Kevin Short (BSJ13) was recently named the first Medill student to win the Circumnavigators Travel-Study Grant, jointly funded by Northwestern University and the Circumnavigators Club Foundation, which will allow him to travel to six different countries over the summer to study technology and social change. Short, who traveled to Jordan in 2010 and 2011 as part of Northwestern’s Refugee Lives trip, will return there this summer thanks to the grant. He also will travel to Tanzania, Ukraine, India, New Zealand and Brazil.
Short took some time to talk about the grant, his goals and what he has learned at Medill that will help him with this incredible project.
How did you find out about the Circumnavigators Grant?
Right before my sophomore year began, I was in downtown Chicago as a first-year counselor for the Freshman Urban Program (FUP). One of the other counselors, the wonderful Meixi Ng, had just returned from her circumnavigation. Her stories were surreal. I was amazed by the opportunity.
What do you plan to study thanks to the grant?
I will conduct an investigation of how Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) foster civic engagement and government accountability in developing countries. There is profound opportunity to develop civil society and engage citizens in ways unthinkable before the digital age. In that spirit, I have identified six pioneers of this global movement who utilize ICT in innovative ways. I will shadow these organizations and analyze how they translate technological tools into positive social and political impacts.
How did you decide on your topic of study and the countries you will visit?
Over the summer I worked in Washington, D.C., and covered the Society for International Development’s World Congress through an internship. At this conference, I was enthralled by the international community’s newfound embrace of technology. Once back in Evanston, I looked through hundreds of organizations in dozens of countries and steadily honed in on six that I found most exciting and groundbreaking.
What do you hope to gain from your experience?
My primary goal is to develop a best-practices guide that nascent NGOs can use to employ ICT in their own capacity. I will also be launching a website as a central hub of media for the trip, and upload video clips, blogs, social media, and resources. In doing so, I hope to gain some sense of the potential of new technologies and assist others with the challenges of implementation, integration, maintenance and scaling up. I want to show how ICT can empower citizens and act as a catalyst for democratic processes.
Did your experience with Refugee Lives affect your choice of topic and/or countries?
Refugee Lives definitely informed my perspective and connected me with an amazing organization, 7iber, in Amman. I have fallen in love with Jordan and have a great support network in Amman. I am eager to get back there.
The exposure to international reporting opportunities through Medill has really been invaluable. Refugee Lives has impressed upon me the timeless need for face-to-face interaction in both journalism and development work. I’ve learned more from dinners with Iraqi families than from downloads on iPhones.
Do you think any of your classes or experiences at Medill will help you with your studies this summer?
Absolutely. I am planning to approach this trip just as much a journalist as much as a researcher, so I’ll be drawing on almost everything I’ve learned during my three years at Northwestern. The coursework has challenged me to break down the barriers and connect with people, from Evanston to Kigali. The Medill education hinges on initiative and creativity; I aspire to demonstrate these through my circumnavigation.