Public Affairs News

Three IR Students Travel to the Middle East


The three student leaders of the Israel-Palestine Peace Month, Mathilda Nassar ’15, Shaina Lidd ’15, and Leah Weinstein ’18, traveled to Israel and Palestine over spring break. Although they each went for different reasons, they all returned to Roanoke with a stronger motivation to work for peace between the Palestinians and Israelis.

Mathilda, who is writing her senior honors paper on the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and the role that the U.S. has played, received a research grant to return to Palestine and Israel and interview former and current government officials and others who have been involved in the negotiations. Mathilda interviewed Dr. Gershon Baskin, Dr. Itamar Rabinovich, Dr. Saeb Erekat, Dr. Xavier Abu Eid, and Dr. Nabil Shaath, as well as Arieh O’Sullivan, who is the news anchor at Israel Television’s IBA English News. Dr. Baskin is an American-born Israeli who negotiated the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured by Hamas in 2006 and released in 2011. Dr. Rabinovich is a former Israeli Ambassador to the United States and was also involved in the Syria negotiations in the 1990s. Dr. Erekat is the sitting Palestinian chief negotiator, and Dr. Shaath was the very first Palestinian negotiator. Mr. Abu Eid works at the negotiations office in Ramallah, Palestine. Mathilda says she received an incredible insight into the politics of the negotiations, and now realizes that the complexities are much deeper than a will for peace. In her time there, she visited Bethlehem, Ramallah, Jericho, Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv for the various interviews. Mathilda hopes to return there in September to work for the Tent of Nations, which is an organization that promotes coexistence.

Shaina, who is writing her senior religion thesis on the contradiction between religious secularism and orthodoxy in Israel and how that affects women’s rights in public prayer, went to the Middle East for a different reason. She and Leah participated in trip sponsored by the Jewish National Fund to promote sustainable development in Southern Israel. They volunteered at a kindergarten class in the Central Arava and the Halutza Region, and visited a Jewish-Arab bilingual school called Hagar. In addition to volunteering, they spent their time speaking to local Israelis about the problems and challenges that they face, and what can be done to alleviate them. They visited the Western Wall, where Shaina was able to observe her studies in reality. Shaina felt that the trip was inspiring and gave her a chance to connect her classroom education with the real world. In September, she will be moving to Israel to work with an NGO on peace and coexistence. Leah benefitted from the trip in the sense that she learned about sustainable development in the Israeli Negev, a part of Israeli culture that she had yet to study.

The three are now back at Roanoke and are getting ready to kick off the Israel-Palestine Peace Month. Mathilda, while she was in Palestine, added a message to the Separation Wall, pictured below. Please consider supporting their initiative by coming out to Peace Month events!


Public Affairs News

A Love for Language


Hunter Neary ’18, from Colorado Springs, Colorado, has a gift for learning languages. He is majoring in international relations and minoring in Spanish and German. Hunter became interested in languages in high school because he finds them fascinating. “I find languages interesting because it is indicative of how different people think…when you learn a language, you not only gain an ability to speak with them, but you also learn how they think,” he says. When he was younger, he used to have anxiety when speaking English. He could not speak without feeling self-conscious and nervous. In tenth grade, Hunter’s friend encouraged him to join a speech and debate club. They practiced two days a week and would spend every Saturday at various high schools throughout Colorado giving speeches on issues related to international politics. This experience was the beginning of his passion for languages and international relations.

In middle school, he picked up French, Spanish, and German. He skipped a year in German and Spanish when he was in eleventh grade. By the time he graduated, he had completed the highest level of both languages. In addition, he also began taking private Russian lessons from a Russian exchange student at his high school in twelfth grade. When he arrived at Roanoke College, he requested to take Spanish, German, and Russian for the first semester and was accepted. This semester, only his second semester in college, he is taking a Spanish class, two German classes, and two Russian classes. As of now, he considers himself fluent in English, German, and Spanish. By next year, he hopes to be fluent in Russian.

In the future, Hunter hopes to work in the US government or an NGO. Specifically, he would like to work with the US Foreign Service somewhere in Eastern Europe, especially Ukraine. In the next three years of college, he hopes to prepare himself professionally for his chosen career. He would like to take a May Term, study abroad in Eastern Europe, and possibly participate in the Washington Semester. When his time frees up a bit, he hopes to pick up French again and even begin learning Farsi. Hunter aims to be fluent in seven or more languages in the course of his lifetime. His gift for languages will be a wonderful asset to the Public Affairs Department and Roanoke College as a whole.

Public Affairs News

A Perspective From Japan


Matthew Modlin, a sophomore majoring in international relations, is currently studying abroad in Hirakata city, Japan, in Osaka prefecture of the Kansai Region. He is taking four classes: a spoken Japanese class, a reading and writing Japanese class, a course on democratization and human rights, and a course on international financial markets. Matt says his classes are not difficult, thankfully.

So far, the most exciting thing about Japan for Matt has been the traditional culture, specifically the amount of temples there are. Because there are so many, it is more than likely that only person will be at one of these temples or shrines at any given time. Matt says that there is nothing more peaceful than the ringing bells of a temple and hearing the wind blow. “This kind of peace and tranquility, existing in the middle of highly populated and highly developed country, is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen,” he said. In addition to this, travelling within Japan is exciting. Going just an hour or less away, you find a completely kind of different people and landscape. So far, he has hiked to the summit of Mt. Rokko in Kobe (with a few inches of snow on the ground), visited a Buddhist fire festival in a traditional yukata, fed the bowing deer in Nara out of his own hand, and walked around the busy shopping streets of Namba in Osaka.

Although Matt has been studying the Japanese language for several years, he still has not mastered it completely. He can get around the city using Japanese only, but finds it impossible to read the newspaper. In addition, there is a Kansai dialect that Matt has had problems with as well. However, for an English-speaking college student, Matt is doing surprisingly well.

On one of his first nights in Japan, Matt had a significant learning experience. As he was walking the streets at night with some friends, he saw an old man laying on the ground bleeding. Looking around, he asked some passersby if he was alright. They responded that they don’t know. Matt called an ambulance and the man was extremely grateful, saying that these foreigners are “nice…so nice.” He bowed and hugged Matt and his friends goodbye. That night, Matt learned that, although the Japanese are very polite and helpful if asked, they will rarely go out of their way to influence the life or well-being of another person if they are not asked to do so. Contrarily, he also reflected that while Americans are loud and not nearly as polite, they do feel the need to help others.

An interesting fact that Matt wants his fellow Americans to know about Japan is that the Japanese are extremely punctual. If the train or bus says it will come at 10:06, do not expect to get on the train or bus at 10:08 or 10:04. “The train will arrive exactly on time, every time,” he said. All in all, it has been a wonderful semester so far. 

Public Affairs News

The First Steps to Sustainability


Hannah Godsey ’15, an international relations major with a sociology minor, was recently accepted to the Bard College C2C Fellowship, which promotes sustainable practices on college campuses. The C2C (Campus to Congress) Fellows Network at the Bard Center for Environmental Policy is a “national program for undergraduates and recent graduates aspiring to leadership positions in sustainable politics and business.” C2C offers intensive skills-based weekend workshops to young people from across the country. In particular, Hannah attended workshops for public speaking, sustainability in business, and sustainability in politics.

Hannah’s favorite activity was when she, and a small group, had to create a product pertaining to sustainable energy and then pitch it to a funding board. Her group created an app that allowed consumers to view their personal energy usage in real time in their homes through their energy company. This app, the group hoped, would enable consumers to be more aware of and take more responsibility for their energy consumption. There were four teams in the “competition” who each gave a short pitch to a board made up of the Director of the MBA in Sustainability Program and other leaders in sustainable energy development. Hannah’s team requested $500,000 and they were awarded this “money” because the app was the most realistic and feasible proposal that was put forth. In addition to Hannah’s success in her training in sustainable development, she also won the Green Stone Award in public speaking.

This program was important for Hannah in several ways. First, it provided valuable training for a career in sustainable development. Second, it was a fantastic networking opportunity for young adults to meet people with the same interests and work together to achieve their goals. Lastly, she was able to learn about current and future technologies in the sustainable practice field and new energy policies that are in the process of development. Hannah hopes to pursue a career in sustainable energy and education. “The first seeds of change grow through education,” she said.


Public Affairs News

Two IR Majors Take On D.C.


Samantha Garst ’15, an international relations major with a concentration in global business, and Lydia Delamatta ’15, an international relations with a double minor in Spanish and French, both participated in the Washington Semester this past fall.

Samantha interned at the Sierra Nevada Corporation, a privately-owned defense company that specializes in innovative engineering and electronic technologies in support of the warfighter. Within the International Trade Compliance Office, she was educated in export licensing, enterprise compliance, and trade policy. She worked with project managers across the company to draft, write, and submit export license proposals to the Department of State; attended policy meetings in support of business agendas; and analyzed in-office procedures and policies for overall effectiveness.

During her internship, the most important thing that she learned was that you are never too young or inexperienced to provide colleagues with feedback, ideas, and comments. Her opinion was always taken into account.

LCWS provided her with the tools and access to have an incredible internship experience. She was able to work every day of the week, even if she had to leave work early for their weekly field trips (which were always interesting). The administrators at LCWS were willing to work with, support, and accomodate her in every circumstance. All in all, Samantha had a wonderful semester in D.C.



Lydia worked as a fundraising intern at a political action committee called EMILY’s List, which stands for Early Money Is Like Yeast. She conducted research on current or potential major donors is constant work, so she always had a project. She performed a variety of tasks including completing donor research on current and prospective donors, updating donor profiles, assisting the Major Gifts coordinator with event outreach, attending event briefings for president, and calling time preparation. These were just some of her many duties.

The most important thing that Lydia learned was to always say yes to any opportunity because you never know who you will meet or what they will teach you. “The LCWS team is incredible and always there to help you in any way they can, and it is inspiring the amount of work and time they put aside for us,” she said.

Public Affairs News

A Wild and Wonderful Semester in D.C.


Zahava Urecki ’16, a political science major from Charleston, WV,  participated in the Washington Semester last fall and interned at Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia. She has loved politics since she was an 11 year old watching the Daily Show and the Colbert Report. Her background has prompted her to be interested in domestic politics, either at the national or state level. Zahava mostly wants to work on coal miners issues, especially in her home state.

When Zahava was a sophomore in high school, she went to AIPAC’s annual policy conference in D.C., where she learned how to lobby members of Congress. This allowed her to make many connections because West Virginia has a small constituent base. Therefore, she interned at Senator Manchin’s office in the summer of her freshman year, as well as for former Congressman Nick Joe Rahall. After those internships, Zahava says she fell in love with the Hill and saw a future for her there.

Then, last fall, she returned to Senator Manchin’s office as part of her Washington Semester. The biggest difference between the two experiences was the number of interns in the office. In the summer, there were many more interns, which meant that there was less to do. In the fall, with only four interns aside from Zahava, there was much more to do and learn. The most important thing she learned was the value of hard work. Hard work encompassed being willing to do even the smallest and most boring jobs, like watering the plants, in order to make a good impression. These skills are valuable and will no doubt aid Zahava in her future professional career.

In terms of participating in the Washington Semester versus just having an internship, Zahava stresses that it was much more educational. Having weekly trips and a community of like-minded students helped the transition of living in a big city. She said that the classes were interesting and they added another dimension to her ‘real world’ experience. Does she recommend it? “Absolutely. Everyone should do it regardless of their major,” she said.

For more information about the Washington Semester, contact Dr. Todd Peppers at