María Riberas Orjales ’21 planned on studying business, not the world. 

But by her second year at the University of Notre Dame, the management consulting major realized that business alone wasn’t the right fit for her. At her father’s suggestion, she looked into the new Keough School of Global Affairs and, intrigued, added global affairs as a supplementary major.

She was immediately hooked: “I really fell in love with it, and I’ve loved it ever since.” 

This month, Riberas will become the first global affairs major to graduate with a concentration in international development studies (IDS), one of nine possible concentrations for the degree. The IDS concentration is managed by the Kellogg Institute for International Studies and, with a requirement of five courses, is roughly the equivalent of earning a minor in the subject. 

Her IDS classes challenged her perception of the world and introduced her to new ideas. For her Introduction to IDS course, she gave a presentation on child marriage, an assignment that tugged at her heart and ultimately shaped her goals for the future. 

 

“Ever since I’ve started studying development, it seems like I’m always encountering questions about it in daily life.”

 

For her capstone project, Riberas studied the health and dignity of migrant farm workers in her native Spain.

“When I studied the issue of migration in my IDS classes, it seemed far away,” she said. “I thought development was something that comes up only in certain countries, but this project challenged my thinking. Even in Spain, I didn’t realize how undeveloped some areas would be.”

She interviewed laborers – most of whom picked garlic at local farms – from around the world: Morocco, Senegal, Peru, Bolivia, Honduras, El Salvador, Romania, and Hungary. She also met Roma migrants and, for the first time, observed the practice of child marriage – and its negative impacts on those involved. 

“So many things happened to these young Roma girls because they were married,” Riberas said. “They had early pregnancies, which impacted them physically, and they were pulled out of school forever.” 

As she learned more about child marriage, she knew she wanted a career that would allow her to work on gender issues. Now, with graduation fast approaching, Riberas is considering several project development positions in Uganda, a country with a high rate of early marriage. All of the prospective jobs would allow her to work with young girls. 

Studying international development has unexpectedly enriched her management consulting major and her understanding of how profits, labor, and human dignity are interconnected. Through the IDS concentration, Riberas learned that development is an ongoing process – and one that business leaders grapple with every day, whether they realize it or not. How do companies pay workers, particularly migrants? What rights should those workers receive? 

“Ever since I’ve started studying development, it seems like I’m always encountering questions about it in daily life,” she added. 

Her research through Kellogg and the Keough School “has forever changed what I want to do with my life.” 

“My global affairs major and the IDS concentration have truly shifted what I was meant to do in the world,” Riberas said. “It really opened my mind and my perspective. I got to explore my passions, and I learned that I am really passionate about so many issues.”

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