The McCormack Graduate School was founded on the principle that its faculty and students would practice what Ernest L. Boyer called “engaged scholarship,” that is, teaching and research that connects “the rich resources of the university to our most pressing social and civic needs. , and ethical issues. MGS actively partners with organizations that seek to create opportunities for graduate students to apply their academic knowledge while gaining experience that will help them advance in their careers. Balkissa Daouda Diallo, a Fulbright alumnus from Niger and PhD candidate in the Global Governance and Human Security program, has participated in many of these opportunities, enriching her scholarship and the community around her.
Last summer, Balkissa was a member of the Civic Action Project, which was created by three figures deeply familiar with the intricacies of politics and the workings of government: Steve Crosby, founding dean of the McCormack Graduate School and former president of the State Gaming Commission. ; Ira Jackson, former acting dean of McCormack and top aide to many officials; and George Bachrach, former state senator and head of the Environmental League of Massachusetts. CAP’s mission is to train the next generation of civic leaders and build bridges connecting leaders in the public and private sectors, and it achieves its goals by providing students with a professional training program focused on the political strategies and tactics needed to advance public policies.
As part of the CAP program, Balkissa received a $6,000 stipend and a 12-week internship at the Conservation Law Foundation, where she conducted research on environmental justice in the Boston area and met with different local actors to develop a global perspective on complex issues. . Balkissa adopted a participatory approach in her internship which was “diverse and inclusive for populations who often do not have access to participation [and] decision-making, either because of the language barrier[s] or simply because they don’t know the process.
For Balkissa, this internship with the Conservation Law Foundation gave her the opportunity to expand her academic work beyond the UMass Boston campus to examine the ways in which the local Boston community experiences environmental injustice. She noted, “The work I did was…an opportunity to work with the community here in Boston and learn about local politics and local advocacy and know what’s going on around me. It’s not just about leaving my house and coming to UMass Boston and coming home, but understanding what’s going on around me.
Within the University, Balkissa remains dedicated to Boston community engagement opportunities through her work as Senior Program Assistant for the Africa Scholars Forum, which sponsors an annual ‘Africa Day’ conference which aims to bring together students, scholars and community members from across the African Diaspora for a day of presentations and discussions on important policy issues. Africa Day 2022 focused on the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic into a global public health endemic. The event brought together several distinguished academics and government officials on Africa and COVID-19, including Dr. Djoudalbaye Benjamin, Head of the Policy, Health Diplomacy and Communications Division for the African Control Centers and Disease Prevention, and keynote speaker, Her Excellency Ambassador Hilda Suka-Mafudze, Permanent Representative of the African Union to the United States.
As Senior Program Assistant, Balkissa helped facilitate the smooth running of the one-day event by communicating with various parties, ensuring a flow of information between guests and managing the calendar of events. Balkissa noted that “it was really important [having the African Union Ambassador here] both for the subject but also to inspire and bring the community together… If there is an African community in Boston knowing that… the African Union Ambassador to the United States is in town, it really is refreshing and brings[s] the community together. At the same time, Balkissa noted, the event offered people a better understanding of the nature of COVID-19 outside the United States globally. “It’s different,” she said, “because you can see the response to the COVID-19 pandemic on the African continent and have practical insights from experts on the ground who are making policies and making decisions. research on the matter”.
Apart from her work with the Africa Scholars Forum, Balkissa is currently writing her thesis on African informal migration from West Africa to Europe. “It’s a long-standing question…that I’ve always wanted to explore,” she said. Going forward, she sees herself using the knowledge she gained in her dual master’s degrees in international development and environmental studies, and recently a master’s in conflict resolution, to inform her research. While her affiliation with MGS and fellowship with CAP ties her work to communities in Boston and New England, Balkissa envisions her areas of research extending to “government[al] or even the work of an international organization,” bringing together its local experiences and broader research on African migration with the aim of addressing real-world issues from an interdisciplinary perspective.