#ElliottProud: David Medina

Blog_ #EP Medina

David Medina is a Data Analyst on Polaris Project’s Data Analyst Program where his research is focused on Labor Trafficking in the industry of Agriculture. More specifically, David is investigating violations in the labor recruitment supply chain of the H-2A visa guest worker program and the exploitation and trafficking of undocumented migrants in agriculture across the US. David is an M.A. graduate in International Affairs from the Elliott School. In his three years in Washington DC, David has worked as a Program Manager at the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area, and most recently, as a Global Security Analyst at the World Bank Group. David also worked as a security consultant for Espacios de Mujer (‘Spaces for Women’), a Medellin, Colombia-based NGO that assists and reintegrates victims of human trafficking. Prior to this, David worked as a researcher at Mahidol University’s Institute for Population and Social Research in Bangkok, Thailand, where he investigated the nexus between human trafficking and access to education in the ASEAN economic region. David has a background in teaching, coaching, and diversity workshop facilitation. He is bilingual and an avid travel and sports enthusiast.

Describe your current position and what are your primary responsibilities?

I am currently an Analyst on the Data Team in Polaris, a leader in the global fight to eradicate human trafficking. In my role, I am focused on creating an in-depth typology of the ways labor trafficking manifests in agriculture and the development of corresponding roadmaps for eradication. To do so, I use quantitative and qualitative methods to analyze data sets including network analysis, geospatial modeling, interviews with experts in the field, and survey analysis to identify actionable recommendations for anti-trafficking prevention and disruption strategies to pursue human trafficking networks wherever they operate.

What was your experience with the job search post-graduation? Can you provide any wisdom for students who will start their job search?

It was difficult but chock full of a lot of lessons. My foremost advice is to pursue the job search as if it were a full-time job; dedicating at least eight hours of your day to the research, preparation, and execution. My approach is three-pronged

  • First, carefully identify and study the roles that best fit your skill set and passions. Study the organizations, learn about its people, their projects and responsibilities, and track ways to connect with people at those organizations.
  • Second, network, network, and network. Sign up for events and newsletters from every major organization that is doing work in the field you want to break into. There’s no excuse not to find at least a handful of weekly events in DC. Be shrewd and do your homework on the topic of the event, and who will likely be there. Pursue networking as if it were a blind date. You want them to like and remember you—I like to wear a clothing accessory that helps to distinguish me (a colorful rose pendant).
  • Finally, execution. Follow up with people who give you their business cards, make sure your CVs and cover letters are wholly curated to the role and organization you are applying to. Always remain resilient and relentless, the post-grad job search is not supposed to be an easy one. 

What do you wish other people knew about your organization?

 The Polaris model for combatting modern-day slavery is a paragon. This organization is made up of talented, diverse, unfluctuating, and brilliant professionals committed to the cause in a very inspiring way. It is a privilege to serve with them.

If you could be any animal, what would you be?

I would choose to be the American Bald Eagle. First, my existence would be protected by federal law. Second, it is a splendid creature with historical significance. Finally, it is a terrific predator with a keen eye for hunting and the ability to soar high in the sky.

The #ElliottProud series highlights Elliott School MA alumni and seeks to answer common questions posed by prospective, current, and incoming students. For more information or to submit questions, e-mail esiagrad@gwu.edu.

#WeAreElliott: Sarah Bautista

Blog- #WAE BautistaSara Bautista graduated from the University of Northern Colorado in May of 2014 with a B.A. in International Affairs; minors in French and Theater. She is currently in her second year of graduate school. Sara will obtain an M.A. in International Affairs with a concentration in Global Gender Policy from the Elliott School in May 2018.

When did you realize you wanted an international career and what inspired you to select your program or concentration at the Elliott School?

Theater has always been my passion. What can I say, I love being in the spotlight! During my undergrad I was able to study theater in London. Those six months made me realize that as much as I love theater, what made me happiest was traveling and discovering different cultures. I switched my major to international affairs and the rest is history! I selected the Global Gender Policy concentration because I see and experience gender-based inequalities every day, not just in my life but around the world. Silence on these issues is a luxury we can no longer afford.

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

I recently interviewed for a position with an organization that works with marginalized women and girls, so keep your fingers crossed! I also still contribute to the NGO I worked for this summer in Timor-Leste. The NGO, Empreza Di’ak, gave me so much in-field experience. It helped solidify, in my mind, what I want to do with my life. Being out in the field is so much more rewarding than reading about it in a book. The more I get to work with people who are trying to make a positive difference in their communities the happier I’ll be.

What advice do you have for prospective students who are on the fence about applying to a graduate program at the Elliott school?

The amount of opportunities that the Elliott school offers their students is almost overwhelming. Since I started the program I have seen countless international figures give talks, work for a local NGO in South East Asia, and been accepted into the GW-USIP mentorship program. I would not have known or had access to any of these experiences without the Elliott school. Most importantly, the Elliott school professors and staff are constantly offering guidance and help. They take care of their students because they want to see us succeed and that kind of support goes a long way.

If you could have a parade on any day for any occasion, what would your parade be for?

The parade would definitely be on March 12th aka my birthday! I’m not saying that I specifically deserve a parade but that everyone deserves a parade on their birthday. So what I’m really getting at is there should be a parade every single day!

The #WeAreElliott series highlights current M.A. students at the Elliott School and seeks to answer common questions posed by prospective and incoming students. For more information or to submit questions, e-mail esiagrad@gwu.edu.

#ElliottProud: Astrid Hasfura-Dada

Blog_ #EP Hasfura-Dada

Astrid Hasfura-Dada was born and raised in El Salvador. She completed her undergraduate degree at York University in Toronto, Canada. She returned home after graduation and started helping out with a non-profit organization called Fusalmo, which helps with the education of kids who live in violent areas of El Salvador. She moved to Washington DC in August 2015 to start her graduate degree in Security Policy Studies at the Elliott School. During her time at Elliott, she also interned at the Organization of American States, the Embassy of El Salvador, and the private sector. She graduated this past May 2017 with a concentration on Risk Analysis and Transnational Security and recently moved to New York to work in a business intelligence and investigations firm named Diligence.

Describe your current position and what are your primary responsibilities?

I am an associate at Diligence in New York City. I work on conducting investigations and research as well as producing analysis that helps a variety of private sector clients who are looking to engage in new business endeavors in a globalized market. 

What are the current trends driving the future of your career field and what advice would you provide an Elliott School graduate student that is interested in your field of work?

Technology has made it possible for the field of business intelligence to grow exponentially. The amount of information that is available today surpasses anything we have seen before. Nevertheless, as much as technology is contributing to producing better results in this field, human intelligence will always be relevant and necessary.

If you are interested in working in the field of business intelligence I would first recommend you learn about researching and writing for non-academic work. The way we conduct research and present information in the private sector is very practical and client-oriented; luckily there are many classes at the Elliott School that teach you to think, speak, and write in a way that will be of value in this field (e.g. Formal Briefing class, Alternative Analysis/ Red Team class, Business Intelligence class…). I would also recommend you learn a second language (or various languages).

And finally (also probably the most important general career advice ever), you live in DC, so: #network!!!!

When you need inspiration, you … ?

I first take a break, take a step back, and think on all the challenges that I have already overcome as well as all the things that once motivated me and pushed me to strive for more.

I feel like more often than not we get caught up on ourselves and I’ve learned that at the end of the day, no matter how much you love your job or how good you are at whatever you do, it is thinking about others that will inspire you and give you a reason to keep going. As we get more and more busy in life, we forget how fortunate we are and we forget how we once wanted to help change the world around us; I take inspiration from this.

 If you won the lottery but could only spend money on three items/causes, what would they be?

  1. Is there a thing such as an unlimited airplane ticket?
  2. I would love to start various business ventures throughout Central America in order to help the many young, talented kids in my corner of the world to develop their skills and build fulfilling careers.
  3. I grew up going to the beach every weekend and it’s one of the things I miss the most, so getting a beach house would definitely be a great way to spend the rest of that lottery money (if I still have any left…. items 1 and 2 seem pretty pricey…)

The #ElliottProud series highlights Elliott School MA alumni and seeks to answer common questions posed by prospective, current, and incoming students. For more information or to submit questions, e-mail esiagrad@gwu.edu.

#WeAreElliott: Aarthy Madanagopal

Blog_ #WAE Madanagopal

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

Currently, I’m just enjoying my student life at GW. But I took the freeman fellowship and spent the 2017 summer in Indonesia. I worked with Planet Indonesia, an NGO working at grassroots with the local community trying to create a conservation-compact to protect the forest areas by incentivizing the local people with other alternates.

What classes/professional skills courses have you found most helpful in your work/intern/volunteer experiences and how have they been useful?

Public speaking, gender analysis, cross-cultural communication and negotiation skills.

What advice do you have for first-year students who are starting their internship/work experience search?

Go with fewer expectations, be prepared for the cultural shock, try to empathize and not sympathize, pay attention to what matters to the place and people you work with rather than your prioritization.

If you had to rewatch the same 3 shows for the rest of your life, which would they be?

Criminal Minds, Master of None, and Friends.

The #WeAreElliott series highlights current M.A. students at the Elliott School and seeks to answer common questions posed by prospective and incoming students. For more information or to submit questions, e-mail esiagrad@gwu.edu.

#ElliottProud: Jossif Ezekilov

Blog_ #EP Ezekilov

Jossif Ezekilov graduated with a Master of Arts in International Development Studies in December 2016, specializing in Gender and Community Development. He also holds a Graduate Certificate in Global Health, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs, both from GW. For his capstone project, he conducted qualitative research on changes in perceptions of violence against women in Nicaragua. In addition to writing for Rantt News, he also works at GW’s Law School and volunteers with several social justice organizations in the Washington, DC area. . Jossif’s article on masculinities and countering violent extremism was recently published in Reconsidering Development. He has also held positions in several development organizations, including Global Communities, CAMRIS International, and completed an internship at the International Centre for Migration, Health, and Development in Geneva, Switzerland.

Describe your current position and what are your primary responsibilities?

I am a staff writer and editor at Rantt News, an online news publication. As the editor of the International section, I write on current events and foreign policy issues that are underreported by American news media, to better inform readers and provide them with a more global perspective. I also work with writers and photojournalists from around the world, in an effort to give a voice to those who are witnessing and/or affected by major world events.

What professional organization, websites, or Elliott School courses, would you recommend for students interested in your field, and why?

The research methods courses I took in the Elliott School were very useful to my current work. Qualitative methods courses gave me some great tools to get the most out of the interviews that I do, while quantitative methods courses are useful in scrutinizing data and communicating it effectively to my readers. Of course, the high level of writing required by Elliott School professors has been an immense help as well.

What part of your career do you find most challenging and how do you stay motivated?

Ensuring that we are adequately representing the issues we cover is a constant challenge. I believe that it is essential to provide analysis that is thoughtful, rational, well-researched, and as unbiased as possible. In our current era of increasing division and misinformation, this is an increasingly daunting, yet increasingly important, task. What keeps me motivated is the people who I get to write about: medics in Venezuela performing miracles with sparse supplies, activists risking their lives to fight against injustice, NGO workers making an immeasurably positive difference in their communities, etc. Their stories are what keep me going.

The best compliment I’ve received … ?

“You always just go with the flow.” Both personally and professionally, I am always known for being flexible, taking things as they come, and rolling with the punches. This makes me better able to take on anything that comes my way. Plus, it keeps everyone on their toes!

The #ElliottProud series highlights Elliott School MA alumni and seeks to answer common questions posed by prospective, current, and incoming students. For more information or to submit questions, e-mail esiagrad@gwu.edu.

#WeAreElliott: Ellen Riina

Blog_ #WAE Riina

Ellen Riina is in her second year of the International Affairs program with a concentration in International Law and Organizations. Her research interests include illicit finance, China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and private sector development. She currently interns at the Atlantic Council in the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security in the Foresight, Strategy, and Risks Initiative. During her first year, she was a research assistant at PONARS Eurasia within the Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies (IERES) at GW. She is on the executive board of both the Elliott School Graduate Board and the International Affairs Review. Ellen received her Bachelor’s degree from Albion College in Albion, MI. She expects to graduate in Spring 2018.

When did you realize you wanted an international career and what inspired you to select your program or concentration at the Elliott School?  

I was very fortunate to travel to Europe, Australia, and Central America when I was younger. These experiences shaped my worldview and cultivated a strong interest in global politics. After working for two years in the healthcare and legal fields, I realized that having an international aspect to my career was something that I deeply valued. I decided that getting a master’s degree was critical to transitioning my career toward working on international issues. The Elliott School’s International Affairs program is well respected, and their emphasis on professional skills is something that employers desire. Concentrating in international law and organizations provides me with the foundation to work in both the public and the private sector.

What resources (online or offline) have proven to be the most valuable in helping you reach your career success?

Network. Network. Network. The Elliott School can get you in the door, but your attitude and work ethic is what people will remember. Washington DC is built on personal relationships, so making connections through opportunities like happy hours are crucial. Maintaining those personal relationships is essential to acquire internships and jobs. I’ve also become more active on LinkedIn and utilized the Graduate Career Services to get the most out of Elliott School resources.

 What piece of advice/wisdom would you have given yourself when you started your program now that you’ve completed your first year?

Be willing to ask for what you want. If you want to write a blog, be assigned to a special project at work, or interview a scholar in your field – just ask. While working at the Atlantic Council, I inquired about writing a blog post on disinformation. This led to an opportunity to cover a panel at a conference on disinformation and publish a piece on the Atlantic Council’s Ukraine Alert blog. Taking initiative is an important professional skill that differentiates you as a leader. Plus, you never know where asking for an opportunity will lead to!

How do you feel about pineapple on pizza?

Pizza is a blank canvas! I’m all about trying fun flavor combinations on pizza including pineapple, but my personal favorite is BBQ Chicken Pizza.

The #WeAreElliott series highlights current M.A. students at the Elliott School and seeks to answer common questions posed by prospective and incoming students. For more information or to submit questions, e-mail esiagrad@gwu.edu.

#ElliottProud: Nanda Ruiz

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Nanda Ruiz is a Refugee Officer at the Department of Homeland Security. She received a B.A in Political Science and a B.S in Signed Language Interpreting from the University of New Mexico. She went on to earn her M.A in International Development Studies at the Elliott School, focusing on Gender, development and humanitarian response. Ms. Ruiz is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Peru 2012-2014) and her previous work includes positions with International Medical Corps, International Development Enterprise, and Save the Children. She has lived and worked in Bangladesh and Jordan and speaks Spanish, French, and ASL.

Describe your current position and what are your primary responsibilities?

As a Refugee Protection Officer for the Department of Homeland Security, my primary responsibility is to provide protection to people seeking asylum or refugee resettlement in the United States. I apply domestic immigration law, international humanitarian law, and refugee law to individual cases in order to provide the best protection available to applicants. My goal is to use all the legal tools available to me, country conditions, and testimony to best adjudicate and provide relief to refugees. I uphold stringent national security vetting processes while providing this important humanitarian aid to refugees.

What part of your experience at the Elliott School best prepared you for your current position? (Specific classes, student orgs, career development office, etc.)

Through the Elliott School, I was able to get outside of my comfort zone of Latin America and gain experience in South Asia and the Middle East. This has been incredibly valuable in my work as a Refugee Officer. I am able to put context to the stories I hear from refugees. I have an understanding of the realities on the ground that is impossible to gain without getting to the field. The Elliott School supports students obtain and seek the opportunity to go into the field. This provided me with the ability to be a more compassionate and patient interviewer.

How does what you’re doing now compare to what you thought you would be doing when you first started your program at the Elliott School?

My goal when I started the IDS program at the Elliott School was to get back out in the field as a development worker. Throughout my studies I found myself drawn to protection work focused on women and children. I did not see myself working in national security. My position now is a challenging but extremely satisfying combination of national security, humanitarian aid, and protection work. My experience at the Elliott School, internships, fellowships, and work abroad have all added to the way I approach my work. It has been incredibly valuable.

How do you feel about pineapple on pizza?

I feel pretty good about it.

The #ElliottProud series highlights Elliott School MA alumni and seeks to answer common questions posed by prospective, current, and incoming students. For more information or to submit questions, e-mail esiagrad@gwu.edu.

#WeAreElliott: Eric Rowe

Blog- #WAE Rowe

Eric D. Rowe is an M.A. candidate in the Elliott School of International Affairs’ Security Policy Studies program, with concentrations in Defense Analysis and Strategic Concepts/Military History. Eric’s regional focus is on the Asia-Pacific, particularly East and Southeast Asia. During his time at the Elliott School, Eric served as a Freeman Foundation Fellow in Taiwan with Taiwan Security Research. Eric holds BAs in Political Science and Asian Studies from Purdue University. He is from Fort Wayne, Indiana.

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

I am currently an intern for the Defense Attaché of the Embassy of Brunei Darussalam. The internship has me monitoring current events in defense and security policy, as well as attending think-tank events throughout the city. Not only does it require me to stay up-to-date on the global security environment, attending the events is a great opportunity to network.

What strategies have proven most helpful in making the most of your time at the Elliott School or D.C.?

Quite frankly, you have to throw caution to the wind to take full advantage of the opportunities in DC and at the Elliott School. If you see something that you might have even an inkling of interest in, you should apply to it. That’s how I ended up being a Freeman Fellow and attending the GW Institute of Korean Studies’ summer program. Also, network as much as you can. Coming from Indiana, it feels insincere and dirty, but in DC it’s an imperative.

What piece of advice/wisdom would you have given yourself when you started your program now that you’ve completed your first year?

I should have networked more than I did when I first arrived. The professional relationships you create by mingling or just by chance could lead to a career.

If you were written about in the newspaper, on the front page, what would the headline say?

“Rowe’s National Party sweeps the Midwest; strongest third-party showing since Perot”.

The #WeAreElliott series highlights current M.A. students at the Elliott School and seeks to answer common questions posed by prospective and incoming students. For more information or to submit questions, e-mail esiagrad@gwu.edu.

#ElliottProud: Jeanette Gass

Blog_ #EP Gass

Jeanette Gass graduated with an MA in Global Communication in 2013. She also worked in the MIPP program at Elliott while a student. Since then, she’s had a couple different jobs at the University of Maryland, National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, and now works for The Optical Society. She has a BA in international studies and anthropology from The University of Iowa and is currently working on a second Master’s degree in Nonprofit and Association Management. After graduation, she volunteered with Young Professionals in Foreign Policy and is an active alumni member of Phi Sigma Pi National Honor Fraternity.

Describe your current position and what are your primary responsibilities?

I work for The Optical Society in the awards and honors/ global development program. Our office grants distinguished member status and awards to people all over the world who are nominated and selected by their colleagues. In addition, we are opening our very first overseas office and my team also oversees trips taken to visit our partner societies in various countries across the globe including Japan, China, Korea, and Mexico.

What was your experience with the job search post-graduation? Can you provide any wisdom for students who will start their job search?

My post-graduation job search was not easy, and I’ve been in a number of positions since I graduated. They’ve all given me a lot of experience that makes me an excellent fit for my role today. My wisdom to students would be to not be afraid to take short-term contract jobs to get relevant experience and to also consider organizations that are not traditionally associated with international affairs. My current job is at a professional society for scientists who study light, optics, and photonics. I’m not a scientist, but I don’t need to be for this role and still work on international projects where I can effectively use the skills I gained at the Elliott School.

What do you wish other people knew about your organization?

I wish other people knew the importance of membership organizations/associations and the value they can provide for professional development and growth. My organization offers a number of conferences, meetings, training sessions, and professional volunteer opportunities for the optics community. There are a number of professional associations in every field that can provide networking and educational opportunities for students and early-career professionals.

If you were a box of cereal, what kind would you be and why?

I would be peanut butter and chocolate cheerios. They’re my favorite candy combination and they are mostly sweet and with a little bit of saltiness which kind of mirrors my personality.

The #ElliottProud series highlights Elliott School MA alumni and seeks to answer common questions posed by prospective, current, and incoming students. For more information or to submit questions, e-mail esiagrad@gwu.edu.

#WeAreElliott: Janhavi Apte

Blog- #WAE Apte

Janhavi Apte is a second-year graduate student at the Elliott School in the MA in International affairs program with a concentration in International Security Studies. Born and brought up in India, she received her BA in International Studies with a minor in Journalism and Digital Media from FLAME University in 2016. She has internship experience from security policy think-tanks such as Forum for Strategic Initiatives (FSI) in New Delhi where she focused on security challenges in South and South-East Asia. She has also volunteered with NGOs such as The Akanksha Foundation working as an administrative assistant and assistant teacher of English for young students. This summer, having spent time interning with Search for Common Ground in Myanmar as a recipient of the Freeman Fellowship Grant, Janhavi is keen to build a career in the field of stabilization and peace-building. Her expected graduation date is May 2018.

When did you realize you wanted an international career and what inspired you to select your program or concentration at the Elliott School?

Coming out of high school, I knew that my career would be in the field of public service- whether it was journalism, law or pursuing a diplomatic career. However, I was keen to explore various streams of study to find my true calling. I took a class in the first year of my undergraduate studies called ‘Security Studies in International Relations’ and immediately knew that I wanted to study this subject further and build a career around it. The MAIA program at Elliott stood out to me because it lets me do the same- explore various avenues within International Affairs before deciding on a specific concentration, and focuses on giving students an opportunity to apply what they study in the real world through courses like Global Capstone.

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

I spent this summer in Yangon, Myanmar working with Search for Common Ground, a peace-building organization for 10 weeks. I assisted them with post-project reporting, project proposal development, and DM&E work. The internship exposed me to the world of peace-building and to what a career in the field looks like. Being in an environment where the realities of ethnic conflict are severely affecting the workings of democratic institutions in the country and disrupting people’s way of life, marring it with fear and violence, only solidified and strengthened my interest in the subject and my determination to build a career around it.

What advice do you have for prospective students who are on the fence about applying to a graduate program at the Elliott school?

Don’t hesitate. For someone who wants to pursue a career in Global Affairs, there is no better place to be than Washington DC. The Elliott school provides numerous platforms to students to not just hear from people that have worked and are working for real positive change but also interact with them to understand how we could do our bit as well. This can be in the form of panel discussions or sometimes they’re your professors!  Opportunities are endless, and studying at the Elliott school pushes you to step out of your comfort zone, network with some incredible individuals and grab every opportunity you get!

Favorite rainy-day activity?

Dancing in the rain and jumping in puddles followed by curling with up a good book with a steaming bowl of soup or Maggi noodles.

The #WeAreElliott series highlights current M.A. students at the Elliott School and seeks to answer common questions posed by prospective and incoming students. For more information or to submit questions, e-mail esiagrad@gwu.edu.