August 4, 2023

JSI Scholar: Martu J. Kollie

Tell us about your story

My name is Martu J. Kollie, an aspiring International Human Rights Lawyer and Environmental Justice Advocate. I am a first-generation college Senior at Beloit College in Wisconsin, double majoring in International Relations & Environmental Justice with a minor in Spanish. I was born and raised in a suburban community in Liberia, West Africa, where locals resell raw materials and other goods. Many girls in my neighborhood were denied the right to equal educational opportunities. Most parents believed girls should stay at home and learn what was conceived as “women’s responsibilities” while the boys went to school. Despite the fact that my dreams seemed like fleeting fantasies suppressed by age-old societal dogma, I was one of the few girls in my community who defied the odds and acquired quality education. My childhood experiences have deeply informed my interest in social change. Experiencing moments of injustice, inequality, and marginalization has cultivated my sense of responsibility to contribute to positive transformation, such as women’s empowerment and early childhood development. Since my adolescent years, I have been immensely involved in advocacy on both social and environmental issues. I have volunteered with several non-profit organizations focused on empowering young women and promoting environmental sustainability. In 2021, I began volunteering as a lobbyist with the Friends Committee on National Legislation, a nonpartisan Quaker organization that lobbies Congress and the administration to advance peace, justice, and environmental stewardship.

What path did you take when you first started college?

When I enrolled at Beloit, I took classes that would deepen my understanding of complex global policy systems and how they affect ordinary people. I also took courses to help me develop analytical, critical reasoning, writing, and research skills. I knew that I needed these skills to fully understand how the world works in the context of cross-border politics and why some countries behave the way they do. Through my Beloit classes, I gained exposure to different trends in the global political sphere, career development lecture series, and policy-based research projects. I also secured volunteer opportunities on and off campus. I currently serve as a student volunteer at the American Red Cross of Wisconsin to educate the American public about the importance of International Humanitarian Law (IHL). I am also a member of the UNHCR Young Champion Network. I create art and written pieces to advocate for the rights of refugees and asylum seekers.

What made you consider a career in public policy/public service/international affairs?

I am passionate about addressing global challenges, fostering international cooperation, and promoting peace. I also want to help improve the administration of immigration policies and practices by governments and ensure a more workable immigration system globally. Tackling these complex global issues requires interdisciplinary skill sets, advanced knowledge of how they affect people, and the policies for addressing them. It requires exceptional research and policy analysis skills to address complex and discriminatory immigration policies, which I can only obtain through a career in public policy or international affairs.

Who inspires you to think about public service?

My communities are what inspire me to engage in public service. The Mexican American, immigrant family, and student communities have shaped my life and motivate me to serve them. I feel a duty to give back to them – and in a way, my family – by uplifting them through policy. As a representative of my communities, I hope to ensure that my community’s voices are heard and taken into account when creating and implementing policy.

What are you most excited about the JSI program at UW?

I am excited about meeting new people, exploring the beautiful city of Seattle, and, most importantly, networking with experts in the public policy arena and learning from their experiences. I am also excited about learning how to evaluate policies using data. Policymaking involves a lot of data analysis and multi-disciplinary approaches to providing solutions to different types of policy issues. I need to learn more about using different strategies to develop solutions to global policy problems. I look forward to developing these skills through the JSI program.