Melikian Center undergraduate expands her horizons in work with Kazakh Fulbright scholar

June 7, 2021

Sofia Walsh, a student at Barrett, The Honors College, recalls that she had no idea what she was getting into when she applied to be an undergraduate fellow at Arizona State University's Melikian Center for Russian, Eurasian, and East European Studies.

The program is designed to give undergraduates the opportunity to work closely with faculty affiliated with the center. Walsh was broadly interested in Russia and its impact on its neighboring countries, but hadn’t yet had the opportunity to delve into research. Sofia Walsh Sofia Walsh Download Full Image

That changed when she was matched with Beibit Shangirbayeva, who is spending 2021 at the Melikian Center on a Fulbright fellowship. She is an associate professor in the International Law Department of L.N. Gumilyov Eurasian University in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. She came to ASU to continue her research on the development of human rights law in Kazakhstan, and the interplay of influences from the Russian and Soviet eras, from international and “Western” norms, and from legal traditions rooted in the country’s nomadic culture.

Through the course of the semester, Walsh had the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in research methods and to understand how her own research interests connect with broader questions and different academic fields. The fellowship has allowed her to prepare for her long-term goal of attending graduate school.  

“This opened my eyes to certain topics that I wouldn’t have thought to explore or be interested in — the topic of policy diffusion and authoritarian policy transfer,” Walsh said. “This fellowship broadened my interests, made me aware of this whole field that I didn’t even know existed and now I’m interested in, and I might pursue it for my own thesis.”

For Shangirbayeva, participating as a mentor in the Melikian Center Undergraduate Fellowship has been a rewarding experience as well. It was her first experience of working with a research assistant in her academic career.  

“Despite being only a sophomore student, Sofia was very helpful in finding relevant literature and other necessary information to advance my interdisciplinary research that combined knowledge not only of several fields, but several languages as well,” she said.

Shangirbayeva noted in particular Walsh's help in bibliographic research, in the course of which she tracked down key works in international law that dealt with human rights law and its impact on nomadic peoples, including works by Jérémie Gilbert and Marco Moretti. These works opened up comparative dimensions to Shangirbayeva’s project.

“Sofia was very diligent in all assigned tasks and very active in participating in numerous and diverse events of the Melikian Center,” Shangirbayeva said. “I enjoyed her assistance and cooperation."

Shangirbayeva is planning to submit a paper for publication in fall 2021, focusing on the continued relevance of Kazakh customary law and especially the relation between the idea of the “freedom of a fair word” and contemporary legal norms on freedom of expression.

Beibit Shangirbayeva

Beibit Shangirbayeva on the ASU Tempe campus.

In addition to assisting Shangirbayeva, Walsh also interned with the London-based NGO Index on Censorship this past semester. The nongovernmental organization highlights the voices of people facing censorship around the world. One of Walsh’s assignments was to write policy papers on policy transfer, a topic she felt that her Melikian Fellowship prepared her for. 

Walsh had the following advice for fellow students regarding working with the Melikian Center and its faculty: “Just apply even if you’re a little bit interested, and keep an open mind about the type of work that you do. Even if it’s not exactly related to your personal interest or your major, you will always develop transferable skills, and you could very well be exposed to something that you had no idea existed. Your fellowship could spark a new interest, a new desire to explore something.”

Written by Kristen Ho

ASU student's transfer journey from community college to ASU

Shanae Germick discovered an interest in politics while studying at a community college — but always knew she wanted to complete her bachelor’s degree at a university

June 7, 2021

Upon graduating high school, Shanae Germick thought it most beneficial to begin her studies at a community college to further explore her interests and career goals. Participating in extracurricular activities while at Paradise Valley Community College further helped her gain hands-on learning experiences in the political arena — and a clearer picture of her future.

Germick successfully completed her associate degree prior to transferring to Arizona State University, where she is now studying political science in the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. She is also working for Academic Alliances as a transfer student ambassador, educating prospective transfer students all about the benefits of ASU’s pathway program, MyPath2ASU MAPP MyPath2ASU™ student stories Download Full Image

Here we talk to Germick about her journey from community college to ASU, and the advice she shares with other students who are interested in transferring as well.

Question: Why and when did you choose your major?

Answer: While I was attending community college I was involved with student government and took a class that gave me the opportunity to go to Washington, D.C., and talk to legislators about specific issues going on in my community. I realized through my involvement at Paradise Valley Community College that I liked working with people, and politics has been an interest of mine for a long time. Halfway through my second semester at ASU I decided to major in political science. I chose political science because of the social science aspect to it, and because after getting the opportunity to work and volunteer for political campaigns, I realized this is what I wanted to do.

Q: Why did you decide to attend Paradise Valley Community College?

A: After I graduated from high school I didn’t know what I wanted to study or have any well-defined career goals. I knew that I eventually wanted to attend a four-year university, but since I didn’t know what I wanted to major in I decided to start my higher education journey at a community college.  

Q: Were you involved in any clubs or organizations at your community college? How did your participation impact your community college experience?

A: I was involved in student government, Phi Theta Kappa, and I helped out in the Office of Student Life and Leadership regularly. I was most involved with student government where I got to work with a lot of people, address problems on campus, increase engagement at school and plan events for students. My involvement with student government helped me figure out my interests and ultimately it contributed to me figuring out what I wanted to study. 

Q: Why did you choose to attend ASU?

A: I chose to attend ASU because I knew that I wanted to be in a place that provided me with a lot of options when it came to programs of study, and I wanted to be surrounded by people of diverse backgrounds. I also knew ASU would provide me with a lot of opportunities during my undergraduate journey, such as internships, research and study abroad, while also providing job opportunities after graduation. Having a variety of options and opportunities was very important to me, and ASU offered that and more.

Q: What is one piece of advice you would give to a new transfer student?

A: My biggest piece of advice for new transfer students would be to do things early. Look into getting involved in clubs before classes start, and if you want to live on campus, make sure you look into that well in advance. The same goes for classes, the earlier you make an appointment with your adviser the better, that way you can register early for classes before they fill up. Plan in advance, think ahead and think about what kind of semester you want to have, and do the things that will make that semester you want happen.

Renee Beauchamp

Director, transfer operations, Office of the University Provost, Academic Alliances