As a student in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, I have had the opportunity to deploy technologies, conduct research, and collaborate with international stakeholders. In the past three years, this work has taken me to Ghana, Nigeria, Costa Rica, Singapore, and Hong Kong. Soon I’ll be headed to the Dominican Republic and Chile. While my research is internationally focused, I like to stay engaged locally. Learning from international counterparts gives a global context to the local projects I do with community based organizations here in Atlanta. While I am an INTA Ph.D. candidate, I am currently part of Dr. Carl DiSalvo’s Public Design Workshop over in the Digital Media graduate program. We are very excited to be working with a community based organization, the Westside Atlanta Land Trust. They have conducted impressive parcel-level data collection in their community. We are helping them build maps with this data in their efforts to advocate for a city-wide community land trust policy.
Very broadly, I study the use of technology and datasets in democratic processes. My dissertation research looks at how civil society organizations and social movement coalitions make use of government datasets to advocate for political and social change. This involves investigating the set of actors involved in accessing government data, civic technology for advocacy, and democratic mechanisms for civic participation.
It is exciting and thrilling to see how we can innovate democracy and use networked technologies and datasets to support a more participatory democracy. I have the opportunity to learn from change-makers in the Dominican Republic, Chile, and Hong Kong.
Compared to some of my peers on campus, I do not consider myself tech-savvy. However, research requires me to stretch my social science muscles and learn to manage and query SQL databases, basic CSS and HTML code, make sense of massive social media datasets, and analyze geodetic data with GIS.
Thankfully, at Georgia Tech, I have an amazing network of professor, graduate and undergraduate colleagues on campus who lend their time and expertise. Recognizing you work in a complex space and understanding your role and contribution is important. Because of my experience abroad and laborious trouble-shooting, I never assume to have all the answers or to fully understand a complex space/system. I am always willing to identify the people that do, work with them, and learn from them.
I chose the Ivan Allen College because I wanted to study how technology can improve both democratic processes as well as development outcomes. I knew Georgia Tech was the place to look at this intersection. As a returned Peace Corps Volunteer, I also wanted to come back to a community where I had connections and some situated knowledge to work on local projects. Since moving back to Atlanta, I have picked up a few hobbies that include running and skydiving.
I run with a local group called Back on My Feet. It is a great running group that brings together residents and non-residents from local homeless shelters. Come join us at 5:45 on Wednesday mornings in the Salvation Army parking lot on Luckie Street.
I skydive with the Georgia Tech Sport Parachute Club. Skydiving is as technical as it is exhilarating, which is quite a combination! I am a very novice jumper with close to 200 jumps.
Your job as a student is to learn. You’ll do most of this outside of the classroom. You’ll excel the most when you work on topics you’re genuinely curious about…figure out what these are. The whole world will benefit when you get to work on topics and subjects that excite you!