#WeAreElliott: Phoebe Shatzer

Phoebe Shatzer, a brown-haired, brown-eyed woman, smiling, in a blurred semi-wooded area of the National Mall near the Vietnam Memorial.  She's wearing a blue top with sky blue and neutral highlights, with a small bow in the same colors at the middle of the collar. Phoebe Shatzer, M.A. in Security Policy Studies, 2023, #WeAreElliott

Phoebe Shatzer is a second-year master’s candidate in Security Policy Studies, with a concentration in Transnational Security. She completed her undergraduate studies at McDaniel College, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Spanish, with a specialization in International Studies.  Currently, she focuses on transitional justice, the role of LGBTQ+ persons in conflict situations, and combatting funding of illicit and violent non-state actors. During her time at the Elliott School, Phoebe has worked as an associate for Compliance Risk and Diligence for Kroll Associates, Inc., drafting daily reports on prominent risks associated with both domestic and international companies. At the Elliott School, she serves as the Vice President of Graduate Affairs for OUT in International Affairs and is a member of the Elliott School’s Global Affairs and Religion Network (GARNET). She enjoys language learning, creative writing, and walking around DC.

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

Over the two years after I graduated from high school, I became more and more convinced that I wanted to specialize in transnational issues, specifically focusing on threats to international financial security through illicit finance and organized crime. The Elliott School’s Security Policy Studies program offered the customizability I wanted, allowing me to take classes like Transitional Justice as electives while at the same time catering to those main interests.

It also didn’t hurt that, as a trans woman, I was able to take advantage of GW’s Speech and Hearing Center, located just a short walk from Elliott and literally right outside one of my classes.

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

While I’m choosing to go full-time and study this semester so I can finish by 2023, I just finished with a position as a associate for compliance risk and diligence at Kroll. Compliance is an amazing way to serve as an internal check on potential illicit acts by corporations which embolden transnational organized crime, and I hope to continue in that field and maybe in ten years be a compliance officer at a major firm.

What tools or strategies have proved most helpful in making the most of your time at the Elliott School?

Definitely finding and pursuing interdisciplinary passions. I recently joined the Elliott School’s GARNET and as someone who nearly minored in religious studies in undergrad, examining the connections between religion and security has been utterly fascinating for me.

What advice do you have for students for staying motivated at work or in class?

I’m not going to lie, there are times when the workload gets heavy. But in those moments, focus on the small tasks. Imagine you’re a swimmer stuck far out at sea. It’s much easier to envision yourself catching that next wave than fighting back to the shore all in one go. So focus on those little moments, and work and class become a lot more manageable. On a more fun note, indie pop helps me get in the zone when working, so white noise that gets that serotonin flowing also can’t hurt.

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

I would probably say it was going to see Unbreakable, a play on LGBTQI+ history, with members from OUT in International Affairs and Dr. Arturo Sotomayor, who also teaches the International Security course at Elliott. Coming out as transgender in grad school can be a harrowing experience, and I was not out my first semester because of that, but Dr. Sotomayor and my Transnational Security professor, Dr. Jill Jermano, had exemplary supportive responses when I told them. Dr. Sotomayor truly went above and beyond, wasting no time in connecting me to the Elliott School LGBTQI+ community and the wider GW community, including GW Transgender and Nonbinary Students (TNBS). He really was a rock for me in a difficult time, and going to that performance gave me the chance to reflect and realize how far I had come as a person and how far we have come as a community.

What is one book you think everyone should read and why?

I definitely enjoyed The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds by Selina Siak Chin Yoke. While the book deals specifically with the Nyonya (Malaysian Chinese) experience of growing up and growing old in a rapidly changing Malaysia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, themes such as belonging, family, heartbreak, and finding your place in the world are universal. The depths of feeling I experienced while reading that were unlike any other.


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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.