Who We Are: Shelby Lasaine

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Shelby Lasaine, IDS

I’ve enjoyed my time so far in the IDS program, and am looking to graduate in the summer of 2018, when I’ll work on my thesis as the capstone project. My focus in IDS is in Environmental Governance.

My background is in International Studies, and I originally came to DePaul for my BA. My concentration was in the theory of the modern nation-state. I’m continuing study of this by applying and further exploring systems and culture theories, specifically looking at how networks have set a new paradigm for how we in the Western world interact with, manage and govern social and natural environments. A main aspect of this is the availability of information technology, and how the large amounts of data today are understood, used and applied (or not), and how this all can be used to better inform ecological and other managerial practices.

My first conscious encounter with the concept of ‘environment’ as including both social and natural conditions was as an interpreter working with French speaking African refugees, which I did for several years after finishing undergraduate study. Working with individuals and hearing their lived experiences of social and economic mismanagement made what I learned in undergrad—a philosophy of social and environmental interactions as culture and economy—very real.

This experience made me recognize the role of personal narrative, and more broadly experiential knowledge, in finding solutions to environmental problems. I believe that the theoretic framework that I had from undergrad studies offered me a solid contextual reference as an interpreter, and this has made me aware and interested in how data and knowledge of situational context inform and enhance decision making. An interesting piece of the puzzle has come from nursing theory: it has solidified a concept for my thesis on the more general act of resource stewardship as a question of integral health, and how important it is to have multifaceted data and framework to deal with complex ecosystems, whether they are an individual human, a forest ecosystem, a national economy or a global common like the ocean or atmosphere.

Networks, as flows of information and resources, offer many opportunities for more attentive and informed decision making. My goal with this track of study is to conceptualize the complex structure of our Western networked society (including our legal, knowledge, and financial structures) to contribute to the causes of informed decision making, research, and innovation in the 21st century, and more specifically, how this can support good environmental and natural resource management.

Who We Are: Estella Achinko


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Estella Achinko, IDS

I have constantly searched within me for what I really wanted to become while traveling through the academic world and trying to carve my own career path. I guess I never had any fixed field of study because of the various skills that I discovered I possessed.

Back in my native Cameroon, I was passionate about changing women’s lives. I began to do women’s and gender-related activism works through the Women’s Welfare Foundation (WoWF)-Cameroon, an NGO that I co-founded with my sister. Alongside that, I studied feminist literature as a graduate student, which somehow opened me up to women’s struggles. Also, I spent a lot of efforts in honing my skills, like writing articles and developing manuscripts (of novels and poetry) intended to tell the stories of African women and show how much I wanted to bring untold stories of Africans to the global front through visible mediums like digital media.

I couldn’t fathom how I was going to realize my dreams and aspirations, but thanks to the Fulbright program, I am here at DePaul. I was able to contact the advisors of the MALS and IDS programs who oriented me to the richness of the Interdisciplinary Studies program. I could immediately figure out that the IDS program was the perfect program for me since I could customize my own learning experience while taking courses in diverse disciplines such as Women’s and Gender Studies, Digital Media, and Creative Writing.

I intend to further this degree into a PhD so that I can have solid grounding in translating my art back to my country and continent. Through my creative ability, I hope to empower the younger generation of Africans who don’t get to have such life changing opportunities and reshape the African narrative which the world hardly gets to see.

The journey has been quite intimidating, but overwhelmingly interesting, as I was able to step in boldly. I deeply appreciate the wonderful professors of the MALS and IDS program who have been there to guide me every step of the way in the struggle to adjust to the American way of life and in understanding my new environment.

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Who We Are: Jennifer Rhee

Jenn RheeMy journey as a graduate student is divided into two parts.  During the first part, I taught English at Wilmette Junior High and decided to explore the MALS program.  Unlike several of my colleagues, I did not want to pursue a master’s in education; instead I wanted to garner more knowledge in my content area.

I had always liked writing and had been fairly successful at it, however, I did not view writing as my strength.  I took a language and style class with a linguistics focus and then found the WRD (Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse) department and became hooked, finishing my MALS program with four WRD courses.  The WRD courses were challenging, learning and approximating a new discourse, and I believed understanding language and being able to communicate effectively was a necessary skill for students to enter into academic discourse with confidence.

Teaching Writing with Jennifer O’Brien was the last class I took before my Capstone course, Digital Storytelling.  Jennifer O’Brien designed the course through various teaching pedagogies like genre, multimodal, critical, ethnography, translingual, and transfer. O’Brien’s class did two specific things for me as a student and professional educator.  First O’Brien made me think like a teacher once again with coherence in my pedagogy. Secondly, Jennifer O’Brien became a mentor to me even though I probably surpassed her in age by over ten years.  She dismantled the power structure that often exists between a student and teacher and allowed me to think like an educator once again.  This class, more than any other graduate class I have taken, gave me the academic freedom and grace to make it my own and define myself through a pedagogical lens that was both theory-based and practical, embodying transfer theory through praxis.

My undergraduate journey was a straight path leading to a career in teaching, whereas my graduate journey was a country mile with curves, pauses, new paths each leading back to where I started.  I am an educator, a teacher, … and I am moved by my education and am ready to empower others to be and do the same.

Start your self-constructed educational journey today by contacting the DePaul MALS/IDS program.


Who We Are: Kelly Ferrell

Kelly FerrellKelly Ferrell, MALS 2016

I have gone through many personal transitions throughout my MALS program.  I will be retiring from federal government service after more than 13 years, and seeking job opportunities in the private sector.  My MALS degree, which started out as a quest for personal fulfillment and development, has now become an integral part in securing future employment.  I will be much more competitive in the private sector with a DePaul MALS degree.

I can honestly say I am a different person than I was almost a decade ago when I entered the MALS program, idealistic and young.  I am very appreciative of the opportunity to grow as a person through the MALS program.  I enjoy learning about a variety of topics and this program has allowed me to do just that.  My transcript demonstrates a variety of interdisciplinary courses and an understanding of historic and social contexts that have shaped and changed our modern world.  My business and leadership courses have taught me the values and leadership and management styles necessary to create and sustain ethical organizations.  I have faced personal and professional challenges over the years, and the MALS program has been a creative and challenging outlet of expression.

My grandma got her pilot’s license and attended law school while raising six children.  She became an attorney, a judge, and retired as a Commissioner.  She is 93 years old; she tap dances and exercises regularly.  Her secret to a long life is to always keep moving and never stop learning.  I will undoubtedly miss the academic stimulation of the MALS program, but I am prepared to confidently enter a new career path as DePaul MALS graduate.

Start your self-constructed educational journey today by contacting the DePaul MALS/IDS program.

Who We Are: Alia Ibrahim


Alia Ibrahim, IDS, 2016

My IDS program helped me to discover my passion and place in the world, enabled me to develop sharp critical thinking skills, and contributed to my ability to succeed professionally. Currently, I work at as an International Patient Services Coordinator at a prestigious Midwest medical facility in the International Programs department. Many of the skills I have acquired enable me to provide a bridge for international patients to obtain the medical care they need in a culturally and racially sensitive manner. Current policies and research support the notion that healthcare is best delivered in a culturally sensitive manner, which can sometimes be difficult in a racially and culturally diverse setting. My expertise from my personal and educational background has enabled me to work with various organizations that serve Arab and Muslim populations.

Being raised in an ethnocentric Arab Muslim community in Chicago created a murky set of Arab values to negotiate in an American context. One side of my family was governed by “proper” and “respectable” conservative Arab and Muslim values; the other side of my family is from a German working class background in Pennsylvania. My reality was shaped by these seemingly diametrical opposites – a culmination of Orientalism and its antithesis. My undergraduate background is in Political Science, and I became interested in Middle Eastern Politics because of my bicultural upbringing as an Arab American and experience of being racialized after 9/11.

As I come to the end of my graduate career, I reflect back and see how each and every course impacted my ability to know myself and critically think about the factors that shaped my reality and how I interact with the world. I can trace the trajectory of my education as beginning without much grounding in the variables that shaped my existence. International Studies courses helped me connect historical events and systemic powers to my own experiences and positioning in the world. This was further explored in Women’s and Gender’s Studies courses, where I studied feminism and post-colonialism to reflect on how gender roles shape our experience in society. Finally, I moved into the Modern Languages program to focus on Arabic language and culture to gain more language and cultural competency skills. All of these disciplines have shaped my life today and empowered me to move on from being a shy girl who did not understand herself to a professional striving to bring cultures and nations together.

Start your self-constructed educational journey today by contacting the DePaul MALS/IDS program.

Who We Are: Kevin Moffat

Kevin Moffat, IDS, 2016

Kevin Moffat came to DePaul as an in-service educator wanting to expand his skills with a self-customized program that drew from a variety of fields including leadership and business.  In his original learning goal, Kevin wrote “The main focus of this goal was to think critically about my profession, and how I could incorporate my roots in education to sales and business management.”

DePaul’s MALS and IDS helped Kevin achieve this unique blend of fields to study.  Per Kevin, “I had a wonderful experience at DePaul, and have been fortunate enough to learn from great Professors. The insight I obtained through my courses has created a foundation for what I want my career to be in the future.”

As for those avenues of study applying to the real world, Kevin writes, “I can definitively say that working in an interdisciplinary program has given me a direction. Business, leadership, and education skills will always have relevance in the workplace at any level. Not every career path needs to be ‘black and white.’ This graduate program allowed me to see that, and truly become an engineer of innovation.”

Start your self-constructed educational journey today by contacting the DePaul MALS/IDS program.

Moffat Digication

Kevin Moffat’s portfolio homepage demonstrates how easy it is to make a bold statement in Digication. DePaul MALS / IDS requires a portfolio to be maintained for graduation; in addition, it is a great piece to add to a career portfolio.

Who We Are: Rachel Conrad


Rachel Conrad, IDS, Current

Rachel Conrad comes to DePaul with a decade’s worth of teaching experience. She will use her self-constructed IDS program to carve out a fascinating niche of working with “third culture kids,” in order to “help them through their identity negotiation processes.” Her focus includes minority studies, non-fiction writing and story-telling,  along with educational theory.

While some would find returning to school daunting, Rachel sees it another way.  “After teaching and writing curriculum and obeying the ever-changing demands of state education for the past decade, I’m finding the freedom and singular concentration of the academic life highly liberating.”

DePaul’s LAS graduate programs offer students many conference opportunities.  Students are encouraged to participate in academic conferences as presenters and observers to the most current research and practice.  Rachel explains, “Because my topic is such a compilation, there’s no cohort or even one professor (that I’ve discovered yet) who is an expert in my field of study. But hey, that also means I’ve got center stage on any presenting/ publication opportunities.” As Rachel’s unique studies evolve, she has taken advantage of  DePaul conference events as a panel participant and presenter.

Start your self-constructed educational journey today by contacting the DePaul MALS/IDS program.