Kate Tsunoda '08
In my first year at Brown, I took classes ranging from Japanese history to neuroscience to economics to visual art, hoping that one of them would click. By the beginning of my second year, I still hadn't chosen a concentration and had no idea of what I wanted to pursue after Brown.
In the fall of my sophomore year, I decided to take Social Entrepreneurship on a whim after hearing a guest speaker give an inspiring talk in the class during shopping period. This course marked an important turning point in my education at Brown. It offered a new perspective on what one person could accomplish with a good idea, business skills, and a little luck, and it spurred me to extend what I had learned in the classroom to my education outside Brown.
The next summer, I traveled and worked as a documentary photographer for PlanetRead, an NGO dedicated to promoting mass literacy by subtitling Bollywood filmsongs in local languages in 10 states in India. My summer internship introduced me to culture clash before I traveled to France for my junior year abroad; it also solidified my aspirations to join the Peace Corps after graduation. When an advisor in the French Department learned that I had enjoyed political science classes at Brown, she encouraged me to apply to a study abroad program in Paris that would allow me to take classes in European and French politics and political theory. Witnessing the events of the 2007 French elections unfold from a front row seat anchored me in long-term expatriate life in France. Studying in France provided me with a valuable reference point for studying other countries and cultures. It also enriched my understanding of cultural and academic perspectives in ways that nourished my blossoming interest in politics.
Coming back to Brown for my senior year, I decided to narrow my focus and expand my understanding of international relations by taking courses related to health, security, theory, religion, and conflict resolution. My work with the Strait Talk Symposium, a student-run conflict resolution project dedicated to the Taiwan Strait issue, encouraged a growing curiosity in negotiation and diplomacy. This new interest had grown out of my work with a Parisian journal dedicated to human security, a Brown Watson Institute study group on peacekeeping with an officer from the UN, and a graduate seminar in crisis management.
While my academic life was coming into focus, I worked hard to develop a senior project that would allow me to use the research, analytical, and writing skills that I had worked to improve as an undergraduate. After a traditional thesis proposal failed to bear fruit, I proposed to research, write, and illustrate a graphic novel (written originally in French) about a student who joins a terrorist organization in Paris in the 1980s. My senior thesis, Métro Bone Nouvelle, became an avenue to study terrorist psychology and proved to be an excellent culmination of my studies in political science and of my experience in Paris. As a first-year student, I never would have imagined that I would be engaged so full-heartedly in this type of capstone project.
Looking back on my four years, I realize that Brown has taught me to actively contribute to an entrepreneurial energy on a campus that harnesses the talent, intelligence, and ambition of its members and fosters positive change for individuals and for the community as a whole. Because of the guiding philosophy of the University, which is embedded in the curriculum, every student at Brown is an engaged shaper of his or her undergraduate experience, learning quickly to become a self-motivated decision-maker. In my experience, the challenge presented to each first-year class is demanding and at times difficult in the face of too many options, but it does yield a freedom to choose that causes students to understand intimately why they make the decisions they do. Furthermore, this environment yields greater innovation and teaches each student to blaze his or her own trail in the face of obstacles, resistance, and self-doubt. Though I was concerned in the beginning that I was somehow behind in my planning, the fact that I was behind the wheel at every turn of a road dotted with both good and bad decisions was central to making me a student awake to possibilities.
Kate Tsunoda graduated from Brown University with an A.B. degree in political science and French civilization in May 2008. She is currently working with the Peace Corps in Morocco.