Student Spotlight: Anna Jo Morris
Meet Anna Jo, an International Relations Online student in West Virginia who wanted to develop her skills to help fight human trafficking.
Current Location: Point Pleasant, West Virginia
“I’m thankful for [the online format] because I can be anywhere and go to class. It’s really logical to apply that to an international relations program, too, because the idea is to be fluid and transient where you are.”
What brought you to AU?
I started researching grad programs and was looking into political science. My undergrad is in English literature, but I have minors in political science and international studies. So one night, after I had done some research into other programs, I saw a Facebook ad for American University International Relations Online. And I thought, OK let’s do it. And two days later Kevin, my admissions counselor, called me and we were in touch for about a year.
Where do you currently work?
I am working with an organization called Wipe Every Tear. We work to stop human trafficking in the Philippines and Thailand and help those affected by it. We have six safe houses in Manila and one in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Essentially, we work with girls who are coming out of the sex trade. We have a little over 75 girls in our care. I’m really fascinated by the dynamic of poverty and human trafficking. Since I’m doing International Development, I can look at human trafficking through that lens and see the root causes of it. I wouldn’t have thought of it, but all of a sudden there was this program where I can study what I’m so passionate about.
Have you been able to apply what you’ve learned in class to your work?
Yes. We were in the slums in Manila and were walking, and there were these little businesses on the side of the road. There were people who were washing plastic grocery bags for a living in sewer water. I had just taken Foundations of Economic Development, and I found myself thinking about a lesson from the course that focused on conditional cash transfer systems in the Philippines. It’s really cool to see some of the policies in action. It’s interesting to apply a face to the statistic too. It’s not just something that is confined to a book—it actually happens.
Were you ever hesitant about the online format? If so, what were those hesitations and have they been resolved?
My only hesitation going in was not being sure how much interaction I would have with my classmates. But the way that AU does the program is really cutting edge. I don’t know why more people don’t do it. I’ve felt like I’ve been able to connect well with my classmates and my professors. One of our professors even said that he feels like he develops better relationships with his online students—because you have to.
On the online platform, you have no choice but to make connections and interact. When you come in and sit in a class, you can go all semester and not even know the name of the person next to you. When I describe the program to people, I always say it looks like The Brady Bunch, where everybody has their own little box. They see you, you see them, and you have conversations in class. It’s really dynamic.
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