GSP 2013 Scholars

Mahunan Agblonon

Mahunan is a rising junior at the School of General Studies, where he is majoring in economics-statistics with a concentration in mathematics. As a native of Benin, a West African country that is ranked among the poorest in the world according to the UN, Mahunan has seen how the delicate balance between politics and economics can affect numerous people and institutions. He is very interested in development, economic growth, politics, and the alleviation of poverty. As a former research analyst intern at a consulting firm in Benin, he had the opportunity to work in small villages on community development projects. Mahunan sees the Global Scholars Program as a natural next step in his efforts to better understand other cultures and bind his theoretical knowledge of economics with experiential study. Mahunan looks forward to working with a group of diverse students and faculty to study political and socioeconomic issues in emerging markets.


Mihika Baura

Mihika is a rising junior at Columbia College. She is majoring in history with a concentration in political science and is studying Spanish to support her plan to work and study abroad in the future. After learning about 20th century Latin American cities this semester, Mihika has been interested in pursuing research on urban development issues like overcrowding, the informal economy, and slum formation. She hopes to draw on her personal experiences growing up in Mumbai, where the expanding urban population faces similar socioeconomic issues. Mihika is passionate about writing, and has worked for a business magazine in Mumbai. She also recently discovered her interest in trial advocacy and competes with the Columbia Mock Trial team on the national college circuit.


Yong Choi

Yong is a rising senior at the School of General Studies. She is majoring in Economics with a special concentration in Sustainable Development. Studying both Economics and Sustainable Development has led her to realize the importance of experiencing and interacting with the reality. Therefore, Yong has been trying to broaden herself to the bigger and more diverse world, as traveling, studying, and working. Yong has been traveling in approximately 20 countries, and she is on travel even now in Hong Kong. In addition, Yong has academic interests particularly in Economics of Environment and Development Economics, which she believes their significance is getting more obvious. She thinks that China and Chile are wonderful regions to examine the potential of economic development and environmental policies. Thus, for her, Global Scholars Program is another opportunity for journey to experience the real economic and environmental challenges, and potentially find out their solutions.


Morgan Christopher

As a rising senior majoring in comparative ethnic studies at Columbia College, Morgan is passionate about social justice and education reform. In her free time, she works for The Youth Leadership Program in Spanish Harlem, which engages youth in anti-oppressive training workshops about health justice. Next year, Morgan will be named director of the program and is excited to continue working toward a healthier community. As a fellow for Asian Americans for Equality, Morgan interns at Flushing High School, where she co-teaches and co-facilitates financial health classes and a youth program. For the youth program, Morgan created a six-week identity curriculum designed to give students a better sense of self and a deeper understanding of how identity affects all aspects of life. She is also the curriculum chair for the organization GEQUA, an alternative spring break program which explores the development of women’s roles in a global society. Morgan is especially interested in decreasing the high school dropout rate among Native American students and hopes to teach high school on her reservation in the future. She also plans to obtain a Master of Social Work degree. As a participant on the Global Scholars Program, Morgan is looking forward to researching development through the lens of education, and specifically how political institutions and national governments support that development. She firmly believes that GSP will complement her future goal of supporting her community.


Natalie Felsen

Natalie is a rising sophomore at Columbia College, where she plans to major in political science with a concentration in Hispanic studies. As a Hispanic-American raised in a heavily Hispanic, militarized community along the US-Mexico border, Natalie has had the opportunity to examine how government institutions can affect a variety of cultures. Her upbringing directly influenced her desire to pursue a career as a diplomat and sparked her interest in examining the ways in which Hispanic culture has evolved in different contexts across the globe. In her research, Natalie plans to compare Hispanic cultures and governments to determine how they interact with each other and with cultures worldwide. Natalie hopes that the Global Scholars Program’s focus on field research will provide a solid methodological basis for examining future cross-cultural encounters. In her free time, Natalie is News Beat Chief at the Columbia Daily Spectator and Print Editor at the Columbia Undergraduate Law Review.

Aliza Goldberg

Aliza is a rising Barnard senior majoring in English with a concentration in creative writing.  Simultaneously, she will be pursuing a Master's degree from the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs.  Aliza has a passion for stories, which she explores through not only literature but also through learning languages and traveling.  She speaks Vietnamese, Italian, and Spanish, and has studied abroad in Italy, Vietnam, Kenya, and the West Indies.  Her research interests include censorship, intellectual property rights, and labor issues.  Along with these academic goals, she hopes to write travel essays during her time in China and Chile, which she will publish on her blog The Alizid: A Tale of Wanderings:


Kunal Mehta

Kunal is a rising junior and economics major. His academic interests include international relations, macroeconomic policy, and global trade. He is especially interested in examining how diverse political, historical, and social institutions interact with and shape the forces of development and trade. Kunal’s past work experiences include addressing issues of strategic policy and foreign relations at think tanks in Mumbai and Washington, DC, as well as writing on geopolitics and economic inequality for various publications. Outside of his area of specialization, Kunal is also passionate about history, linguistics, and the French language. He hopes that traveling to Chile and China this summer will yield insights into how different societies and governments conceptualize progress. In the future, Kunal aspires to combine his technical knowledge with an informed cultural perspective to directly influence economic reform and growth policy in the developing world, particularly in his home country of India.


Ben Reardon

Ben is a rising junior at Columbia College where he is majoring in linguistics. Growing up in a military family, Ben moved 11 times throughout his childhood, living in both the US and Germany. During high school, he spent a year as an exchange student in Hong Kong, which sparked his interest in Chinese culture, history, language, and society. Ben has also studied Cantonese, German, Indonesian, Mandarin, and Tajiki, and believes his language skills and prior intercultural experiences in Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the US will prove especially beneficial while conducting primary research this summer. Ben loves traveling and exploring, and is interested in investigating the ways in which multilingual interactions take place in East Asia and Latin America. He is especially interested in examining how language and language instruction indicate changing international influence, both in government and in the public sphere.


Ben Rimland

Ben is a rising junior at Columbia College and is majoring in political science with a concentration in art history. Within his major, Ben’s specialization is international relations, with a focus on East Asia and security studies. Ben has traveled extensively throughout China and Japan, and has studied Spanish for the past eight years. He hopes that his research this summer will shed light on the intersection between economic development and regional security issues, as well as the difficulties faced in transnational economic and trade agreements. Having explored several of these issues as a Model UN delegate, Ben is eager to gain real world exposure to the themes addressed by the Global Scholars Program. Outside of class, Ben enjoys listening to music, reading, and visiting art museums.


Yara Tercero

Yara is a rising senior at Columbia College. She is majoring in political science with a concentration in Latin American studies. Her academic interests include health policy and the relationships between Asian and Latin American countries. She is particularly fascinated by China’s role in economic development in Central America. Yara was born in Nicaragua and moved to the US when she was six years old. In addition to being bilingual in Spanish and English, she learned Italian by spending a year in Sicily as a high school junior, and has studied Arabic and French. She has taken advantage of opportunities to travel, including academic trips to Egypt, Israel, and Puerto Rico, and has found that each experience contributed to a broader understanding of the cultural, economic, and political dynamics at play in the 21st century. While at Columbia, Yara has worked as an intern with Bioethics International, which sparked her interest in public policy. She is also an avid photographer and is teaching herself the elements of graphic design.


Xinglan Wang

Xinglan is a rising junior and exchange student at Barnard College. At her home university, she is majoring in English literature and international studies. With an interest in pursuing public policy at the graduate level, Xinglan sees the Global Scholars Program as the turning point of her academic career. She is deeply interested in observing education policy and social influence in Chile and China, and is particularly curious about comparing South America’s development to China’s in the 1980s and 1990s. Xinglan loves to travel, and has left footprints in Austria, Canada, China, North Korea, Thailand, and the US. While traveling, she likes to go beyond the experiences of the average tourist by observing the deeply rooted historical and economic forces underlying social phenomena. Xinglan hopes this program will strengthen her intercultural and comparative research skills and plans to use her first-hand experiences in China and Chile to form her thesis next year.