#WeAreElliott: Vanessa DuBoulay

Vanessa DuBoulay, M.A. International Affairs, 2023, #WeAreElliott

Vanessa DuBoulay is a second-year Master’s candidate in the International Affairs program at the Elliott School concentrating in International Law and Organizations and International Development. Vanessa currently works as a Program Officer at the Department of Justice helping provide development assistance to foreign governments in support of both national security and foreign policy objectives. During her first year, Vanessa was an intern for the Organization of American States and later worked as a Program Associate for the International Association of Women Judges. Previously, she worked in education policy with Teach For America and served as an educator for four years in Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Vanessa received her B.A. in Political Science with a minor in international law from Nova Southeastern University (NSU) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She concentrated in U.S. foreign policy toward Latin America and led her school’s International Relations Association in Model United Nations competitions across the U.S. Vanessa looks forward to continuing developing professionally and gaining new knowledge as she continues her graduate studies at the Elliott School.

What path led you to apply to graduate school? Why did you choose the Elliott School?

I graduated from undergrad in 2016 and knew then that I wanted to attend graduate school in DC. I felt a strong calling to work in public service and, in one way or another, develop professionally in the multilateral affairs field. I’ve always been passionate about the UN system and believe that collective action is necessary to tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges, so my time post-graduation allowed me to work in different areas and narrow down the career path I wanted to pursue. I applied to graduate school when I felt I had a good idea of what I wanted to do and after spending some time developing my skill set further. I ended up choosing the Elliott School because it was geared toward practitioners. I was interested in working in the field during my time in school and thought it was important to learn from the experiences of peers and professors. Ultimately, I knew the Elliott School would help me build a network to lean on and provide me with the resources I needed to secure internships and job opportunities down the road.

What has been your most challenging academic experience at the Elliott School and how did you overcome it?

Perhaps one of the most challenging experiences was starting my first semester as a full-time student with a full-time internship. I underestimated the amount of time my school readings would take and failed to account for the many hours I needed to prepare for my classes. Prioritizing and planning became my best allies during that time, and speaking to my peers and professors was helpful to figure out how to structure my reading time and understand which content would take some extra time to get through. My community at the Elliott School definitely helped me get through long nights at the library and knowing why I want to work in this field has kept me moving forward.  

Where do you currently work, intern or volunteer, and how does it fit in with your career goals?

I am currently a Program Officer with the Department of Justice and work at the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP) office. At ICITAP we work with foreign governments to develop professional and transparent law enforcement institutions that protect human rights, combat corruption, and reduce the threat of transnational crime and terrorism. I am interested in the nexus between development and peace and security so my current role aligns exactly with what I want to do long-term. I’m particularly interested in UN issues and in advancing the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda, and hope to be able to leverage my strengths and skill set to amplify our efforts in the multilateral space in the near future.

Now that you’re a graduate student, what do you wish you knew during the graduate application process?

I wish I had done some more research into the faculty at Elliott. I find myself continuously amazed by the cadre of practitioners we have as professors and would have loved to get in touch with them as I was selecting which school to attend. I think speaking with professors beforehand would have made me much more confident in my selection of a program and concentrations.

What has been your most valuable experience while studying at the Elliott School?

The network GW has helped me build has been invaluable. Connecting with peers, faculty, and alumni has helped me define the career path I want to follow and also provided me with the support I’ve needed. I’ve been able to speak with incredible, talented, and passionate practitioners and even find an amazing mentor along the way. In addition, I’ve had great support from my professors who have gone above and beyond to guide and encourage me.

What is your favorite place to visit in D.C. and why?

My favorite place to visit in DC is the Lincoln Memorial and the reflecting pool. I find myself there often and think it is one of the best places to read, reflect, or clear my mind when needed. I enjoy having a view of different DC landmarks, watching ducklings swim across the water, and being surrounded by so many trees.


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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.