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Dec. 23, 2020

Student view: Making a difference on an international level

Alicia Boos is a senior double majoring in international relations and comparative cultures and politics within the James Madison College. Boos has been an active member of the JMC Human Rights Lab since her sophomore year, where she utilizes open source research to investigate human rights violations and other crimes of international concern. She is one of three student lab leaders.

I have spent the last several months reflecting on my time here at Michigan State. Undoubtedly, I am reminded of the engaging and rigorous academic curriculum, the beauty of the campus at each seasonal turn and the roar from Spartan Stadium on Saturday mornings. However, no experience has been more fulfilling during my collegiate career than being a part of the James Madison College Human Rights Lab.
The JMC Human Rights Lab is one of MSU’s most unique research projects. The lab affords undergraduate students the opportunity to engage in policy-oriented research associated with the investigation of human rights violations. Though it only operates within the city lines of East Lansing, the work produced by the lab significantly aids international organizations such as the International Criminal Court and the United Nations. The lab is truly special in that it allows students at MSU to make a real difference on an international level right from their campus. How many undergraduates can say they are doing that?
I joined the lab during my sophomore year, after expressing to Professor Brathwaite my desire to become more involved both within the college and with MSU’s research opportunities. Since this time, I have had the opportunity to work on several different cases of human rights violations occurring in Venezuela and Libya. Working on cases of this magnitude has not only situated the theoretical concepts I have learned in the classroom within a real world context, but also has helped me to develop a robust skillset associated with open source research, remote sensing and database management and construction. Crafting these skills has played an integral role in both advancing the work of the lab — such as being able to track the development of mass gravesites — and defining the career path I intend to follow after graduation. 
By being part of the lab, I have gained exposure to the investigation of international crimes. This, coupled with the people who are a part of it, is what makes the lab so special to me. 
Working alongside my peers who share the same passion and goals as I have has been an extremely fulfilling experience.
The JMC Human Rights Lab is formative in shaping my time here at MSU. I am grateful for the opportunities I have been afforded, the skills I have developed and the people I have met. It is what I will miss most after I graduate.



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