Jackie Sirc Advocates for Refugees as a Fulbright Scholar

Each year nearly 5,000 students in the United States apply to the distinguished Fulbright Scholarship program. Only a small portion, around 20%, are accepted. One of those serving as a Fulbright Scholar this year is Baldwin High School alumna Jackie Sirc. Sirc went through an extensive application process—spanning nine months—that included securing institutional sponsorship through her university, writing a project proposal and personal statement, securing recommendations, and more. Sirc notes that the process is involved, but well worth it. She explains, "the Fulbright program is such an amazing experience to take a year and research what interests you and find the most exciting questions to answer. After Fulbright, a lot of scholars go on to work in the international field for political institutions, NGOs, think tanks, or the U.S. government."

Sirc first lifted her eyes to the international stage while a student at Baldwin High School. Sirc recalls, "I had such a great time at Baldwin and my time there really set me on the path to study international relations and seek opportunities to study abroad. My favorite class was AP U.S. History and I still remember everything I learned there. Even in my research today, I still think about Mrs. Deemer telling us to find the bias in primary documents." BHS provided more than quality course content. Sirc notes that the influence of a few key teachers was key to her high-school career. "While the classes helped, there were a few teachers that I am so grateful to have had as mentors during my time at Baldwin. Mrs. Reynolds, Ms. Deemer, Mr. and Mrs. Foote, and Mrs. Temme all supported me in figuring out where I wanted to go in life. Just having them there to listen and give me ideas pushed me to pursue what I really wanted to do, not just what was easy."

After graduating Baldwin High School in 2013, Sirc earned her Bachelor's Degree in International Relations and French from the University of Richmond in Virginia in 2017. While in in college, Sirc was able to gain valuable experience that expanded and reinforced her passion. She relates, "through my studies at the University of Richmond, I became interested in conflict studies and the people who are affected by conflicts. I got the chance to study abroad in Switzerland, Scotland, and Indonesia while in my undergrad program, working on refugee and asylum-seeker issues in each country. My favorite part about my work is meeting people form all different backgrounds. I have met people from all different places across the globe who have been through a lot more than I can imagine. I hope that my work helps them to have better experiences in their host countries, but just creating new connections is enough to make me appreciate my field."

As a Fulbright Scholar, Sirc is researching refugee policy and practices in Geneva, Switzerland. She explains, "I was given a research grant to study the regional disparities in the acceptance of refugees and asylum-seekers in the country. My main duties are to conduct research and produce analysis on the legal structures regarding refugees. This goes from social-welfare programs to labor-market access to language-attainment courses. My day-to-day is a mix of developing quantitative models to discover indicators of inequalities among refugee populations in Switzerland. I also meet with local organizations to discuss their practices, and interview refugees and asylum seekers on their experiences."

After her Fulbright grant, Sirc will return to the U.S. to continue her work in international relations through a NGO or think-tank. She plans to pursue a master's program in peace and conflict studies. She shares, "my long-term goal is to work for an international organization that works to prevent conflict and work to relieve those who have experienced conflict."