Category: Featured News, Graduate Profiles 2021, News, Students

Title: From Small-Town Arizona to Oman and Jordan, Caris Boegl’s (MAAS’21) Next Stop is U.S. State Department

Date Published: May 12, 2021

Growing up in northern Arizona, Caris Boegl (MAAS’21) never envisioned herself as a graduate student in the M.A. in Arab Studies (MAAS) program at SFS.

Profile photo of Caris Boegl. She is propping her chin on her arm and is pictured in a bright living room.Reflecting on the last few years, Boegl still marvels that she has attained Arabic language proficiency. “The dedication of SFS language faculty and multiple State Department funded language fellowships enabled someone like myself who grew up in a tiny town in Arizona with no exposure to Arabic until college to reach Arabic proficiency!” she remarks.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic halting international travel, Boegl’s studies took her around the world, including to Oman and Jordan, where she pursued language immersion programs and experienced the region she hopes will be the foundation of her career. 

Now, the graduate student is setting her sights on a new destination: the U.S. State Department. Having recently accepted a job offer for a foreign affairs officer position, the aspiring diplomat hopes to capitalize on her SFS training to build a career working on policy affecting post-conflict states.

Boegl credits SFS with helping her to find her professional passions and setting her on her current career path. “My studies in SFS clarified these goals through conversations, courses and mentorship opportunities,” she says.

At A Glance

Hometown: Show Low, AZ

Program: M.A. in Arab Studies, Politics Concentration

Certificate: Certificate in Diplomatic Studies

Language Proficiency: Arabic (Advanced)

Experiences Abroad: Critical Language Scholarship, Oman; National Security Education Program David L. Boren Fellowship, Jordan

On-Campus Activities: Research Assistant, Center for Contemporary Arab Studies (CCAS)

Off-Campus Activities: Intern, South Asia Team, International Justice Mission

Building Career Opportunities

Boegl was drawn to the Hilltop by the opportunities it presented to delve into the scholarly and professional fields she was most interested in. She also had it on good authority that a Georgetown education could lead to a fulfilling career. 

“I was drawn to Georgetown for graduate school both because of my love for international affairs and because one of my favorite undergraduate professors at William Jewell College studied here,” she explains. “I dreamed of combining my passions for policy, displacement and the Middle East.”

When she arrived on campus, Boegl took every chance she could to take courses that aligned with her interests and developed her Arabic language skills.

Arabic calligraphy exercises lie on a table next to a cup of tea and a watch.
Boegl gained Arabic proficiency and advanced her calligraphy skills during her time in the MAAS program.

She also struck up close working relationships with professors in the MAAS program, which enabled her to gain vital research and professional experience. 

In 2019, she held a position as a research assistant for Professor Marwa Daoudy in which she assisted Daoudy to finalize her award-winning book,  The Origins of the Syrian Conflict: Climate Change and Human Security

One course in particular reinforced Boegl’s interest in displacement: taking Professor Rochelle Davis’s Displacement in the Arab World class. The course examined issues related to refugees, internally displaced populations and humanitarian responses.

MAAS students sit around a long conference table and are chatting together. SFS branded tote bags are on the table in front of them.
Boegl gets to know the other members of her cohort during MAAS orientation.

“Week after week yielded deep discussions — even on Zoom — about Yemen, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, North Africa,” Boegl said. “Over time, the concepts of human dignity, the problematic aspects of the international refugee regime and presence of racism in migration became clearer.”

In SFS classrooms, Boegl’s vocational aspirations began to crystallize.

“My academic and professional interests solidified,” she explains. “My interest in human security and policy in the Middle East deepened.”

Georgetown’s location in Washington, D.C. was the perfect place to begin building a career in the field. 

Boegl interned with the International Justice Mission, a global non-profit organization working to end human trafficking. She worked with the South Asia team to advance programs dedicated to ending bonded labor in India and Bangladesh. 

“What inspired me about this work was the courage it takes to stay present to human suffering, while shaping effective interventions to end impunity for perpetrators of human trafficking crimes,” she says. 

The MAAS program also enabled her to pursue another passion: language learning. 

Boegl worked towards the Arabic language proficiency required by the MAAS program, but last semester she also picked up a second language, Hebrew. 

“In the end, Georgetown gave me not only one language, but instilled in me a passion for language learning!” she stresses.

An Experience Rooted in People and Place

This passion led Boegl to apply for two competitive language scholarships to help her further her language skills. In June 2019, Boegl arrived in Ibri, Oman, where — through a Critical Language Scholarship — she immersed herself in Arabic language and culture. 

Boegl and a group of friends are pictured on steps leading up the side of a fort. An archway is visible in the bottom right and an ornate doorway is visible bottom left.
Boegl visits a fortress in Ibri, Oman during an Arabic language immersion program in the city.

Then, a month later, Boegl received a National Security Education Program David L. Boren Fellowship to study in Amman, Jordan. She took a year’s break from Georgetown to live in the city, where she used her language skills to engage with local life. 

“Both were incredible experiences which gave me my first taste of language immersion,” she recalls. “The sites and tastes of Jordan and Oman were exceptional — sea turtles migrating in Oman, musakhan (a Palestinian dish), falafel, fresh figs, Wadi Rum, Petra or walking fortresses in Oman.” 

She continues, “But the people I met were by far the best part of my year in Jordan and Oman.”

This emphasis on meaningfully rooting herself in the community of a place is something that Boegl has carried with her throughout her graduate study. 

Her favorite thing about Washington, D.C. is not the professional networking opportunities or the bustle of the city’s global institutions, but the ordinary people and places she encounters in the capital. 

“One of my favorite ways to engage with Washington, D.C. was simply to walk the streets!” she says. “It helped me to slow down and see beauty in front of me. Often, in the cacophony of networking, job-seeking or interviews, it is easy to forget to see people and sites in front of you.”

She elaborates, “I had the strangest conversations while walking. I found the most delicious restaurants and watched the seasons change. Each moment reminded me that it is alright to pause before hurrying to the next meeting.”

Little moments of connection like these are what she’ll remember most about her time at Georgetown. On the Hilltop, she found a community of supportive peers and mentors who she will miss engaging with every day.

“[MAAS Assistant Director of Academic Programs] Kelli Harris, Professor Marwa Daoudy, [MAAS Director] Professor Fida Adely, [CCAS Associate Director] Dana Al-Dairani, Professor Rochelle Davis, Professor Daniel Neep and Professor Mohammad Alahmad. Their instruction, care and wisdom has changed my life,” she says.

Caris is pictured walking across a sand dune, leaving footprints in the sand.
Boegl enjoys hiking and spent time walking in the desert during her time in Oman.

Her favorite memories of Georgetown are formed from the opportunities she had to connect with her MAAS classmates, whether on the intramural soccer pitch or over a coffee in the MAAS student lounge. 

“I have found the most brilliant and hospitable people in the MAAS program,” she says. “My peers are passionate, brilliant individuals — eager to study development, policy, culture, gender and history in the Middle East. They engage problems with intellectual rigor and honesty, yet generously share their insights.”

She continues, “Undoubtedly, I will miss the people. It is the people who make the place of Georgetown University what it is.”

Looking to a Future After COVID

The constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic has made fostering these interpersonal relationships more difficult, but Boegl says she has still found ways to stay connected with classmates and colleagues. 

“It has been a challenging year for all of us,” she notes. “In my experience, studying was made harder by Zoom fatigue, my time zone, health crises in my family and my continuously disrupted plans — including having to leave Jordan in only 48 hours.”

“However,” she goes on, “I also see how learning remotely has forged a new creativity in my approach to education. Remote learning has shown me the value of human connection. In particular, I delight in thinking of ways to encourage my colleagues. There is something comforting about knowing we are all in this together.”

Boegl recently accepted a foreign affairs officer position at the State Department, where she plans to complete the service requirement of her Boren Fellowship. She will work in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, where she will focus on programs in Afghanistan. In the meantime, she is reflecting on the last three years in the MAAS program, and the strange moments that have emerged from the difficulty of the pandemic.

Caris is pictured next to her twin sister in a woodland lanscape.
Boegl took advantage of her time studying remotely during the pandemic to go on hikes with her twin sister, Christi.

“I think I will remember the hilarious moments of people accidentally not muting their microphones. I will remember the number of times I contemplated swapping places with my identical twin sister, so she could endure my long Zoom seminars. I will think of the hundreds of photo-bombing dogs,” she jokes.

But most of all, Boegl says, she will remember the thing that has been the hallmark of her varied and rewarding Georgetown experiences: the people.

“I will remember those colleagues who sought to establish relational connections — despite all the adversity. I will remember the conversations, the kind messages sent and the resiliency of my colleagues.”