#WeAreElliott: Allie Dunbaugh

Allie Dunbaugh, MA Latin American and Hemispheric Studies, Class of 2022, #WeAreElliott Current Student

Allie Dunbaugh is a first-year Masters candidate in the Latin American and Hemispheric Studies program at the Elliott School, concentrating in security and migration. She graduated summa cum laude in three years from the University of Northern Colorado in 2020 with her bachelor’s in international affairs and communication studies. At UNC, she worked as a Student Ambassador and tour guide and served as the president of her club tennis team and gender-inclusive honor fraternity, Phi Sigma Pi. Allie is fluent in Spanish and has traveled to a few countries in Central and South America, but is excited to be able to return and explore more of the region she loves. Her passion in life is for serving others, and she is especially interested in working with refugees and asylum seekers in Latin America. Her hope is to create an intersectional approach to mental health care for vulnerable populations that focuses specifically on empowering individuals to help others through similar battles.

What inspired you to select your program/concentration at the Elliott School?

Latin America as a region has fascinated me for as long as I can remember. When I was in high school, my Spanish teacher was from Argentina and I absolutely adored his class. We watched Spanish movies, listened to Shakira, and were taught to make empanadas – it was my favorite class! In my undergraduate studies, I majored in international affairs with an emphasis in Latin America, and as I kept learning about the region’s language, history, culture, and foreign affairs, I became more and more captivated by it. I knew I wanted to one day live and work somewhere in Central or South America, so I decided I needed to travel to the region I spent so much time learning about. I studied abroad in Argentina the summer after my freshman year, served disadvantaged children in Belize on a mission trip, and learned alongside young leaders from across the globe in Chile. After these experiences, LAHSP was the obvious choice for me!

What has been your favorite course at the Elliott School so far and why?

Naturally I’ve loved all my classes so far, but I would have to say my favorite class has been International Relations of Latin America with Dr. Abente. First of all, Profe Diego is one of the coolest and kindest humans to walk with this planet. He is so knowledgeable of the region and has such great insight on the challenges affecting it. He challenges us to find solutions to relevant issues – for example, we had to write policy recommendations for the Biden administration on how to manage relations with both Brazil and Venezuela regarding current challenges. He’s also secured some incredible guest speakers for our class, from diplomats to policy experts to professors from around the world. We’re constantly expanding our breadth of knowledge of Latin America and developing our ability to pinpoint both challenges and solutions to the problems plaguing the region. I’ve been lucky enough to have Profe Diego two semesters running, and I’m planning to take classes with him for my second year of grad school too. He is an integral part of my experience at the Elliott School!

What has been your most rewarding work, intern, or volunteer experience since starting your program at the Elliott School?

I mentioned above that I studied in Chile. So that was a two-week educational leadership program hosted by The Fund for American Studies (TFAS) at Universidad de los Andes in Santiago. One of my professors had found the program and recommended it to me since he knew of my interest in Latin America. He nominated me for the program, I applied, and was accepted! I went in January of 2020 and had the most incredible experience. The program, which occurs annually, brings together a group of 40-50 young leaders (aged 18-28) from across the world to study democracy, liberty, free market economics and leadership. We took classes at the university, which sits in the Andes mountains and is absolutely stunning, and traveled all around Santiago and its neighboring cities. We hiked the Andes, went to museums, toured La Moneda (the presidential palace), visited the seaside home of Pablo Neruda, explored the Santiago nightlife scene, went on a winery tour, spent a day in Valparaiso, and so much more. The connections we formed with each other in just two weeks were so strong that we all still have video calls quite frequently! Anyways, that’s all to say that this program was truly exceptional and the way TFAS organized everything was amazing. I started working for TFAS as a communications associate back in September just as I began grad school, and each day I know I’m contributing in some way to helping other young leaders have the same kind of wonderful experience I had. It’s very rewarding to see the lives we’re able to touch!

What advice do you have for first-year students who are starting their graduate studies?

Grad school is awesome because there are so many interesting classes to take! You don’t have to take a single class that you’re not interested in and there’s just so much to learn. Plus Elliott’s faculty is comprised of some of the most accomplished professionals in the field you’re studying – take advantage of their office hours and get to know them! Don’t be afraid to ask questions or start up conversations – it’s not even just to expand your network, but to expand your knowledge and understanding. Learn from your classmates too. This is the place to broaden your mind and open yourself up to new possibilities.

How do you feel about pineapple on pizza?

I loooove pineapple on pizza! Add some Canadian bacon and some cream cheese and you’ve got the best pizza ever. Trust me on the cream cheese.


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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 esiagrad@gwu.edu.

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.