Senior Natalie Minev’s father was tortured and persecuted by the Bulgarian government during the late 1960s for being perceived as an anti-communist. He escaped the country along with his family in 1969 and moved to the United States. Minev’s mother emigrated from the Philippines to Akron, Ohio, in 1970 in search of a better life and more opportunity. Her family’s complex history gives her the motivation to study the effects of oppressive governments.
“Both of my parents’ journeys stay in the back of my mind as I try to figure out my own identity,” said Minev, an English and political science double major. “It forces me to ask questions like how far people will go to be free from persecution, and how governments institutionally oppress selective groups of people.”
As the recipient of a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF), Minev studied the effectiveness of the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions in South Africa and Chile. She was introduced to the subject in a comparative politics course taught by Jodi Finkel, associate professor of political science.
“My research concluded that the commissions were effective in some sense and divisive in others. Human rights abuse still happens,” Minev said. “It was promising to hear that the victims’ stories were told and some perpetrators admitted to crimes. However, reparations were promised but the people are still waiting.”
Minev said that she has seen similar forms of oppression locally through her community service activities in Watts, Inglewood and Tijuana, Mexico. Ultimately, she hopes to become a civil rights lawyer.
“Knowing my father’s personal story interested me in furthering my education to better understand the mechanisms that oppress people. As a lawyer, I will work to help protect the rights of minorities,” Minev said.
Liberal arts majors have the opportunity each year to conduct a study on the topic of their choice through the Student Undergraduate Research Fellowship. Students must present their topic proposal as well as enlist an adviser who will guide them through their studies.