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Senior Project Snapshot: Madeleine Wykstra

Taking action on major geopolitical issues

According to Peter Schwab, a professor of political science, Madeleine Wykstra ’12 (political science major, economics minor) “wrote probably the best senior project in political science, ever.”

The disillusionment Wykstra felt after watching a PBS Frontline documentary on the Rwandan genocide lingered with her for years. Her interest in “the idealist undertones that helped form the U.N. at the end of World War II” resulted in her thesis, Seized of the Matter: An Examination of U.N. Intervention Capacity in Post–Cold War Intrastate Conflict.

Quite unexpectedly, the research transformed her outlook. “I initially believed in the capacity of these international institutions, but what I found, particularly with Darfur and revealed in the decisions of the Security Council, was disheartening,” she says.

Wykstra worked full-time at a Manhattan law firm while she finished her master’s degree in international relations at New York University in 2015. She’s now  a J.D. candidate at Berkeley School of Law, expecting to graduate in 2018.

“I just can’t get enough,” she says, laughing, and credits the senior project’s lasting impact. “It made me realize that I wouldn’t be satisfied only writing about these subjects. It definitely drove my interest in law, and to find a way to participate in changing what I was writing about.”