Southeast Grad Aims to Advocate for Human Rights, Youth in Johns Hopkins Graduate Program

Commencement is both an end and a beginning. None could be truer for Karen Souza Muramatsu who will graduate from Southeast Missouri State University Saturday and then set her sights on her next step – the prestigious School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. The School will send Muramatsu to study first in Bologna, Italy, and then to Washington, D.C., where she will pursue a Master of Arts in international affairs. “Living in two countries will provide me with opportunities to expand my perspectives on life and learn more about regional politics, projects and cultural challenges,” said Muramatsu.  “At Johns Hopkins, I will also be in contact with great faculty, students and guest speakers that will positively impact my life. It will be two years of extremely great growth, and I hope I can take what I learn and give back to world.” Her career goals focus on human rights, with an emphasis on educating young adults. Dr. Kevin Dickson, director of the Jane Stephens Honors Program, in which Muramatsu participated at Southeast, says, “This is a very selective program. The program is ranked among the top 10 in the world and was number two in 2015 from a survey of 1,615 Institutional Research scholars drawn from 1,375 U.S. colleges and universities. This program is unique because it has a strong focus on international economics in addition to the primary area of concentration. The program also has a strong emphasis on foreign language.” Born in Brazil to Italian and Japanese immigrants, Muramatsu has lived on four continents and speaks four languages. “Her goal is to advocate for human rights policies and provide opportunities for young adults to be able to improve their leadership skills to influence their own communities and make the changes they want to see,” Dickson said. “She is an outstanding example of the quality of our students in the Jane Stephens Honors Program. I have told her many times that I fully expect to one day be able to say, ‘I knew her before she was famous!’” She says she wants “to provide young adults with opportunities to improve their leadership, communication, and critical thinking skills, while exposing them to cultural diversity. This will assist them in becoming leaders in their respective communities so they can identify and improve the issues that are affecting their people.” Muramatsu has taken full advantage of the leadership opportunities available at Southeast.  She has taken part in Southeast’s partnership with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the 21st Century Leadership Academy, the Missouri Governor's Student Leadership Forum, the National Model United Nations Conference in Chicago, the Student Research Conference and Emerging Leaders. “I have really enjoyed being involved on campus and getting to know a wide variety of students,” she said. She will graduate Saturday, with a Bachelor of Arts with majors in global studies, political science and foreign languages. “I was living in Japan when I learned about opportunities to pursue an undergraduate degree at Southeast,” she said.  “I have always been passionate about cultural diversity and learning about new cultures.  Southeast offered all the opportunities I wanted, and was more affordable than other schools.” Muramatsu will graduate summa cum laude, and has received numerous scholarships and awards throughout her career at Southeast.  She has been on the Dean’s List every semester and is a member of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, and received that organization’s University Fellowship Award.  She has been named Outstanding Student by the Department of Modern Languages, Anthropology, and Geography, and will graduate with Academic Distinction in the Department of Political Science, Philosophy and Religion.  She is a member of Alpha Mu Gamma National Collegiate Foreign Language Honor Society and the National Honor Society of Leadership and Success.  She also was a Power of Women Scholarship Award recipient in 2016. While at Southeast, Muramatsu also was involved with several campus organizations, including serving as a senator with the Student Government Association, and as president of the International Student Association.  She has helped found several campus organizations, including the Brazilian Student Association, the Unified Young Leaders and the Humans of SEMO project.  She believes these experiences will enhance her future career goals. “When people of different backgrounds misunderstand each other, conflicts arise,” she said.  “I would like to research the potential of youth involvement in the shaping and implementation of human rights policies and projects around the word.” Muramatsu says she hopes to tear down the cross-cultural divide among the world’s youth and expand her knowledge of international relations, law and culture while in graduate school. “The School of Advanced International Studies also has a strong focus on language.  Studying multiple languages is so important nowadays,” she said. Muramatsu speaks English, Portuguese, Japanese, and French, but she looks forward to studying even more languages. “I want to improve the languages I know, and am glad I will have the opportunity to study more,” she said.  “Arabic is definitely on my list.” She leaves Southeast with a treasure-trove of memories. “I took a big step toward my career goals when I came to Southeast,” she said.  “I definitely made the right choice in coming to Southeast. I will carry this experience with me forever.” Beginning next fall, she will take the next step in her life journey. “Graduate school will give me even more opportunities to work toward better cultural understanding of developing countries,” she said.  “Giving back is the reason why I decided to go to graduate school.”