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BC Senior Wins Research Award from Forum on International Education

Narintohn Luangrath (Photo by Sean Smith)

By Sean Smith | Chronicle Editor

Published: Dec. 19, 2013

Narintohn Luangrath ’14, whose work on migration and asylum policy issues earned her a prestigious Harry S Truman Scholarship, has been named as one of two winners of undergraduate research awards by the Forum on Education Abroad.

The awards recognize excellence in academic work completed by students as part of an education-abroad program. Students’ projects are judged by faculty from Forum on Education Abroad member institutions, and considered the best examples of the highest quality academic achievements of undergraduates studying abroad. 

An International Studies major from Tigard, Ore., Luangrath was honored by the organization for her work as an intern with the Irish Human Rights Commission, providing research and analysis for the Irish government on policies concerning refugees and asylum seekers. Her project focused on the treatment and housing of asylum-seekers awaiting decisions on their applications, and articulated policy recommendations to the government to improve its treatment of asylum-seekers, particularly those who are children.

She also has visited France to study media coverage of that country’s burqa ban, and served as BC Undergraduate Research Fellow for Political Science faculty members Professor Peter Skerry and Associate Professor Jonathan Laurence — both eminent scholars in immigration issues — and Assistant Professor Jennifer Erickson, who studies international security.

This past spring, Luangrath was selected for a Truman Scholarship, awarded to undergraduates who demonstrate leadership potential and the capacity to “make a difference.” Truman Scholars are selected on the basis of a strong record of public service, as well as a policy proposal that addresses a particular issue in society. The scholarship provides funding support for graduate study.

“Doing research abroad in Dublin with the Irish Human Rights Commission was a formative experience for me as a student studying forced migration,” said Luangrath, who — along with fellow award winner Madison Stevens of Franklin College in Switzerland — will present her research at a plenary session at the Forum’s 10th annual conference in San Diego this coming April.

“Throughout my almost four years at Boston College, I have been lucky to have the faculty and the administration's full support while I explore my interest in forced migration, in particular, comparative asylum and refugee policy."

Working this past summer at Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of International Migration, Luangrath was able to further develop her interest in migration issues.

“I did a project on migrants fleeing non-persecutory situations, such as natural disasters or collapse of the state,” she said. “This experience really broadened my perspective, because there is definitely cause for concern. The United Nations convention on migrants only covers persecutory situations, so you have a huge subset of people without a legal framework for protection.”

In October, Luangrath attended a UN summit on refugees that gave her additional insights into the ongoing dialogue on forced migration. “Although achieving consensus on the issue of protections for migrants is difficult, you can see some countries are leading the way. Sweden, for example, has expanded its intake of forced migrants, such as Syrian refugees or people fleeing climate-related disasters. The US also does a lot of policy development work on displaced populations that has drawn praise.

“The institute had prepared a report for Peter Sutherland, special UN representative for international migration and development, who was at the event — it was interesting to see how the work in the institute plays out in an international forum.”