Alisha Arshad

Student, Columbia University
  • Columbia University
  • People
  • United States of America

About Alisha Arshad

Hi! I'm Alisha, born and raised in Edmond, Oklahoma. I am a current first-year student at Columbia majoring in Human Rights and concentrating in Psychology. My research interests include the intersection of politics and psychology, which I endeavor to explore during my time in Laidlaw. 

I am a/an:

Undergraduate Scholar

Area of Expertise

Humanities Leadership Politics Social Sciences

Research Topic

History Media & Communications Politics Psychology Society & Culture

Laidlaw Cohort Year

2021

University

Columbia University

I am from:

United States of America

I speak:

English Spanish Urdu

My hobbies/interests are:

Art Badminton Chess Cycling Foreign languages Music Politics & current events Reading Travelling Volunteering Writing/blogging

I am open to participating in mentoring/buddy programmes

Yes

Intro Content

Research Proposal -- Political Science

Partisan Polarization and "Culture War" Issues with Professor Justin Phillips in the Columbia Political Science Department

Influencer Of

Popular Content

Topics

Channels contributed to:

Social Sciences Research

Rooms participated in:

Columbia University

Recent Comments

Jul 25, 2022

Week 5 

An important lesson I learned: Development is slow.

During my time in Bolgatanga during the World Vision National Retreat, Afrikids, a local NGO, was kind enough to let us do a field visit a primary school. They were working on their Digitalization Project where students in grades 1-4 studied literacy and numeracy on tablets for 45 minutes on certain days of the week. Students could select their grade level, with the questions becoming more complex as they proceeded. However, this was the most personalization the program received. The tablet could not track any unique progress, so students could possibly be solving the same questions in two separate sessions. The only way teachers could mark possible progress was by making note of which tablet each child used (which was different each time) and quickly writing scores before they had to be reprogrammed for the next class. 

I was curious about the potentiality of tracking progress through the software, perhaps by students inputting or selecting a certain name before starting the program. Then, the Digitalization Program could be even more impactful than it already was. After asking about this, I was quickly informed why my suggestion would be practically impossible in the present time. Besides the cost of upgrading the software, the timeline of development had to be considered. 

I was told that the children and their teachers had most likely never seen a tablet before the program. There had been little to no exposure to smart technology in their lives, which made the project already difficult to implement. It took almost a year for students to become comfortable with the tablets. When the tablets were first introduced, students wouldn’t even touch them at all, fearful of the noises they made when powering up and scared that touching these foreign objects would make them ill. Once they began using them, the students needed to learn how to use gentle taps for a response rather than hitting the tablets, how to connect headphones to the headphone jacks, and how to adjust the volume of the tablets with their side buttons. After a year, their fear has turned into excitement, and they look forward to using the tablets in class. As new students come into grade 1, the process repeats itself, and more students are slowly exposed to the tablets.

Overall, students took months to develop current technological skills, so complicating the software would only serve to slow progress since it requires more input before starting the software. Perhaps as more students in rural areas learn about smart technology, technological literacy among their generation and the future generation will increase and software can be more personalized. However, currently, kids are making the best progress through current software. 

Development requires smaller steps toward an overall goal. When doing development work, it is exciting to think about future potential and possibilities, but it is important to collaborate with the community and keep its culture and progress in mind. Attempting to rush development can result in adverse effects, possibly slowing it instead. 

Jul 21, 2022

Week 4

Because of mixups with scheduling, ⅙ of the weeks we’re here for GLiA ended up being during World Vision’s Spiritual Retreat where staff from around the country travel to Accra to attend workshops, bonding events, etc. Since our office was up north, another GLiA student, Polina, and I traveled to north Bolgatanga, a city about a 16 hour drive from Accra. In Bolgatanga, World Vision staff from different countries were working on attaining WASH certification from Drexel. So, we stayed with them at a conference center, attending lectures and programs. However, since this was an entire week out of our short stay, Polina and I were worried about missing out on possible field experiences.

Although we couldn’t connect with staff from our assigned offices since they were at the retreat, Polina and I spoke to Dr. Opong, one of the GLiA program coordinators, and were able to plan a few visits to the field. Although it wasn’t World Vision specifically, it was still amazing to go and see field work in action. We visited a primary school, a secondary school, and a Widows and Orphans home, and were able to experience the impact firsthand while having insightful conversations with people who have given their lives to development work.

Jul 21, 2022

Week 3

It’s difficult to explain a “typical” day, as every community engagement day is different from the other. Sometimes I’ll be out for 4 hours, sometimes 10. Sometimes we’ll speak to community members one-on-one, and sometimes we will present at a community event. However, one concept in particular stands out to me and never changes despite the different activities we do: sustainability.

World Vision places utmost importance on sustainability. They operate, as I’ve been told, that “[they] will not be there forever.” Sustainability is especially important for development work. Simply providing a community with a borehole, for example, is not enough. Communities need to be able to “own” the project, investing into facilities and ultimately improving them. Thus, when they speak to community members, World Vision doesn’t impose their own thoughts or actions onto them. Instead they have discussions with them, and ultimately community members point out issues that need to be addressed and plan with World Vision on how they will take action. They form committees among themselves for various projects, and even create a community bank account for people to contribute to for maintenance, repairs, and upgrades. 

The community is not dependent on World Vision, but can depend on itself for development.

Jul 13, 2022

Week 2

In the villages I visit in the north, most people don’t speak English but rather a tribal language. There’s no one primary traditional language in Ghana, so picking up on phrases can be difficult. So far, I know “Akwaaba,” which means “welcome” in Twi, a major language in the south that most people greeted me in when I first arrived in Ghana. Therefore, one-to-one communication can be quite difficult. I rely on World Vision staff to translate and ask any questions I have, and I depend on the few villagers who can speak English to explain certain aspects of the community if possible.

Despite the language barrier, I’ve had many conversations about WASH and the community impact of boreholes, but personally, the most interesting conversations I’ve had are about gender. I’ve conversed with community members, World Vision staff, and even students researching gender in the field, and have learned more about the patriarchal power structures that dominate most villages and about how WASH empowers women to a certain extent (for example, the increased availability of water may allow some women to further develop their shea butter business). This is particularly significant to me, since some of the research I focus on on my Human Rights studies is about women and children. It is interesting to see how World Vision addresses gender differences. One project the office supported was a PhD student's study of gender transformative actions, where husbands and wives attempt to switch traditional roles in order to create a more empathetic, efficient, and harmonious household.

Jul 12, 2022

Week 1

This summer, I’m part of the Leadership in Action program, a collaboration between Columbia Undergraduate Global Engagement and World Vision. I am working in an office in the Bawku West District of Ghana, exploring the field with World Vision staff and engaging community members in projects like WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) and child protection. As a Human Rights major who specializes in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African studies, I’m very excited to be doing hands-on human rights work in Ghana! 

One insecurity I had was about my contributions to World Vision. What can I, a rising junior in college and someone who has never stepped foot in Ghana, contribute to World Vision? The people in this office have decades of experience while I am just beginning my human rights journey. However, I spoke to Dr. Opong about this worry, and was able to alleviate much of the anxiety I had. He distinguished between “insider” and “outsider” perspectives, emphasizing the significance of both. As an insider, it is easier to connect with the community and to identify prominent issues. However, there are things one may miss simply because of their familiarity with the environment. An outsider looks at situations with fresh eyes and a different perspective, possibly pointing out new/underlying issues that haven’t been addressed. Even World Vision Ghana’s National Director is not Ghanian, partly for the usefulness of an outsider’s perspective. Although I may not have the deepest or most informed insights since I am a student with little experience with World Vision, I am hoping that my perspective is able to benefit staff to some extent. 

Last year, I focused on political science research. I found bills from the 20th and 21st century that addressed the Equal Rights Amendment, gay rights, and abortion rights. Through my research, I attempted to pinpoint times in history where the prominence of these bills grew, the attachment of political parties to these issues, and more. Although I really enjoyed the projects and learned more about the relationship between institutions and human rights, I was hoping to step into the field and do hands-on work advocating for and improving human rights. My project this summer allows me to meet my goals. I’m actively engaging in the advancement of human rights, speaking with community members, and more!