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Ready for the World: My Global Experience

By Valerie King (Sociology, Honors and Global Studies, Politics and Economics double major)

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The University of Tennessee promotes its Ready for the World initiative, encouraging students “to gain the international and intercultural experience they need to successfully navigate today’s dynamic and global society.” Likewise, the Chancellor’s Honors Program incorporated the initiative into its curriculum. Students hear the phrase countless times, are exposed to dozens of opportunities that fulfill the requirement, and are convinced that they will certainly be ready for the world when they graduate. But what does it really mean to be ready for the world?

Well, for me it means this: I have travelled abroad once per year, taken part in international research, engaged with the global community on campus and in Knoxville, and launched a campaign with Oxfam America to end world hunger. Needless to say, CHP has offered me a global experience, and I feel that I am ready for the world.

“I wish to share here are the ways in which I have engaged with the world through my academic research, and how these experiences have helped me not only to be ready for the world but also to create my own place within it.”

Although I spent a summer in China teaching English, a semester abroad in Switzerland, and have had a variety of experiences with the International House, local refugee community, and the global nonprofit Oxfam America, what I wish to share here are the ways in which I have engaged with the world through my academic research, and how these experiences have helped me not only to be ready for the world but also to create my own place within it.

To fulfill an honors credit last spring, I enrolled in a graduate seminar called Critical Discourse Analysis in the Department of Sociology. For the course, I completed an article called “Constructing Victims in the International Criminal Court: A Critical Discourse Analysis.” This research furthered my interest in legal studies and language, and I was able to produce significant research as an undergraduate. The professor encouraged me to submit the article to the American Society of Criminology meetings. In November, I will travel to San Francisco to present my paper in a roundtable session with scholars doing similar research.

Near the end of the seminar, the same professor invited me to help her with narrative criminology research, an emerging perspective according to which stories promote harmful action. I am currently collaborating with her to produce a co-authored article in the spring that addresses international perspectives on narrative and mass harm. I also helped her to prepare a co-edited volume for press, which included narrative criminological research from Norway, Germany, and Australia, to name a few.

The Chancellor’s Honors Program also made possible a summer in New York City. With funding from the Summer Enrichment Grant, I was able to independently arrange a research internship in the Sociology Department at New York University to assist with research on terrorism. I read through public documents, speeches, and interviews of Al-Qaeda leaders, looking for attempts to explain and justify why Al-Qaeda has attacked US and Western civilians in particular.

“As I approach graduation and the next stage of my life, I am grateful for the experiences and opportunities to prepare for graduate school and an academic career.”

All of these research experiences gave me the courage to submit my paper to the International Critical Legal Conference at the University of Sussex in Brighton, UK. I received full funding from the Chancellor’s Honors Program Research Grant and Baker Scholar Grant to participate in the conference. In addition to presenting my paper, I was able to engage with prominent legal scholars, sociologists, and activists, all doing similar research. While I was there, I arranged to meet with a professor at the University of Oxford, whom I proposed to work with when I pursue graduate studies at Oxford. Meeting with her gave me a sense of the criminology department, research opportunities, and life at Oxford, and my applications are stronger because I was able to meet with my proposed advisor.

Currently, I am working on an article that analyzes the intersections of US immigration policy and crime control through a narrative criminological perspective as part of another graduate seminar, Foundations of Criminology, for which I am receiving Honors credit. Examining US policy and immigration detention centers will prepare me to do significant research in the field when I pursue graduate studies. Additionally, my senior thesis, “Emergent Border Criminology: Frames of Crimmigration and Securitization in the US and EU,” examines emerging theories of global immigration policies. By exploring literatures of immigration, human rights, and criminal justice, I am laying the foundations to prepare for my future in migration research, as one of a global network of migration and criminal justice scholars.

As I approach graduation and the next stage of my life, I am grateful for the experiences and opportunities to prepare for graduate school and an academic career. I have had a genuinely worldly and cultured experience in the Chancellor’s Honors Program at the University of Tennessee, which enabled me to travel abroad, participate in global research, and present at international conferences. The initiative has certainly enriched my experience, and when I graduate, I will certainly be ready for the world—all made possible in part by the Chancellor’s Honors Program.

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