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Undergraduate Researchers

Achsah Joseph, Interdisciplinary Studies

The Effectiveness of Aid Organization in Northern Uganda

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Devin Hagerty


The decades-long conflict in northern Uganda has negatively impacted the Acholi people. Their children have been kidnapped, their villages have been destroyed and their farms have been razed. Most of the people now live in Internally Displaced People camps. Many non-profit organizations have responded to this crisis, providing aid to the Acholi people and homes for former child soldiers. However, the effectiveness, sustainability and impact of these aid organizations have not been researched. Looking at the impact of these aid organizations will identify what strategies and aid are most helpful to the people in northern Uganda, which can improve the amount and type of aid provided. Improving the aid that the Acholi people receive, and ensuring that it is sustainable, will help reconstruct society and structure in the war torn regions of northern Uganda.

How did you find your mentor for this project?

I took International Relations and a First-Year Seminar on the U.S. and Iran with Dr. Hagerty. My project has to do with international relations and political science so I thought Dr. Hagerty would be the perfect mentor.

How did you know this was the project you wanted to do?

I have been interested in the conflict in northern Uganda for several years now and work with several non-profit organizations that serve in the area. Since I want to go into the non-profit sector, I wanted to research the effectiveness of non-profits in this area.

Is this your first independent research project?

No, I have researched human rights in Iran and food scarcity issues in Darfur, Sudan before.

Do you get course credit for this work?

Yes, I will be doing this project in conjunction with my study abroad program in Uganda.

How much time do you put into it?

I will be spending four months in Uganda and Rwanda, and expect to prepare beforehand.

How did you hear about the Undergraduate Research Award (URA) program?

I've heard about it from the Honors College and several professors.

What academic background did you have before you started?

I've taken classes that look at human rights issues and organizations that work in different communities.

Was the application difficult to do?

The hardest part was turning it in on time!

How much did your mentor help you with this?

Dr. Hagerty gave great feedback on my proposal and helped me brainstorm ways to improve it.

What is your advice to other students about getting involved in research? 

The URA is a great way to get started, so do it!

What are your career goals?

I want to work for an international non-profit organization as an advocate for victims of civil war and genocide. I also plan on getting my master's degree in International Affairs.

What has been the hardest part about your research?

I expect the hardest part of my research will probably be finding people to interview in Uganda.

What was the most unexpected thing?

That I get to go to Uganda! I've wanted to go for a really long time so I'm excited that it's actually happening.

How does your research relate to your work in other classes?

Most of my classes relate to international relations, human rights or intercultural communication in some way, which is integral to my research.