A student enrolled in the Croft Institute for International Studies at The University of Mississippi said her time there has been invaluable.
“I knew I wanted to learn Spanish and be involved in a close-knit community wherever I chose to go to school,” said Scarlett Andrews, a Carthage, Tenn., native who is entering her senior year. “At Croft, with the focus on international studies, political science and history, it seemed like the perfect program to match my interests.”
Kees Gispen, executive director of the Croft Institute and professor of history, said that Andrews didn’t initially attract a lot of attention in class in the autumn of her freshman year, but as time went by during the semester, she demonstrated she was a strong student.
“Scarlett’s great strength is her preparation, attention to detail, avoiding missteps, good judgment, native ability, talent, hard work and her sense of strategy. The cumulative effect of all those qualities combined with her strong sense of purpose and direction is what makes her stand out,” Gispen said. “In some ways, she’s like a Kentucky Derby winner whose greatness is recognized by the betting masses only after the fact. Our little secret here is that we’ve seen her in action and know what she can do.”
Andrews earned a 4.0 GPA at the end of her freshman year, and in fall 2008, she won the Croft Institute’s competition for the prestigious Rose Bui Academic Excellence Scholarship, which provides $24,000 over three years. She is also a member of the university’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.
During her freshman year, Andrews worked on campus as a receptionist in the Croft Institute, gaining valuable insight into the area.
“The best part was getting to know the older students and see them go through the thesis process and Oral Proficiency Interviews,” Andrews said. “As a freshman, there are lots of things to deal with, and it’s helpful to see the direction of someone going through it before you.”
The B.A. in international studies allows students to study other peoples, their histories, cultures, politics and economies. In addition to a regional focus on East Asia, Europe or Latin America, Croft students pursue advanced proficiency in a foreign language as an integral part of their studies and select a thematic concentration in global economics and business, international governance and politics, or social and cultural identity. Andrews is focusing on Latin America, learning Spanish and concentrating on international governance and politics.
Andrews has traveled extensively to complement her international studies.
In summer 2008, she visited South Korea as a participant in UM’s Lott Leadership Exchange Program. She and nine other students spent two weeks in the United States with 10 Korean students; they then traveled together to South Korea for two more weeks.
Last summer, Andrews traveled to El Salvador for two weeks to be an intern at Voices on the Border, a small nonprofit that focuses on sustainable development in El Salvador. Besides talking with some of Voices’ contacts about environmental and social issues, she was able to travel around the country.
“That was a life-changing experience and made me more confident about [going to] Ecuador this year,” she said.
To fulfill Croft’s study abroad requirement, she spent her junior year in Ecuador living with a host family in Quito and taking classes at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Cumbaya.
She earned academic credit toward her major in international studies by taking in classes in political science, history and sociology, as well as taking Spanish classes to help meet her foreign language requirement. Andrews said she chose Ecuador to improve her language skills.
“It is so diverse—socially, culturally and environmentally,” Andrews said. “It was not disappointing.”
She took time while in Quito to volunteer at an underprivileged children’s day care.
“Volunteering helps you understand the country where you are living. I would definitely recommend people going on study abroad to do some type of service in their area,” Andrews said.
Her experiences while in Ecuador, her fourth learning experience in another country, have made her more confident in her abilities.
“You can’t be scared if you are in another country. It’s given me perspective and made me think about where I want to be and what’s important,” she said.
This summer, she headed to Washington, D.C., for an internship with the Amazon Conservation Association, which protects biodiversity by studying ecosystems and developing innovative conservation tools to protect land in the region while supporting the livelihoods of local communities.
Andrews expects to graduate in May 2011. In order to do so, she must complete a senior thesis.
“I would like to discuss the environmental and social effects of agriculture in Ecuador, “said Andrews. “At this point, I am considering studying one product such as the banana and researching the consequences of its production as well as the implications for future governmental policies.”
Her thesis director believes that she has the knowledge and skills to research and write an outstanding thesis, which is a capstone for the academic experience of international studies students, both inside and outside the classroom.
“Scarlett demonstrated her commitment to understanding global social processes by contacting me before she left for Ecuador to get some advice for her senior thesis,” said Kate Centellas, Croft assistant professor of anthropology. “From a very early stage in the thesis process, she has been able to articulate several complementary research questions, which all combine her insights from theoretical, study abroad, and internship experiences.”