Student in the Spotlight with Karen Harriss

Karen Karen is wrapping up her second master’s degree at Webster Leiden, where she also works as a teacher’s assistant. In this interview from May, the Illinois native discussed her studies, the topic of her thesis, and her goals for the future.





Where are you from originally?

St. Louis, actually, where the main Webster campus is located. I grew up right outside of the city in Columbia, Illinois. 

You’re currently a graduate student at Webster Leiden but where did you complete your undergraduate and first graduate degrees?

Baylor University in Texas is where I majored in Business Administration, and International Business and Management. Then I worked for a long time before I returned to school. I completed a master’s degree in International Relations through Webster in July of 2016. I actually attended five different campuses and was what’s considered a global student. I started here in Leiden and went on to the campus in Geneva. Then I spent some time in London, went to Beijing to study with an affiliate, and finished up in Vienna.

What’s the focus of your current degree?

I’m working on a sequential master’s here in Leiden and that’s in International Non-Governmental Organizations. It’s actually not being offered anymore and I’m the only student currently getting that degree. I was kind of grandfathered in. 

What have been some of your favorite classes and professors here at Webster Leiden?

My classes have been a mix of management and leadership courses along with international relations. It’s allowed me to combine my background in business with my IR master’s degree. I’ve had Professor Jill Adler for quite a few classes and I really like how she's taught them. Professor Daniel Russell, who led our negotiations class, was great. I have a fondness for law classes and both of them teach those types of courses.

What is the subject of your thesis?

While it’s not required, I’ve chosen to do one on human rights advocacy INGOs and how they influence international refugee laws. I’m focusing on the fall of the former Yugoslavia and the wars in Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo. That was a very interesting timeframe and it led to the largest refugee conflict in Europe since World War 2. It happened right after the fall of the Iron Curtain and the rise of the Internet so a lot of things came into play. It’s also when INGOs really began influencing lawmaking processes.

Have you been involved with any student clubs here at Webster Leiden?

I currently run the IR Club and each term I help organize two events, one that’s educational and one that’s more fun. I try to make them as useful and relevant as possible, so I’ve invited speakers to campus and hosted career workshops. I’m also currently a teacher’s assistant. I help with planning events for the department, manage the social media pages, and do other miscellaneous things like proctoring exams.

What are your plans for the future?

My dream would be to work for the State Department over here as a foreign service officer. More realistically, I’d like to combine my previous work experience with my master’s studies and try to do some kind of consulting. I’d like to focus on inefficiencies within governments in particular.

 Text: Brandon Hartley