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