The refugee crisis is a global concern, but there is one aspect of the problem that has received little attention.
Sophia Zahner, an international studies and history major with a concentration in Russian history and a 2018 Distinguished Presidential Scholarship in History winner, explains: “By 2050, there will be anywhere from 250 million to one billion refugees who will be displaced from their homes due to climate change or related natural disasters, according to the United Nations Deputy High Commissioner of Refugees.”
Zahner addressed the problem on a national stage when she presented her research at a National Collegiate Honors Council annual conference.
“There is no legally-binding definition of climate refugees and no current international policy on how to deal with them, which could put their human rights at risk,” describes Zahner, who also presented a paper on chemical warfare in World War I at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference of Phi Alpha Theta, the national honor society for undergraduate and graduate history majors.
She credits professors Nicole Drobowski-Risser and Alison McCartney for encouraging her to present her work at conferences and for suggesting her participation in Towson University’s “Journal of Historical Studies,” which showcases student history writing. Zahner served as editor of the journal.
“I feel lucky to be at TU,” says Zahner. “Towson was the best choice I could have made for all of the opportunities it has given me.”
She particularly enjoyed the resources and experiences that faculty members brought to the classroom. “My Russian government professor was in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union, which gave firsthand insight into the political climate of the time, and one of the foremost scholars of Stalin, Princeton University Professor Stephen Kotkin, gave a presentation on campus,” says Zahner.
“These opportunities have provided a unique and comprehensive learning experience for me.”