"Development Studies and Political Science have given to me tools to help in a way that doesn't deny someone's agency."
For Ruth Lebelo-Almaw, this desire to dig deeper in the realm of geopolitics and development studies has seen her take part in Model NATO Conferences and travel to Rwanda for an experiential learning course offered at Huron in 2016-17.
The course takes a nuanced look at recovery and renewal following the Rwandan Genocide. Students travelled to Rwanda in May 2017 to actually apply their learning and discussions on the ground. “It’s a unique Huron experience because it allows students to use a different form of learning beyond the classroom, and actually apply what we have been learning in class to the real world,” Ruth says. “We have been learning to view Rwanda and issues are simplified. Learning about how countries work and operate and how nuanced recovery is has been phenomenal. This course has made us go beyond naming possible solutions after conflicts, but really thinking through how we work with what’s available and where we should look for accurate representations?”
Ruth has already put learning from Global Development Studies into practice. Her father created an NGO (HORCO, Amharic for Hope and Rural Children and Orphans) that creates sustainable water resources in Ethiopia. Ruth has been able to assist with grants, funding, and event planning. “I have a passion for the work, so I’m able to excel at it,” she says. “Other development programs might be instituted by a giant development agency, but this is grassroots, bottom-up work. I see that it works and I’m able to use real-life experiences from school and use professors’ expertise when I’m doing work for my family’s NGO.”
For this passionate and engaged student, leadership is about collaboration and community development. “Leadership with Heart is knowing your position and privilege within the community, and understanding how your privilege can improve the community on a local and global level. When you can go home and know that you’ve been an empathetic support, that’s leadership with heart. It’s more than being a boss. It’s doing something to the very best of your ability.”