November 29, 2016
Hello everyone! My name is Diana and I’m currently a senior majoring in ICS and Public Policy. I was born in the U.S. but moved to Hong Kong when I was 13. Life has been a whirlwind of traveling, different languages, and different cultural settings. One of the reasons why I love being an ICS major is because I feel like the major intellectualizes my personal life experiences. It has helped put a name to some of the feelings I have as a daughter of Chinese immigrants who splits her time between the “West” and the “East”, and who is interested in engaging deeply with issues of transnationalism.
Although it might seem intuitive to study East Asia, my region of concentration is the Middle East. I made the decision to go out of my comfort zone and study a history and language that I was not familiar with and that I did not have personal ties to. The experience so far has been incredibly challenging, but also rewarding. Throughout my three years at Duke I’ve been lucky enough to travel to Jordan three times for service, research, and educational opportunities. The summer after my sophomore year I worked at a local NGO with DukeEngage Jordan. Then, during my study abroad program junior fall, I went to Jordan for a month to study human rights. Finally, this past summer, I returned to Jordan on my own to work as a research assistant at the Center for Strategic Studies and also conducted independent fieldwork for my senior honors thesis.
I would describe my ICS experience as interdisciplinary and multicultural. On the first point, ICS has given me the flexibility to experiment with different intellectual traditions and research methods. I have taken classes in policy, politics, history, anthropology, language, and Middle East studies – and all of them have counted towards my ICS major! On the point about multicultural experiences, what I mean is that I have had the chance to take classes that have a global focus, studying how different regions and histories are related to each other. This kind of comparative analysis, gives one a richer insight on what’s happening in the world.
My study abroad experience supplemented my experiences as an ICS major. I participated in the SIT IHP Human Rights program my junior year. I traveled to New York City, Kathmandu, Amman, and Santiago all in the course of one semester, and studied human rights issues in a comparative context. The credits I earned on this program count towards my ICS major, while I was able to get off Duke’s campus to see the world. In each of these cities, I met everyone from grassroots activists, to government officials, to NGO employees. I studied an incredibly diverse range of issues: housing rights and gentrification, indigenous rights and neoliberalism, refugee rights and war, transitional justice, post-natural disaster politics, LGBTQ+ issues in non-U.S. contexts, and much more. Although it was a physically and emotionally taxing semester, it was very formative in the sense that it solidified my academic interest in the critical study of human rights.
This semester, I am working on my ICS senior honors project. I have been studying migrant domestic workers in Jordan, which is an issue I became interested in while I was abroad. ICS has been incredibly supportive in my research process and I have received advice from many different professors, making me confident that I can produce quality work. The honors experience has pushed me to apply the knowledge I have learned these past three years into my own project, which is harder than it seems! I hope that after I leave Duke I will be able to continue my passion for research and intellectual inquiry, while I continue to travel, learn, and question.
View Diana's blog she maintained while doing her ICS thesis research in Amman, Jordan.
View Diana's Intagram accout documenting her DukeEngage and study abroad experience.
In 2007, the Rwandan government implemented a new entrepreneurship curriculum in all secondary schools to promote self-reliance and drive economic growth.
“The goal of the policy was to transform an entire generation’s ideas about education and work,” said Catherine Honeyman, visiting scholar at the Duke Center for International Development (DCID) and managing director of Rwanda-based Ishya Consulting.
As it turns out, however, students and policymakers had two very different ideas about entrepreneurship. Students complained that the courses were not a good use of their time. At the end of the curriculum’s first year, less than a third of the planned courses were actually being taught.
Honeyman explored this phenomenon in her latest book, The Orderly Entrepreneur: Youth, Education and Governance in Rwanda, which launched last Wednesday, Sept. 14, at an event hosted by International Comparative Studies and co-sponsored by the Africa Initiative, Duke’s Cultural Anthropology Department and DCID.
While students were more interested in how to obtain capital and pursue their ideas, the government rejected what Honeyman referred to as the “iconic, lemonade-stand view” of entrepreneurship.
“The lemonade stand is not registered, it’s on the street, and its owners do not pay taxes,” Honeyman said. The Rwandan government was more interested in ensuring that new businesses were registered, conforming and law-abiding. In short, orderly.
For five years, Honeyman observed curriculum development processes and Rwandan classrooms and conducted focus groups and interviews with teachers, policymakers and nearly 500 students in grades seven through 12, where the entrepreneurship curriculum was taught.
She found that the curriculum called on teachers to spend more than a third of their time covering rules and regulations rather than helping with business plans, teaching basic accounting and providing advice on how to raise funds.
“The student response was: ‘You can make this course practical by giving us capital,’” Honeyman said. They argued that the money that went to paying teachers should go toward a capital fund to support small businesses.
“According to them, they already knew how to be entrepreneurs,” Honeyman said. “Most of them already had family members who were self-employed or ran some kind of small-scale business.”
What they needed, they claimed, was either more money to start their businesses, or traditional classroom instruction that would allow them to do well on their exams and go on to college.
“Here in Rwanda, you can’t do something with just a little money,” said one Rwandan youth Honeyman interviewed three years after graduation. “Either they tell you it’s dirty, or they say it’s disorderly.”
Giving youth a say in policies that affect them
The book demonstrates that policymakers have to involve young people in creating policies that affect them.
“Here the students were not passive recipients of policy; they also actively shaped its meaning,” Honeyman said. “Education and other policies that affect youth need to be developed with a deep understanding of their experiences and perspectives.”
Francis Lethem, professor emeritus of the practice of public policy and former director of DCID, praised the book as a reminder that “no reform can succeed where there is no demand for it.”
“Surprise, surprise: Most [students] are not interested in a course that will not produce the credentials necessary to obtain a modern sector job,” he said.
Lethem also stated that the government could better promote entrepreneurship by removing administrative and financial obstacles facing small and micro enterprises.
Anne-Maria Makhulu of Duke’s Cultural Anthropology Department asked how the curriculum fit into the current “lyrical view” of Rwanda as one of the world’s burgeoning economies. There is tension, she said, between Rwanda’s neo-liberal policies and interventionism.
“Rwanda is changing all the time, and so much of the country is highly functional and works well,” Honeyman responded. “At the same time, the approach of combining neo-liberal ideas about the entrepreneurial self with high levels of regulation may be [leading to] reduced opportunities for the disadvantaged.”
Making the curriculum work for youth
All in all, Honeyman said, there is still value in incorporating entrepreneurship in the education system in Rwanda and other countries.
“I believe knowing how to be an entrepreneur is helpful, but there are ways to make the current curriculum more effective,” she said. She suggested including more case studies, teaching simplified accounting procedures and legal aspects of running a business, and encouraging savings and loan groups among youth.
Despite its challenges, she said, Rwanda has tremendous potential to become the self-reliant, highly functioning economy that the government is trying to promote.
“There is a lot of hope and a positive picture in a country with so many capable people who want to make progress.”
February 18, 2016
Background info: From Ames, IA (Ames High School), International Comparative Studies major (T’16) concentrating on the Middle East, Markets & Management Studies certificate, University Scholars Program merit scholarship recipient.
After finishing high school, I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do during my undergraduate career but I was certain that I wanted to experience and learn as much as possible. While my primary academic interests lay in studying the Middle East and particularly Turkey, I did not want to limit my studies to a single discipline; I wanted to take classes in literature, history, economics, computer science, public policy, and other departments. Fortunately, I found a home base in the ICS department very early in my career, as I took the gateway the second semester of my freshman year. The program proved to be exactly what I was looking for: the curricular requirements were stringent enough to narrow my path of study but still encompassed enough departments and disciplines to allow me to explore different areas of the university throughout my four years. The major also fit very well with my certificate in Markets and Management Studies and a study abroad experience with Duke in Istanbul at Boğaziçi University.
Jeopardy! also fits into my ICS story, as my interest in various subjects began when I was an avid Jeopardy! viewer and quiz bowl player throughout high school. I was fascinated by the amount of knowledge in the world and loved the thrill of learning something new, as well as the thrill of recalling a fact under pressure. Like ICS, the culture of Jeopardy! emphasizes the joy of learning and understanding the world (of course, in the case of a TV game show, some money is at stake!). I appeared on the show on October 1, 2015, after taking the online test and going through the audition process on a whim. From preparing to actually stepping behind the podium on Stage 10, the whole process was easily the most fun I had in my college career, and I documented both the experience and the outcome in this post for DukeToday (Spoiler: I placed second and walked away with $2,000 against Matt Jackson, a thirteen-time champion and one of the best contestants in the show's recent history).
Although Jeopardy! was certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, I find my time as an ICS major to have been even more valuable. This program has taught me how to read, integrate, and evaluate different sources of information effective essentially, my love of learning has been heightened and deepened during my studies. So while pulling out random facts at pub trivia nights is still a lot of fun for me, I know I will use the skills I picked up as an ICS major every day after I graduate from Duke.
Dear ICS majors (especially juniors),
If you are interested in applying to the ICS Honor’s Thesis seminar, please do come to an info session to learn about writing a senior thesis in ICS, and about the application process. There will be several seniors who are currently writing theses in attendance as well. We’ll be providing food, so let me know (via e-mail) if you plan to attend. RSVP by Tuesday the 9th to me at
You can read about the ICS Senior Thesis program here on the ICS website, as well as see some of the theses that have been completed over the last few years here: http://internationalcomparative.duke.edu/the_ics_major/distinction
If you are interested in applying to the thesis program and want more details, but can’t attend the info session, please feel free to be in touch with me.
ICS Honor’s Thesis Info Session
Thursday, Feb 11th, 5:30 – 6:30pm
204D East Duke Building