(Photo courtesy of Margaret Hayden '20)
Jacqueline Stomski, a senior majoring in Arabic studies and a member of the Arabic Flagship Program, has been named a James C. Gaither Junior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Stomski was one of 12 fellows selected from a pool of seniors and recent graduates nominated by hundreds of participating colleges and universities from across the nation. James C. Gaither Junior Fellows work as research assistants to Carnegie’s senior scholars for one year. Stomski, who is UMD’s first James C. Gaither Junior Fellow, will conduct research for the Middle East Program.
"It's fitting that Maryland's first Carnegie Gaither Junior Fellow has been as deeply committed to foreign language studies, and to taking advantage of Maryland's exceptional access to Washington, DC, internship and service opportunities, as Jacqueline Stomski has,” said Francis DuVinage, Director of UMD’s National Scholarship Office. “Her example makes clear what students passionate about international affairs can accomplish at our University."
Stomski, who just returned from Morocco on a Boren Scholarship, said her interest in international affairs and languages began as a teenager growing up in Annapolis, Maryland, when the Syrian refugee crisis made a strong impression on her. At the time she was studying Italian and was able to read in Italian newspapers the accounts of Syrian people arriving in small boats on Italy’s shores. This language skill opened her eyes to issues of migration. Knowing Arabic, she realized, would be critical to understanding refugee movement across the region. She decided to participate in the STARTALK Arabic program hosted by the United States Naval Academy and to continue Arabic study in college.
“I chose to attend the University of Maryland for its Arabic Flagship Program,” Stomski said.
“While I enjoyed my undergraduate study, my capstone year—10 months in Morocco—has been the formative bulk of my experience studying Arabic. I don’t think I could have or would have done it any other way.”
Working with language partners outside the classroom, exploring different dialects such as Egyptian, Syrian, Iraqi, Yemeni, and Moroccan, has been another important feature of the Arabic Flagship Program. “As a result,” Stomski said, “I have been able to cultivate friendships across different parts of Arab world and understand what makes these dialects different from each other, as well as how I as a student can approach the learning of these different dialects.”
At Maryland Stomski also participated in the Global Fellows in Washington, DC, program, choosing the Critical Regions and International Relations track. The fall seminar proved pivotal for her. The instructor, Danusia Hubah, a Foreign Affairs Officer at the Department of State and previously the Director for Iran Policy at the National Security Council, became one of her mentors. “The quality of her teaching and dedication to her students is unparalleled,” Stomski said. Another influential course was an Honors seminar, Understanding U.S. Foreign Policy towards Afghanistan, taught by Tim Nusraty. These instructors “both know their stuff so well and offered me an understanding of what it means to have a real specialization.”
In spring 2018 Stomski interned with the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) at the Department of State. “If I had to point to one foundational experience it would be my experience at PRM, where I was able to tangibly understand what U.S. policy toward refugees and migrants looks like,” Stomski said. “I was in the Office of Multilateral Coordination and External Relations, where we managed the portfolios that the U.S. government holds with international implementing agencies including the International Organization for Migration (IOM), part of the United Nations system. It was an unparalleled opportunity. I had a fantastic mentor who empowered me and enabled me to connect with people working with this organization in Washington and beyond.”
Indeed, this experience led to her internship with IOM in Cairo the following summer. “This was the first time I realized I could use Arabic study for research,” she said. She met graduate students at the Center for Migration and Refugee Studies at the American University in Cairo, who, like her, had been studying Arabic for years. She observed how they used Arabic for ethnographic research and in other ways that she could imagine herself using it. “I saw the positive impact that these students and working professionals have on refugee and migrant communities in Cairo and how critical their knowledge of Arabic was.”
Stomski aims to build on her Arabic and research skills, coursework, and internship experiences to understand how U.S. policy impacts refugees, migrants, and their movements. These movements, she said, “are going to increase in both their frequency and danger in the next 20 years or so, especially as climate change makes more places harder to live in. How can we, in the U.S., support the safe movement of people? How can we fill what could otherwise be a vacuum and should we fill that vacuum? I think those are the big questions that drive me individually, wanting to explore that further for my own understanding but also for what I see as a need in the international community for voices to elevate the prominence of local stakeholders (e.g. migrants and refugees in host communities) in critical decision making.”
Learn more about the James C. Gaither Junior Fellows program here.