During the Fall 2020 semester, while conducting a literature review for her honors thesis on ecological peacebuilding and uranium mining in Niger, Malika Kounkourou (BA IR ’22) realized that she needed to collect data and documents on her empirical case in order to conduct on-site research. Supported by the Keylor Travel Grant from the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies, Malika traveled to Niger from December 2021 to January 2022 for an experience that did not provide valuable information for her research but strengthened her determination to pursue an advocacy career to pursue the regulation of land use and the protection of livelihoods in Niger and more generally on the African continent. The Pardee School spoke to Malika to understand why she was doing research abroad, the opportunities the school’s Keylor Scholarship opened up for her, and what made her experience so enriching.
Malika’s majors are in the fields of environment and development and Africa and the Middle East, but during her time at Boston University she was particularly interested in the field of ecological peacebuilding. “After reading EE594 Global Environmental Policy and Negotiation with Dr. Selin, I was impressed by the burgeoning field of ecological peacebuilding,” she said. “The conditions of the Tuareg due to the uranium mines are so dire that they have led to uprisings and violent conflicts since the 1990s and only since 2007. Accordingly, the management of uranium mining can make a great contribution to peace-building. Having gained this insight, I was compelled to pursue this area of research further and try to make some meaningful contributions to the peacebuilding discourse in Niger and to the field of ecological peacebuilding as a whole.”
Determined to make a difference and better understand the situation in Niger, Malika applied to the Keylor Travel Scholarship which provided her with the funds she needed to travel abroad as well as health insurance, internet access, phone service and other amenities. Upon arrival, Malika quickly realized the impact of being on-site compared to the campus environment. “Studying the situation in the field and even witnessing the uncertainty that has been increasing in the country lately made me realize just how urgent the situation really is. The wealth of primary sources I had access to and the tremendous help from the people of Niger to further my research were all things that an on-campus research environment could not achieve.” Access to these resources and interviews with leaders in Niger were invaluable to Malika’s research and helped provide a deeper understanding and appreciation of her work.
Given the opportunities open to her, Malika strongly encourages her fellow Pardee School students to apply for the Keylor Scholarship as long as they plan ahead and recognize the gaps that working on the ground can fill. “Look at the IRB process to make sure you’re compliant up front and don’t run into problems late in the process,” she advised. “Furthermore, by preparing the majority of your background research on the topic, you can make better use of the research time abroad because you can focus on gathering the missing vital information. Additionally, I encourage students to ask for as much as they think they will need and not underestimate their cost or the ability of the Keylor Scholarship to meet those needs.”
Supporting student research like Malika’s is a point of Pardee School pride and we encourage our students to take advantage of every opportunity that comes their way during their time at BU. If you are interested in conducting your own global research, visit the Pardee School Travel Grants page for detailed information on grant opportunities and resources.
If you or someone you know is interested in sharing his global research story of the Pardee School, please contact Pardee School Communications Specialist Andrew Luckett.