Research Project

Forced migration, humanitarianism, and refugee social services

Sara​ Hefny was an NICHD fellow in 2015-2016 during her third year as an Anthropology PhD student. She researches forced migration from the Middle East, humanitarianism, and refugee social service provision in Italy. She spent the 2017-2018 academic year conducting fieldwork in Italy, funded by a Fulbright Open Study award. She describes her NICHD fellowship year below. 

As a PSTC fellow, I have mainly used the support from my fellowship to conduct initial research for my dissertation project and take classwork at Brown. I was grateful that the fellowship relieved me of teaching duties so I could focus on the writing of my M.A. thesis.

One of the big takeaways from this fellowship was the valuable time it gave me to think about the direction of my dissertation work, which resulted in changing my field site from London to Rome. Because I changed directions from my initial project, the T-32 fellowship provided me with the resources to explore an entirely different field site to prepare for my dissertation, something that would have otherwise been extremely challenging. 

Through my affiliation with the PSTC, I have been able to more deeply engage with Brown’s leading researchers in demography and think more deeply about the role of anthropology in demographic work. The weekly PSTC colloquia have been wonderful opportunities to see how other disciplines engage with demographic work, as well as see how anthropology contributes to interdisciplinary study areas, such as migration, my own area of research.

The benefit of being a PSTC trainee is that it exposes you to a variety of research being conducted by your fellow peers, as well as leading researchers, in an environment that is collegial and welcoming. I have been able to get to know graduate students across the social sciences who are interested in similar areas of study, as well as learn about all the exciting new research that is being conducted under the umbrella of the PSTC. It's important for future fellows to understand the extent to which the PSTC has the resources and willingness to support student projects. Everyone from the dedicated faculty to the amazing staff are deeply committed to helping graduate students make the most of their time at Brown.