MSHS Student Spotlight: Emily Lucchesi

December 17, New York, NY — Emily Lucchesi is about to wrap up her first semester as a grad student in the Master Science in Humanitarian Studies program. She grew up in a small town on the Jersey Shore and was always curious about the world. She graduated from the College of Charleston in South Carolina where she majored in psychology and international studies with an Asia concentration.

It was a long and extremely frustrating period of trial and error before I realized I wanted to go into humanitarian work. Although I was enjoying my college years and experiencing all the wonderful things Charleston has to offer, I was still missing what felt like the biggest piece of the puzzle.

The Council on International Education Exchange semester-long program on globalization and development in Khon Kaen, a small and mostly rural area in northeast Thailand, piqued her interest. She reflects, “[this program] really changed my perception of the world and catapulted me into the humanitarian world.” During the program she traveled to 6 different villages in rural Thailand and conducted community and government interviews about human rights violations caused by unjust state policies. She led projects to create social media content and redesign a website for the Isaan Land Reform Network, a local NGO. While working with a Thai publication, The Isaan Record, she researched current Thai humanitarian crises such as exploitative mining operations, food and water access, unjust land evictions, systemic gender biases and the oppression of women’s rights.

“Working on grassroots issues brought something out in me that I actually have no words for, I was able to connect with people immediately and offer ways to strengthen communities. As much as I am talking about myself in this I would not be doing this program justice without mentioning how absolutely incredible the local staff were. They dedicated so much of their time to educate us in local traditions and cultural aspects that were vital when it came to approaching communities.”

Feeling the need for that sense of humanity is what drove her to the MSHS program at the Institute for International Humanitarian Affairs. Emily admits she felt a bit lost after her graduation from the College of Charleston. She felt unable to choose which of her interests she wanted to pursue. She explains that she came across the program by chance, but the MSHS program served as “the perfect culmination of my interests and felt that rushing sense of relief that direction brings people. Not only is this program a constant stream of new and relevant information, it also challenges me to think in new ways and evaluate situations from a different perspective.”

Emily hopes to utilize her degree “in both a practical and symbolic way. This program is equipping me with the knowledge and skills I need to join the Humanitarian Industry and exercise the “do no harm” principle to the best of my ability.” She hopes to work internationally to get hands-on experience and gain a deeper understanding of humanitarian intervention. She also wants to be a voice for change; “I would like to take what I know from the field and this program and work towards systemic change of the humanitarian system; what is in place right now simply is not good enough.”