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Macarena Flores is completing her M.S. in Security and Resilience Studies as a part of Northeastern University’s PlusOne accelerated Master’s program. While finishing the last semesters of her B.A. in history and international affairs, along with minors in political science and Jewish studies, Macarena started to take graduate courses that count toward both the bachelor’s degree and the Master’s program. With support from faculty advisors such as Jewish Studies Director Lori Lefkowitz, and by taking advantage of Northeastern’s experiential opportunities, Macarena has carved her own path toward integrating theory and policy.
Exploration through Dialogues of Civilizations programs and co-ops was important to the development of Macarena’s goals. On her first dialogue, to the Eastern European countries of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, she studied their transition into and from communist regimes. From there she travelled to Legrena, a tiny Greek village, for her first co-op at the European Public Law Organization. Her experiences at EPLO confirmed her desire to find ways of translating her humanities learning beyond the university: “For me it was about finding practical ways of implementing some of the concepts that we were studying in history.”
Her second co-op was at Pathfinder International, an NGO that implements and advocates for women’s reproductive health in more than 60 countries. “[T]hat was a very important moment because all the knowledge and all the questions I had in my head about gender identity really took a very pragmatic lens,” Macarena said. “You know about the history of the Congo. How does that play into how you implement a program that talks about sexual health?” Her final Dialogue had a similar impact. Macarena travelled to Poland and the Czech Republic, where she studied the Holocaust and genocide. The lessons she learned and the perspectives she was exposed to shaped the rest of her work toward her bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.
As a Masters student, Macarena continues to bring the lenses of history and the humanities to her research on security and resilience. Macarena was initially hesitant. “It wasn’t something that I thought was for me. With security you always think of it as something that’s very harsh and institutional,” said Macarena. After meeting program director Daniel Aldrich (Political Science and SPPUA) Macarena had a better sense of how she might bring a humanistic approach to the study of conflict and disaster. “I think what has made the transition [from history] easier is maybe I’m not as familiar with theory or data-modelling—those are things I’m learning now—but being a historian by training gives you ideas about context and writing.”
Macarena’s current research focuses on the dynamics of citizenship in the Middle East, particularly in Lebanon. She will continue to investigate this area next semester as part of a directed study with Political Science and International Affairs Professor Denis Sullivan. With over half of her PlusOne program under her belt, Macarena is starting to think about life after Northeastern. She aims to work at an NGO or research institute that focuses on questions of citizenship with the eventual intention of getting her Ph.D. “The hope for me, and for many of my colleagues as well, is that through analysis we can fix problems, we can come up with new policy, new theories, new approaches that can actually be implemented.”