“We must prevent life from being so bleak, that risking death is preferential.” These words from Assistant Secretary Anne Richard, in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, have stuck with MAIS student Alexander Kuehl. A/S Richard delivered these remarks at a World Affairs Council (WAC) event, where Kuehl worked for two years following his undergraduate graduation, to underscore the difficult decisions refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced persons face before making dangerous journeys. As a FLAS Fellow from the Center for West European Studies, Kuehl is studying Arabic as a way to help him better understand migration policy in Europe. “The European refugee crisis is ever-present and demands a coordinated response to manage the influx,” Kuehl stated. With the help of the FLAS Fellowship and the Arabic language, Kuehl is positioning himself to be able to work directly with policy-makers focused on the refugee crisis.
While working with WAC, Kuehl actively engaged with policy makers and community members focused on migration in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and Europe. During an event he helped create and host, titled “U.S.-EU Partnership in the Arab World,” Kuehl and WAC brought in experts with extensive and diverse backgrounds in the MENA region. Kuehl observed that the common thread between the speakers was their proficiency in Arabic. “These credentials allowed them to advise U.S. foreign policy in their prior respective U.S. government postings…” Kuehl noted, realizing the importance of both language and area studies for his own future academic and career goals.
Kuehl is enrolled in the Master of Arts in International Studies program (MAIS) in the Jackson School, and when he graduates, he plans to continue his work understanding the refugee crisis and seeking policy solutions. He noted that “Arabic is a particularly valuable policy tool in respect to the European refugee crisis, considering that Arabic is an official language in five out of the ten top source countries of refugees globally.” Whether he enrolls in a Ph.D. program or moves directly to work at a think-tank or other policy-driven field, Kuehl knows that this FLAS Fellowship and his time at the Jackson School have prepared him to focus on EU-policy making and the European refugee crisis.
FLAS Fellowships are funded by the International and Foreign Language Education Office of the U.S. Department of Education. FLAS fellowships support undergraduate, graduate and professional students in acquiring modern foreign languages and area or international studies competencies. Students from all UW departments and professional schools are encouraged to apply. Find out more about the FLAS Fellowship here.