Recent Alumnus Highlight: David Okun


Why I chose Elliott: The Elliott School was a great fit for me. I was moving across the country to change careers and get a world class education. Grad school had to be a both-and fit, not an either-or. Luckily for me, Elliott’s flexible class schedule and career-focused resources allowed me to go to school full time in the evenings and intern and work during the day. Elliott also provided the best cost-benefit trade off: graduates in my field had starting salaries in line with my goals, and the fellowship and financial aid support was robust with many supplemental opportunities available. Packaged with the freedom to tailor my degree and build relationships in a small cohort program, I was sold!

Things I’ve Done: Giving back to people and programs that invest in me has always been an important value of mine. As a cash-strapped grad student, I chose to offer my time and talent to improve the Elliott School experience for those coming after me. As an Orientation Leader, Advisory Board member, and Graduate Teaching Assistant, I crafted relationships with staff and new students in different facets of their academic career.

Outside of the Elliott School, I interned my first semester at Freedom House, a democracy and human rights non-profit. As part of a small team, I had substantive work preparing talking points and memos for the VP, and I got a healthy understanding of the grant writing process. My second semester I interned at the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission, which offered a take on anti-money laundering programs from a multilateral perspective. Over the summer in between my first and second year, I interned at the State Department in the Office of Brazilian and Southern Cone Affairs. This was a fascinating and fast-paced internship, and I was able to collaborate with interagency partners to help make a foreign head of state visit successful. To start my second year in grad school, I transitioned to the Office of Children’s Issues in State as a Pathways Intern. I served as a case assistant coordinating outgoing international parental child abduction cases to the Western Hemisphere.

Future Plans: The great thing about the Pathways Internship—besides being a paid internship in a city notorious for the free labor of students—is that it provides an avenue to “convert” into the permanent civil service after graduation. I was offered a Country Officer position in the same office, and I’m excited for this new role, and to be staying on, after graduation.

Photos: Latin American & Hemispheric Studies cohort, White House Arrival Ceremony,  At the State Department during a head of state visit, In Colombia during Capstone Research, Having fun with the GW Hippo

Current Student Feature: Zhong “Ryan” Li


My name is Zhong “Ryan” Li, current Master candidate in International Trade and Investment Program (ITIP). I was born and raised in China, and first came to the United States for my undergraduate studies in University of Colorado Denver. I was Economics major and Political Science minor. Before I came to GWU, I was interning at Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Beijing Representative, where I was really enjoying the working there and by participating the projects in Gates Foundation, I found it myself that I really could use my knowledge to make the world a better place.

When I was applying for my graduate school, I intended to search the related programs in Washington D.C, since it is the best place for international relations practice. Particularly, the International Trade and Investment program is one of the most fascinating programs I was looking into. The program is designed to focus on the economic and business affairs with the practice of international policies and it could make full use of my undergraduate studies.

I have been enjoying the studies in Elliott School so far. During the first year in Elliott School, I took my time to enjoy and explore D.C., make friends and get more familiar with the surrounding. I also took the advantage the international diversities of DC and participate in various events, such as, IFPRI events, embassy visit, World Bank and IMF conferences, etc. I am currently working as the new program assistant of ITIP in Elliott School. When I graduate, I hope to start my career in international infrastructure investment consulting in NGOs like World Bank, Gates Foundation, etc.


Preparation for the Fall Semester

If you’re a newly admitted ESIA graduate student, or even a continuing ESIA graduate student, it’s important to get all of your ducks in a row so you can enjoy summer to the fullest! Who wants to scramble at the last minute to register for courses, or track down transcripts? Below are a few quick tips to help set you up for success!

For New Students:

1.) Create your GW e-mail address/claim your netID. Follow the instructions found here to complete this step. You will need your netID to log-in to Blackboard.

*Whenever emailing our office, please include your GWid on all correspondence to assist in keeping your student file accurate and complete

2.) Complete GW First Class on Blackboard. GW First Class is the online portion of new student orientation and is now available on Blackboard. *It may take up to one week after creating your netID before First Class is available through Blackboard.

  • Go to
  • Click on Blackboard on the left hand navigation bar
  • Login to Blackboard using your netID and password
  • Select GW First Class from your course list (if GW First Class does not appear and you just created your netID, please allow up to two business days for the course to appear.)

*If you plan to meet with an advisor, you are required to complete GW First Class prior to scheduling an appointment. Please see below for information on how to contact your advisor.

3.) Submit final, official transcripts for all institutions attended. You will want to have final, official transcripts sent to our office in a sealed envelope from the universities in which you have attended (yes, all of them:) ). Students may also drop them off at our office, but they must be in a sealed, university envelope to be considered official. If we do not receive all official transcripts, a hold will be placed on your account that will be prevent you from registering for courses in your second semester (and no one wants that!).

4.) Check and read your gwu email frequently. If we’re sending you an email communication, it’s because we meant to! A lot of important information will be sent to you from various Elliott offices over the summer!

 5.) Attend Elliott Summer Orientation!! Be there or be square!

  •  August 23rd, 2016. ISO Orientation for International Students (mandatory)
  • August 26th, 2016. ESIA (for U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and international students).


For New AND Continuing Students:

1.) Fall 2016 course registration is now available. You are not required to meet with an advisor prior to registering for courses. Students register for courses through the GWeb Information System (GWeb). You will want to view the Schedule of Classes, and utilize the Plan of Study for your program on the Academic Advising page, in order to create your fall class schedule.

2.) The GW registration system (GWeb) is only available from 9am – 8pm EST. Students who try to register outside of these times may receive an error message.

3.)Avoid loan and/or fellowship disbursement problems. Be sure to register for the number of credit hours on your award letter!


A Few Notes from the Advising Office:

1.) Incoming students will want to familiarize themselves with the services currently offered by the Academic Advising

2.) Academic Advising will begin responding to your questions beginning May 2nd during Online Advising, which will be available to incoming students on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm. You can also stop by the Academic Advising Office for Drop-in Hours beginning May 2nd. Please see the website for each advisor’s scheduled Drop-in hours.

3.) Beginning June 15th, students who have completed GW First Class on Blackboard can schedule an appointment with, or begin emailing, their assigned advisor.

4.)More information on getting started at the Elliott School can be found on the New Students page or our blog, 


We’re here to help you with all of your questions, so don’t hesitate to reach out! We hope everyone has a safe and happy summer, and can’t wait to see you in the Fall!

Who should I contact?

We are so excited to welcome our new students to campus in August! We are here to answer all of your questions, but we thought we could also provide some additional information about where to best address your specific questions. It’s always a great idea to identify the office that can best address your questions prior to emailing or calling. Please keep in mind most offices operate independently, so not all offices have access to all of your information. The below list should help narrow down who can best assist you.

Helpful Contacts

As you continue to research the Elliott School of International Affairs, please utilize the contacts below to explore all aspects of your Elliott School experience.

Elliott School Departments    
Elliott School Office of Graduate Admissions 202-994-7050
Graduate Student Career Development 202-994-3788
International Programs and Education 202-994-7678
Academic Programs    
Asian Studies 202-994-5886
European and Eurasian Studies 202-994-6340
Global Communication 202-994-8137
International Affairs 202-994-7137
International Development Studies 202-994-5767
International Science and Technology Policy 202-994-7292
International Trade and Investment Policy 202-994-5320
Latin American and Hemispheric Studies 202-994-4060
Master of International Policy and Practice 202-994-1950
Master of International Studies 202-994-7678
Middle East Studies 202-994-9249
Security Policy Studies 202-994-7003
Research Centers and Institutes    
Center for International Science and Technology Policy 202-994-7292
Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies 202-994-6340
Institute for Global and International Studies 202-994-6170
Institute for International Economic Policy 202-994-5320
Institute for Middle East Studies 202-994-9249
Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication 202-994-8137
Institute for Security and Conflict Studies 202-994-7003
Sigur Center for Asian Studies 202-994-5886
Space Policy Institute 202-994-7292
GW Departments    
Office of Student Financial Assistance 202-994-6620
Office of the Registrar 202-994-4448
Office of Veteran Services 202-994-9570
Office of Graduate Student Assistantships and Fellowships 202-994-6822
Student Account Services 202-994-0906
GWorld Card Office (student ID) 202-994-1795
Off-Campus Student Affairs 202-994-6555
Student Health Service   202-994-6827
International Services Office 202-994-4477


Current Student Feature: Sebra Yen

Allow us to introduce you to one of ESIA’s current students, Sebra Yen. Sebra is an M.A. Candidate in our Global Communication program (2017), with a concentration in Asian Studies. Sebra is currently a NSEP Boren Fellow in Taiwan (2015-16).




大家好 (Dàjiā hǎo)! 打給賀 (Dǎ gěi hè)! 台尬後 (Tái gā hòu)! Lokah su ga! That means hello in Mandarin, Taiwanese, Hakka, and the Atayal language, one of the Formosan languages spoken in the beautiful island of Taiwan, respectively. These languages make up the diversity of communication used in Taiwan, with Mandarin as the official language.

One of the special features of learning Mandarin in Taiwan is Zhuyin Fuhao. Zhuyin Fuhao, also known as Bopomofo, is the system of phonetic symbols used to notate Mandarin. So for大家好 (Dàjiā hǎo), it would turn out like this: ㄉ ㄚˋㄐ一ㄚ ㄏㄠˇ! While the Mainland uses Pinyin, Taiwan uses Zhuyin, which is comprised of 37 special symbols to represent the Mandarin sounds. It is highly encouraged by teachers to use this system because it helps students develop better pronunciation. Taiwan also uses Traditional Chinese characters as opposed to Simplified Chinese characters. These are just some interesting things I have learned during my time as a Boren Fellow in the heart of Asia.

Hello, my name is Sebra Yen, and I am a graduate student in the Global Communication program (Asian Studies concentration) at The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs in Washington, DC. My research interests include the domestic politics and foreign relations of Taiwan, cross-Strait relations, and U.S. policy towards Asia. My decision to apply for the National Security Education Program (NSEP) David L. Boren Fellowship in Taiwan was heavily influenced by my desire to promote U.S.-Taiwan relations as a Public Diplomacy Officer with the U.S. Department of State. Upon graduating with a master’s degree from the Elliott School, I hope to join the Foreign Service and utilize my Chinese language skills through traditional (people-to-people exchanges) and new (social media) communication means to strengthen understanding and engagement with the people of Taiwan. Accordingly, the Boren Fellowship allows me to focus on my language acquisition as well as research and academic internships related to my program proposal.


I’m currently at the National Taiwan University in Taipei, Taiwan for intensive Chinese language study with the Chinese Language Division of the university’s language center as well as the International Chinese Language Program (ICLP). These programs are important to my training as an aspiring diplomat, as it is my dream to become a skilled spokesperson when communicating U.S. policy towards Asia and forging relationships across Greater China. In addition to language learning, I have also pursued internships related to my study of Taiwan with the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei and Ketagalan Media, a media outlet uncovering the latest stories happening in Taiwan, focusing on Taiwanese history, politics, and culture. I assisted with the Publications Department and strategic communications at AmCham Taipei, and I am currently translating for Ketagalan Media. These activities enhance and support one of the main purposes of a Boren Fellowship: learning to communicate across cultures as well as analyzing economic, political, religious, and global perspectives in Taiwan.

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Internship at AmCham Taipei offered the opportunity to meet AIT Director, Kin Moy.

On top of school and work, I had the opportunity to travel to many places in Taiwan, including Jiufen, Yilan, and Tamsui. Another place worth noting is probably Smangus, an aboriginal Atayal tribe and the most remote aboriginal village in Taiwan. The beautiful natural surroundings of the village only complement the fact that the people of Smangus have adopted a communitarian system where every adult receives the same monthly salary from the elders, in order to preserve their culture. Observing their way of life has been fascinating and I hope to increase my travel to other places in Taiwan to hear their stories. Tainan (the former capital) and Kaohsiung (the second largest city of the island) are on the list. Engaging with the different people of Taiwan and getting their perspectives on politics and identity is very important to me as an international affairs professional focusing on Taiwan. As Taiwan recently went through an election on January 16, 2016, electing its first woman president and a legislature mostly composed of the opposition party, the status quo could change in cross-Strait relations, and the U.S.-Taiwan-China relationship will be interesting to observe in the upcoming months. I feel grateful to be here in Taiwan to do that, and I am thankful to represent The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs as a Boren Fellow.

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A visit to Smangus, Taiwan.

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With the other two Boren Fellows (2015-16) in Taipei, near National Taiwan University.


Choosing the Right School (We hope you choose Elliott!)

It’s been a pleasure working with all of our applicants these past few weeks and we are excited to meet our incoming fall 2016 class soon! As you weigh your options and decide on the best fit school, we wanted to encourage you to engage with the Elliott School.

Below is a list of ten things you can do to help you make your admission decision or to learn about Elliott:

  • RSVP for Online Admitted Student Day on April 5th, an invitation will be sent by email.


  • RSVP for Admitted Student Day on April 8th, an invitation will be sent by email.


  • Attend an Elliott School Graduate Information Session, RSVP here.



  • Sit in on an Elliott School Class. Fill out this form to view a complete class visit list.


  • Attend a Regional Reception! You will receive an invite via email if we are going to be in your area.


  • The Elliott School hosts hundreds of events! Sign up for the ESIA Events Notifications, be sure to click the subscribe button on the top right of the calendar, and attend an event!


  • Schedule an appointment with graduate admissions if you cannot make it to an information session. We can also help coordinate a meeting with a program director or program assistant! This can be very helpful in exploring academic interests.


  • Check your email frequently. We will be sending a lot of great information about our school and programs.


  • Everyone who has been admitted received a program director letter in their email account. Each program director lists current students (and in some cases alumni) for you to reach out to. We highly encourage you to engage with current students and alumni in order to see what life is like as an Elliott School student, and what life is lack after being an Elliott School student. If you would like contact information for other alumni or current students, feel free to email us and we can put you in touch!



We look forward to welcoming you to campus!