Bessie Zavidow, BSFS '18
“I started working as a research assistant to Professor Desai on political economy development projects, and did my independent research project with Seva Mandir, a grassroots development NGO that I worked with in the past on a project with Professor Desai. For my independent research project, I lived in the Udaipur district of Rajasthan, India for two months, where I worked directly in the Monitoring and Evaluation unit of Seva Mandir evaluating several of their development interventions. Inevitably, evaluating these interventions involved field interviews in highly rural areas of Rajasthan, where the residents often times did not even speak Hindi, let alone English, instead speaking a local dialect. This made it challenging for me to obtain information on how the residents have been affected by different Seva Mandir interventions, such as providing watersheds and toilets to a hamlet in a village, for example. Although I went to the field with a translator, the language barrier persisted when the translator did not speak the dialect of the residents of the village. Also, it was oftentimes difficult to get people to show up for interviews, and interviews lasted much longer than anticipated, leading to the completion of fewer interviews in a day than expected. However, I do value this experience highly. I think what information I was able to understand is incredibly important, as it comes directly from the beneficiaries themselves. Taking the opportunity to sit with a group of people, drink chai, and learn about their experiences through a discussion can sometimes be more useful than having people answer a series of pre-planned, yes-or-no questions. Moreover, if I decide to pursue this research in the future, I now have a better understanding of how to budget time, manage my expectations, and write discussion questions to be more effective in obtaining the necessary information.”
Eric Menna, BSFS '18
“My experience in the Mortara Fellows program was perhaps the most enthralling and captivating aspect of my Georgetown career. Simply put, the opportunity to develop over a four year program offered that which academics and extracurriculars could not: an extended timeline beyond that average fifteen week syllabus; a chance to rub elbows with some of the most impressive faculty on campus; the opportunity to work alongside gifted peers and under the mentorship of a true academic; and finally, the chance to develop a true passion of my own into a research project. Beyond the prestige of publication and the name of Mortara, this fellowship has given me the true gift of consistent, thorough intellectual curiosity, and I am beyond thankful to the Mortara Center and family for awarding me this opportunity three and a half years ago.”
Mariana Jurado Guedez, BSFS '18
“MURFs has been a very enriching experience during my undergraduate career at Georgetown University. The program has allowed me to contribute back to the field as a professional and develop confidence with experimentation. Through Mortara, I had the academic freedom and resources to explore alternative ways of analyzing and then share my findings by the end of the process. As a result, I applied my learning as well as challenged and transformed topics into useful tools for investigation to further my understanding outside of the classroom. Dr. Mark Giordano was an excellent and patient mentor, who gave me incomparable guidance and opportunities as an expert in his field. He helped me channel my initial curiosity concerning natural resource challenges into a hands-on opportunity where I became part of a research team exploring this topic more in depth—the report on the Environmental Impact of Refugee Camps: Resource Usage and Management.
Duncan Hobbs, BSFS ‘17
“My experience with the Mortara Undergraduate Research Fellows Program has been extremely positive overall. At times I felt frustrated and other times I felt enthralled. I began by working for Professor Nita Rudra compiling literature reviews and doing some basic data cleaning and regression work...During my second year, I worked mostly on building datasets for Professor Levinson measuring the adoption of energy efficiency characteristics in homes...And during my final year, I worked with both Professor Vreeland and on my own independent research. Even as I was struggling with my own research ideas or wrestling with choices I had made, I loved having the opportunity to come to Scriptorium every week and hear what other people were working on. Hearing them talk about their projects helped rekindle excitement about my own tasks and fueled inspiration to read articles in research areas that I previously knew nothing about.”
Bethan Saunders, BSFS ‘17
Bethan Saunders graduated from the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, with a major in International Politics, a concentration in Security Studies, and a certificate in African Studies. For as long as she can remember, she has been fascinated by international relations and very passionate about gender issues. Through this fellowship, Bethan has combined both interests to study the intersections of gender, peace, and security, focusing on the role of women during post-conflict reconstruction processes. With a regional interest in sub-Saharan Africa, Bethan studied abroad in Cape Town, South Africa and worked with the African Gender Institute to explore the role of women in the transitional justice and constitution building process. Through MURFs, Bethan has also worked closely with the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security as a Research Assistant and also partnered with Professor Emily Mendenhall to study issues of women's maternal and mental health in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. On campus, Bethan was involved in Georgetown University's Student Administration, the Carroll Fellows Initiative, the foreign service sorority Delta Phi Epsilon, and the International Relations Club. She is also the co-founder of GU Votes, an initiative at the Institute of Politics and Public Service that serves to register Georgetown students to vote in the upcoming election.
Rahul Kaul, BSFS ‘16
"Working as a Mortara Undergraduate Research Fellow over the past three and a half years has been the most formative intellectual and professional experience during my time at the School of Foreign Service. The Mortara Center and the other MURFs have provided me with a home on campus where I can challenge myself intellectually, learn from others, and work hard toward a research goal. It takes a village—or rather, a tight-knit community of Fellows, an immensely supportive Center staff, enthusiastic and prolific faculty mentors, and support from the School of Foreign Service—to raise a MURF. I owe the professional skills I have gained, the research competence I have acquired, and some of the best times in my Georgetown career to the Mortara Center and program."
Emma Murphy, BSFS ‘16
"In looking at the graduation date looming on my calendar, I would be remiss not to reflect how the program has prepared me for the world beyond Georgetown. I am setting off to pursue a career in humanitarian affairs and refugee policy, a trajectory I would likely not be on if I was not a fellow. I have marketable skills in research, translation, and valuable practice giving presentations. After three years of focusing on a single topic, I’m graduating with a unique and deep knowledge of forced displacement in the Middle East, a pressing global issue about which I’m passionate."
Erin Sielaff, BSFS ‘16
"Although creating a massive dataset was one of the most difficult things I did during my undergraduate career, it has also been one of the most rewarding. In the process of assembling the dataset, I not only learned general research skills, data management skills, and improved my ability to use Stata, but I became a producer of knowledge, rather than just a consumer. I was able to ask a question for which there was no answer in the literature, and through the skills and support afforded to me by the program, I answered it comprehensively. I can think of few other organizations at Georgetown that would have appreciated the specificity of the research I conducted—let alone support it institutionally, financially, and personally. And this is what truly makes the program so unique: in addition to facilitating the development of research skills and forging an appreciation for the processes of research and academic inquiry, it fosters the creation of an epistemic community."
Elaine Colligan, BSFS ‘15
Soumyajit Mazumder (Shom), BSFS ‘15
"The Mortara Undergraduate Research Fellows (MURFs) program has been an integral part of my academic experience at Georgetown. Throughout my time with the MURFs program, I have learned valuable research skills that have been crucial to my academic success inside and outside of the classroom. Being paired with a distinguished faculty member and having peers in the MURFs program who are equally passionate about research has pushed me to do the best possible work that I can do. As a result, my experience with MURFs has helped me to decide that a career in academic research is the right path for me."
Asjed Hussein (Azi), BSFS '15
"I can honestly say looking back on my college experience that my time as a MURF stands as one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had at Georgetown. Not only did I have the opportunity to work on important research questions, but I also formed my most lasting mentor-mentee relationship with a professor and befriended some of the most brilliant students at Georgetown."