University at Albany

Yeufen Hsieh: A Comparativist in the Making

Yeufen Hsieh
Rockefeller College has a long history of supporting graduate students’ international research and study. In 2015, Yeufen Hsieh, a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science, received a stipend from Rockefeller and additional funding from the Benevolent Association, the Graduate Student Association, the Graduate Student Employees Union, Initiatives For Women, Judaic Studies Program and the Vice Provost and Dean for Graduate Education at the University at Albany that enabled her to travel to Israel where she conducted research on comparative aspects of the Israeli immigration policy debate surrounding foreign workers and refugees.

Yeufen’s initial interest in the topic was sparked during an earlier trip to the Middle East in 2009. Shortly after completing her Master’s Degree in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Edinburgh, Yeufen visited Israel with an eye toward studying Hebrew. However, her experiences as an Asian traveling in Israel refocused her research interest and led to the idea for her dissertation, “Israeli Immigration Policy in Comparative Perspective.”

While living in Jerusalem during the summer and winter of 2015, Yeufen conducted interviews with Israeli politicians, policymakers, activists, and NGO workers, as well as migrants from Sudan and Eritrea at the Holot Detention Center in the Negev Desert in southern Israel.

Holot Detention Center in the Negev Desert in
southern Israel
Hearing the views of policymakers and the first-hand accounts of those whose lives were affected by Israeli immigration practices has had a strong impact on Yeufen and the way she has come to regard her ongoing research and writing. “What I am trying to study is a day-to-day reality for some people,” says Yeufen. “The interviews and the experiences provided me with a different kind of education, academically as well as personally. Though I am still unsure to what extent and in what way these experiences shape me as a scholar, I recognize that they touch me and influence the way I think about my dissertation.”

When Yeufen began her PhD program in fall 2011, she couldn’t have guessed what a powerful influence her conversations with classmates and faculty would have on the development of her research. She notes that she has benefited tremendously from interacting with faculty members in various disciplines from Rockefeller’s Department of Political Science, especially those in the fields of comparative politics, public policy, and political theory. Yeufen’s dissertation chair, Dr. Rey Koslowksi, an internationally recognized scholar in international relations and global migration, was especially supportive during the course of her research. Dr. Koslowski and Yeufen skyped regularly while she was in Israel. “When I encountered difficulties, Professor Koslowski would advise me on how to progress. As a result, I was able to break through some of my challenges,” she explains. “I’ve had outstanding mentors at Rockefeller.”

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2016 Rockefeller College News Magazine.