An interest in international affairs has defined much of my life, beginning with many childhood summers traveling abroad with family and philanthropic teen work projects in rural India and Mexico. Since then, I’ve obtained an undergraduate degree in Middle East studies, picked up a wonkish love of foreign policy from years living in Washington, D.C., and developed an interest in South Asia that’s led to more than 20 years of independent learning about the Subcontinent’s languages, history, and culture.
At about the same time that I began my MLIS studies degree at the University of Washington, I also became the South Asia and Near East technician at UW’s libraries. This has offered an outstanding opportunity to learn more about the Middle East and South Asia. I’ve developed a rudimentary understanding of many regional languages, grown familiar with current scholarship, become aware of helpful scholarly tools, gotten to know the publishing landscape, and a good deal more. Moving forward, I hope to undertake a South Asian studies masters degree to fill in gaps in important fundamentals and theory that I may lack currently.
During my graduate studies, I contributed to the post-data-collection stage of the Technology and Social Change group’s expansive Global Impact Study, which looked at the social effects of public computing facilities across the globe. I was part of a trio of students responsible for cleanup of a large segment of raw data and for initial reporting of the related findings.
The experience was my first in working with quantitative research data and SPSS statistical software and in dealing with a research study of such a great scale. The process of coaxing discoveries out of raw numbers was magical, and seeing their implications for a truly positive impact on national and international policy discourse was inspiring. Of almost any of my graduate coursework, this experience has had probably the greatest influence over where I would like to take my career in the future.
- Review the team’s report.
Just after graduating with a Middle East Studies bachelor’s degree, I joined the staff of the Middle East Journal. In that capacity, I scoured a dozen or so international newspapers for coverage of the Middle East and surrounding areas and drafted an exhaustive chronology of events that was published in each quarterly issue. The experience immersed me in current Middle East affairs, and I left the position with a much more nuanced understanding of the social, political, and economic conditions there—as well as the biases and rhetoric ubiquitous in press coverage of the region. On a more practical level, the tight publication deadlines and the chronology entries’ brief format provided a crash course in writing with great succinctness under pressure.
- See sample pages from a chronology.
Over the past several years, I have assisted the University of Washington’s Near East librarian with various facets of a project to digitize more than 40,000 photographic slides of rural Turkey. The slides document the travels of textile scholar Tony Landreau into the countryside in the 1970s and 80s to observe traditional village weaving customs. My involvement has been in the detail, including logging and tracking of slide metadata, monitoring the digitization progress, and pinpointing GPS coordinates to enable Google mapping of image locations. In addition, I trained and supervised students performing slide scanning and developed related process documentation.
Having this opportunity to contribute to preserving a small but important segment of our global cultural heritage has been very personally rewarding to me. It has also given me an in-depth view of the digitizing process, essential to bringing international cultural heritage materials to the wider world. And, not surprisingly, I’ve also learned much about the geography and village life in Turkey. I hope to be able to contribute to efforts like this in the future.