Assistant Professor Zemzem Shigute Shuka on her research and diversity at EUR

Zemzem Shigute Shuka
With so many nationalities it feels like a mini-United Nations

Zemzem Shigute Shuka

Assistant Professor of Global Health and Development

'The International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) is extremely diverse. It is great to be in such an environment, and with so many nationalities it feels like a mini-United Nations. I am from Ethiopia. For development studies, I think it is of great value to also have experience from the Global South. The diversity applies also to the different research projects that you find at ISS. This is very attractive to me as it allows working and thinking together. For me, the discussion between different disciplines and backgrounds is what gives meaning to what we do.

The openness to other disciplines is part of the educational philosophy. For instance, I’m involved in the Transitions for Social Justice Lab course. My teaching in this course is completely different from what I normally teach. This allows me to face a much more diverse audience. I am trained in development economics. Presenting my work to an audience with a different background opens my eyes and takes me out of my comfort zone. Courses like this are also an opportunity to ‘unlearn’, as you realize what you don’t know.

'The discussion between different disciplines and backgrounds gives meaning to what we do'

My research has a focus on global health. Currently, I work on a research project about the experiences of recent migrants from Eritrea and Ethiopia in the Netherlands during the COVID-19 crisis. Many migrants were in panic and struggled to find reliable information early in the pandemic. Our research team is composed of five members, all originally from either Eritrea or Ethiopia. This is valuable, as we could more easily relate to the stories of our participants. We could have written blogs to generate attention, but we wanted to systematically study their experience. The lessons learned can then be used for policy formulations and changes. That is why we find it important to also share our findings with organizations like Vluchtelingenwerk (Council of Refugees).  

The good thing about getting employed at the Erasmus University Rotteram s the wide orientation programme that HR offers. You get introduced to the people you will work with, but they also support you with practical matters. Their support made my start less hectic. I wanted to bring my son to the Netherlands and HR helped me a lot with that. They informed me about the steps that had to be followed and it made the relocation of my son from Ethiopia to the Netherlands very smooth.'

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