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For her senior honors thesis in International Affairs, Marquis Scholar Elizabeth Overby of Sun Valley, Idaho, a graduate of The Community School, is assessing the effectiveness of Amnesty International in combating human-rights abuses in Chile under Augusto Pinochet, head of the military government there from 1974-90.

“I decided to research this project because I want to go to law school and study international law and human rights,” says Overby, a double major in International Affairs and government and law. “Also, I am very interested in the workings of organizations like Amnesty International and how effective they can be in their undertakings to aid sufferers of human rights’ abuses.”

Overby’s thesis advisers are John T. McCartney, associate professor and head of government and law, and Rado Pribic, Oliver Edwin Williams Professor of Languages and chair of the International Affairs program.

“Elizabeth’s work is very timely, especially in light of Pinochet’s recent arrest for human rights violations,” McCartney says. “There is certainly disagreement on this issue, and her thesis aims to give us insights into the Chilean society’s thinking on the topic.”

Pribic concurs. “This is an interesting case study of an independent watchdog group that does not answer to any particular government. Examining this topic offers insights into current foreign policy.”

In May McCartney received Lafayette’s Marquis Distinguished Teaching Award for distinctive and extraordinary teaching. A member of the Lafayette faculty since 1986, his areas of special interest and expertise include Black politics and political thought, Latin America and the Caribbean, and African politics. He helped develop Lafayette’s Africana Studies program.

This summer McCartney was research mentor to EXCEL scholar Selena Ramoutar ’02 of Burlington, Ont., a study of migration patterns in the Caribbean islands from 1850 to the present. The project focused on emigration from the islands to the United States and elsewhere, as well as return migration to those islands, emigration from India to the Caribbean, and the return of indentured Asian immigrants in the Caribbean to their original countries, such as India, China, and Indonesia.

Pribic has been a Lafayette faculty member since 1971. He is an expert in Russian literature, international affairs, various East European topics, Germano-Slavic cultural, literary, and linguistic relations. He is author or editor of three books and numerous journal articles and reviews. In the International Affairs major, which Pribic chairs, students gain a multifaceted perspective on world issues and foreign policy from several fields of study that prepares them especially well for careers in foreign service, international business, and international law.

“Lafayette has had this type of interdisciplinary program for more than 40 years and now other colleges want our blueprint,” Pribic says.

Overby says, “Lafayette provides a great environment for me to study this phenomenon. Sifting through various viewpoints on the dictatorship and the human-rights abuses and really being able to assess the issues without bias will be a challenge. I hope to be able to interview Amnesty International staff in Washington, D.C., or New York.”

Though the subject is new to Overby, she is confident in her ability to do it justice, and so is McCartney. “She is a very good student, very well suited to enter the field of human rights, which in itself is a commendable decision,” he says. “She brings a lot to the table with her intellectual abilities and personality.

“Lafayette is the kind of college where you can pursue your curiosity, your sense of wonder, your philosophy of life,” McCartney continues. “You enter another world and begin to learn about cultures and ideas very different from your own.”

Overby feels the honors work will provide a foundation for her future career. “I look forward to having a greater understanding of the human-rights debate,” she says. “As a lawyer, I may want to work with an organization like Amnesty International or another international group that focuses on human-rights abuses.”

A member of the International Affairs Club, Overby studied abroad last year in London and Seville, Spain. She helps homeless people as a volunteer in one of the many programs of sustained community service that Lafayette students conduct each year under the auspices of the College’s Landis Community Outreach Center. She is also an accomplished figure skater.

Categorized in: Academic News