Kripa Joseph wanted to study international relations.
But UMass Lowell – her first choice for college because it was close to home and also has a strong music program – didn’t have an international relations major, so she signed up for economics.
Then, at a “Welcome Day” for admitted students, someone told her about peace and conflict studies, an interdisciplinary major that draws on courses in economics, political science, history, sociology, psychology and more. She immediately switched her major.
“I wanted to branch out and get a more rounded experience,” Joseph says. “And I did. I took micro- and macroeconomics, statistics, terrorism and the politics of international organizations. I also took honors seminars on power dynamics and critical thinking.”
The honors student finished her undergraduate degree in three years and, through the bachelor’s-to-master’s option, started on her master’s degree, which she is completing after an additional year of full-time study that included summer classes.
Joseph’s accelerated schedule didn’t cut into her college experience, though. She took advantage of UML’s broad liberal arts base, minoring in music – she sings and plays piano – and performing in the title role in a production of “The Diary of Anne Frank” by a student theater group, the Off-Broadway Players.
She also spent a summer in Washington, D.C., through the university’s partnership with The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars. She studied on the international affairs track and interned with Peace thru Culture, leading a summer camp for 12- to 16-year-olds that taught them about politics through visits to the D.C. Council and the U.S. Capitol and about different cultures through visits to museums and cultural centers.
“The Washington Center was one of the most formative experiences of my undergraduate time,” Joseph says. “Through my internship, I was learning from all the different places we were going and from the kids. It was also the first time being on my own for so long.”
Fascinated by the connections between cultural understanding and the arts, Joseph plotted out a musical based on the Bible’s Book of Ruth, with its themes of intercultural marriage and migration, and wrote some songs for it. The project was her honors capstone.
“Theater and music are a great way to teach people empathy,” she says. “You’re telling a story, and stories move people.”
As a graduate student, Joseph interned for Gordon Halm ’12 – another peace and conflict studies graduate – at the African Community Center of Lowell, which Halm directs. She worked as the graduate assistant for the Peace and Conflict Studies Program and served as president of the Peace and Conflict Studies Club, which organized a music festival as a fundraiser for the African Community Center and the International Institute of New England, both of which aid refugees. She also worked as assistant to the committee that selects and hosts the annual Greeley Scholar.
Now she’s looking for jobs with nonprofits and also applying to Ph.D. programs in social policy and international development, while completing a thesis on how two different Christian organizations are fighting human trafficking.
“At the end of the day, I want to be working at a place for people who are vulnerable, do not have a voice and need a platform,” she says.