Human security research at the Leir Institute with MALD student Neiha

Dear Fletcher,

Neiha LasharieHow about a guest blog post to ring in your February? My name is Neiha Lasharie, I’m a second year MALD candidate concentrating in public international law and human rights. Let me preface this post by saying that Fletcher was my absolute dream graduate program. I did my undergrad a little bit down the road at Northeastern University; and from pretty much my first semester as an international affairs major, it was made clear to me that Fletcher was the place to go. So, I went. (Well… it wasn’t as easy as all that. But I won’t bore you with the details of the subsequent 7 years!)

The last three semesters have been a pleasure and a privilege. It’s hard to believe that I’m at the twilight of my Fletcher career, but it gives me the opportunity to reflect on the time that this photo was taken (March 2019, exploring the Fletcher complex after being admitted) through until today, watching the aftermath of a winter storm from my apartment/classroom hybrid in Somerville.

One of the highlights of my time at Fletcher has been as a research assistant for the Henry J. Leir Institute, a center with the mission of advancing human security. (As an aside: If you don’t know what human security is – don’t worry! Most people didn’t until they came to Fletcher! But if you are concerned with the welfare and safety of people, chances are you’re a human security person. I didn’t think I was one until I looked back at my first year of coursework and capstone and realized, “Huh. Guess that’s my exact wheelhouse.”)

I’d venture to say that everyone at Fletcher has something to gain from the programming provided/supported by and opportunities afforded through the Leir Institute. Directed by Dr. Katrina Burgess, Associate Professor of Political Economy, the Institute remains on the cutting-edge of human security concerns, with affiliated faculty and fellows contributing expertise in migration, corruption, international law, global public health, financial resilience, etc.

During my time as an RA this semester and last, the Leir Institute launched several initiatives. I’d like to highlight two in particular:

First, Leir launched two event series that are highly relevant to our present moment: “Racial Justice as Human Security: Voices from the Trenches,” which examines racial justice as a human security issue through the eyes of local activists or practitioners in different countries; and “Intersecting Pandemics: Detention and Work During Times of COVID,” which examines the impact of COVID-19 on two vulnerable populations: (1) those incarcerated in prisons or immigrant detention centers; and (2) low-skilled workers in “essential” and/or informal sectors. Watch videos and past and future events here!

Second, and very excitingly, Leir has just launched its policy paper series, an opportunity for faculty, students working in concert with faculty, and alumni alike to contribute rigorously researched papers that offer policy prescriptions on human security issues! Our first policy paper was authored by the wonderful Professor Kim Wilson and is an example of the kind of work we’re looking forward to receiving – including, we hope, from you.

The above opportunities in no way exhaust the means through which Fletcher students can engage with the Leir Institute. Leir supports students doing fieldwork around the world (well, outside of COVID times!), PhD students as Human Security Fellows, incredible Senior and Junior Policy Fellows to learn from, and so much more. The Leir Institute also supports several student-led endeavors, including the Decolonizing International Relations Conference which I was proud to be a part of last November, as well as the excellent Conference on Gender in International Affairs!

I think it’s pretty evident how happy I am to be part of a team that works so hard to keep Fletcher on the cutting-edge of human security. I’m more than happy to answer any questions about getting involved with Leir, or about Fletcher in general. In short: let the Leir Institute be one more point in a long list of reasons that Fletcher is, as I was told back in 2013, the place to go.

All my best,

Neiha Lasharie

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