The following is a guest post written by Alexandra Arguello, who participated in “Introduction to Issues in International Security,” a high school course offered by SPICE and taught by Dr. Ignacio Ornelas Rodriguez.
I am Alexandra Arguello, a graduate of Everett Alvarez High School and a current undergraduate student at Harvard University pursuing a degree in International Relations. I was a participant in the “Introduction to Issues in International Security” course that was offered by SPICE and developed in consultation with scholars from the Center for International Security and Cooperation.
Salinas, California, often labeled as the #1 least educated city in the United States with a state-record dropout rate of 20 percent, posed a challenging educational environment. In this setting, the opportunity to learn, particularly about international issues, was scarce. Salinas primarily consists of first-generation, POC students, highlighting the imperative for us to stay informed about global matters and adapt our perspectives accordingly. This is why I am profoundly grateful that Dr. Ignacio Ornelas Rodriguez, a Salinas native himself, curated SPICE’s “Introduction to Issues in International Security” course specifically for communities like ours.
This 12-week college-level seminar, guided by scholars and experts in the field, enabled me to explore a spectrum of global issues—from terrorism and counterterrorism to international security, nuclear weapons, ethnic cleansing, and biosecurity. Delving into historical approaches to combating terrorism in the Middle East, North Korea’s nuclear proliferation, Russo-Ukrainian violence, and the Uyghur genocide added a profound layer to my understanding.
What intrigued me most during this journey was the perspective through which we examined solutions. These solutions were shaped by an introspective analysis of the systems and structures perpetuating inequality. This experience marked my first critical awareness of such issues, significantly expanding my insights into the world’s most pressing issues.
The conclusion of this program was unforgettable. We held a ceremony where I received recognition from the Monterey County Board of Supervisors, interacted with politicians, and formed bonds with community members. This was an experience I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to engage in if I had not participated in this program.
Upon completing the course in my senior year of high school, I began my educational journey at Harvard University. When I later obtained my admissions file, revealing what stood out to my admissions officers, SPICE’s “Introduction to Issues in International Security” course emerged as a significant factor. The admissions committee found it particularly unique that I received education at Stanford, especially given the limited educational resources in my community. (photo above courtesy Alexandra Arguello)
Now, approaching the end of my first year at Harvard, I reflect on the profound impact of the Stanford course. The course played a crucial role in shaping my academic path, leading me to pursue a special concentration in International Relations. Amid the eruption of the Israel-Palestine war, I have been able to rely on the information I learned in this program to guide conversations on campus toward political security. The insights gained during the seminar influenced my decision to delve into these critical global issues for the next four years.
Looking ahead, my aspiration is to build a career in international diplomacy and government, driven by the awareness of human rights issues intricately connected to international security. The period spent in this program remains a defining chapter in my life, and I am particularly grateful for the exposure it provided, shaping my intellectual pursuits and future aspirations.