Mira DeGregory's final project as a Global Scholar, "Echoes of Homeland: Uyghur Expression Resisting Eco-Colonialism," included an editorial article and a painting.

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Global Scholars amplify free expression

The first-ever group of Undergraduate Global Scholars at the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies are writers, artists and researchers with a common goal – to speak up for global free speech.

Throughout the spring semester, the 10 students attended workshops and collaborated with the Einaudi Center’s Global Public Voices faculty fellows. Their projects explored topics like suppression of resistance movements, preservation of Indigenous languages and questions of national identity and self-censorship as part of Cornell’s yearlong exploration of freedom of expression. They presented their final paintings, poems, op-eds, zines and research papers on May 2 at Explorations of Global Free Speech: Student Showcase.

Obioha Chijioke ’24

Information Science and Africana Studies, College of Arts and Sciences

Obi Chijioke's project, "Who Deserves to Be American?" examined undergraduate students with multinational identities.

“Being an Undergraduate Global Scholar this semester was all about learning,” said Obioha “Obi” Chijioke. “We were able to learn about the research and writing process from professors and published authors, but also about how to cocreate with people we may also happen to be researching and writing about.”

“The program required a lot of humility and an appetite to explore seemingly disparate topics. I engaged in discussions about anything from climate journalism to Afghan politics to ecological calendars,” he said. “As a byproduct of engaging with experts, we developed potential areas of expertise, honing in on what made our unique backgrounds and perspectives powerful. It was an opportunity to expose my blind spots and affirm my competencies.”

For his research project, Chijioke conducted “a series of semi-formal ethnographic interviews about the relationship between dual nationality and self-censorship in regards to political thought and speech.” The 11 students interviewed were Cornell undergraduates of 13 different nationalities.

“Freedom of expression was at the core of this project,” he said, “not only because the project explored how our identities and risk-aversion can effectively truncate that fundamental right, but also because the project was inspired by what we’ve experienced at Cornell this year. I feel that, as people in the United States, it is all of our duty to use rights like freedom of expression to do good where we see fit.” 

Mira DeGregory ’26

Global Development, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Mira DeGregory’s experience as a global scholar has been shaped by her community organizing around land rights, environmental sociology and Indigenous sovereignty. Her final project is an editorial and an acrylic painting about the Uyghur genocide in East Turkestan, a geographical region in the northwestern part of China. 

“I chose to write an editorial because any spoken or written forms of resistance to the Uyghur genocide in East Turkestan are suppressed,” said DeGregory. “My project embodies the journalistic medium of expression that is being censored,” she said. “My painting will complement my editorial by displaying Uyghurs’ ecological and cultural expression. This will help visualize the lives Uyghurs once led in their homeland and create a plea to restore freedom of expression to the region.”

Undergraduate Global Scholars met with Kate Aronoff, climate journalist and Lund Debate speaker this year, and presented their works in progress on freedom of expression.

“Being an Undergraduate Global Scholar means doing everything in my power to research and surface global injustices using my platform as a Cornell student,” DeGregory said. “In practice, this looks like uplifting the knowledge of outspoken people on and off campus, like professor Magnus Fiskesjö, Uyghur activist Zilala Mamat or U.S.-based advocate Joshua Freeman, who is doing tremendous work surfacing censored Uyghur poetry and translating it to make it more accessible in English.”

DeGregory conducted interviews with these scholars, which informed her project and a presentation on the intersection of environmental justice and Uyghur liberation to Lund Debate speaker Kate Aronoff.

Di Tian ’25

Industrial and Labor Relations, School of Industrial and Labor Relations

Originally from Zhengzhou, China, Di Tian’s work as an Undergraduate Global Scholar stems from his interest in China’s social issues, such as labor rights and economic inequality. His final project is a series of fictional stories about a character living in a society where freedom of expression is limited.

Di Tian wrote a series of fictional stories for his final project, titled "The Place Where There's No Darkness: A Day of Joe's Life."

“These stories take place in one authoritarian country, but I twisted the plot to generalize the implications. I think these forms of oppression of freedom of expression are also very prevalent in many democratic countries,” said Tian. One story, for example, is about a police officer forcing a character to delete a foreign social media app for national security reasons.

“By linking elements of the story with some real-life incidents, I hope to get my audience to reflect on the importance of freedom of expression,” he said.

“Being a global scholar is an honor. I had the opportunity to meet and talk with people outside of my major on global issues,” Tian said. “Doing this project also pushed me to reflect on my experience with freedom of expression and my thoughts on the limits and implications of such freedom.”

Lemachi Enweremadu ’25 is a social media assistant for Global Cornell.

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