Student goes global to explore international security, government

Danielle Murad Waiss, SSH’19, returned to campus this fall invigorated—and a tad exhausted—following a year’s worth of global experiences across Europe and the Middle East. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Danielle Murad Waiss’ interest in exploring and better understanding the world stems from her multicultural background. She was born in Mexico and grew up in a family with a Mexican mother and Canadian father. She came to Northeastern eager to expand her knowledge by taking advantage of global experiences.

For the past year, that’s exactly what she’s done—and more.

Murad Waiss, SSH’19, returned to campus this fall invigorated—and a bit exhausted—following a year’s worth of global experiences across Europe and the Middle East, where she studied, worked, and conducted research in the areas of government and security. She even extended her international stay into the early part of the semester so she could attend an event she helped plan: the 17th World Summit on Counter-Terrorism.

“My time abroad has really enriched my academics, as I was able to gain many different perspectives on the world today,” she said.

A witness to history in the U.K.

Murad Waiss, a combined major in political science and international affairs, began the first of three consecutive global experiences a year ago, in London. From September to December, she worked at the House of Commons for Mims Davies, a Conservative Party member in the U.K. Parliament. The internship, secured through the Hansard Society Scholars Program, included research and drafting correspondence on policy matters.

But one of the most transformative aspects of the experience, she said, was being on the job only months after last year’s historic Brexit vote, which enabled her to gain a deeper understanding of the debate and the long-term impact of the ultimate decision. “I was sitting in Parliament listening to the debate that triggered Article 50,” she recalled, referring to the mechanism by which the U.K. formally left the European Union. “They’re making history and I got to see this.”

‘How an international organization works’

Following that internship, Murad Waiss began the first of a two-part global co-op. It was her “dream job”—a position at the NATO Defense College in Rome. From February to May, she conducted research on NATO-related issues, including collaborative international efforts to address piracy off Somalia’s coast. She also participated in the college’s flagship course, through which she took part in high-level lectures alongside military officers and others in key civilian roles from NATO countries. Part of the course involved visiting places in Rome and other parts of Italy, and she helped plan those visits and brief other course members about the places they were visiting. “I learned a lot in terms of how to interact with military officials and how an international organization works,” she said.

For the second part of her global co-op, Murad Waiss worked in Israel at the International Institute for Counter Terrorism, known as the ICT. There she began a research project focused on building public resilience as a means of countering the fear of terrorism. She also organized and attended a certificate program on counter-terrorism studies and assisted in planning the ICT’s World Summit on Counter Terrorism.

Murad Waiss extended her stay at the ICT until mid-September to attend the summit, where one of the security-related simulations she worked on as part of her research was presented. “That really opened my eyes to the field of counter terrorism,” she said of working at the ICT and attending the summit. She said her global experiences as a whole have provided an up-close look at two exciting potential career tracks: one in foreign service, the other in counter terrorism. Which one will she pursue? “I don’t know the answer yet,” she said.

Due to her exceptional work at the ICT, she received the inaugural Jonathan Fine Memorial Internship Award, named for the late ICT senior researcher. “I feel honored and blessed to have received this award,” she said. “I learned so much at the ICT, and I hope that I can make Mr. Fine, his family, and the ICT proud.”

Back on campus

This fall, Murad Waiss is back on campus for the first time in more than a year. She is eager to bring the knowledge gained from her global experiences back into the classroom and her other academic pursuits, which include continuing the public resilience research she began at the ICT.

“I am confident in the knowledge and skills I have gained through these opportunities as they have shaped me into the person I am today,” she said. “When I first came to Northeastern, I would have never imagined that I would have spent a year abroad in three different countries doing such interesting and enriching things, not to mention the plethora of other opportunities I have had here. Although I am not sure exactly what my path will be, I am very excited to work toward it in order to leave the world a little better than I found it.”

What’s more, she is Northeastern’s Gideon Klein Scholar for the 2017-18 academic year, an honor that supports a student in creating an original work related to art during the Holocaust. Murad Waiss is choreographing a seven-piece dance show, with each piece inspired by a different painting, poem, or song from the Holocaust. One is “Lullaby,” a song by Gideon Klein, a pianist and composer who was imprisoned in concentration camps until his death in 1945.

Murad Waiss said dance served as a stabilizing presence throughout her global experiences. In each location—London, Rome, and Israel—she found opportunities to dance, through which she met new people and learned about the local culture. “For me, the hardest part of the experience was having to move every four months or so,” she said. “You build relationships, but then you move on. I know the things that keep me stable in life, and dancing is one of them.”

“Dance brings something familiar. It’s a universal language, and you can share it with everyone.”