Student Voices: Undergraduate Research Assistant Anissa Ozbek

The third-year Elliott School student traveled to Austria to present at the 2023 Artic Science Summit Week.

April 28, 2023

Anissa Ozbek

Anissa Ozbek, an Elliott School junior, stands in the Graben in Vienna's city center. (Photo courtesy of Anissa Ozbek)

Anissa Ozbek, a third-year student in the Elliott School of International Affairs, traveled to Vienna, Austria, with the George Washington University delegation to the 2023 Arctic Science Summit Week.

At the conference, Ozbek, an undergraduate research fellow, joined professor Marya Rozanova-Smith in presenting findings from the COVID-GEA Project, which seeks to understand the gendered impacts of COVID-19 in the Arctic. Below, Ozbek discusses her experiences at her first international research conference:

I was very fortunate to present the COVID-GEA Project’s findings alongside our Principal Investigator Marya Rozanova-Smith at the Arctic Science Summit Week (ASSW) in Vienna, Austria. I have been a research assistant on the project since 2022, so I was excited to share some of our project’s preliminary results before world-class scholars in the field of Arctic studies. Furthermore, as one of the youngest presenters at the conference, it was a privilege to represent my contributions to Rozanova-Smith’s groundbreaking project.

I presented on a panel titled “Gender Equality for Sustainable Arctic Communities Amid and Beyond the COVID-19 Pandemic.” This discussion was convened by Hjalti Ómar Ágústsson of the Icelandic Directorate of Equality, featuring contributions from COVID-GEA Project leaders Rozanova-Smith and Andrey N. Petrov, as well as scholars Andrea Hjálmsdóttir and Markus Meckl from Iceland’s University of Akureyri. For my presentation, I introduced findings and analyses from the COVID-GEA Gender Response Tracker, which monitors and evaluates Arctic countries' COVID-19 policy responses at the national, regional and municipal levels. Specifically, my presentation focused on the case of Alaska, examining initiatives passed in the cities of Fairbanks, Anchorage, Nome and Juneau as well as by the Alaska state legislature. 

From left: Marya Rozanova-Smith, Nikolay Shiklomanov and Anissa Ozbek.

During the conference, I also assisted professor Rozanova-Smith in presenting the COVID-GEA project’s audio-visual exhibit, titled "Arctic Women's Voices: Standing Strong in the Face of COVID-19,” which gives Arctic women a platform to discuss how the pandemic impacted them. It was fascinating to see university students and conference scholars alike interact with the exhibit and gain insight on our participants’ experiences, specifically as they described the inequities they faced as women in the midst of a public health emergency.

One of the greatest joys of attending a conference like the ASSW lies in being able to hear experts across the natural and social sciences present on such a large breadth of topics. From learning about the effects of light pollution on Arctic ecosystems to listening to vital talks on Indigenous stewardship practices, I was glad to be able to broaden my horizons to new discussions and viewpoints. Additionally, it was wonderful to connect with Arctic scholars through the exploration of our beautiful host city of Vienna.

From my first moments in Vienna, I was enchanted by its distinctive Baroque architecture. It was wonderful to engage with the city through tours of its dynastic history, as well as its modern art. Speaking with student leaders from the University of Vienna, where the conference was based and held earlier in the spring 2023 semester,  gave me a look into different aspects of civil, cultural and social life for the people living in this metropolitan capital.

Furthermore, I was glad to explore Vienna’s different cultures with members of the GW team, as well as new friends I made at the conference. Highlights of my week included visiting sites like the Hofburg (the former principal imperial palace of the Habsburg) and attending the conference’s opening reception at the Rathaus, Vienna’s city hall. Being able to interact with a place of such rich history and culture, surrounded by such a wonderful group of people, is what made my “Arctic” week in Vienna truly unforgettable.

As I am considering a career in research and analysis, attending the ASSW provided me with the invaluable opportunity to witness a key stage in the lifecycle of new scholarship: presentation. With this, I was able to see how the Arctic academic community cooperates inside and outside of the lecture hall, and how important these meetings are in sowing the seeds of new collaborations.

I am very grateful to professor Rozanova-Smith for her invitation to present at the conference, as well as her mentorship over the course of my research with the COVID-GEA project. I would also like to thank the GW Center for Undergraduate Research for its generous support of my development as a young scholar through the Undergraduate Research Award.