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Leading Texas Scholar Is New Dean of BU School of Social Work Barbara Jones says that leaving one state ranked dead last in access to mental health services for a state ranked second will be a refreshing change

Barbara Jones, a leading expert in the field of psychosocial oncology and palliative care and associate dean for health affairs at the University of Texas Austin Steve Hicks School of Social Work, has been appointed dean of BU’s School of Social Work, effective August 1. Photo courtesy of Barbara Jones

New Appointment

Leading Texas Scholar Is New Dean of BU School of Social Work Barbara Jones says that leaving one state ranked dead last in access to mental health services for a state ranked second will be a refreshing change

Despite so much attention in the job market on the need for more data scientists, software developers, and IT professionals, arguably the need may be even greater for an underappreciated, low-paying, non-IT job: social worker.

For Barbara Jones, announced on June 13 as the new dean of BU’s School of Social Work by Provost Jean Morrison, the timing of her appointment comes at a critical moment in the social work field: The mental health crisis emerging after the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for more mental health care and greater access to telehealth; states are struggling to fill social worker openings; and the US Department of Education has increased funding to create and fill more social worker positions in K-12 schools. 

“Those centers are known in the community of social work, and I’m thrilled to be joining them,” Jones tells BU Today. “As I was looking at opportunities, it was always BU for me. I could see myself there—incredible colleagues, staff, and there is so much that BU is doing that draws me in. A commitment to diversity and social justice. A lot of people throw those words around—BU has a real commitment to that. Not just the School of Social Work.”

“It’s a struggle here, a different part of the country,” says Jones, who will move this summer with her wife, while their daughter finishes college (studying social work) in Texas. “That’s been an adjustment for me. But people on the ground here, they are fighting. I’ve loved my colleagues. They are very inspiring. I am ready to be in a community where we can assume we will work together for everyone. That feels refreshing.”

In her letter announcing Jones’ appointment, Morrison also had words of praise for Delva.

“The School of Social Work he [Delva] leaves is stronger and positioned, both internally and externally, for growth and greater relevance as one of a premier producer of influential scholarship and as a training ground for dynamic and diverse social work practitioners, leaders, and scholars,” she wrote.

Morrison highlighted Jones’ track record of working across disciplines and collaborating through both her teaching and research.

“Throughout our extensive discussions, it was quickly evident that Dr. Jones’ energy, impressive track record of cross-disciplinary collaboration and innovation in teaching and research and unique ability to listen and bring people together around common goals were the ideal characteristics we seek to lead the School of Social Work to further excellence,” Morrison wrote. 

Jones, in addition to her post as dean, will hold an appointment as a tenured professor in the School of Social Work clinical practice department.

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Us Judge Rules For Texas School District In Rfid Tracking Case

Northside Independent School Dis

Tracking teenagers at school with high-tech chips has come to a head in Texas.

A federal judge there last week ruled against a teenager who had been suspended from high school for refusing to wear a radio frequency ID chip around her neck.

The case highlighted the intersection of technology and issues of religious and personal freedom as well as the right to privacy.

Last fall, as part of a trial that could someday include 112 schools and nearly 100,000 students, Northside Independent School District in San Antonio issued students at two of its campuses new badges with an embedded RFID chip in order to track their locations.

Unlike passive chips that transmit data only when scanned by a reader, these chips have batteries and broadcast a constant signal so they can track students’ locations on school property. Andrea Hernandez was one student who took issue with the badge, saying she had religious and privacy concerns and refused to wear it. Since then, her case went to court but now a judge has ruled against her.

The school had said in recent months that Hernandez could wear a chip-less badge, but her father said if she did so it would appear as if she approved of the program, which she does not.

“The First Amendment does not protect such concerns,” U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia wrote in court documents (PDF). “The accommodation offered by the District is not only reasonable it removes plaintiff’s religious objection from legal scrutiny all together. Plaintiff is not likely to succeed on the merits of her free exercise claim under the First Amendment.”

Money was a primary reason the school district implemented the tracking badges. The two schools have a high truancy rate and by proving kids are on campus the district can garner an extra $2 million in state funding by cracking down on truancy.

There’s no doubt that education will be more effective if more students are attending class. Also, if state fiscal support remains high, the district certainly has more resources with which to educate students more effectively. And the Northside website that provides information about the “’Smart’ Student ID Cards project” makes a reasonable point. “Our students’ parents expect that we always know where their children are in our schools,” it says.

Yet people continue to voice privacy and legal concerns.

The paper also maintains that mandating that students wear RFID chips conditions them to accept a Big Brother world.

“Young people learn about the world and prepare for their futures while in school. Tracking and monitoring them in their development may condition them to accept constant monitoring and tracking of their whereabouts and behaviors. This could usher in a society that accepts this kind of treatment as routine rather than an encroachment of privacy and civil liberties,” the paper says.

Today, RFID chips are embedded in a variety of things, including passports, security passes, and store inventory, and can be used to do things like track livestock.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, the school district’s implementation of the RFID badges constitutes “stalking.”

“We have safety and privacy concerns about use of RFID technology on students in schools,” Dotty Griffith, the ACLU’s public education director, said in a statement. “The technology was originally designed for shipping goods and cattle, not taking roll at school, thus RFID chips make the perfect stalking device. Because the technology is easy to acquire, it is vulnerable to hacking which could allow someone outside the school to monitor a student’s off-campus whereabouts if they obtained the student’s tracking number.”

Stan Sclaroff Named Dean Of Arts & Sciences

Stan Sclaroff Named Dean of Arts & Sciences After nationwide search, interim dean chosen for strong and consistent leadership

The new dean of Arts & Sciences reflects its liberal arts mission: Stan Sclaroff was a double-major in computer science and English as a Tufts undergraduate. Photo by Cydney Scott

Stan Sclaroff embodies the philosophy of a liberal arts education. An accomplished computer scientist, he majored in that subject at Tufts—as well as in English.

“I loved both subjects very much from the start,” Sclaroff says. “In the end, it seems less important what majors I combined; instead, it’s the combining that mattered most.… All the reading and learning about methods of critique in my English major honed my appreciation for good writing. It also led me to see and seek out the interconnectedness between contemporaneous movements in literature, politics, philosophy, science, and the arts—how different disciplines inform and feed each other.”

The Renaissance man has been named dean of BU’s liberal arts citadel, the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, following a nationwide search. Sclaroff, a CAS professor of computer science, has served as dean ad interim during the just-ended academic year.

In his letter to the search committee applying for the permanent deanship, Sclaroff wrote of the key challenge he’d face as dean, noting that CAS is at “a pivotal moment in its history” as the University updates its strategic plan for the next decade.

In that process, he wrote, BU will seek “to reimagine the ways in which disciplinary boundaries can be made more permeable, encouraging more collaboration between interdisciplinary units and traditional departments. CAS is a long-standing innovator and partner in interdisciplinary research and education…”

In reviewing tenure and promotion cases during the last year, Sclaroff wrote, he saw the next generation of “outstanding scholars who work at the intersection of multiple traditional disciplines. In strategic planning for CAS, it will be important to recognize that multidisciplinary work and collaboration manifests itself in many forms and at various scales—from larger-scale centers and institutes, to smaller-scale multidisciplinary centers and programs, down to the individual level.”

Continuing the college’s efforts to both boost faculty diversity and communicate the importance of a liberal arts education, in an era when some question its value, he wrote, also top his bucket list as dean.

Sclaroff became dean ad interim of CAS—the largest of BU’s 17 schools and colleges—following the departure last summer of Ann Cudd, who left BU to become provost at the University of Pittsburgh. He has been on the CAS faculty since 1995, and during that time he was associate dean of the faculty for mathematical and computational sciences. He also chaired the computer science department from 2007 to 2013.

An internationally respected scholar, Sclaroff founded the computer science department’s Image and Video Computing Group, a research initiative into machine learning, human-computer interaction, and computer vision (which seeks to automate functions performed by the human visual system). He developed one of the first content-based image retrieval systems, which uses computer vision to search for visual images in large databases.

Sclaroff also holds an appointment in the College of Engineering electrical and computer engineering department. He earned a PhD from MIT and has authored almost 50 journal articles and is the coauthor of the book Visual Saliency: From Pixel-Level to Object-Level Analysis (Springer, 2023).

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Bu Alum Creates New Social Media Journaling App For Sharing Thoughts, More

BU Alum Creates New Social Media Journaling App for Sharing Thoughts, More

Asad Malik (MET’21) believes that because of the “culture of quickness” that is commonplace in social media, there needs to be an alternative where you can dive deep into your feelings. Photo courtesy of Malik

Social Media

BU Alum Creates New Social Media Journaling App for Sharing Thoughts, More Asad Malik (MET’21) launches Rubiic, an “Instagram for your feelings”

During the summer months, BU Today is revisiting some of the past year’s favorite stories. This week, we feature mobile apps created by BU students, alumni, and faculty. 

Flashback to February 2023—most of the world was blissfully unaware of the way the rest of the year would unfold. 

“I was at an awesome place in life,” says Asad Malik (MET’21), echoing how many others probably felt. 

But as the pandemic started to take hold, people’s lives began to shift, including Malik’s. He had to deal with the fallout of friends moving back home, a promising internship being rescinded, and his graduation plans canceled, all in the matter of two weeks. 

What was once a clear vision of where he was headed turned into an onslaught of various emotions, most not positive. He could have had some justification for a feeling of defeat, but he took that and transformed it into work on developing a new social media app, one for journaling. 

Rubiic, which launched on Malik’s birthday in August 2023, was designed as an “Instagram for your feelings,” he says. “It’s kind of a new concept. Think of it as Instagram, but instead of sharing photos, it’s a place where you put your thoughts and feelings. This is a place where the people in your life can get an idea of what your mental state is.” 

While some of his followers took to Instagram to voice their pandemic-related reflections, Malik thought there had to be a better way, one that “gives respect to your thoughts and experiences the complexity of your mental state. 

“I wanted [it] to be expressive, but if you post on Instagram, it doesn’t give [any] regard to your deeper thoughts,” Malik says. “If you post something like that, it will probably show up in between memes and influencers.”  

Plus, with the “culture of quickness that’s developed,” Malik says, he recognized that most quotes or memes having to do with mental health “out there on social media are very general. It’s not specific to who you are or your situation.”

He used the skills learned working on his master’s degree in computer science from BU to launch Rubiic. At the core of his mission was designing a platform to “explore self-expression, self-reflection, and authenticity,” he says. 

There are several options when it comes to posting to the app, including photography, music, and voice recordings. Depending on your level of comfort, you can control who does or doesn’t see your entries. You can share your entries with the Rubiic community or mark them as private, so only you can view them.

In one of the latest updates, users can fill out an optional daily prompt to get their creative juices flowing. Additionally, Malik has reworked the interface to allow users to present their content or entries in several different ways. 

For now, Malik plans to keep adding to the app and focus on “creating a space where people feel comfortable,” he says. For the long term, he thinks of the process as “a learning experience for me. I get to apply everything that I’m passionate about into the app.

“There’s just something about seeing your thoughts exist outside of your mind,” Malik says.

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For Bu’s Deborah D. Douglas, Leading The Emancipator Is Part Of Her Life’s Mission

For BU’s Deborah D. Douglas, Leading The Emancipator Is Part of Her Life’s Mission

Award-winning journalist Deborah D. Douglas is coeditor of The Emancipator and part of BU’s Center for Antiracist Research. Photo by Ciara Crocker


For BU’s Deborah D. Douglas, Leading The Emancipator Is Part of Her Life’s Mission Center for Antiracist Research staff member and her Boston Globe–based coeditor, Amber Payne, aim to reframe the conversation around race and help hasten racial justice

Deborah D. Douglas still shakes her head at something one of her journalism professors viewed as news every reader would, and should, care about. “He said, ‘Today there’s something going on in the country that’s really important,” she recalls. “He said, ‘Do you know what I’m talking about? It’s really big.’ And for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what he was talking about. What was that story he said everyone knew about? ‘It’s Opening Day for the baseball season!’”

“I’m thinking, that’s important to you, white man.” But she kept quiet. “I actually felt shame that I didn’t know it was opening day,” Douglas says. For years she wondered if there was something wrong with her and the way she’d been exposed to culture and life experiences. Until she realized it wasn’t about her. “I’m raised by a series of Black women… They’re not focusing on Opening Day.”

Now, three decades later, Douglas, and another veteran Black journalist, Amber Payne, are the editors in chief of a developing new online platform, The Emancipator. A collaboration between Boston University’s Center for Antiracist Research and the Boston Globe Opinion team, the site will aim to reframe the national conversation around race and hasten racial justice through evidence-based ideas and opinion essays, videos, and annotations of historic documents, poetry and speeches produced by, and with, experts from academia, journalists, and community members. 

The idea for The Emancipator was born amid the nationwide reckoning over race that followed the murder of George Floyd in 2023 and as the pandemic was underscoring persistent racial, economic, and health inequalities. The conversation about race and racism intensified almost overnight, not only in city streets and corporate boardrooms, but also in America’s newsrooms, including the Globe’s, where the editorial page editor and owners wanted to draw on scholarship to reshape the often-ideological debates about racial justice playing out in the opinion news media. Scholar Ibram X. Kendi became an important voice in that conversation, launching BU’s Center for Antiracist Research in July, 2023.

As envisioned by Douglas and Payne, The Emancipator is both a throwback to the 19th-century abolitionist papers that sought to end American slavery and an experiment in journalism’s future. “Our vision is to convene a solutions-oriented community space for analysis, data, and resources as we explore the path toward emancipation from oppression, injustice, misinformation, extremism, and so much more,” says Douglas, who is one of 90 contributors to Four Hundred Souls, A Community History of African America, 1619-2023 (One World, 2023), coedited by Kendi, BU’s Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities, and historian Keisha N. Blain. 

Charles Whitaker, dean of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, has known Douglas for 30 years, since she was a Medill student, editor of the school’s student magazine, Blackboard, and a Daily Northwestern staff member. And he, for one, thinks she’s perfectly suited to lead The Emancipator. “Deborah is someone who absolutely loves journalism and believes in its power to shape society, to make change,” he says. ”It’s not her life’s work—it’s her life. The Emancipator fuses all the things she cares about—storytelling, writing, showcasing African American achievement.” 

Child of the Great Migration

Douglas’ journalism is rooted in her personal history as a child of the Great Migration, who came of age “in the remnant aura of the civil rights movement,” as she writes in her book, U.S. Civil Rights Trail: A Traveler’s Guide to the People, Places, and Events That Made the Movement (Moon, 2023).  She was born in Chicago’s West Side Austin community, where her parents, both from sharecropper families, had found opportunity after leaving the Jim Crow South. Her mother worked for the federal government, first as a secretary and then as a Social Security claims representative. Her father was an entrepreneur who ran an auto body shop. Douglas began her schooling in the early 1970s, in post-uprising Detroit, where she lived with her mother and eventually her stepfather after her parents were divorced. 

Douglas in the early 1990s at the Clarion Ledger, in Jackson, Miss., taking a break from reporting and relentless deadlines. Photo courtesy of Douglas

Raised in a strict evangelical Christian home, Douglas recalls not speaking much as a child. “You’re picking up these cultural cues at home and in the wider world that your presence and your voice don’t matter,” she says. She made a promise to herself to observe everything so she could become a writer who would say and write everything. 

Douglas lived for several years with her maternal grandmother in Covington, Tenn., and encouraged by some of the Black women around her, she gradually began to find her voice. Her grandmother’s neighbors across the street invited her to use their personal library and Douglas immersed herself in their books, devouring Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, James Baldwin, Gwendolyn Brooks. “Their books by iconic Black authors made me feel seen and valued,” she says. She remembers thinking that when she grew up, she wanted to make sure people knew about “the fullness of the Black experience, such as I was reading about in those books.”

She came by her love of newspapers through her family. “The men would travel around from Chicago, Detroit, to the South, and they would pick up papers all along the way,” Douglas recalls. “We would sit down and read what they were reading in downstate Illinois, or in Ohio, or wherever they had been, and then compare them and talk about the issues.”

Douglas in front of mural of the late John Lewis (Hon.’18), the US congressman and civil rights leader, in Atlanta, Ga., at the corner of Jessie Hill Jr. Drive and Auburn Ave. Photo courtesy of Douglas

At Medill, she discovered her passion for writing about Black culture for Blackboard. “Once, in freshman year, a professor said, ‘Write an expository story,’” Douglas recalls. “So I wrote a story about how to roll your hair. That was my way of introducing culture into the mix—because I knew he’d never read a story about how a Black girl rolls her hair at night. I got a good grade.”

After graduating, she held a yearlong reporting internship that took her from the Kansas City Star to the ShoreLine Times in Guilford, Conn. Soon afterward she became a full-time reporter at the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss. While she was at the Clarion-Ledger, Douglas stumbled upon a story during an impromptu visit to her paternal grandmother, who lived in a rural part of central Mississippi, catching up with her at a church meeting where the congregation was asking for donations, in quarters, dimes, and nickels, in the names of family members. “Afterward, she says that it’s money that they raise so when you die, there’s enough money to bury you,” Douglas recalls. That anecdote became the root of her story for the Clarion-Ledger—about the Black church burial societies that helped grieving families bury their loved ones with dignity.  Douglas counts it as the story from her 30-year career in journalism of which she is most proud.

Back to Chicago, and the stakes are high 

Returning to Chicago, Douglas worked in publishing, finding her way back to news as editor of a health and fitness publication at Thomson Target Media. Her art director, Mike Reisel, remembers: “I had so much respect for her immediately because of her passion. Deborah doesn’t do anything halfway and she doesn’t follow anyone else’s map. Lifestyle was not going to hold her attention unless it talked about the larger issues.” 

Douglas moved on to become deputy features editor at the Chicago Sun-Times. After launching the new lifestyle section, she recalls, she told her boss, the features editor, who was white, that she was ready for another challenge. He suggested that she should just relax. It was the early 2000s, and Douglas was one of a few Black journalists—and even fewer Black women—in top positions at the Sun-Times or anywhere else in mainstream American journalism. “I can’t come to work to relax,” she recalls telling her boss. The stakes were too high. She was working on behalf of “the community that has grown me, cultivated me, and sent me down here to make good decisions about what stories to put in the paper,” she told him. “And if I’m going to make good decisions, I need to be vital.” 

Her editors gave her additional roles, including as library director. The library gig “was simply to fill a need, but I looked at it as an opportunity,” Douglas says. “As a Black woman in the workplace, you have to do that. My grandmother in Tennessee was a quilter and she made beautiful things from scraps. So do I.” 

Douglas at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, in front of statue showing US track medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their hands in the Black Power salute at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. Photo courtesy of Douglas

She saw the role as a chance “to nurture and showcase the paper’s valuable intellectual assets.” One of those assets was a Sun-Times photo of Mamie Till-Mobley with her son, Emmett, both of them beaming. Douglas made the photo available as the cover image for Till-Mobley’s 2003 book, Death of Innocence: The Story of the Hate Crime That Changed America, about the lynching of her 14-year-old son, which she wrote with Chris Benson. Douglas eventually moved to the Sun-Times editorial board, becoming a columnist. 

All the time she was working in legacy media, Douglas was troubled by a sense that some people—people who looked like her—were, to use a word she coined, “depresenced” by the mainstream press, as if they didn’t really exist. ”They’re just like this invisible person who’s saying, ‘I’m here! I’m here!’ Douglas says. “And society, institutions, policies never really see you. But you’re here, living, breathing, trying to thrive.” 

Douglas eventually found her way to a new approach some journalists have adopted in recent years, known as “solutions journalism.” She became a senior leader at The OpEd Project, which amplifies underrepresented expert voices, and founding managing editor of MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, which covers poverty, power, and policy. 

After three decades in journalism, she says, her new position feels like the one she’d been aiming for all along. “The Emancipator’s true north is democracy,” says Douglas, quoting her coeditor Payne. “If the point of journalism is to be a pillar of democracy, where everyone has a right to pursue a higher level of society and engagement, then why shouldn’t everybody’s stories matter?” 

At The Emancipator, she says, they will. 

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Pardee School Of Global Studies Redesigns Graduate Programs

Pardee School of Global Studies Redesigns Graduate Programs Changes consolidate degrees, offer new options in diplomacy, security

Ryan Wayne (GRS’18) started at the Pardee School of Global Studies in January and chose the new specialization in diplomacy, which he expects will make him more marketable once he graduates. Photo by Cydney Scott

Graduate students enrolling in the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies in the fall will have three new degree programs to choose from.

“It’s a way of ensuring that no one leaves here without us being sure they are going to have both the breadth and the depth to fulfill what the strategic plan says we are going to do, which is to create the leaders of tomorrow,” says Adil Najam, dean of the Pardee School, and a College of Arts & Sciences professor of international relations and of earth and environment.

The school has redesigned and consolidated nine existing graduate programs to create the three degrees, while creating new in-depth specializations and options within those degrees:

• The flagship Master of Arts in International Affairs (MAIA) prepares students for a wide variety of careers over four semesters and offers specializations in diplomacy, international communication, global economic affairs, security studies, and religion and international affairs. “Before this, we didn’t have a degree that had ‘security’ in the name, we didn’t have a degree that had ‘diplomacy’ in it, but those were two of our biggest strengths,” Najam says.

• The Master of Arts in Global Policy (MGP) provides a grounding in core skills of global policy over three semesters while offering specializations in environmental policy, developmental policy, and international public health policy.

• The redesigned Master of Arts in International Relations (MAIR) is an early- to mid-career program for professionals with a few years of experience in the field. In most cases, the degree can be completed in two semesters, providing skills and knowledge students need to enhance their professional careers and impact.

The time seemed right to redesign the school’s graduate programs. “We looked at what we had and lots of things were excellent,” he says, “but now we had an opportunity to look at all of them again and say, how can we make them cohere. Let’s put a holistic strategy into this. And that’s what the graduate redesign is.”

Under the new degree programs, Pardee has designated four core courses that will be required of all graduate students: Fundamentals of International Relations, Quantitative Analysis for Global Affairs, Economics for Global Policy, and Negotiation and Diplomacy. (The first three were previously required in some degree tracks, but not others, and Quantitative Analysis is a restructured version of a previous course in research methods.)

“We went through and decided there were elements we thought people should have as core knowledge no matter which specialization they went down,” says Robert Loftis, a Pardee and CAS professor of the practice of international relations and Pardee director of graduate students.

The idea is not, for example, that students who take the quantitative analysis class are going to become “super statisticians,” says Loftis, a former US ambassador to Lesotho, but that in today’s world, all international relations students need to understand how to use and interpret data to support their policy recommendations and evaluate the claims of those they negotiate with.

The hope is that the required courses will also enhance a sense of community at Pardee, by allowing students to “get to know their cohort in these four classes, and they become part of your network during school, and more importantly, when you graduate,” Loftis says.

He points to two extracurricular events for graduate students that have already begun to enhance that sense of community: an off-site retreat, held at the beginning of the school year, and a trip to Washington, D.C., during spring break. On the Washington trip, “what we really focus on is giving them a chance to network,” he says. “Not, oh, can you give me a job, but, how do you break in, how do you market yourself, what are some different avenues? You can study it, but there’s something about talking to someone in person.”

The graduate students who entered Pardee in January were given the option of enrolling in the existing program or switching to the new one that formally begins in the fall.

One of them was Ryan Wayne (GRS’18), who graduated from California State University San Marcos with a degree in political science. “I initially applied to the Pardee School with the intention of focusing on the Middle East and North Africa, specializing in security studies,” Wayne says. “I was delighted to learn of the new specialization for diplomacy. It grants me the freedom to explore the issues that I am keen to, while offering me the ability to diversify my education, making me more marketable once I graduate.”

Another goal of the newly redesigned graduate programs is to raise the school’s profile. The Pardee School is currently an associate member of the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA), and Najam says the new degree programs should help Pardee attain full APSIA membership, which is considered the imprimatur of excellence.

Pardee is retaining a master’s degree in Latin American studies, a joint MA/MBA in conjunction with the Questrom School of Business, and a joint MA/JD with the School of Law.

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