Kelsey Norris ‘24, a senior triple major in Political Science, Spanish, and Latin American Studies with a minor in History, found her passion for policy in high school and has wanted to change the world ever since.
Norris started taking Spanish in high school, which led her to choose Spanish at Miami. During the fall semester of her sophomore year, she discovered that she could study abroad in Uruguay to learn more about Latin American culture. This experience took a turn in developing her research about femicide.
“Femicide is not a legal term here in the U.S.,” Norris said. “But in Latin America, it refers to the murder of women or female-identifying people just for the sake of their gender.”
Norris’ main focus of her Undergraduate Summer Scholarship study is to better understand the root causes of femicide throughout the regions of Latin America. While in Uruguay, Norris was able to interview women such as Helena Suarez Val, the leader of an online database called Feminicidio Uruguay that tracks femicide in Uruguay.
“I learned a lot through her about the feminist movement,” Norris said. “She gave me a lot of personal advice as well because she's in the same career field. She had studied in London, so I also talked to her about studying abroad there, which I would like to do for graduate school.”
Norris interned at Cotidiano Mujer, a Uruguayan feminist collective led by Lilian Celiberti and Lucy Garrido. She also spoke of her experiences with the feminist community of Uruguay during International Women’s Day.
“It was really moving, really inspiring,” Norris said. “It was very sad at times because people carried around signs showing the faces of women who had been killed, but it was also almost like a celebration of the community and womanhood. There were thousands of women in the streets, and I was welcomed with open arms and felt like I was part of the community.”
She explained how her studies could impact U.S. policies regarding the prioritization of its own interests while neglecting the interests of other countries and how the U.S. can do better.
“The U.S. has a long history of imposing its will upon different Latin American countries, and many of them don't see the U.S. in a very good light,” Norris said. “So by turning towards more mutually beneficial policies, we can help to improve our relationship with the region and maybe even make up for some of the past.”
Norris showed her understanding of these policies by explaining how they have been integrated throughout time. She cited examples of the U.S. ousting a democratically-elected leader in Guatemala and coordinating a campaign of political repression and state terrorism in countries such as Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay.
“These incidents were detrimental to many Latin American societies and continue to have impacts on U.S.-Latin American relations,” Norris said. “Beyond that, if we wish to be a democratic nation and a force for good as often is claimed, I think we have a duty to stand up for the rights of women around the world.”
Norris worked with Walt Vanderbush, professor of Latin American and Latino/a studies, as her faculty mentor. After Norris returned from Uruguay, Vanderbush reviewed her paper drafts and provided constructive feedback that helped her make quality strides in her cause and research.
“Professor Vanderbush has been amazing,” Norris said. “I can go back and use his feedback while he continues to work with me.”
After she graduates from Miami next spring, Norris hopes to go to graduate school abroad. She would like to work in Europe or South America and study human rights from an international relations perspective, with an end goal of working in the U.S. on foreign policy or international relations with the United Nations or a human rights organization.
“I was really inspired by the Uruguayan community and their work to empower women, not just in Latin America, but also throughout the world,” Norris said.