Education/Academia: Sara E. Brown ’05, IR & Holocaust and Genocide Studies Major

Ph.D. student in Holocaust and genocide studies at Clark

But what about law school?

Like college students through the ages, Sara Brown was asked that question just after telling her mother that she’d decided to switch her major from pre-law to government and international relations with a concentration in Holocaust and genocide studies.

After taking an introductory course on genocide, “I dropped everything I was doing and changed my major,” Brown says. Since then, she has taught, studied and worked in Israel, Rwanda, Tanzania, Burundi and the United States. She’s been chased by elephants in Zambia, done refugee resettlement work in Dallas, and worked with post-Hurricane Katrina shelter populations in Baton Rouge.

Brown’s life path began to reveal itself in Rwanda during the summer of 2004 when she received the Rose and Arthur Belfer Foundation award for an internship there with the Alternatives to Violence Project. “It was right at the 10-year anniversary of the Rwandan genocide,” Brown says. “I left feeling like I hadn’t done enough. I’d also fallen in love with the sights, smells and the people.”

Brown graduated with honors in 2005. Now, she’s back at Clark in her second year as a doctoral student, working on a dissertation in comparative genocide studies.

“I think Clark raised me,” Brown says. “I grew into myself as an academic and as a humanitarian. That sounds so self-aggrandizing. … But Clark made me go out and do something with my life. Clark drew the dots for me and then I was able to connect them.”

She earned a master’s degree in diplomacy and conflict studies at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel, and led a team of six graduate students on a service-learning trip to Rwanda and also conducted research in Burundi.

In spring 2011, Brown participated in the highly selective Clinton Global Initiative University, hosted by President Bill Clinton. Her project involved working with high-level members of the Rwandan government as the country strives to recover from the 1994 genocide that claimed an estimated 800,000 lives.

Last summer, Brown spent five weeks in Rwanda. She met with organizations where women are primary stakeholders and studied the role of women in genocide — not simply as victims, she says, but also as bystanders and perpetrators.

Brown’s contributions to education include conference presentations in Sarajevo and Kigali, Rwanda’s capital.
At the time of this writing, Brown had just returned from Kigali where she was continuing her doctoral research.

“I have to be in the field,” she says. “I have to get a little dirt under my fingernails to have a good day.”