Maggie Jesme ’14 came to Earlham as a Peace and Global Studies major and along the way she joined the pre-med track.
“I can’t imagine sacrificing either of these experiences,” she exclaims. “I would not be a complete person if I didn’t get to study both.
“My main focus is access to health care. I want to combine my PAGS major with medicine because I want to work on both a macro- and micro-level to address disparities in access.”
Jesme sees patient care as the micro–level, and the bigger macro-level work she endeavors toward is structural change in health care distribution.
“I want to find ways to work toward widening distribution to include populations currently without access,” she says.
A recent semester abroad in Jordan, which she extended through the summer months, solidified her goals and aspirations.
“During my time there I conducted a research project at the American Center for Oriental Research,” she says. “I examined barriers blocking Syrian refugees from accessing healthcare in Jordan.” Obstacles included a lack of finances, scarcity of female doctors, which many Syrian, Muslim women prefer, and a convoluted registration process.”
At the end of the research, which was funded by a grant from the Mellon Foundation and a Ford/Knight grant, Jesme initiated a project at a women’s cooperative called Hands of the Badia, where she raised funds from U.S. citizens. Using the money she had raised, Jordanian and Syrian women worked together to start entrepreneurial projects to address the strain both communities were facing as a result of the Syrian Civil War. The idea came about during the semester abroad as the massive influx of Syrian refugees affected the economic situation of poor Jordanians.
“While I was in Jordan the Syrian refugee population nearly doubled,” she says. “When I first arrived in Jordan in January, the Syrian population was 200,000 to 300,000, and by April that number had grown to 500,000.”
The women are now selling sun-dried tomatoes, and in the future plan to sell hand-stitched pillows and hand-woven rugs in areas popular to tourists.
Jesme is just as committed to working for greater justice on Earlham’s campus and in the Richmond community. In fact, her interest in activism, as well as PAGS, first drew her to Earlham.
An Activist for Justice
“Earlham seemed like a place where activism had a major influence on campus,” she explains. “ I wanted to go to a school where both the community and the culture were actively engaged in local and global issues of social justice.”
On campus, she is part of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement and has been involved with Amnesty International.
“I am more willing to take risks after my semester abroad,” she says. “If Earlham can divest from companies profiting from the human rights abuses of Palestinians and contribute even a little in the struggle to end the military occupation of Palestine, well, that’s way more important than if I get an A in my Conflict Resolution class.” (However, Jesme’s professor noted that she is on track to do quite well in the course.)
Jesme’s mother is a nurse practitioner and growing up she wanted no part of her mother’s occupation.
Fairly early in her first-year, however, she made the decision to add pre-med and has volunteered at the State Hospital and Reid Hospital in Richmond.
“It’s been interesting switching back and forth between PAGS and science classes,” she says. “One day I will come away thinking nothing beats cell signaling, and then the next day I will hear a PAGS major analyze an internship using one of our PAGS authors and wonder where would I be without these perspectives.”