Invasion of Privacy: World traveler Jeremy Grace commits to social justice

Among the cohort of well-traveled scholars that comprise the international relations and political science departments, lecturer Jeremy Grace brings a democratic flavor to the discipline. For a good part of his life, both as a child and an adult, Grace lived abroad. He grew up in Singapore, where his father was the American Friends Service Committee representative in Southeast Asia during the late 1960s and early 1970s working on issues related to the Vietnam War, regional peace initiatives and economic development.

Grace describes his Quaker roots and his family as a monumental influence in his eclectic bildungsroman. With siblings mapped around the world, working with international bodies such as the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in Geneva, Switzerland and the Foreign Service located in Shanghai, China, the lecturer of 13 years has not fallen far from the tree.

“I follow in my father's footsteps. He is a Quaker; the Quakers have this strong commitment to social justice,” he said.

Initially interested in environmental and water conflict while in college, Grace realigned his interests after he became involved in a graduate internship at the Overseas Development Council, a think tank based in Washington, D.C.

After his time at the ODC, Grace traveled to Sarajevo, Bosnia to oversee elections through the United Nations.

“There were like 2,000 international election observers just dumped on this country … The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe was organizing the election,” he said.

After the election was over, he remained in Sarajevo.

“[I] just started knocking on doors and got a full time job with the OSCE … It was more than just observing elections; what they were doing was actually administering elections, coming up with regulations,” he said.

From Bosnia, the organization sent Grace to Croatia, as well as East Timor and Kosovo, where he was charged with running refugee elections.

In working with large international bodies as well as local institutions, Grace said he always considered, “How do you arrive at international consensus and design elections in a way that is accommodating to displaced populations?”

Seeking a return to a somewhat more sedentary life after years of travel, he applied and was accepted to Brown University for his Ph.D.

“It turns out, after you've been in the middle of the whole freakin' international community mobilization post-conflict game, all of the sudden dumping yourself in a library basement in Providence and reading deep theory didn't work for me,” he said.

Grace left his doctorate program after a semester and served a brief stint, returning to monitoring popular elections, in East Timor. His wife was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis soon after. The couple returned to the United States, settling in Geneseo, where they had family ties.

While, at first, Grace began his job search at Geneseo for an adjunct position, a longer-term position opened up. He is now in his 13th year of teaching at the college.

“Over the last 13 years since I have been here, I have continued to work for [the International Organization for Migration],” he said. “I am a combination both of big-think pieces … What are the political rights of displaced populations … and how do you protect those rights?”

Grace's roles, both in the time that he has served as a representative of various international agencies as well as an educator, have allowed him to “reinforce his professional activities and publications,” he said.

Perhaps what is more valuable to the lecturer is the transition students make, applying their ideals and knowledge gained in the confines of a classroom to the world's issues.

“For me, the most fantastic rewards are watching our alumni as they take the knowledge they have gained at Geneseo and apply it in their professional careers,” he said.