Kevin Lustig is a second-year Master’s candidate in the International Policy and Practice Online program at the Elliott School. He received his undergraduate degree in Spanish from Pitzer College in Claremont, CA in 2006. Kevin is interested in the nexus between human and environmental challenges and security and conflict. He currently works with international organizations, non-profits, and companies in Washington, DC and around the world to craft digital technology strategy and communicate with the world about critical issues. He specializes in the design and development of interactive tools for understanding complex data sets. Kevin previously worked in strategy and communications for global environmental non-profit the World Resources Institute and political campaigns. Kevin enjoys traveling, building pillow castles with his daughter, and all things outdoors.
When did you realize you wanted an international career?
I’ve been interested in international affairs from a young age. I was a military brat, living on a series of Marine Corps bases for most of my childhood. Though I didn’t have a chance to live abroad until later in life, growing up in that context most definitely instilled in me a sense of being one part of a larger world. Events in the Middle East, the Soviet Union (I’m showing my age with that one,) and elsewhere reverberated all the way back to my family and community in tangible ways. My understanding of the nuances of things like war and international power has evolved since I was young. However, subsequent experiences learning, living, and working around the world have only reinforced my sense that, as an American, I simultaneously have both considerable privilege and an obligation to use that privilege to engage in global affairs in positive and constructive ways.
Where do you currently work and how does it fit in with your career goals?
I currently work with several different firms in Washington, DC that partner with international organizations, non-profits, and social good enterprises on digital strategy and technology. In my various capacities, I’m a web developer, project manager, team leader, and strategist. In more straightforward terms, that means I have the opportunity to work with groups tackling all manner of human challenges – health, education, development, security, environment, etc. – to help them communicate with global audiences and disseminate critical data and information online. I think my career to date has been a great match for the international affairs and policy knowledge I’m gaining through the MIPP program. I’m looking forward to combining the substance of my GWU degree with my practical experience as a professional in the next phase of my career after graduation.
What has been your most rewarding academic experience at the Elliott School and why?
The diversity of perspectives represented in every single course I’ve been in in the MIPP program has been amazing. I’ve shared class discussions with professionals from the IMF, intelligence agency staff, servicemembers from every branch of the military, an Ambassador, a documentary filmmaker, and others with such amazing, varied, accomplished backgrounds. Consequently, class discussions are consistently informed by real insights gleaned from practical engagement with the topics under discussion. It’s hard to imagine when I’ll be in a room (virtual or otherwise) with such depth and breadth of experience again.
What advice do you have for first-year students who are starting their internship or work experience search?
As someone who has changed careers before and is in the process of doing so again, I’d say remember that you don’t have to get everything right on the first try! That includes roles, organizations, and entire careers. Every job is an opportunity to learn about yourself and for your professional circle to learn about you. Finding out that you’re capable of or interested in something new is a natural part of that journey – as we say in the technical community, it’s a feature, not a bug. Are you learning? Are you contributing? Are you moving forward? Then you’re probably on the right track. And, if you’re absolutely sure you’re not on the right track, switch tracks. It may well be hard work to do so, but it’s both possible and demonstrates that you’re willing to push yourself to accomplish the things that are important to you. That’s a valuable trait no matter what career trajectory you’re on.
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The #WeAreElliott profile series is managed by the Elliott School Office of Graduate Admissions and highlights current students to answer common questions posed by prospective, incoming, and current students. For more information on this series or to submit questions, e-mail the Office of Graduate Admissions at email@example.com.
The views expressed by students profiled do not necessarily represent those of organizations they work for, are affiliated with, or the Elliott School of International Affairs.