CJC Student Spotlight: Michelle Fan (SFS ’24)

Happy February! Our latest CJC Student Spotlight is Michelle Fan, a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service studying International Politics with a concentration in International Security. Fan is from San Diego, California. In addition to minoring in Jewish Civilization, she is pursuing a minor in Linguistics. Read our interview with her below! 

Q: Hi, Michelle! Can you briefly tell our audience about yourself?

A: Hi everyone! My name is Michelle and I was born and raised in sunny San Diego. I am the youngest of three children (and a Golden Retriever). In high school, I played field hockey and lacrosse, and volunteered as a café barista for five years (pre-COVID).

Q: What are some of your favorite hobbies, Michelle?

A: Crocheting is hands-down my favorite hobby (specifically amigurumi), but anything related to handcrafts is up there. I would also say I am quite the puzzle nerd. Jigsaw puzzles, crosswords, sudoku, KenKen, you name it!

Q: Was there a professor or class that introduced you to the CJC? How has our Center altered your Georgetown experience?

A: I discovered the CJC through my Hebrew professor, Meital Orr, during my freshman year. Speaking with Assistant Director, Brittany Fried, affirmed that I couldn’t miss out on being a part of this community. Nowadays, when I am not in class or in my dorm, you can probably find me in the CJC lounge. Whether they’re helping me out with school and applications, looking after me when I am sick, or just hanging out with me, people at the Center are always there.

Q: We are so happy you’re a part of our community! What has been your favorite CJC class thus far?

A: My favorite CJC class so far has been Director Bruce Hoffman’s “Terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa” course, but I am also partial to my Hebrew classes.

Q: What are some of your academic interests? Has being a CJC student allowed you to further explore them? 

A: I slowly converted to IPOL during the Spring semester of my Freshman year. Since then, the CJC’s myriad of Security Studies courses have only encouraged me to continue this path. I would also say that Hebrew courses at Georgetown have also been enjoyable, as someone who is interested in foreign language and linguistics.

Q: What have been some of your favorite moments while a Georgetown student? 

A: While this has nothing to do with academics per se, one highlight of my year on campus was being able to experience snowfall last January. This was substantial for a San Diegan!

Q: What clubs, research, or work opportunities do you engage in on campus? How do they supplement your learning?

A: Throughout this past year, I have been working with Professor Moran Stern on his research regarding rebel group fragmentation. The material is intriguing in itself, but this experience has also exposed me to the process behind scholarly research, analysis, editing, and publication. I am also a member of Georgetown’s Club Badminton, and plan on joining Hoyas Inspire Language Learners (HILL) this semester as a Mandarin tutor. My studies generally do not focus on China or the Chinese language, so I hope to maintain my Chinese proficiency and engage with the local community as a part of HILL.

Q: Professor Moran Stern won the University of Maryland’s 2021-2022 Don C. Piper Award for the best journal article by a graduate student. How did you assist Professor Stern with his award-winning article?

A: The CJC referred me to Professor Stern, and the staff have always been there to assist me with my work. I helped him acquire source material, perform coding work, and proofread. I also provided Professor Stern with editorial suggestions on various sections of his article, “Factionalisation From Below: The Case of Palestinian Fatah.”

Q: Can you tell us what the article was about? Was it the first time being exposed to this subject, or did you draw on your previous academic knowledge? 

A: The Civil Wars article was about Palestinian Fatah and bottom-group factionalization within the group. I have taken some security studies courses on similar topics, but I had never delved specifically into rebel group fragmentation and cohesion before working with Professor Stern.

Q: What did you learn throughout your time as a Research Assistant (RA) during the writing process?

A: I realized how much time and effort actually goes into the entire writing and publication process. I was able to build off the good work done by some of Professor Stern’s previous RAs for this particular article, but even the final phase of editing required numerous iterations.

Q: Do you still work as Professor Stern’s RA? 

A: Yes, I am! I am currently helping him with a project about how foreign fighters impact rebel group fragmentation.

Q: What are you most looking forward to this Spring? Do you have any advice to students on how they can make the most of their time here?

A: I am really just looking forward to being able to take classes and spend time with my classmates and friends. And of course, I can’t wait to get back to the CJC lounge.

If I could offer any advice, it would be not to be afraid to ask for advice! Being in a virtual mode of instruction was disorienting, especially on top of transitioning from high school to college and from San Diego to D.C. Connecting with alumni and upperclassmen gave me a better sense of direction when it came to my studies and overall Georgetown experience. The CJC and wider Georgetown community are always so welcoming and understanding. It never hurts to just ask!