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By Kat Palczewski | January 2013

Finding Her Place in CAL and the World

When Charla Burnett, Global Studies in the Arts and Humanities senior, met with a College of Arts & Letters advisor four years ago, she wasn't sure what major was right for her. She knew she wanted to help people and work in policy, with the ultimate goal of working for the United Nations. When her advisor told her about the recently established Global Studies in the Arts and Humanities program, she knew it would be a perfect fit. Charla explains that it was important for her to gain a philosophical, ethical background before pursuing an international relations or policy degree.

Charla emphasizes the flexibility of the Global Studies in the Arts and Humanities program, "I was able to specialize in Peace and Justice Studies and take classes in Anthropology, Philosophy, and Sociology, based on my interests."

Four years later, Charla has the valuable background and knowledge she needs to move on to her choice of graduate programs.

Charla's experiences include an entire year studying French Language and European Politics at Institut Catholique de Paris. While in France, Charla received her ESL teaching certification (TEOFL) and taught English to children of multiple French families.

From the Classroom to the Community

In September 2013, Charla became an active volunteer for the Refugee Development Center of Lansing. She teaches the ESL walk-in program and has helped with multiple other programs. Driven to do more for the Refugee Development Center, Charla decided to center her senior thesis around the organization.

For her senior thesis, Charla is researching different, positive ways to promote advocacy, and mobilize people into action. She says, "Guilt used to be the main advocacy tool to mobilize people into action, guilt now makes people shut down. It makes them feel hopeless." She continues, "A lot of times as a society, we've gotten so bombarded by these images that they no longer affect us in the same way they were supposed to when they were created."

Charla is producing a film that will be used as an advocacy tool for the Refugee Development Center, but is also a part of her greater research goal to find the best advocacy strategies within film.

"The film doesn't involve any of the refugees or any stories prior to them getting here. It's very focused on the positive aspects of volunteering, what the programs do, how it makes them feel to help others; just the positive things instead of focusing on the negatives."

The Refugee Development Center plans to use Charla's film to promote its organization and recruit volunteers. Charla will present her research and film at the University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum in April.

Moving Forward

Reflecting back on her experience in the Global Studies in the Arts and Humanities program, Charla says, "I have great relationships with my professors. The best thing about doing a new program is that the professors really get closer to the students than if it were a giant lecture hall."

"Almost every one of my professors has written me a letter of recommendation for graduate school. They get really involved and elect students. I couldn't thank them more."

Charla has already been accepted into the:

Masters of Arts program in Global Governance at Florida International University
Masters of Arts program in International Development at University College Dublin, and
Masters of Arts program in Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict at University College Dublin.
Although she is still waiting to hear back from Simmons College and American University of Paris, France, Charla's first choice right now is University College Dublin. After earning her Masters, Charla plans to spend at least 2 years volunteering in Africa or South America before applying to work for the United Nations.