Department alumnus selected as a 2023 Arkansas Money & Politics 100 Top Professional

Itzel Velazquez, who graduated from UCA with a BA degree in International Studies and Political Science in 2019, was selected as one of the 2023 Arkansas Money & Politics 100 Top Professionals. Itzel earned a master’s degree in higher education administration at Loyola University in Chicago in 2021, and she is currently the Kiva Hub-Capital Access Manager for Forge Fund in Little Rock.  In 2019, Itzel was one of 262 students across the U.S. who were named as the 2019-2020 Newman Civic Fellows by Campus Compact, a Boston-based nonprofit organization working to advance the public purposes of higher education.

Department alumnus awarded scholarship for the Georgetown University Cyberfellows Program

Kenny Vo, who graduated from the University of Central Arkansas in May 2022 with a B.A. degree in International Studies and a B.S. degree in Cybersecurity, was recently awarded a prestigious graduate scholarship from the Georgetown University Cyberfellows Program.  Starting in Fall 2023, Kenny will be pursuing a Master of Arts (M.A.) degree in the Security Studies Program (SSP) at Georgetown University in Washington DC.  The SSP is one of eight master’s degree programs in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.  The mission of the SSP is to “teach a new generation of analysts, policymakers, and scholars to think critically and act responsibly in the face of the 21st century’s most pressing national and international security problems.”  The Cyberfellows Scholarship covers all of the costs of the graduate program, including tuition, fees, and health insurance.  In addition, the scholarship provides an annual stipend of $34,000 for graduate students and an allowance of $6,000 annually for textbooks, travel, and professional development.  Upon completion of the graduate degree, individuals who are awarded the Cyberfellows Scholarship are obligated to work for the federal government in a cybersecurity position for at least two years.  Kenny is interested in working for the U.S. Department of Energy to help secure the country’s critical energy infrastructure, but he also want to “continue cultivating interdisciplinary knowledge within the fields of cybersecurity and international relations.”

Department alumnus honored with a James W. Foley Freedom Award

Mouaz Moustafa, who graduated from UCA with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in International Studies in May 2008, was honored with a James W. Foley Freedom Award (humanitarian award) presented during a ceremony held at the National Press Club in Washington DC on May 3, 2023.  Since 2011, Mouaz has served as Executive Director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF), which is a non-governmental organization dedicated to advocating for and providing humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians impacted by the civil war in Syria.  The SETF also seeks accountability for war crimes committed by the Syrian government.  The James W. Foley Freedom Awards are sponsored by the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation.  In August 2024, James W. Foley, a freelance video journalist, was killed in the Raqqa region of Syria by terrorists affiliated with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).  Following his death, the foundation was established by James Foley’s parents in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Department alumnus Ben Hovland speaks at UCA Honors College event

Ben Hovland, who graduated with a B.A. degree in Political Science from UCA in 2000, was invited by the UCA Honors College to speak to students and faculty on the topic, “A National Perspective on the State of U.S. Election Administration for the 2022 Midterm Elections,” in Doyne Auditorium during x-period on Thursday, September 15, 2022.  A graduate of the University of Oregon School of Law (JD degree) in 2007, Mr. Hovland has served as a Commissioner on the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) since February 2019.  The U.S. EAC, an independent, bipartisan commission, was established following the adoption of the Help America Vote Act of 2002.  Previously, he served as Deputy General Counsel in the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office from 2008 to 2011 and as Senior Counsel for the U.S. Senate Rules and Administration Committee from 2013 to 2019.


Department alumnus awarded Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA)

Alexander Battaglia, who graduated from the University of Central Arkansas with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Political Science and International Studies in May 2017, was awarded the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) from the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.  Battaglia was one of over 2,100 U.S. citizens who will study, conduct research and teach abroad for the 2020-21 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected in an open, merit-based competition that considers academic and professional achievement, as well as their record of service and leadership potential in their respective fields.

While at UCA, Battaglia was a member of political science honors society Phi Sigma Alpha, the Model United Nations Club, and the International Studies Club.  He served as Secretary-General of the Arkansas Model United Nations (AMUN) in 2016, and he was also a member of the cross-country and track and field teams at UCA.  From 2018 to 2020, Battaglia served in the Peace Corps as a Spanish Primary Literacy Promoter in the Dominican Republic.  Battaglia plans to use the ETA to teach English in a Madrid high school during the 2020-21 academic year and says he is excited to have the opportunity to serve as a representative of the U.S. and UCA in Spain.  “Fulbright offers a unique opportunity for me to grow as a language educator and foster special relationships at a time in which we desperately need global cooperation and friendship,” he added.  Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards typically begin in the fall semester. However, due to COVID-19, these awards are expected to begin in January 2021.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is administered at UCA through the Department of Exemplary Studies.  The Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program and is designed to build lasting connections between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The Fulbright Program is funded through an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations and foundations around the world also provide direct and indirect support to the Program, which operates in over 160 countries worldwide.  Since its establishment in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the Fulbright Program has given more than 390,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists and professionals of all backgrounds and fields the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.

For more information about the Fulbright Program, visit

Department alumnus completes first year of Peace Corps

Bethany Anne Bell, who graduated from UCA with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in International Studies in August 2014, recently completed her first year as a Peace Corps Volunteer (English teacher) in Rwanda.  Bethany earned a M.A. in Global Development Policy at Boston University in January 2016.  Bethany worked as a Curriculum Writing Fellow and Global English Team Lead Fellow at Bridge International Academies in Cambridge, Massachusetts beginning in January 2016.  She also worked as an Associate Research Analyst for Calvin Edwards & Company and Temporary Project Manager for The New Teacher Program (TNTP) in Atlanta, Georgia from December 2016 to September 2018.  While a student at UCA, Bethany studied the French language and participated in a study abroad program in Rwanda in 2013.

Department alumnus hired by the International Organization for Migration in Cote d’Ivoire

Jean Francois Adoupo, who graduated from UCA with a B.A. degree in Political Science and International Studies in August 2017, was recently hired to the staff of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in his home country of Cote d’Ivoire.  The IOM provides assistance to thousands of displaced individuals and migrant workers who have gone to Cote d’Ivoire in recent years from West African neighboring countries, as well as to Ivorian migrants who have recently chosen to return to Cote d’Ivoire after years of political instability.

According to the IOM’s Regional Office for West and Central Africa, “Côte d’Ivoire is one of the West African countries with the highest number of migrants on its territory, with 2.2 million people living and/or working in the country….[b]etween January 1st, 2017 and October 31st, 2018, IOM Côte d’Ivoire assisted 4,889 Ivorian migrants in their voluntary return to Côte d’Ivoire, including 1,284 women (26%).”

The IOM was originally established in 1951 to assist individuals displaced in Europe following the Second World War.  Nearly one million migrants in Europe were resettled with the assistance of the IOM during the 1950s.  Currently, there are more than 170 member-states of the IOM, which is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.  The IOM has an annual budget of $1.8 billion and worldwide staff of 11,500 employees.