Written by Anita Ramasastry, Henry M. Jackson Endowed Professor of Law, Director of the Sustainable International Development Graduate Program, and Faculty Director, International, Comparative and Transnational Programs
In autumn of 2020, I was appointed as chair of the Global Engagement Strategy Task Force and charged with reimagining the role that the Office of Global Affairs (OGA) plays in informing and shaping the future of global engagement at the University of Washington.
Over the last year, I had the pleasure of not only diving deeply into discussion with seven peers from diverse units, but meeting with and learning from over 100 stakeholders from across the university.
This work took place at a time of inflection both for the UW broadly and for OGA. The COVID-19 pandemic rapidly transformed UW’s model for teaching and learning, it also put global travel including study abroad on hold. The pandemic also underscored the importance of UW providing administrative and social support structures for international students and researchers during a major global crisis. The Black Lives Matter movement and a renewed call to action for greater focus on anti-racist approaches to education prompted us to grapple with what it means for us to be globally engaged in a way that confronts issues of historica and contemporary racism and colonialism and is consistent with the UW’s overall approach to diversity, equity and inclusion. These challenges and opportunities shaped our process and our recommendations.
Five key recommendations emerged for the future work of OGA:
Shift OGA’s focus from being a steward of policies and procedures to being a builder of global learning and research communities
Serve as a portal and ambassador for stewarding and advancing institution-wide relationships with key global actors — from international organizations, such as the UN and the World Bank, to key foundations and think tanks
Catalyze global teaching and education beyond study abroad, ensuring a global education for all through the use of technology
Identify and work to eliminate the structural barriers that prevent many BIPOC faculty, staff, and students from leveraging OGA’s services and programs
Continue to provide broad administrative support (travel security, MOUs, etc.) for the myriad global partnerships, but also invest more substantially in fewer, deeper, and bi-directional partnerships
Collectively, we are eager to see OGA build a richer ecosystem for global engagement at the UW. UW has a strong commitment to global citizenship. We now have the chance to expand and reframe our approach.
When law professor Anita Ramasastry began teaching at the University of Washington in 1996, she was working on an article about banks’ responsibilities around human rights, to the bemusement of her peers. But Ramasastry’s decades-long focus on the intersection of commerce and human rights paid off. In July, she was appointed to serve on the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights. Ramasastry will represent all of Western Europe, North America and Australia-Pacific, one of five UN regions and arguably the most competitive. She was selected out of a field of 22 applicants.
Camps is the first Cuban student enrolled at the UW since the U.S. embargo against the island nation in 1960. In the 2014-15 academic year, there were 94 Cuban students studying in the United States, according to the Institute of International Education. Camps met Barer while serving as a tour guide for a UW learning trip organized by then-provost and now UW President Ana Mari Cauce, a native of Cuba. Barer chatted with Camps as the bus rolled through the streets and discovered he had previously worked as an attorney in Cuba. Barer was struck by his intelligence and resourcefulness, and later encouraged Camps to apply for the fellowship.
The Barer Institute supports Fellows pursuing an LL.M. in Sustainable International Development. Fellows commit to working for at least two years in their home countries, which have ranged from states in East Africa to Southeast Asia and the Caribbean, to improve legal infrastructure.
Hezron Krop Kangerep believes his mother’s emphasis on education saved him from violence in his native Kenya. She told him, “A pen and a paper is the best rifle you can have.” Kangerep is one of three remarkable 2014-2015 Barer Institute Fellows. His family history and life experiences sparked his passion for community development, and a UW education is giving him the tools to make sustainable change.
A human rights specialist from the northwestern corner of Kenya, Kangerep is pursuing his LL.M. in Sustainable International Development (SID) at the UW School of Law through the Barer Institute for Law and Human Global Services. Over the past three years, 13 fellows from countries with demonstrated legal infrastructure need have been supported through the Barer fellowship, created through a generous gift from former UW Regent Stan Barer and his wife, Alta.
Globalization has made the world a smaller place, says Stan Barer. “Really all the people in the world are kind of living in the same neighborhood.” But the neighborhood is unequal — a challenge the Barer fellowship seeks to address. “One of the great concerns all nations have is that the disparity in income and opportunity between the advanced nations and developing nations is at the greatest extent it has ever been,” Barer says. “Our long term enhancement in the United States depends a great deal on all nations having solid growth and development.”
The Barer fellowship supports individuals in low to middle-income developing countries who have the ability to become great leaders in their community. Fellows are outstanding legal practitioners and scholars with significant experience working to promote the rule of law, human rights and economic development. Kangerep’s cohort members are also from East Africa — Moses Wanyonyi Wanjala from Kenya and Jonathan Muwaganya from Uganda — but previous years have also seen fellows from Indonesia, Mongolia, the Philippines, Zimbabwe and Myanmar.
The anticipated 2016 cohort is diverse in world region and specialty. From Cuba, one member is an attorney and former diplomat with experience in the Middle East. Upon returning to Cuba, he is interested in facilitating sustainable economic development for his country, including building legal and business relationships with the U.S. Another incoming student is a Nepalese attorney, deputy executive director for Transparency International-Nepal, and faculty member of the National Law College. His primary interests center on rule of law and governance issues as he looks forward to being part of Nepal’s progress in governance reform. The third member of the cohort is from Uganda. An attorney and Chief Magistrate in the Ugandan Judiciary, she was formerly a research associate with Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment. When she returns to Uganda she expects to be better equipped to use the law to promote and ensure compliance with sustainable environmental development practices.
The Barer Fellowship makes a significant financial contribution to Fellows’ course of study at UW, covering tuition, housing and books. “It wouldn’t be possible for me to be here without the Barer Fellowship,” says Kangerep. “To me, it is a miracle.” From a family of 18 children, Kangerep is the only one of his siblings to have graduated from college. He credits his mother, for his academic achievements.
Growing up Pokot in a marginalized community with strict cultural norms, Kangerep faced several “very cruel years in untold poverty.” He began his higher education at Daystar University in Kenya, surviving on 500 Kenyan shillings (about $5) per month. Just a short time into college, his family was unable to pay tuition. Kangerep was devastated, but determined to finish school, even if he could only take a few credits at a time. Then Kangerep received one in a string of what he calls miracles. An American scholarship targeted specifically toward Pokot students sponsored the rest of his education at Daystar. Corruption siphoned away 20,000 shillings meant for textbooks and a living stipend, but Kangerep says he was so relieved to have his tuition paid, it didn’t matter to him — he couldn’t ask for anything more.
These experiences contrast starkly with Kangerep’s experience at the UW. He has gone from sharing one book with 45 other students to accessing the extensive Gallagher Law Library. “[The UW] environment has been made so conducive to learning,” he says. The respect that he has for the UW and its community is tangible, even if it is not describable. Pointing to the W logo on a nearby folder, he adds, “I don’t know how to print the impact the W has had on my life.”
The impact goes both ways. “It is the genuineness and the level of interest that these fellows have in learning and participating that is really a treat to see,” says Tanya Karwaki, director of the Barer Institute. “The ideal in a Barer Fellow is one that will grasp all the opportunities and make the most out of it. … You can’t help being impacted by them.”
The Barer Fellows’ life experiences enrich the classroom experience at the UW. “The rest of these students never look at law the same,” says Law School Dean Kellye Testy. “It gives them more maturity and humility around the privileges they have. They don’t take the rule of law for granted.”
Life did not become immediately easier for Kangerep after graduating Daystar University. For three years he remained unemployed. Though it was out of his wheelhouse, he eventually secured a position as a microcredit loan officer, using the opportunity to make an impact on women’s lives. “The softest part of me is women who are suffering. I know because I saw my mom suffering,” he says, reflecting on the empowerment and women’s rights issues facing his family and community. As a bank official, Kangerep financed 3 million shillings in microcredit loans to women. Because of these investments, “their lives changed before my eyes,” he says.
But microfinance was not the industry in which Kangerep felt he could make the most impact. He took a position at the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, and eventually, with the prompting of his fiancée, moved to the Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR). “She even gave me the pen and paper [to apply],” he says.
Still, the lure of education remained strong. Eight years after graduating, Kangerep began seeking out advanced degree programs. “I typed in my laptop, ‘universities offering courses in development studies,’” he says. Up popped the UW — a serendipitous sign for Kangerep, who had long-hoped to visit this part of the world. Through a colleague at KNCHR, Kangerep came into contact with the Barer Institute. A compelling application and two Skype interviews later, he was admitted to the program.
The Barer Fellows have made a real impact on the Law School. “Each group is a ‘wow,’” says Professor Anita Ramasastry, director of the Sustainable International Development LL.M. program. “These are change makers. They’re already leaders in their home country.” Through their work in the program, they have brought a new level of innovative and interdisciplinary thinking to the challenges their countries face. “They’re coming up with solutions for things that aren’t just about law,” she says.
The program aligns perfectly with the Law School’s greater mission. “Legal education trains people to become complex problem solvers,” says Testy. “If you don’t have law, you don’t have lasting change.” An inclusive attitude towards law is critically showcased in the Barer Institute. “We have a bigger vision of law and Stan shares that vision,” Testy says. “It is a program we love so much — leadership for the global common good. It’s our mission in action.”
Working closely with the Barer Fellows in classes and practicums, Jennifer Lenga-Long, associate director of the SID program, says the perspective and insight they offer is extremely valuable, particularly when talking about how global issues play out on the ground. “[They] gave everyone a sense of how real sustainable change has to happen at the community level and how complicated it is,” she says.
Sustainable change is at the forefront of Kangerep’s agenda upon returning to Kenya. He believes change will happen when people “can do something about their lives.” Impacted by his Barer professional mentor, Gail Stone, King County law and justice policy adviser, Kangerep plans on working with his county government to invest in a variety of sustainable local development agendas, particularly education. “Education is the best way to unlock many of our problems,” he says. “If we don’t do something about education, we will just have a new generation of criminals, violence and guns.”
Creating these opportunities for education and leadership around the world is part of the UW’s proven impact. “The UW has been a leader for years in representing a global outreach,” says Stan Barer. “Really good sustainable development involves basic health care education and the chance for economic development.” These are the skills the Barer fellows learn at UW’s Law School, particularly in their ability to embed solutions to health, education and economic crises in law. “They go back home and have learned so many tools to help develop their country,” he says.
The Law School has been focused on global education for decades; it celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Asian Law Center in 2013 and the 20th anniversary of the SID program in 2014. Testy sees the potential for the Law School to partner across campus. “This school has had an amazing history and future in terms of being a major force for global impact,” she says.
In the 2014-15 close-knit SID group, each of the students is already contributing to a world of good with their current and planned work. “The SID program is not a class, its a family,” says Kangerep. Building on these relationships is part of the takeaway of the program in general. “I hope everyone will be a network for each other going forward,” says Lenga-Long.
Testy is excited to see where the Barer fellows will end up, “They will become the leaders of their worlds.”