Ph.D. student Annie Rappeport seeks international peace through education

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Rappeport (second from right) with fellow students at the 2020 General Assembly testifying for Student Voter Empowerment. Photo courtesy of Annie Rappeport.

Kirstin Nichols
@kirstin_nichols
For Mitzpeh

As a child in Hebrew school, Annie Rappeport, a Ph.D. candidate in International Education Policy at this university, learned the phrase “never again.” The saying refers to the Holocaust, meaning that mass genocide should never again occur on such a large scale. Rappeport believed this statement, unaware that the pursuit of true peace would become the driving force behind her education and career. 

As she worked toward an undergraduate degree in the performing arts at the University of Arizona and Trinity College, Rappeport was unaware of what her future would entail. However, the goal behind her studies has always remained the same: to bring people together and connect different disciplines.

Things changed when Rappeport’s father became ill after she earned her undergraduate degree. 

“It changed the course of what any kind of job hunting looked like,” Rappeport said. “I needed to be at home to help.”

She realized that many of the extracurricular activities that she had participated in during her undergraduate years involved assisting others, such as helping transfer students and acting as an adviser. Rappeport decided to further explore this passion of hers by earning a masters degree in education at the University of Virginia. 

It was during this time that Rappeport landed “the coolest job ever”: a semester at sea, hosted by the University of Virginia. In this position, Rappeport acted as an outreach coordinator. She organized meaningful cultural exchanges between the diverse array of students on the voyage and the students they met when they docked in various countries around the world. 

Throughout the voyage, Rappeport was drawn to those from countries in the process of rebuilding after mass conflict, including South Africa, Cambodia and the Czech Republic. 

“I do believe in doing our own little parts to repair the world as best we can with our capacities and our energies,” said Rappeport. 

She was inspired to answer questions regarding the educational component of global conflict. How are people taught? Do people not know about conflicts occurring around the world? Is this why it continues to happen?

“I realized how little I knew. I realized, wait a minute, ‘never again’ isn’t real, it is almost the exact opposite. It broke my heart,” said Rappeport. 

It was this realization that led Rappeport to the College of Education at this university. With adviser Dr. Jing Lin, Rappeport studies International Education and Policy with a concentration in peace studies. 

It didn’t take long for Rappeport to become further involved in this university’s graduate school. She soon became part of the university senate and then shifted to become the president of the Graduate Student Government (GSG) for a full term of two years. 

During her time in Graduate Student Government, Rappeport worked to form an ad hoc committee to rewrite the GSG’s constitution and bylaws to create more efficiency. 

UMD public policy masters student Jeremy Schmidt worked alongside Rappeport for this committee. 

“[Annie] is incredibly motivational, just seeing the way that she goes about carrying out her own work,” says Schmidt. “She was involved in so many different committees. People really looked up to her.”

As president of the Graduate Student Government, Rappeport became involved with the USM (University System of Maryland) Student Council. USM connects four-year institutions and regional centers across the state, including universities such as Towson and Salisbury.

With USM, Rappeport applies her knack for compassionate listening to the governing body. She has enjoyed learning about other local universities and getting to know other students with varying interests. 

“Everybody [involved in USM] had a strong inclination towards advocacy,” Rappeport said. “It had a lot of great energy.”

After two years, the USM student council president asked if he could nominate Rappeport to be the next president. She was unsure; the COVID-19 pandemic had just begun. However, she accepted her nomination and has served in this position since.

As USM student council president, Rappeport has worked to improve the lives of students on the grassroots level. For example, she sent a statement of opposition to the federal register regarding a homeland security rule that would negatively impact international students. She also focused on the student voter empowerment act in Maryland and civil engagement work, and helped to create spaces for people to speak about their campus to learn that they’re not alone.

Rappeport is remaining open-minded regarding career options for the future. She is interested in doing research for an organization dedicated to international development and understanding or preventing emergencies.

She has also recently found interest in teaching at a university after a positive experience as a graduate assistant for this university’s Government and Politics scholars program. She was humbled when her students all simultaneously held up “thank you” signs on their last Zoom meeting of the Fall 2020 semester.

No matter what path she takes, Rappeport plans to continue chasing her goal of helping others around the world.

“I think she was just born with this drive to make things better for everybody,” said fellow International Education Policy PhD student Heidi Bloom. “The research she is doing is really necessary.”

Rappeport strives to build a career that showcases her values and drive to make the world a better place.

“As long as I am trying to find a place and role that lets me be me and live my values and perpetuate my values, I’ll be happy,” Rappeport said.

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