As an international relations major, what Katie Monson enjoys most is observing how individuals interact in order to understand macro-level questions.
“I don’t know what people outside of IR think about IR, but to me it’s a very fundamental study of why humans are the way that they are, and how you can maximize good things for people and try to minimize some of the scarier things like war and conflict,” Monson said.
Majoring in both international relations – with a concentration in international security – and economics, Monson has involved herself in academic and co-curricular activities that allow her to engage with such questions throughout her four years at Tufts.
Last summer, she applied her studies to a Pentagon fellowship at the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisitions, Technology and Logistics.
“Watching my office build relationships with Moscow, build relationships with our partners in London … [I had] that cognizance that at the end of the day, it all comes down to … how people are interacting,” Monson said.
Monson began her college career by participating in the Institute for Global Leadership’s (IGL) 2009-2010 Education for Public Inquiry and International Citizenship (EPIIC) colloquium. Monson found that year’s colloquium, “South Asia: Conflict, Culture, Complexity and Change,” was a perfect match for her interest in studying Pakistan.
Participating in EPIIC led her to an intense engagement with the IGL over the course of her Tufts career. After doing some research freshman year, she was able to co-chair the IGL’s National Security and Civil Liberties Program as a sophomore.
“I’m sad that [the program] hasn’t been revived because it does look at these tensions between how do we protect the country and the people in the United States but also respect their rights,” she said. “I think, especially given what we saw [on April 19 with] all of the issues in Watertown and people’s houses being searched, there is a real tension point there in that [it’s] really hard to figure out how you’re going to manage these competing concerns.”
The program’s focus that spring was on WikiLeaks, secrecy and transparency in a democratic society. While Monson and her colleagues had the email address of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and considered reaching out to him, they decided against it.
“We didn’t want his personality and politics to overshadow the issues at hand,” Monson said. “So we ended up bringing the man who housed him in his British estate, Vaughan Smith, [who] talked about his work with human rights and also having [Assange] live with him.”
Monson has also worked with the Alliance Linking Leaders in Education and the Services (ALLIES). She was drawn to the program after President Barack Obama announced his plan to pull out troops from Afghanistan in December 2009. Monson served as the programming director her sophomore year and as the co-chair of ALLIES in the spring of her junior year after returning from China.
Monson has travelled to China three times: once after her sophomore year in high school, again after her first year at Tufts, when she received a critical language scholarship from the State Department to study in Nanjing and a third time studying abroad during her junior year.
Monson was accepted to the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, but has decided to turn it down to gain more professional experience abroad.
“I think it’s really important to make sure that you’re doing something that you love,” she said. “I think it’s a terrifying feeling to look back and evaluate whether you enjoy doing something,” Monson said. “Tufts is full of people who are high-achieving, and I think it’s really challenging … to be willing to do something that doesn’t come naturally. I’m really glad that I did take advantage of things that I wanted to do … even though I was challenged.”