Brendan Bonner ‘23
On November 18, Ben Vesey ‘22 spoke about his Vannicelli Award winning thesis developed over his time in D.C during this past year’s Washington Semester. The talk was titled: “Combating Forced Labor Internationally: A Case Study of Labor Reforms in the Uzbekistan Cotton Sector”.
The Vannicelli Award is in honor of the late Professor Maurizio Vannicelli, who taught Political Science and was the director of the Washington Semester program. It is given to students with the best research paper produced over their time in the Washington Semester Program. Along with the honor of the award itself, students are given the opportunity to present their thesis publicly at Holy Cross, along with a bound copy of their thesis and a book award during commencement exercises.
During Ben’s semester (2020-2021), he interned with the State Department, specifically the Office of International Labor Affairs within the Bureau of Human Rights. Early on in his experience, Ben had the chance to attend a meeting with the President of Uzbekistan, representatives from the US Department of Labor, and a representative from the International Labour Organization. “After this meeting, I decided it would be a great idea to use the case of US engagement with Uzbekistan to create an argument in favor of similar US policy decisions”, said Ben when asked about how he chose such a topic.
Ben’s research explored the complicated landscape that is the Cotton Sector in Uzbekistan, and more largely, the implications of the recent reforms done to said sector. Furthermore, the impact that the United States has on this issue was discussed, along with how this issue affects the global population as a whole.
The talk was held in the Rehm Library on Thursday at 4pm and was in well attendance, a refreshing sight coming out of the pandemic. Faculty and students alike asked thoughtful and challenging questions at the end of Ben’s talk, yet he was able to masterfully elaborate on his process and defend his research.
For those interested in the Washington Semester Program, Ben recommends that students enter their internships “with an open mind, so that their research can align with the work they are doing in the internship”.
Future lectures from Vanicelli Award winners will be coming soon as things start to return to normal. Make sure to look out for future lectures, as this was a truly riveting experience.