In The Spotlight
“According to Howard’s mission statement, one of the University’s most abiding commitments is producing leaders for America and the global community. This year, students in the Graduate School have enthusiastically embraced the challenge of global leadership, demonstrating through scholarship and service their dedication to discovering solutions to human problems around the world.
Among this year’s cohort of first-time students in the Graduate School is Jean Claude Abeck, who begins the African Studies doctoral program this fall. A native of Cameroon, Abeck moved to the United States in 2013 and earned a master’s degree in Terrorism and Security Studies from American University two years later. “I have personally experienced the setbacks of terrorism during my time in Cameroon,” he says, “and that was the inspiration for my studies in security.”
At American, Abeck encountered fellow expatriates from countries throughout the African continent with whom he forged close bonds. He says, “I would meet with other Africans, and we’d have heated debates in and out of the classroom about foreign and regional public policy in Africa.” After he completed his master’s program in 2017, Abeck realized how important those policy discussions were and how necessary it was to continue them in a formal space. “We all knew that something vital was happening,” he says. “We kept asking ourselves the same question–how could we get more young people involved in policy making for African countries?”
With the goal of developing thinkers to engage African public policy in mind, Abeck led a group of his fellow graduates to establish the Africa Center for Strategic Progress (ACSTRAP), a policy research center for African foreign and regional affairs. ACSTRAP’s mission is to “inform, prepare, and equip the next generation of African policy thinkers–students, scholars, youth, and policymakers.” Abeck is sure that Howard is the ideal place for him to continue his research in African studies and lead his organization of young policy enthusiasts. “The vision of my organization and that of my research interests at Howard are inextricably linked,” he says. “Both rest on the assumption that an African foreign and regional policy is emerging and desperately in need of fresh thinkers to shape it for peace and stability.”
2019 Just-Julian Scholar Angela Pashayan is also interested in policy work in Africa. Currently completing an internship with USAID as an International Political Policy Analyst, Pashayan briefs policymakers about salient issues affecting African countries and the African Union. Her public policy interests stem from her commitment to global poverty reduction, which drives her academic agenda and has led her to develop on-the-ground programs that aid communities around the world.
A native of Compton, California, Pashayan learned early in life the crippling effects of poverty, but also the world-changing potential of community leadership. “I lived with poverty and saw it all around me every day,” she says. “Yet my perception was that I could achieve anything. My home was the center of problem solving for the community. My father was a community leader, and my mother started a day care center that grew to serve 200 children in Compton, so I was surrounded by leadership and service.” Pashayan’s experiences with poverty and community leadership led her to travel extensively while completing her undergraduate degree in psychology at UCLA. Throughout her travels to impoverished communities, she maintained her parents’ commitment to treating people with dignity and respect. “I found people interesting and I honored their experiences,” she says. “The most important part of being a scholar and a researcher is humility.” Pashayan’s travels deepened her interest in global poverty reduction, and after completing a master’s program in Diplomacy at Norwich University in Vermont, she decided that her goal of reducing global poverty by influencing policymaking would be best served by relocating to the nation’s capital.
As a PhD student in Political Science and International Relations at Howard, Pashayan’s research focuses on poverty reduction in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. Her interdisciplinary work intersects with economic development, violence prevention, peace and security, gender equality, and food security. Her project has earned her the prestigious Just-Julian Graduate Research Assistantship, a competitive award granted by the Graduate School and the Office of the Provost. Named after two pioneering scholars, biologist Dr. Ernest Everett Just and chemist Dr. Percy Lavon Julian, the assistantship rewards innovation and creativity in doctoral research. Pashayan credits the assistantship and her interactions with her faculty mentor with making her a better researcher. “My research passion stems from within,” she says, “but it’s been heightened by learning about theory and methods. That’s important to me because it’s through research that I can present quantifiable data to make effective change in the area I’m passionate about.”
Like Abeck, Pashayan’s academic studies relate directly to her organizing and service activities. She founded the nonprofit YOD International in 2006 with the goal of extending the reach of government and NGO programs in Kenya by implementing poverty reduction programs and supplying humanitarian intelligence on Nairobi’s slum residents. For over seven years, her nonprofit has provided anti-poverty aid and helped build the capacity of other organizations through initiatives that focus on entrepreneurship, agriculture, community art, and safe housing. Pashayan’s organization has also assisted with poverty reduction programs in India, Indonesia, Peru, Tanzania, and Nepal, as well as health and wellness programs in Australia, Dubai, Abu Dhabi. She says, “I am determined to make the case for communities that are left behind with ineffective programs for development and economic growth.” Pashayan’s commitment to servant leadership is emblematic of the best of Howard.
- Angela Pashayan a native of Compton, California, PhD student in Political Science and International Relations at Howard. Jean Claude Abeck is native of Cameroon, and is in the African Studies doctoral program at Howard.