Michael's introduction to globalization, at least as he then understood it as a Communications major
at a small Liberal Arts college, came while studying abroad in Australia, sitting with roommates from
Thailand, Botswana, Sweden, and Australia laughing uproariously at an episode of The Simpsons
(involving Homer, a boot and thick Aussie accents).
Fast forward a few years to Isiolo, a small town in Northern Kenya, where Michael was serving as a
Peace Corps volunteer, teaching HIV & AIDS at a Deaf school. Isiolo was divided between Muslims
and Christians; nomadic pastoralists and farmers; wealthy politicians and homeless street children. It
was a dynamic environment influenced by local, national, regional and international agendas. This
was the other side of globalization; though the Simpsons was still on TV in the huts.
During the Peace Corps, Michael was interested in how technology could be used to further
educational achievement and so he formed a Peace Corps Task Force to facilitate the nationwide
coordination and production of Deaf education and low-literate visual aid materials, including student
created short films, sign language posters for parents and hospitals, and interactive software. The
Task Force distributed these materials, directly reaching over 6,000 students, parents and caregivers
at 20 schools and organizations across Kenya. Members of the Task Force worked with Liverpool
VCT to help expand opportunities for Deaf students to be tested for HIV by Deaf community leaders,
partnered with Global Deaf Connection in offering training for Deaf students at Machakos Teachers
College in the creation of visual aid materials and in collaboration with the Ministry of Education
created an enhanced HIV/AIDS curriculum with interactive lesson plans. Although Michael’s service
was cut short due to political violence, the Task Force was identified as innovative and replicable as
part of the Peace Corps’ ‘New Frontiers’ initiative.
After the Peace Corps, Michael worked with refugee resettlement in Chicago, focused on educational
and cultural adjustment programs. He also acted as the in-office Kiswahili translator. It was a perfect
transitional job back to the US that was unfortunately cut short due to lost funding in the wake of the
2008 financial crisis.
Michael recieved his MA from UC Santa Barbara's Global & International Studies program in April of
2013. Michael was driven by his desire to understand complex, interdependent problems arising from
globalization by engaging in a multi-disciplinary approach; to become an effective solver (both
theoretically and practically) of interdependent problems. Michael focused on development issues
within East Africa.
His thesis focused on the challenge of sustainable development in an emerging Africa and how to
negotiate between increasingly complex competing views and interests. This is especially relevant in
the face of rising global risks. Michael used a case study of the ongoing construction of the
LAPSSET Corridor megaproject in Kenya to highlight the complexities and intersections of
competing interests. He focused on the relationship between the Government of Kenya and a
transnational coalition called Save Lamu (with whom he spent four months doing field research). The
lens of exploration was reflexivity, a self awareness (both individual and collective) that involves
reflecting on and reacting to previous and ongoing developments. He argued that understanding the
process of development, with reflexivity a central condition of this process, helps us explore the
complexities and intersections. Knowing the interests of stakeholders and how they intersect helps
point us towards how these interests may be balanced. The result is a precautionary approach to
development which leads to sustainable development.
Armed with his MA, Michael took a position with FTR to continue to strengthen his communications
skills. He is now looking to put his myriad skills to use in creating positive change through
organizations which share a similiar global outlook.
Copyright, 2013 michaeljstarks.com