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Michael R. Anderson, Director 305 E. 23rd Street, A1300 78712 • 512-232-6344

IRG Honors Program 2013-14

The International Relations and Global Studies major launched its inaugural honors program during the 2013-14 academic year. Students admitted to the program met weekly throughout the year with the IRG director as they refined their proposals, carried out their research agenda, and wrote outlines and chapter drafts. By the end of the spring semester, participants had completed a significant (50+ page) thesis on a diverse set of topics related to international and global studies. Students in the IRG honors program represent some of the most academically gifted at the University of Texas at Austin. Two of the IRG honors program participants, Samuel Kieke and Philip Tryon, were honored by the College of Liberal Arts as Dean’s Distinguished Graduates, given to 12 graduating seniors at commencement exercises in May 2014.

Below, meet last year’s IRG honors program participants, and learn about their academic interests and professional aspirations. 

Maria Arrellaga, “Political Ecology and GM Soy Production in Paraguay”

Maria is an eager and adventurous multimedia journalist and researcher. She is graduating with a dual degree in International Relations (track: Science, Technology, and Environment) and Geography, as well as two minors in Latin American Studies and Portuguese. Last summer, Maria studied abroad and conducted field work in Botswana's Kalahari Desert. She is currently a Fulbright finalist who hopes to be carrying out a research project in São Paulo come September. She is passionate about social and environmental justice, public policy, and multimedia storytelling.

Valeria Estrada, “Bilateral Aid Conditionality: Lessons from Japan”

Valeria focused on International Political Economics within IRG, and minored in Middle Eastern Studies. She also received a certificate from the Bridging Disciplines Program in Social Inequality, Health, and Policy. Valeria studied abroad last summer in Morocco. During her time at UT, she interned as a research assistant with Project Vote Smart and Innovations for Peace and Development (IPD). After graduation, she will be joining the Teach For America Corps in the Dallas-Fort Worth region for the next two years. She has accepted a position teaching bilingual 5th grade in Dallas.

Alaina Heine, “Opportunities and Barriers for Indigenous Interaction with Oil Companies”

Alaina Heine is graduating with a B.A. in International Relations and Global Studies, with a concentration in science, technology, and the environment, and a minor in Latin American studies.  During the summer of 2012, Alaina studied ecology in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.  During the following spring and summer, she lived in Washington, D.C, where she interned at the U.S. Department of State and House of Representatives.  In the fall, Alaina will attend NYU School of Law, with a focus on international business.  Whether involved in corporate governance, transaction work, or litigation, Alaina looks to have a global focus in her future legal career.

Samuel Kieke, “The Utility of Patrimonialism in Conceptualizing Syrian History”

Samuel Kieke is graduating with a BA in Middle Eastern Studies, Arabic Language and Literature, and International Relations and Global Studies with a concentration in culture, media, and the arts. During the summer of 2012 he studied in Morocco and he lived and studied in Tunisia the following summer. Samuel received a fellowship through CASA (Center for Arabic Study Abroad) and will be living in Amman, Jordan for the next year to continue his Arabic studies. His long-term plans consist of pursing a Master’s in Middle Eastern studies and political sociology, possibly with the intent of getting his PhD.

Tully Moorhead, “Women Waging Peace: Gender Quotas and Female Notions of Security”

Tully Moorhead is graduating with two majors, Government as well as International Relations and Global Studies. She also completed two minors: Russian Language and Latin American Studies. Her concentration for IRG is international security, this in additional to her study abroad experience in Rio de Janeiro working with Brazilian women’s rights organizations inspired her thesis topic. After graduation, Tully will be taking off to Spain before returning to Austin to begin work at Business Talent Group. 

Tania Nesser, “European Surveillance: Research, Security Agendas, Advocacy, and Civil Discourse”

Tania graduates with a concentration in the Science, Technology, and the Environment track with a minor in Middle Eastern Studies.  Tania studied abroad for a semester at the University of Copenhagen (KU).  The study abroad experience inspired this thesis research and shifted her IR interests towards security studies.  This September, she will return to KU's Political Science Department and the Advanced Center for Security Studies to pursue a Master of Science in Security Risk Management. 

Tiffany Pon, “I’m Halalin’ It: Exploring the Intersection of Islamic Culture and Fast Food”

Tiffany pursued the Culture, Media and Arts track, coupled with an Asian studies minor. This led to her obvious choice of studying abroad in Sevilla, Spain two summers ago, where she enjoyed the irony of eating a delicious pizza while watching Spain win the Euro Cup over Italy. She plans to graduate in December and then join the working world.

Brian Selman, “Soviet Nostalgia and the Commonwealth of Independent States”

Brian Selman is a graduating senior with a double major in Russian Language and Culture and IRG with a focus in security studies. Brian studied abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia for the fall of 2012. He plans to work in Moscow for the 2014-2015 school year, teaching English to classes of various age groups with Language Link Russia. After a year abroad, Brian hopes to return to the U.S. and continue his studies by pursuing a Master’s degree in Russian Studies.

Philip Tryon, “A Cultural Theory of International Relations and the Zionist Quest for Israel”

Philip Tryon is majoring in philosophy and international relations and global studies.  He participated in relief efforts in Port au Prince, Haiti and advocated for anti-human trafficking efforts in Washington, D. C. and Australia.  Philip is the Vice Chair of Eastside Memorial High School for the Texas Blazers, where he currently teaches empowerment classes for students at the high school.  Throughout his college career, Philip worked to expand opportunity for Americans, including immigration and education reform.  After graduation, Philip intends to commission as an officer in United States Marine Corps.

Armando Vera, “Human Capital and Economic Development: The Mexican Education System”

Armando Vera III is a Mexico City native who grew up in South Texas.  At UT he focused on international security, geopolitics, and Latin America. He had the opportunity to teach English in Peru as the inaugural recipient of the UGS Exploration Experience grant in 2010 and study abroad at the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore in 2011 and at Sciences Po in Paris in 2013. Armando is interested in entrepreneurship, development, technology, energy, and transportation. He wants to gain experience at an international organization focused on economic development and social improvement. His goal is to transform Mexico as a future president.

Elise Voorhis, “The Scramble for Power: Renewable Energy and International Relations”

Elise Voorhis is from Austin and San Antonio, TX. She graduates with a Bachelor degree in International Relations and Global Studies with a concentration in Science, Technology, and the Environment. During her time at UT, she studied abroad in Geneva, Switzerland where she gained valuable experiences at the United Nations, International Energy Agency, and the Red Cross. While there, she completed an Independent Study Project titled The Infinite and the Finite: An Analysis of America’s Energy Future, which was published by UT’s Undergraduate Research Journal. In August, she is moving to Washington D.C. to enter a master’s program in Global Environmental Policy at American University. In the future, she hopes to shape a more sustainable world through international policymaking. 

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