Alex McAnarney

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Alex McAnarney, AM'12

Communications Officer, Center for Justice and International Law

MA Thesis: "Health in Transit:  Migrant Subjectivity and HIV/AIDS Prevention Services Along the Mexico-Guatemala Border"

I am a Communications Officer at the Washington, DC office for the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), a non-governmental organization that represents victims of human rights violations from across the hemisphere before the Inter-American System. My job is to ensure that the issues we work on get regional, national, and international media coverage: I draft press releases, op-eds, press statements, etc. I'm also responsible for maintaining CEJIL's social media presence, designing infographics, recording videos and using other visual tools to highlight the organization's work online. I also get to work on campaigns, including GQUAL: a global campaign for gender parity in international representation which seeks to work with states to get more women elected into international and regional human rights tribunals and monitoring bodies.

For my CLAS MA, I worked on a research project that focused on migrant access to health services along the Mexico/Guatemala border, particularly HIV/AIDS and STI prevention and treatment programs. My experience at CLAS made me a stronger and more effective researcher and writer, which is definitely helpful when I’m under a tight deadline to craft a well-written, informed but pithy press release. Additionally, the MA program helped deepen my regional knowledge, generally, and on immigration, human rights, and health, specifically. My favorite class was Health and Human Rights with Prof. Scherer. Additionally, being able to do hands-on ethnographic research with the support of a Tinker Field Research Grant was crucial in expanding this knowledge, made my MA project stronger, and made me all the more committed to working in an immigration/human rights related field.

When I graduated, I expected to work as a freelance journalist. However, the climate isn't great financially so I went back to immigrants' rights work for a while in North Carolina. Working in immigrants’ rights before, during, and after my MA made it very clear to me that migration is a process resulting from several factors in sending countries: skyrocketing rates of gang violence, corruption, land displacement, and impunity. I decided to move to DC and working at CEJIL seemed like a good opportunity to help contribute to the fight against some of the root causes of migration.

My advice for current MA students is: do internships while you're in school or find a part time job. It's hard, it's a lot of work, but ultimately it pays off through the experience combined with the added expertise of the MA. Do what you can to get a field research grant. Ultimately, the experience and the data are worth it. Living in Chicago, there is no end to the things you can do. Students tend to get siloed in Hyde Park and, given the volume of work, I don't blame them. But the city has so much to offer in terms of recreation and internship opportunities, that they should block off one free day a week to see the sights.