”I knew right away in high school that I wanted to study International Studies and Spanish,” said Paige Bowman, class of 2015. The Sacramento native wasted no time in taking advantage of education abroad programs. She attended the Latin American Studies Program in Puebla in the spring of her freshman year and returned the next year to continue her studies via direct enrollment at the University of the Americas. She took classes in foreign policy where “it was interesting to learn about the U.S. from a foreign perspective.”
She later received an Internship with U.S. State Department at the U.S. embassy in Panama City. The embassy staff of 400 is comprised of both Panamanian and American staff, and Bowman worked in the American Citizens Services unit of the Consular Section.
With tens of thousands U.S. citizens living in Panama, Bowman processed requests for birth and death certificates and passports. She went with Foreign Service Officers to assist Americans in hospitals, immigration detention centers, and prisons.
“This was very different from a study abroad program,” she emphasized. “It wasn’t pretty, especially the visits with prisoners.”
At the end of her internship Bowman returned to Seattle for her final year. She chose a review of U.S. drug policy in Colombia for her senior project. Working under the guidance of faculty members Serena Cosgrove, Rob Andolina, Jonathan Pierce, and Jaime Perozo, Bowman secured a College of Arts and Sciences grant to conduct research for the Fundación Mexicana para el Desarrollo Rural (FMDR), or Mexican Foundation for Rural Development. Based in Mexico City with projects operating in Veracruz, Campeche, Chiapas, Yucatan, and Oaxaca, FMDR focuses on increasing the health and well-being of rural farming communities through long-term educational and productive programs that stimulate sustainable rural development.
Bowman credits Professors Tanya Hayes and Jonathan Pierce with giving her the tools and knowledge to design a research study. Her work, supported by the Office of Fellowships, involved analyzing data from Educampo, a project through which rural farmers receive assistance in agricultural methods as well as marketing and commercialization. While in Mexico, Bowman conducted field visits to 15 rural communities, employing a survey focused on migration.
”After surveying a small sample of producers, I found that enrollment in rural development programs is a factor that positively affects rural producers’ perception of opportunity present in their own communities,” she said. “I also found that many rural producers feel that to pool resources and invest in tools, land, or labor that could improve their harvest at home is a better financial investment for them than is migration.”
Today, Bowman is a legal assistant at the Seattle immigration law firm of Rios and Cruz where she uses her Spanish and interviewing skills to prepare declarations for clients seeking asylum, resident status, or citizenship. She has gained insight not only into the hardships experienced by the families in leaving their home countries and trying to remain in Seattle, but also the realities of navigating the American legal system.
”We work very hard to prevent deportation or detention,” she said. “It’s exciting when we can keep families together and prevent having children grow up with an absentee parent.”
Published September 2016.