Humanitarian Studies Undergraduate Student Spotlight: Elena Walczak c/o ‘22


By: Meghan Stevens

Elena Walczak (right) and friend at the climate march in New York City.

Elena Walczak recently graduated from Fordham University with a double major in Humanitarian Studies and Political Science and a double minor in French and Peace & Justice Studies. She is from St. Paul, Minnesota and chose Fordham specifically for its Humanitarian Studies program. Her favorite class so far has been the United Nations with Professor Anjali Dayal. “It really opened my eyes to the different [organizations] of the UN and how they interacted with each other in the international community.”

Her interest in humanitarian studies began when her family hosted a political refugee from Togo. “Conversations with him led me to speak French, at first just for fun and later as a serious study…as I grew older, I had a distinct interest in refugees and asylum-seeking.” This experience led to her interest in an internship with the International Rescue Committee as a refugee and resettlement intern. She soon developed an interest in policy, and worked at The Hunger Project as a monitoring, evaluation, and learning unit intern, where she stayed for over a year. “This internship solidified that I wanted to go into research and policy, and it confirmed that I wanted to go get my master’s degree in International/Global Studies.”

Walczak decided that she would always have a passion for human rights wherever her career might take her. “I felt that Humanitarian Studies would give me a more well-rounded approach to the humanitarian sector and human rights law.” Her senior thesis discusses “the role of local leadership in transitional justice, which I think is a good way to summarize my studies at Fordham.”

Walczak has committed to attend the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy to pursue a Master of Global Affairs. She says “the Humanitarian Studies program allowed me to focus my undergraduate studies on international organizations, human rights, and the intersection of the two in international policy.”