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Student spotlight: Caitlin Quirk, Donald C. and Margery S. Hellmann Scholar 2022

January 5, 2022

Caitlin Quirk headshot
Caitlin Quirk, an international studies major, receives the Donald C. and Margery S. Hellmann Scholarship 2022

In this Q&A, we speak with Caitlin Quirk, a senior majoring in international studies who was recently selected as the 2022 recipient of the Donald C. and Margery S. Hellmann Scholarship award.

Unique to the Jackson School, the award provides a stipend to support the education and training of a Jackson School undergraduate major with demonstrated excellence in international studies, clear interest in a career in international affairs, and with a strong and creative commitment to promoting the international public good. 

Name: Caitlin Quirk
Degree: B.A. International Studies; Minors in Spanish and Latin American and Caribbean Studies
Expected to graduate in: June 2021
Hometown: Littleton, Colorado
Favorite quote: “It is our brush with the wild nature that drives us not to limit our conversations to humans, not to limit our most splendid movements to dance floors, nor our ears only to music made by instruments, nor our eyes to “taught” beauty, nor our bodies to approved sensations, nor our minds to those things we all agree upon already.” –Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Caitlin Quirk climbs Smith Rock in Oregon, 2021

Caitlin Quirk, an avid outdoor adventurer, climbs Smith Rock in Oregon in 2021

How did you choose the University of Washington?
Caitlin Quirk: After growing up in Colorado and briefly going to college in California, I transferred to UW because of the extensive global connections and the exciting opportunity to live in Seattle. Moving to Washington gave me the ability to explore new museums, libraries, concerts, and parks, while still having access to trails and the outdoors. On an academic level, I was enticed by study abroad options, undergraduate research, arts events, and the seemingly endless course options.

How did you decide to major in International Studies?
C.Q.: I have always been fascinated by language and interested in learning from cultural texts, which are encompassed under the International Studies curriculum. The Jackson School provided me the chance of an interdisciplinary education where I could study theory, art, economics, and technology—all under one degree.

Tell us about the places you’ve been able to study or research abroad while at the UW.
C.Q.: The International Studies major has helped me create a home in Seattle and other cities around the globe. Following freshman year at UW, I researched arms and ammunition trafficking at Fundación Arias in San José, Costa Rica. With support from the Leslianne Shedd Memorial Internship Scholarship and the Peter T. Johnson Award, my internship helped me develop an interest in Latin American Studies. Thus, during winter quarter of sophomore year, I studied abroad in Quito, Ecuador and took Spanish coursework on South American politics, culture, and literature. The following summer, I interned remotely for the U.S. embassy in Buenos Aires and applied coursework on diplomacy to the professional environment. Finally, during the summer of 2021, I worked on sustainable farms outside of Cuenca, Ecuador as a project coordinator for Amigos de las Américas. With immense support from the Jackson School and its community, I have had the opportunity to study, work, and research in Latin America. I am forever grateful for the people who have helped me along the way and the ones who have welcomed me in unfamiliar places.

What has been your favorite class and why?
C.Q.: My favorite Jackson School class I have taken was a Latin American and Caribbean Studies seminar on the U.S. Mexico border. The mixture of texts and theories challenged the way I had been taught to think about national security and informed my sociopolitical views on a very pressing geopolitical region. Furthermore, I learned how imaginary social constructs and borders can differentially shape tangible realities. Outside of the Jackson School, I loved taking Anthropology of Food and learning about global food systems. While working on farms abroad, I saw the power of food to create joy, forge friendships, and shape world views; Anthropology of Food taught me the “why” behind these lessons and has enlivened my love for sharing food.

What key skills learned at the Jackson School do you think will impact your career?
C.Q.: The interdisciplinary education of the Jackson School has taught me how to communicate effectively based on academic and cultural contexts. Specifically, working with Jackson School faculty Jessica Beyer on cybersecurity policy has helped me frame ethical and privacy concerns of technology to broad audiences. On the other hand, the Indigenous community of Kinti Wasi in Ecuador taught me about the natural world and its social implications. Moreover, my Jackson School education has taught me to celebrate joy and collaboration, with so many friendships and mentorships a result of opportunities afforded by UW.

What was your reaction on becoming a Hellmann Scholar?
C.Q.: I am beyond grateful to be the recipient of the Hellmann Scholarship and recognize that this is not a singular accomplishment, but one aided by countless professors, bosses, friends, and advisers. I have been lucky to have my academic curiosities and passions supported by the Jackson School and it is a huge privilege to be awarded the Hellmann Scholarship.

Tell us how the award helps your goals and career path.
C.Q.: Currently, I am working on my thesis which studies transnational migration from Ecuador to the U.S. and the application of indigenous philosophies across borders; the Hellmann Scholarship will give me the economic ability to dedicate my time to this research. In the future, I plan to apply to graduate schools and the Fulbright in order to pursue field work in agricultural regions of Latin America and research how global food systems affect women. I am thankful to be able to allot time to advance my post-graduation goals with the support of the award. After graduate school, I plan to advocate for sustainable technological and agricultural policy on a global scale.

What advice do you have for prospective Jackson School students?
C.Q.: The Jackson School has an incredible wealth of resources and opportunities that allow students to develop their individual passions, which I would encourage all prospective students to do. But, more importantly, the Jackson School has a brilliant community of professors, advisors, and peers. I would advise students to be an active part of this community, learn from those around them, and ask questions!

Quirk is currently a research assistant with Jackson School faculty Jessica Beyer on a National Science Foundation-funded project focused on Internet of Things (IoT) devices and building security at the UW, and was selected as a UW Mary Gates Research Scholar 2020-2021 for her global cybersecurity research.