Student of the Month: Katherine “Cookie” Rifiotis
Hometown: São Paulo, Brazil
Major: Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy (PTCD)
Each month we choose a student for the OISS Student of the Month that exemplifies and highlights everything it means to not only be a Spartan but an international Spartan. We choose these students based off of their accomplishments, as well as their participation in the community. For the month of February, OISS chose: Cookie Rifiotis.
Katherine Rifiotis, or ‘Cookie’, is a junior studying Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy (PTCD) at James Madison College (JMC). While born and raised in São Paulo, Brazil, Cookie’s family is ethnically Greek. And is no stranger to being a Spartan, “I’m actually a Spartan, my grandfather lives an hour away from Sparta”. Cookie is a tour de force of both charisma and drive. What brought her to MSU was specifically James Madison College, she chose the public affairs focused program because of the small liberal arts college feel while at the same time having the resources of a large research University at her disposal. She also finds East Lansing to be a welcoming and diverse community saying: “it’s small enough to bump into people but just large enough to meet new people every day.” Cookie does not waste that opportunity to get to know people, and you can tell that she doesn’t by the number of people she knows simply by being in the International Center.
As soon as Cookie arrived at MSU she became involved with various organizations and got to work. These organizations include International Student Association, Brazuca, International Academic Orientation Program, and Associated Students of Michigan State University (ASMSU, undergraduate student government body at MSU). Cookie has held the position of student representative of JMC in the General Assembly of ASMSU, and for two years has been the Vice President for Internal Administration. Along with these positions she has been a Teaching Assistant for the introductory courses at JMC.
What drew Cookie towards her major of PTCD was her goal of law school. However, she wasn’t always interested in law school. Two internship experiences changed her outlook and put her on a path to acquiring a law degree. The first experience occurred during an internship with the Sociology Department of MSU where she taught English in a refugee camp in Greece. While teaching she realized that she wanted to pursue a law degree because of the shortage of lawyers in Greece dealing with the refugee crisis, but also because she wanted to help those who are disadvantaged by the law.
The second experience came with another internship in Greece, this time with the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This internship allowed her to see the legal law enforcement side of refugees and experiencing all of the legal channels that must be taken in order to process refugees. Cookie says: “there is too much economic talk about refugees and not enough legal talk,” which leads her onward into the future.
After undergrad Cookie plans to take a year off from school and finish her Optional Practical Training (OPT) in East Lansing as well as study for the LSAT(exam to enter law school). Once completed, she plans to apply to law school in the United States.
Advice that Cookie has for fellow international students is to “find a base, a core group of friends, but also stand off of your base more often than not; branch out.” Cookie also says to not be too hard on yourself, “there might be pressures from home, the pressure that you put on yourself, but grow as a person and don’t compromise that.”
Mitchell Timmerman is currently a senior majoring in both Social Relations and Policy, as well as Economics. He will be graduating in May of 2018 with his degree in SRP, and again in December of 2018 with his degree in Economics. Mitchell plans after graduation include working in Economic Development as well as continuing to write for his blog.