policy and programs which, in turn, will culminate in the production of outcome reports that will inform the decisions of California’s state legislature. In this position, I look forward to applying and improving upon the skills that I have developed over the last few years as a student in Marquette’s International Affairs Department.