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.

estella poster poem edited