CJC Student Spotlight: Marisa Morrison (SFS ’23)

It is time for the latest installment of the CJC’s Student Spotlight Series! This month’s spotlight is Marisa Morrison, a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service from Japan. Morrison serves as a teaching assistant for the course, “Nazi Camps and the Holocaust,” taught by the Center’s Associate Director, Professor Anna Sommer. Read our interview with her below to learn about her CJC and Georgetown experience!

Q: How were you introduced to the Center for Jewish Civilization (CJC) and why did you join? What your first ever CJC class?

A: During the fall semester of my freshman year, I took Professor Jacques Berlinerblau’s proseminar, “Fictions and Politics of International Relations.” The class allowed me to meet some of my best friends from the SFS and it has been one of my favorite courses thus far. The discussion-based class kept me on my toes and forced me to think critically about my thought-provoking readings. Professor Berlinerblau encouraged us to join the Center––after seeing how welcoming everyone was, I decided to join!

Last semester, I took “Introduction to Jewish Civilization” (a core CJC course) with Professor Benjamin Haddad. It was a great class that taught me the history of Jewish civilization and politics. It also introduced me to very interesting thinkers.


Q: Could you explain what some of your research and academic interests are and how you have furthered developed them as a CJC student?

A: This past summer, I was able to conduct research for the Center’s Associate Director, Professor Anna Sommer. Professor Sommer explores the question of whether women Holocaust survivors had agency after liberation. My work involved listening to and reading testimonies of women who survived the Holocaust. I have learned so much from their stories and have been able to study the Holocaust through a new lens. As for my own research interests, I am interested in learning about how different social contexts and conditions breed international order. I am specifically interested in understanding this issue through a gendered perspective. My research has allowed me to take a deep dive into individual women’s experiences and understand their macro impact on society.


Q: What did the research and administrative work you completed for the Center during the summer entail? What was your biggest takeaway from the experience? Feel free to also let us know if you engaged in other summer activities.

A: By now, you know that my work with Professor Sommer largely involved reading through, watching, and listening to testimonies from women who survived the Holocaust. These women started families and immigrated to the United States. Many of them felt very grateful that the U.S. provided them with a home after they had been persecuted in their own homes. But these women also recounted many difficult circumstances, such as having to balance their family lives and jobs, experiencing depression and PTSD, and not being able to talk about their past to their families. One thing that struck me was that some women gradually lost their faith, while others had their faith reaffirmed. This project really opened my eyes to the many facets of their experiences and helped me understand the importance of listening to individual narratives in order to truly comprehend the impact of a tragedy or conflict.

Over the summer, I also conducted research for Professor Michael Green, who is the Director of the Asian Studies Program. Specifically, I studied contemporary Japanese domestic and foreign policy using Japanese and English sources. This experience led me to examine and understand some of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s policies, including “Womenomics,” among other reforms.


Q: Are you continuing this work during the Fall 2020 semester? If so, what are you working on now?

A: Currently, I serve as Professor Sommer’s teaching assistant for her course, “Nazi Camps and the Holocaust.” I am also picking up my research again!


Q: Although it is only your sophomore year at Georgetown, can you describe how the CJC has impacted your time on the Hilltop?

A: I did not get the chance to spend enough time at the CJC before being sent home because of the pandemic. However, the Center has been really helpful in offering me support, guidance, and opportunities like working with Professor Sommer. I am looking forward to spending more time at the Center when we’re allowed back on campus!


Q: What have been some of your favorite moments while an SFS student? Have there been any major highlights  thus far?

A: One of my favorite memories is attending the SFS Centennial Gala. I happened to win a ticket through a lottery, and it was such an amazing night. It was incredible to listen to speakers like former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former President Bill Clinton, and to performances by Yo-Yo Ma and other musicians.


Q: How have you been making the most of our online environment this semester? 

A: I am really just taking this semester and trying to focus on myself. Sometimes it is easy to get overwhelmed and constantly being on my computer kind of sucks. So, I am trying to focus on going outside to exercise and doing things other than schoolwork!


Q: What are some other clubs or activities you are involved in at Georgetown?

A: I write for the Indo-Asia-Pacific section and the Compass Futures section of the Caravel. I really enjoy this because I get to learn more about the region and about developments in science and technology. I am also on the executive board of What’s A Hoya. Currently, we are working on creating an accessible and engaging platform for new students to learn more about Georgetown and the resources it has to offer.