Loyola University Chicago

The Graduate School

Schmitt Fellows


My research has direct implications towards the benefit of society on multiple levels. The most direct and unspecific benefit my research will supply to society is the benefit of fundamental knowledge. Particularly, my research will help us understand the general mechanisms involved in transcription regulation in bacteria (B. subtilis). This is important because this information can be used for various applications. Some of which include drug design, hygienic routines, and engineering of certain bacterial species to produce molecules which are otherwise challenging to synthesize. The fundamental knowledge gained can also be used in lecture during teaching to help students understand how this phenomenon occurs. In addition, this information has the potential to be applied to research in humans, alongside current popular technologies such as gene sequencing (23andMe and DNAfit) to increase the amount of data that one can tell about themselves to understand their predispositions. These benefits to society can only be seen as one side of the spectrum, such as preventive care, but my research also has benefits to society on the curative end of the spectrum. One major goal of my research is to contribute to the development of new age antibiotics to target multi-drug resistant organism, deadly pathogens such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, while limiting the possibility of new resistance being developed. This helps society in two ways, with the most important being therapeutic relief for patients that are suffering from infections by these pathogens. The other way this helps society is that it limits the potential of having to develop new types of treatment for an extended period because the applied treatment based on my research will not allow the organism to acquire resistance.

Being a scientist, particularly one in research, we can have a dramatic influence in the discovery of knowledge. It is our responsibility as leaders in science to spread this knowledge to everyone not just for the recognition of the work, but because the unselfishness of sharing yields the enlightenment for those who want to learn. We strive to provide all others with a similar learning experience that us scientists encountered so that all will be encouraged to follow a path which not only betters themselves but others as well.

Over my graduate studies, the experiences I had and will continue to have will influence me to take a path of professorship, particularly at an institution with societal values like Loyola, so that I can provide the same learning experience to the future minds as I have had that led me to the position I am at currently. If the opportunity presented itself, I would be honored to work at Loyola as a leader in science, promoting the universities core values. These experiences will also prepare me to be a leader in society for those who do not have the same scientific understanding as my peers and I do. As a Ph.D. the understanding of our discipline is at the highest level, and this will prepare me to be a leader in this discipline. As with any great talent, there comes great responsibility, understanding, and sacrifice that must be met to completely full-fill one’s greatest potential. Just as doctors or nurses are leaders in medicine, they take an oath to their patients as their priority over everything else. As a leader in science and a professor of Chemistry, my responsibility is to continue to do relevant scientific research to help solve some of the problems society faces. It is also my responsibility to share the knowledge I gain with other scientists, students, and the greater society, so we all may apply it where it is useful.

I grew up in Jharkhand, a small, coal mining town in India. This town is also home to the insurgent Communist Party of India-the Maoist. Unlike other towns, Jharkhand did not have bustling streets, crowded with people, and vibrant shops. Streets were often empty due to ongoing protests, and conflict between the Maoist and law enforcement. Growing up, the only place I could go other than my school was to the community hospital, where my mother worked as a nurse. In the hospital, I cherished watching her aid patients and striving to provide adequate care to all irrespective of caste or religious identity. Helping my mother set up kiosks in the hospital once a month, usually on a Saturday, to provide prenatal medical care to low-income women was one of my favorite family weekend activities. My childhood in Jharkhand exposed me to the poverty and discrimination that widen social inequalities in a society. At the same, assisting my mother in her efforts, inspired me to become an effective leader pursuing a just society that serves all irrespective of race, religion, class, caste, and gender.

After I completed high school in Jharkhand, I moved to Bengaluru (India), where I lived out my commitment to social justice while pursuing undergraduate degree at Christ University. Always ready to embrace emerging opportunities, I initiated efforts with my peers to organize and resist redevelopment projects. We worked with community-based organizations and alongside women and men living in the Bengaluru slums, helping them secure their homes that were being destroyed by privatized reforms. This engagement promoted the collective creative process to address the needs of the urban poor. Such organizing efforts improved my ability to understand the complexity of urban development. Collectively working with community members made me eager to explore new ideas and approaches for sustainable development projects.

A few years later, my life’s journey brought me to the United States. I have worked with various community-based organizations in Chicago that provide resources to immigrant and refugee communities. Volunteering with community-based organizations and working alongside community members is a key way to create sustainable communities. As a volunteer with Heartland Alliance, I worked with Rohingya refugee families living in Chicago, helping them adapt to their new country. I met with families on a regular basis to understand their challenges and struggles. I took the responsibility to keep families informed about locally available employment training, housing, childcare, and mental health support. Access to this information enabled individuals and families to become familiar with the resources that are critical for their lives and well-being.

My experience as an immigrant woman in the U.S. and the knowledge gained from working with underrepresented groups inspires my interest in sociology with a focus on immigration and gender. My dissertation focuses on the lives of first-generation Pakistani and Indian immigrant women who own, manage or work in small ethnic beauty salons. I find that restrictive immigration policies, cosmetology license rules, and labor practices along with gendered expectations create structures that marginalize immigrant women in the labor market. My dissertation uncovers this new knowledge about gendered subjectivities. At the same time, this study also describes how low-wage immigrant women of color shape unique spaces and identities while navigating and negotiating familial and gendered expectation and adapting to a new country.

Loyola’s commitment to empowering and transforming lives through building knowledge resonates with my own desire to be a person with and for others. My research and engagement with the community empower me to remain committed to my goal to serve others. Many of my research participants experience financial hardship and uncertainties due to immigration status and religious antagonism. In recent months, I have organized workshops such as ‘know your rights’ in various ethnic beauty salons around Chicago land area. Through these workshops, immigrant families learn about their relation to law enforcement and gather knowledge on how to protect themselves from harsh enforcement policies. Such workshops are critical for immigrant communities because it keeps them informed about individual rights and opportunities that this country provides. These spaces also foster community building, enabling immigrant families to come together and find support.

My education and training at Loyola University Chicago shapes my pursuit of social justice through knowledge. When teaching classes at Loyola, I bring my own service-based learning experiences. I encourage students to focus on social problems that matter to them and urge them to use the sociological concepts to broadly inform their work, thinking, and action. As a researcher and a sociologist, I strive to conduct research that has positive implications for underrepresented groups. For example, recently, I collaborated with other academics and community organizers to argue against detention centers that operate to make a profit while forcefully separating immigrant families. The final report emphasized the need to create trust between local policing agencies and immigrant communities more so than working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This report later became 'The Illinois TRUST Act,' which was signed into law in August 2017.

My research, service, leadership, and teaching activities overlap, inspiring, and guiding me in the pursuit of knowledge in the service of humanity. My dissertation will contribute to the broader knowledge about immigrant experiences in the U.S. by highlighting the processes that draw many immigrant women of color into the informal economy. As a future faculty member, I am committed to the Ignatian Pedagogy that emphasizes being attentive to what one is experiencing, reflecting on it, and then connecting it to the world around oneself. Like Arthur J. Schmitt, one of my main goals is to pursue innovative approaches by working alongside community leaders and policymakers, striving to support women workers in the informal economy and finding pathways to reduce gender inequality. I imagine an inspiring future that serves humanity. I aspire to become a leader for Loyola and society by building knowledge that promotes justice and care for others.

1. How will your research benefit the general public?
I feel that my research with benefit the general public in a wide variety of ways. This includes the actual scientific research I complete during my dissertation but also the way my training and time in graduate school shapes me into becoming a determined scientist and an advocate for science. Everyday cancer immunology becomes a more exciting and promising field of research. More people each year are cancer free due to different therapies using cancer immunotherapy and a lot of these successes essentially originate from work done in basic research laboratories. I feel that the research I am doing is very translational to the clinic and could definitely have an impact on cancer patients in terms of safety and efficacy.
Upon finishing my dissertation, I plan to have published at least nine peer-reviewed articles. Keeping up with the current literature is a very important part of being a successful scientist. It not only keeps you knowledgeable on the new results in the field but it also helps shape your current research by giving you new ideas or avenues to pursue. Therefore, I feel that by having multiple publications I will be helping other scientists in the field by providing my results for them. I think that when the scientific community as a whole is doing their best research and their best to keep up on current findings, is when pronounced progress and breakthroughs occur. Consequently, I think that even by publishing an article I will be indirectly benefiting the general public.
The scientist I was when I first started graduate school as a Masters student in 2013 to the scientist I am now in my fourth year of my Ph.D. are entirely different. I feel that I have grown and matured exponentially in just these last five years of my training. In the last few years, I have obtained data through more complex experiments that have proven to be even more difficult to analyze and interpret. Based on this trajectory thus far, I feel confident that I will excel even more throughout the duration of this fellowship. By becoming an even better scientist throughout this training, I will have the potential to excel that much more in my next position. Again, the public benefits greatly when scientists are engaged and working at their full potential.
2. How will this experience develop you as a person to become a leader for Loyola and society?
Throughout my time a graduate student thus far, I have already began to be a leader for Loyola and society. On minor example is training a summer student in the lab this past summer. I mentored her on a 
small summer project, taught her how to do experiments, and the necessary knowledge to understand the project and its future impact. Even though this is a common practice at Loyola, I felt it was my responsibly that my summer student fully grasped what she was doing every day but still had fun and realized doing research can be very exciting. Since she never had experience working in a lab or even the idea of doing research, I felt this was my first hands on opportunity to expose someone new to how exciting the research we are doing at Loyola can be and how they can play in part in that.
Another one of the small steps I have taken at Loyola to take on more leadership roles is becoming a member of the Graduate Student Council (GSC). This will be the second year I am my department’s representative in the GSC. I have taken on the responsibility to attend monthly meetings, help plan seminars, volunteer events, and mentoring opportunities, help with new student interviews, and be the liaison between my department and the GSC. In addition to being on the GSC, I am also an active member of Loyola’s Women in Science (WINS) group. I think it is extremely important to help middle school/high school girls get exposed to the sciences and help them see that science can be fun and exciting and that an interest in STEM fields should not be discouraging. In April 2016, WINS held their first Science Sisters Day where we hosted girls from neighboring middle schools and did experiments with them. I led an experiment showing the importance of sunscreen and how it protects our skin from skin cancer. WINS also participates in other similar volunteering events throughout the year. I am also a member of Chicago’s chapter of AWIS (Association for Women in Science). I plan to continue to be an active member of AWIS after graduation. At the local level, AWIS provides many resources for members to help promote and encourage women of all ages in STEM fields. Because women are the minority in STEM fields and sometimes experience discrimination, I feel passionate about helping women achieve success in STEM careers and encouraging young women and girls to follow their dreams of having a career or even just an interest in science. Not only is this important for the future of young women in STEM fields, but in doing so as a Loyola graduate, I will also be portraying Loyola in a 
positive, respectful, and ambitious manner.
Lastly, graduate school has instilled an immense passion for my research, cancer immunology, and science in general in me. I have found myself always wanting to discuss my research with my family, friends, or other people I have met over the years. Most people I encounter, outside of the graduate school, are not too familiar with the idea of cancer immunotherapy. I feel it is my responsibility to educate them in a lay way so that they will understand how it is possible for their own immune system to kill cancers and this idea is being heavily researched and exhibited success in patients. I believe that scientists already internally have a passion for wanting to impact other people’s lives in a positive way. We do this indirectly by doing research or pursuing scientific careers that will eventually change humanity down the road for the better. As scientists, it is our job to be able to communicate our research to the public so that they will understand it but more importantly, find it interesting and worthwhile. I am confident in saying that upon completion of my dissertation, I will continue to be dedicated in serving humanity and to be committed to helping women of all ages in their pursuit of careers and interest in STEM fields.

1. How will your research benefit the general public?

“Science says. . . ” It’s a phrase advertisers trot out to encourage us to trust them and to believe that we need their product. When “science says,” we listen. Yet how did a discipline—away of knowing—acquire a voice to speak directly to us with such authority? During the period I study, roughly from 1890 to 1950, science became increasingly abstract and inaccessible to the layperson. New discoveries bombarded society: the world is not made of solid objects, but mostly of empty space, with shivering atoms in it. The earth, long since demoted from the center of the solar system, was now just a tiny grain on its way through a life cycle spanning billions of years. Life, including human life, was just a freak accident, a wildly improbable blip soon to flicker out. It wasn’t just the specialized nature of new sciences like quantum mechanics and microbiology that made even simplified accounts of their discoveries out of the layperson’s reach, it was also the heady spans of time, space, and abstraction that they introduced into our world. No longer equipped to discern what science is telling us is correct or not—perhaps most vividly recently illustrated in the Lancet’s vaccine debacle—we listen to the news reports of some discovery or health promise and nod along. Ah, well, if science says, it must be so.

It is our erstwhile national poet and amateur botanist and astronomer, Robert Frost, who stood up to scientists and philosophers as the lone poet on a panel and told them science was unqualified to pronounce its (then accepted) eugenic ideas because it is, itself, a human production that cannot stand outside humanity to make such judgments. He describes in a poem how modern science as having made us “sick with space,” and prescribes
the study of poetry, wherein we find metaphor and what he identifies as the two base human procreative drives—love and money—not science. Wallace Stevens enumerates science as one of the “pressures of reality” that inhibits our ability to imagine, for him a transcendent, almost salvific activity. From just these two examples, we see these American modernist poets, even of the most abstract and aesthetically theoretical bent, grappling with the authority science was asserting and staking a claim for the important balance offered humanity by imagination, language, and art.

Though not conducive to public consumption in its current dissertation form, my research and its future in more open and accessible formats demonstrates how science started to claim its authority over us and our cultural productions and how a range of poets, from the scientifically invested to the scientifically inept, responded to the nonstop barrage of scientific discoveries and assertions. In their work, they keenly point out some of the weaknesses of the scientific thought and method then, and still now, ascendant, questioning the very abstract and mathematical methods scientists were beginning to use. They show how science itself is an imaginative activity, and should be understood—not fought, but understood—as such. To readers increasingly feeling imperiled by the evolutionary, eugenic, entropic things science was saying at the time, they bring balance, comfort, and assurance that humans get to say, too. For a public that may have little interest in the vagaries of defining literary periods, it is this salutary historical perspective, through American modernist poets and their work, that I can offer. In a time when science was just beginning to say, we can see how our literary artists responded—and gently deflate the ballooning specter of the disasters, demotions, and degrading solutions science was then just starting to say.

2. How will this experience develop you as a person to become a leader for Loyola and society?

In my time at Loyola, I have already pursued leadership positions on and off campus, and the Schmitt fellowship, in addition to allowing my to complete research that I feel is beneficial to society and that I believe develops me into a competent professional scholar, would allow me to continue serving the community in service and leadership. Although for personal reasons I have had to vacate positions of leadership this past semester, for two years I served as co-manager of the Loyola Community Literacy Center, and for two summers I taught high school students in composition classes in Loyola’s Summer Scholars program. For four years, including presently, I have mentored fellow women in the English graduate studies program. Serving others in this capacity has changed my worldview, my priorities, and even my sense of how to grade English language-learners in the college classroom. Leading others in these opportunities—carefully giving feedback, making staffing decisions, balancing personalities and cultures—has undoubtedly prepared me for future leadership and service in various organizations, but particularly in those focused on literacy in a multicultural community. Given the time and flexibility of the Schmitt, I would return to these organizations at Loyola to continue working to empower the disadvantaged in society through outlets Loyola offers.

As a person of faith, I expect to use any available time this opportunity would create to continue leading through service, in the humble way Jesus did washing his disciples’ feet, at my church as its webmaster, English curriculum consultant, and reluctant accompanist. It is in this capacity, using the skills I’ve honed at Loyola, that I developed a poetry unit for grades 3-8 at the request of the staff at the school attached to the church.

Finally, although changing diapers, singing lullabies, and otherwise caring for my infant son would seem also to be more service than leadership, I believe creating a strong and warm family home is indeed a service to him, and to our society. This role has taught me expert time and stress management and also shown me depths of love and patience I didn’t know I had—qualities, each, our society could use more of at present. Motherhood is at times denigrated if not outright deprecated in academia, and though I retain my academic and professional aspirations, this fellowship would allow me to give due time to this additional, most vital leadership function that I am now also called to fulfill.

Who will feed the world? How would the world be fed? What kind of knowledges are involved in the construction of capacities to solve hunger and other food- environmental injustice problems? These are key questions that today challenge national governments and international agencies across the globe. The answers that each country and the international community give to these questions will determine in the coming years the fate of millions of people, particularly, the poor, who are always the most affected by injustices of any kind. In order to begin answering these questions, my project focuses on a particular place, Colombia, where the struggle over who will feed the country and how will it be fed has become also a struggle about what kind of knowledges are included or excluded in public policy decisions that affect both the agricultural system and environment of the country.
My dissertation started to be shaped four years ago by my involvement as an organizer and activist with an organization called La Red de Semillas Libres de Colombia [The National Network of Free Seeds of Colombia -RSLC]. The RSLC is an emblematic social movement in Latin America connected with many other seed and food networks in the region and the world, such as La Via Campesina. The RSLC works to create and maintain a corporate-free agri-food system, concentrating its efforts in caring for and circulating local seeds (and knowledges associated with them) among campesinxs (“peasants”). Their activities range from opposing the use of genetically engineered organisms (GMOs) in agriculture to the creation of agro-ecological schools that put in dialogue traditional and community-based knowledges with Western sciences and technologies to find the best way to nurture soils and seeds. The network has been working on these and other issues for about 6 years. The processes and the results of its work have served as an inspiration for campesinxs in and out of Latin America, and have already impacted important processes of public decision making in Colombia. But perhaps even more importantly, the rapid growth, strength, and collective spirit of the RSLC are contributing to building concrete human and material capacities that are of fundamental importance for the creation of an agricultural system that is not based only on profit.
In the last two years, I have participated in several activities organized by the RSLC, such as national gatherings of seed guardians and agro-ecological schools, and symposiums and seminars around campesinx rights, food and seed sovereignty, among others. I have not only learned from the popular practices of different communities in the country, but also actively contributed to raising awareness in academic environments in the USA, Colombia, Germany, Canada, and other places, about the connections between land rights, food sovereignty, and the organization of social movements that envision a world free of hunger. This has been possible because the project is sound both methodologically and theoretically, and because of my personal background as scholar and activist. Thus, in the past years, I have already been awarded important grants from institutions such as the Iberoamerican Institute in Berlin, Germany, and the Latin American Society for Science, Technology and Society Studies (ESOCITE) to advance my dissertation. The former grant gave me the opportunity to do archival research in the summer 2016 in the institute and to share my work with scholars from Chile, Argentina, Mexico, Germany, Scandinavia, and other regions that provided very valuable feedback to the project. Last year, the ESOCITE grant offered me the space at the Doctoral School in Bogotá, Colombia to spend a week with other Latin American scholars who also work in Science and Technology Studies.
Hence, I believe that my commitment to social justice and my qualities as a Latina intellectual, a public speaker, and an organizer deeply shape my potential to become a leader whose work can be transformative for academia and society. I would like to emphasize that in 2017 Colombia went through a painstaking peace process between the government and the FARC (the main guerrilla group in the country), which concluded in a peace agreement that ended more than half a century of civil war. Thus, Colombia is at a key moment in which not only is its own future at play, but it has the potential to become a source of inspiration and leadership for the rest of the Andean
region. Since peoples most affected by the conflict were rural inhabitants, what the government does in the coming years to improve their living conditions is of fundamental importance for the true end of the war. Such transformations are to be done by taking into account engaged-research that addresses causes and solutions to the problems that rural peoples face. My goal is to offer possible policy recommendations, based on my research findings, that help make small and medium size growers in the country a force that is able to build a new kind of citizenship, based on an ethics of care and not on a un-ethics of violence.
Finally, it is important to say that being awarded the Schmitt Fellowship would give me the opportunity to be part of a wonderful network of scholars who are engaged with the Jesuit mission and who are committed to the transformation of society. I look forward to attending to meetings and events that, I am sure, will help me craft my ability to produce excellent scholarship while actively contributing to the cause of humanity in a historical moment that needs, perhaps more than ever, sound leaders with kind hearts.

I have trained in a thoroughly translational environment. The Loyola Urinary Research and Education Collaborative (LUEREC) is an established, mature collaboration of basic scientists with broad expertise in cellular and molecular biology, immunology, microbiology, physiology, genetics, genomics, proteomics and bioinformatics and surgeon scientists from urology and urogynecology with substantial expertise in patient-oriented clinical and translational research in urinary incontinence and other lower urinary tract disorders. In this translational environment, I have had the opportunity to see my daily activities impact patient care and practice in the Loyola University Health System and elsewhere.

LUEREC has changed clinical microbiology practice. For my master’s thesis, I helped dispel the entrenched dogma that urine is sterile. I established a novel enhanced quantitative urine culture (EQUC) protocol that provided compelling evidence that the female urinary bladder contains a resident bacterial community (the Female Urinary Microbiota) (Hilt et al. 2014). Incredibly, EQUC showed that most (~90%) urines declared ‘no growth’ by the standard clinical microbiology urine culture procedure actually contain live bacteria. In response, Loyola’s clinical microbiology lab adopted the EQUC protocol to use in cases where the standard urine culture protocol is inconclusive, leading to improved diagnosis and patient care. Other clinical microbiology laboratories around the world have begun to use EQUC under similar circumstances.

The nature of my Master’s Thesis work led me to present my work to diverse audiences at regional and national conferences. I have spoken and presented posters at clinical microbiology, basic science microbiology and clinical meetings. Attendance at these conferences has given me the chance to network, meeting individuals who could help me in my desired future career as the director of a clinical microbiology laboratory. The work that went into my Master’s Thesis showed me how rigorous research can change clinical practice. With the proper training, I could continue to effect change.

My Master’s Thesis was heavily clinically based and changed clinical microbiology and urogynecology. The work was challenging and exciting, but it did not sufficiently hone by critical reasoning skills or help me understand mechanism. Thus, for my PhD dissertation, I have decided to develop my basic science research skills. I am focusing on another area of great need in clinical microbiology, which is beginning to understand the pathogenic lifestyle of the bacterium, Aerococcus urinae, which is a current problem in the clinic. There is a large gap of knowledge in the field of understudied uropathogens. My dissertation work with A. urinae will help begin to fill this gap and build a foundation for studying other understudied uropathogens. My dissertation work specifically explores the interaction between A. urinae and the epithelial layer of the bladder known as the urothelium. By understanding this interaction, we can start to think of therapies to disrupt this interaction. Subsequent effective therapies can then be utilized in the clinic to treat A. urinae infections. Although these therapies will take some time to develop, we need to start at the beginning and that is the aim of my dissertation work.

1. How will your research benefit the general public?

This project has the potential to increase our humanistic knowledge of foreign fighting, radicalization, and extreme behavior by introducing a theoretical framework that is valid across time and cultural context and that helps us understand the motivational underpinnings that drive this behavior. The findings can be generalized and tested in other conflict contexts and in communities across the world, which can provide insights into concrete practices that can be designed to counter violence and conflict. This research benefits the general public in two ways.

First, this dissertation project will introduce a new theoretical framework for explaining why human beings participate in foreign fighting by looking at the willingness of seemingly ordinary individuals to take the extraordinary risk of leaving their homes to fight in a foreign conflict. The theory proposed is based on a value-driven explanation that emphasizes both an individual’s commitment to sacred values as well as their commitment to friends, family, and those they share an ideological commitment to. The project has implications for understanding why human beings behave in ways that often defy rational calculation and explains how humans find meaning in both culture and in their relations to others that motivate their behavior.

While sacred values act as moral imperatives that drive human action, they alone are often not enough to convince an individual to make a costly sacrifice. Many individuals can hold identical values as sacred and yet only a subset of those individuals might mobilize out of an obligation to, or in defense of, those values. Therefore, my project seeks to show how a community or group justifies collective activity is crucial to understanding why participation by individuals becomes morally acceptable. Understanding how sacred values manifest themselves in communities thus requires employing theories of collective identity and social networks,
which assume that the structures and interconnectedness of a public determines the rate and extent to which values and beliefs inspire action.

Finally, the project has numerous implications for U.S. foreign policy, conflict management, and peacebuilding that will benefit citizens across the globe. First, this dissertation will be of great interest to U.S. publics as it offers the first in-depth, individual-level analysis of the foreign fighter phenomenon which the U.S. continues to confront in a variety of conflicts throughout the globe, including: Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria and Iraq. Second, the approach of this dissertation is to explore the competing factors that motivate foreign fighters that are generalizable to other cultures and contexts which will, if past is prologue, help scholars and policymakers confront the foreign fighter challenges of tomorrow including developing methods for confronting radicalization. The project is timely, in that thousands of foreign fighter "returnees" from Syria and Iraq are threatening the peace and security of countries across the globe, and has global ramifications. Understanding these fighter’s motivations for leaving will also help provide avenues for future reintegration policies.

2. How will this experience develop you as a person to become a leader for Loyola and society?

Being a leader or displaying leadership qualities, regardless of the setting (at Loyola or in society), requires an understanding of the needs and goals of the group you lead. It requires you to see the big picture, set direction for your group, and execute an agenda to make real change. This experience will allow me to grow into a future leader by giving me the chance to research and understand one of most salient political developments of the 21st century; the “foreign fighter phenomenon.” The dissertation allows me to learn and borrow from theories of collective action and individual behavior from diverse fields such as economics, sociology, psychology, and anthropology to develop a new theoretical framework for understanding individual participation in foreign conflicts that is based on the concept of “sacred values,” or moral imperatives that drive action beyond any material calculation. Beyond just understanding how sacred values motivate foreign fighters, understanding how values drive individual behavior, in general, will make me a better and more attuned decision-maker and leader.

Addressing the issue of foreign fighters also forces me to confront different cultural contexts and societal norms. Empathy and the understanding of different backgrounds is an integral part of being a leader and are qualities I hope to develop through my experience as a Schmitt Dissertation Fellow. Beyond just my own field research, where I will have to work with and talk to individuals from different countries and backgrounds, the opportunity to work closely with other Schmitt Fellows from different academic disciplines, who have different backgrounds and training, and who have likely done research in different cultural contexts, can provide insights that will inform my research and vice-versa. The experience will thus provide me with new insight on how to work with different groups and personalities and become a leader in not just my field but in the service of humanity.
This research is highly original in that it has both local and global implications. At the local-level, my research can help inform community development to help serve those who are unrepresented to prevent them from searching for alternative paths that could lead them to radicalization and foreign fighting. On the global-level, my research can help inform conflict management and peacebuilding initiatives. It is the argument of this research project that any attempt at stemming the flow of foreign fighters to any conflict must first understand the motivations behind why these citizens decided in the first place to leave their country to fight abroad. The research will also inform new methods to effectively (i.e., peacefully) reintegrate those that have returned as productive members of society which will require knowledge and training of which I could provide as a global leader in my field.

“[H]ospitality (hospitableness) means the right of a foreigner not to be treated with hostility because he has arrived on the land of another. The other can turn him away, if this can be done without destroying him, but as long as he behaves peaceably where he is, he cannot be treated with hostility.”
Immanuel Kant, “Toward Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Project,” translated by Mary J. Gregor in Practical Philosophy: The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant, ed. by Mary J. Gregor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006): 328-329
In 1795 Immanuel Kant published “Toward Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Project,” which is most well-known for its vision of a peaceful and cooperative international order. Less wellknown is Kant’s discussion of cosmopolitan right which foreshadowed later developments in international refugee and human rights law. In Kant’s pacific world, individuals would have a moral right to enter another state’s territory if he or she could not be turned away “without destroying him [or her].” Although cosmopolitan right only entitles individuals to temporary admissions– in Kant’s words, it “shall be limited to conditions of universal hospitality”— it reflects Kant’s view that a just world would recognize the moral status of individuals, not just nation states. A century and a half later this status was codified with the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and other human rights instruments. Protections were granted to those facing ‘destruction’ through the Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees (1951/1967). Admittedly, these protections and the institutions tasked with promoting them are far from perfect, but they reflect and reinforce the idea that the dignity and welfare of human beings is a matter of global concern.
Kant argued in “Perpetual Peace” that the international actions and policies of governments should not be immune from moral reproach, and that states must respect the moral status and rights of all individuals. My dissertation builds upon Kant’s legacy by focusing on the ethics of international mobility, which includes those fleeing destruction but also those who seek economic, cultural, or political opportunities. Hundreds of millions of human beings reside in countries of which they are not nationals and even more seek to do so. Yet governments restrict the number of migrants admitted each year and require migrants to satisfy several criteria before being admitted.
Philosophical discussions on migration are often framed around the question, “in a perfectly just world, what type of migration would be permissible?” While perfect justice may provide a target at which we aim our policies, my goal is to clarify what a just migration regime should look like in our world, taking account of existing economic and political facts. I hope my dissertation and research can contribute to ongoing conversations about the justness of these policies and, more broadly, how we should treat those who seek to share our lands.
My dissertation focuses on migration to fulfill my larger research goal: to clarify what responsibility individuals, acting through their governments, have to humanity. Government is a means by which individuals can fulfill duties of justice to one another, and philosophical discussions about justice have played an important role in the formation of just domestic policies. In our increasingly interconnected world, government affords citizens the opportunity to fulfill global obligations, but global policy discussions often fail to rise to the level demanded by justice. Instead of focusing on what we owe to our fellow human beings, this discourse focuses solely on how these policies affect us or our compatriots. Writing on migration allows me to highlight both domestic and global concerns. The admission of migrants into a political community is a question of global justice, but it also affects policies that promote domestic justice. My research clarifies the relationship between domestic and global responsibilities. In doing so it identifies what we can be asked to do for others and the reasons why we may be allowed to do less. I believe philosophical reflection can raise the quality of global policy debates as they have done for domestic debates. My intention is to provide moral deliberation that respects the dignity of those with which these debates are concerned.
In addition to migration, my research extends to other areas of international ethics, including humanitarian intervention. Technological developments allow us to know about suffering across the world and to act to mitigate it. In one article I published on the ongoing Civil War in Yemen, I raised concerns about Saudi Arabia’s invocation of humanitarian intervention to justify their entrance into the conflict. I focused on this conflict to illuminate certain limitations of humanitarian intervention from the perspective of the Yemeni civilians who have been made worse off by the intervention. My writing on this subject is motivated by the sense of responsibility I feel to contribute my talents to improve the lives of those with whom I share a common humanity. Leadership is clearly embodied by those on the frontlines advocating for policy change or organizing relief. This type of leadership is praiseworthy and necessary, but it is not the only type of leadership the world needs. Researchers and educators provide an alternative model that emphasizes sustained reflection and research. They provide clarity where there is uncertainty, and they inspire others to see better possibilities. Philosophers are often criticized for turning away from the world, but the philosophers I seek to model are those who inspired subsequent generations to change the world for the better. Kant’s “Perpetual Peace” inspired President Wilson to found the League of Nations, which laid the groundwork for the UN. The philosopher Jacques Maritain applied his work on Thomistic and Aristotelian philosophy to the drafting of the UDHR, one of the most important political documents of the 20th century.
The Schmitt Fellowship will provide me the opportunity to model Kant’s and Maritain’s form of leadership. Through it, I will be able to finish my dissertation and publish my findings on migration and international ethics. I will publish these findings in philosophical journals, but also seek means by which I can provide moral clarity to existing policy debates. Ultimately, I intend to become a university professor, and I will encourage my students to use their talents to serve humanity. Today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders, and whether they become advocates, researchers, or private citizens, it is imperative that they reflect upon what we owe to humanity.