UROP Recognizes Trafficking Research
The Chancellor’s Award, presented annually to one student and one faculty mentor for each of the nine main schools, was awarded to Tracy Wu in the School of Humanities for her contributions and accomplishments. She was presented with the award at the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) Symposium for the 2007-08 school year on May 31st.
According to Said Shokair, the Director of UROP, Wu was nominated and selected by the dean and associate dean of the School of Humanities. Each school follows its own procedures where nominations are solicited internally from faculty, department chairs and directors of programs involved directly with undergraduate researchers within that school.
Her faculty mentor, Carol Burke, nominated her for the award. Burke said Wu “was skillful in generating a background essay on her topic, but she was amazing at reporting.” Burke also said that Wu was “one of the most thorough and energetic undergraduates I’ve worked with.”
Wu received this award with no intent of applying for it. Wu explained that she was working on a project for UROP, but was truly surprised to receive the Chancellor’s Award.
Wu’s project focused on the causes of human trafficking. Wu said that the project started off with basic Internet research. She then traveled to Guatemala for two weeks with no itineraries or connections when she arrived there.
Before arriving in Guatemala, Wu expected to find more human trafficking dealing with prostitution. However, her research found that there is more human trafficking that deals with adoption and children, especially in countries like Guatemala.
After meeting with various people, she was able to connect with a victim’s family. This particular family had a 7-year-old son who had disappeared. The family claimed that the son was most likely abducted and sold for adoption or slavery.
Wu went “everywhere to cover her story,” Burke said. “She interviewed academics, heads of nonprofits and former prostitutes [and] met them … in their offices and in their homes.”
Wu also went to a Guatemalan organization called Common Hope that educates and assists poor families.
“[Wu] pursued this research with great sensitivity, aware of the ethical questions raised by a topic that might otherwise pass as sensationalistic,” said Shokair.
Wu’s research addresses the root causes of human trafficking as well as prevention.
In countries like Guatemala, “the main causes [of human trafficking] include government corruption and a lack of education,” Wu said. She believes these are critical factors because they limit people, especially children, from having a better future.
One source of prevention is sponsoring children so that they can participate in activities like attending school, Wu said. By sponsoring a child, “families will be healthier and children will later on have a better job and be in a better place with a good education.”
Wu further pointed out that it does not take an expert to prevent human trafficking.
“Anyone can help prevent human trafficking,” said Wu. “People don’t have to go into brothels and take girls out of them to be preventing human trafficking.”
Wu believes that sponsoring children, as well as simply being informed of the continuing problem of human trafficking, can help make a difference.
Advocating the benefits of being involved via sponsorships, Wu herself has been sponsoring a girl in Brazil for the past five years through a program called Compassion International, and plans to continue doing so.
Wu said that she wants to use her “cultural and medical knowledge to work with victims of human trafficking in the future” and plans to attend nursing school.
A member of the Campuswide Honors Program, Wu is completing her bachelor’s degrees in Spanish and global cultures this quarter.
Applications for the Chancellor’s Award are typically due in winter quarter.