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An unflinching focus on diplomacy

As a student, Helaina Stein, A10, spent many hours at the headquarters of the Institute for Global Leadership, a yellow clapboard house easily identified by the international flags flying from its second- story balcony. Stein often found herself gazing at a large framed photograph taken by an earlier IGL participant. In the photo, members of a rebel army in the Liberian civil war stand in a truck, surrounded by a blur of motion. The soldiers themselves are captured in clear detail, right down to their AK-47s, some of which are pointed directly at the photographer. Why did she seek out the photo? “It brings the viewer uncomfortably close to issues most people would rather not confront.”

An unflinching focus on uncomfortable situations is a hallmark of the IGL program at Tufts. In Stein’s sophomore year, the EPIIC course focused on global poverty and inequality. She and another student started a program to address such issues in Haiti, calling the program RES PE — “respect” in Haitian Creole. Stein’s parents initially balked at letting their daughter travel to the poorest country in the Americas, but the institute’s careful planning and Stein’s dedication persuaded them. During three trips to rural Balan in northern Haiti and three years running the institute’s RES PE as a student organization, Stein worked with community members to record local musicians for Projects for Peace, implement several maternal-health projects, introduce the Tufts chapter of Engineers Without Borders to the community, and understand the effects of the global rice trade on local microfinancing. By the time she graduated from Tufts with a degree in international relations, she had learned a valuable lesson: “Our goal—‘Let’s support this community’— was absurdly ambitious. It would have been better to focus on one idea and do that fully.”

Stein has taken that lesson into a career in diplomacy. She is currently the political-military affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria, carrying broad responsibilities for issues relating to peace and security, one of which is to encourage respect for human rights and civil-military engagement by Nigerian security forces. Gloria Stein remembers her daughter’s experiences in Haiti and with IGL, and sees an important connection with her current work. “There’s an intensity in the IGL program,” she says, “but without that level of intensity, she would not be doing this work today—or be so happy doing it. That’s what you want for your child. She’s making a difference.”

Thinking back to the photo she gazed at so many times, Helaina Stein thinks of other lessons from IGL: “Never take anything at face value. Question the experts; question the questions. Take a step back; be realistic about what you know and what you don’t. Always have your eyes open.”

About IGL

Tufts Institute for Global Leadership is an incubator of innovative ways to educate learners at all levels in understanding difficult and compelling global issues. We develop new generations of critical thinkers for effective and ethical leadership who are able to comprehend and deal with complexity, to bridge cultural and political differences, and to engage as responsible global citizens in anticipating and confronting the world’s most pressing problems.

Support the next generation

When education works, it not only instructs, it inspires.

To support the Institute for Global Leadership, please visit giving.tufts.edu/givenow1. On the giving form, select “University” as the school, and from “Select an Area,” choose “Institute for Global Leadership.”

Or to learn more about the IGL and ways to support it, contact Miriam McLean, M.B.A., director of development for university initiatives, at 617-627-5975 or miriam.mclean@tufts.edu.