CFMS Alumni Updates

April 7, 2015

The Center for Forced Migration Studies (CFMS) at the Buffett Institute seeks to understand refugee movements through research, documentation, education, and outreach. The Center engages a cross-national and interdisciplinary group of researchers, students, practitioners, refugee legal aid organizations, policy makers, community based organizations, writers, and artists to re-conceptualize refugee protection.

Founded by Galya Ruffer (International Studies), CFMS also works with graduate and undergraduate students interested in refugee and forced migration studies at Northwestern. Over the past several years, students have had the opportunity to engage in research and education on migration as fellows, research assistants, and interns. We're pleased to share several updates from these CFMS-affiliated alumni, many of whom are still active in refugee advocacy and research.

Molly Barstow,  WCAS 2013

Undergraduate Research Assistant at CFMS (2012)

CFMS Alum Molly BarstowAfter graduating with a degree in MENA Studies in 2013, Molly went to Morocco on a Fulbright grant. There she studied Moroccan Arabic and spent nine months doing research on the integration of sub-Saharan migrants in Rabat. Starting in September 2015, she will be studying Social Anthropology with a focus on migration at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London. 

“CFMS–and [Director] Galya Ruffer's guidance especially–helped me both with my research and on a more personal level, to help develop my career goals. Interning at CFMS was a way that I was able to learn more about the role of the UNHCR, in particular, and to address many of the needs and gaps in forced migration research and assistance.”

Sarah Freeman, WCAS 2012 

Research Fellow at CFMS (2010–2012)

CFMS Alum Sarah FreemanSarah Freeman is currently the Emergency Support Manager for the Emergency Preparedness and Response Unit (EPRU) at the International Rescue Committee (IRC), an international nonprofit that assists refugees and displaced people after conflict and natural disaster. Based out of IRC's New York Headquarters, she serves as the project manager for the EPRU's five-year strategy, handles budgeting and everyday finances for the unit, and provides general support for the IRC's Emergency Response Team. Sarah hopes to eventually return to academia to further explore the politics of humanitarian aid in the context of forced migration. 

“CFMS was one of the only places on campus where my interest in forced migration and its implications could truly flourish. Early on, I knew I wanted to focus my research on conflict-induced displacement, something oddly specific, and CFMS not only helped me to solidify those first ideas but also provided me with the resources to go beyond them.”

Mahalia Kahsay, SESP 2014 

Intern at CFMS (2012–2013)

CFMS Alum Mahalia Kahsay with her students in ThailandMahalia is currently a Princeton in Asia teaching fellow at Chiang Mai University, teaching English and Business Correspondence to 1st-3rd year students. She volunteers with a community development organization in Thailand that focuses on health, education, and rehabilitation programs for the Shan people in Myanmar, who've faced forced migration, settled into IDP camps, and are now attempting to return home and live securely in their home villages.

“My experience at CFMS allowed me to learn so much about migration issues around the world, gave me the opportunity to develop my research and writing skills, and let me meet motivated and inspiring people who pushed me to pursue my interests in international development and migration. They inspired me to head to Thailand where I could work on the ground with the people addressing the issues CFMS cares so much about."

Rebecca Liron, WCAS 2014

Clinical Intern at CFMS (2012–2014)

CFMS Alum Rebecca LironA Political Science and International Studies major, Rebecca was heavily involved with the Center for Forced Migration Studies as an undergraduate at Northwestern, where she contributed to numerous refugee research initiatives. She conducted research for her senior thesis in International Studies on urban refugees in Tel Aviv, Israel. After graduating Northwestern in 2014, Rebecca moved to Nairobi, Kenya where she currently works for the International Rescue Committee as a Princeton in Africa Fellow.

“Working for CFMS under Galya Ruffer not only shaped my college experience, but my post-graduate career.  What started as a summer internship turned into a passion and commitment to refugee issues, leading me to study refugees for my senior thesis, and to my current job working for the IRC, one of the largest refugee NGOs in the world. I can confidently say that I would not be where I am today without CFMS!“

Catherine Tyson, WCAS 2014

Research Assistant at CFMS (2012–2014)
Refugee Advocacy Intern in Geneva, Switzerland

CFMS Alum Catherine TysonCatherine works as a Strategy & Analytics Consultant at IBM. Her senior honors thesis was on the cultural integration of Bhutanese and Iraqi refugees in Chicago. She then began consulting to learn more about organizational design and governance and best practices to more effectively work in the non-profit sector in the future. She plans on eventually entering a graduate program abroad in public management and policy with the ultimate aim of working on refugee policy. She wrote an article titled “The Syrian Displacement Crisis: Future Durable Solutions” that was published in the October 2014 edition of the Oxford Monitor of Forced Migration.

“CFMS provided my first glimpse into the pervasive issues of forced migration throughout the world and completely changed what I wanted to do professionally. CFMS offered –and continues to offer– a singular experience for undergraduates to become involved in refugee research and aid. There is no other place in any other university in which undergraduates can conduct research relevant to current legal cases, collaborate with refugee aid professionals worldwide, lead practical projects regarding refugee aid and resettlement, and experience the workings of UNHCR. I apply the lessons I learned and the skills that I gained while at CFMS every day.”  

Human Rights, Migration, Undergraduate Students