December 22, 2023

Center for Global Affairs Alumni Spotlight: Alison Avery

M.S. in Global Affairs ‘16

Concentration in Human Rights and International Law

Currently, Alison is a Ph.D. Candidate at Clark University, The Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.

What makes you proud to be an alum?
The exceptional CGA community, consisting of the most incredible faculty, who consistently went above and beyond (even after I graduated CGA!) as my professors and mentors; and the wonderfully bright and diverse group of fellow CGA students, many of whom I have remained close friends and colleagues with to this day.

What are your main areas of responsibility in your current role?
As a Ph.D. Candidate in Holocaust and Genocide Studies, I research the roots and drivers of genocide, focusing on Rwanda and the Great Lakes Region (GLR) of Africa. My dissertation explores how militia groups recruit, mobilize, and organize prior to the onset of armed conflict and political violence through a historical case study of the Interahamwe militia in Rwanda. Specifically, my research investigates the dynamics of mobilization, and radicalization, and transformation of the Interahamwe militia prior to the onset of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. Incorporating original data from archival document review coupled with semi-structured, open-ended interviews, this research will expand our understanding of the preparation and execution of the 1994 genocide. Moreover, the specific findings of this study will aid in genocide prevention by helping identify patterns of recruitment and preparation as early warning indicators, that can be applied in other cases of emerging genocides.

How did your time at the CGA help prepare you for this role?
My coursework at CGA significantly influenced my interests in Africa and Rwanda in particular. I participated in two Global Field Intensive courses: the first to Tanzania to study humanitarian assistance in complex emergencies, and the second to Rwanda to research transitional justice and reconciliation mechanisms in a post-genocide society. In Tanzania (TZ), were fortunate to spend several days visiting the Nyarugusu refugee camp in Kigoma, TZ. During these visits, I met with Congolese and Burundian refugees who had been displaced by violent conflict in the Great Lakes Region (GLR) of Africa driven largely by militia groups. These militia organizations are remnants of the Interahamwe militia, one of the chief perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide in 1994, which reconstituted themselves into new organizations in the GLR and have since continued their campaigns of terror against civilians. In bearing witness to the lived experiences of victims and survivors in this camp and their desires for return, I developed a deeper passion for understanding, resolving, and preventing violent conflict and the displacement of civilians, not only in the GLR, but all around the world.

Furthermore, with the help of my incredible team of faculty advisors/mentors at CGA, including Professor's Rudbeck, Trahan, and Chang, I designed my master’s thesis as a pilot study for a Ph.D. dissertation. My M.S. thesis concentrated on characterizing the role of economic deprivation in the perpetration of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, and the Holocaust. This research project included a comprehensive field research component, where I conducted simultaneous translation interviews with perpetrators and survivors in Rwanda concurrently with archival research in Germany. It was this initial fieldwork experience in Rwanda that fostered and strengthened my passion for Rwanda, and ultimately solidified my decision to pursue a PhD. Furthermore, Professor Patty Chang, whose Civil Wars course was one of my initial inspirations, has continued to mentor me throughout my Ph.D. studies, and is now serving on my doctoral Dissertation Committee at Clark University.

Any favorite memories at the CGA?
The two GFI courses I participated in to Tanzania and Rwanda definitely encompassed some of my very best memories at CGA. I also really enjoyed many of the opportunities CGA offered outside of the classroom, such as the student-run clubs. I have so many fond memories from my time as Secretary then President of The Human Rights and International Law League (THRILL), but mainly I just remember the constant inspiration and passion I felt in advocating critical international human rights issues alongside a like-minded and equally passionate group of peers.

Any other notable achievements that you would like us to know about?
Alongside my doctoral studies and dissertation research, I have also established my own freelance business, Avery Editing & Tutoring. I offer editing services for projects including course papers, master's theses and doctoral dissertations, fellowship and grant applications, and manuscripts. I also offer one-on-one tutoring in academic writing as well as French language (beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels). If any current CGA students or alumni are interested and/or seeking help with paper editing, please feel free to reach out via my business website:

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