#ElliottProud: Bradley Wiggins

Blog_ #EP Wiggins

Bradley Wiggins earned her MA in International Affairs with a concentration in International Development and Conflict Resolution. While attending the Elliott School, she focused on the impact of armed conflict and security threats on educational systems – specifically in Africa. Bradley’s Global Capstone Project analyzed strategic considerations for harmonizing language education policy and practice in South Africa. During graduate school, Bradley first worked as an intern for Global Classrooms DC, the flagship education program of the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area (UNA-NCA). She then joined the U.S. Department of State as a Pathways intern, later converting into a full-time employee. Currently, Bradley works as a Program Coordinator in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Office of International Visitors, Near East and North Africa Branch. Before completing her graduate degree, Bradley received her BA in History and Art History from the University of South Carolina. She then served as a 2014 Teach for America corps member in Nashville, Tennessee, where she taught high school for two years. Bradley is originally from Statesboro, Georgia.

Describe your current position and what are your primary responsibilities?

I work as a Program Coordinator for the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). The IVLP is an exchange program for current and emerging international leaders who travel to the U.S. for programs that reflect their professional interests and U.S. foreign policy goals. My team and I work with U.S. embassies in the Middle East and North Africa to identify changemakers who will have an impact on their professional field for years to come. In my position, I am instrumental in the logistical planning and consular components of this program. This includes composing a variety of reports and cables to support the region. I also serve as a liaison between staff at embassies and our non-governmental affiliates to ensure that our exchange visitors have all of the necessary travel documents and exchange information to ensure a successful program. Additionally, I assist with program orientations, attend Department of State regional briefings with our participants, and conduct closing evaluations.

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

Since I was already working as a Pathways intern, my job search post-graduation was slightly different than some of my peers. Instead of searching for a new position, I had to navigate the conversion process to become a full-time federal employee. Although programs such as Pathways may not guarantee you a position upon graduation, they do offer the opportunity to gain relevant work experience, acquire a security clearance, and build your network from within an agency while completing your graduate studies. All of these are valuable advantages to finding a job upon graduation. For these reasons, I would encourage students to research opportunities such as Pathways early on in their graduate career.

What do you wish other people knew about your organization?

Having been around for nearly 80 years, the International Visitor Leadership Program has a rich history. The program has supported U.S. foreign policy by fostering the mutual exchange of information across a range of key sectors such as education, security, and governance. The IVLP welcomes around 5,000 exchange participants every year and relies on the commitment of nearly 90 volunteer-based community organizations in 44 states. More than 200,000 International Visitors have engaged with Americans through the IVLP. Many of these exchange participants went on – later in their careers – to become Chiefs of State or Heads of Government, such as Anwar Sadat and Margaret Thatcher.

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

It should not come as a shock to anyone who knows me that I would definitely be a corgi. Take one look at my desk at work and you will find a corgi calendar, magnets, and stickers. I even recently attended the Million Corgi March in Washington, DC and am now certain that being surrounded by corgis is the epitome of true joy. I really can’t pinpoint what makes corgis so great, but I believe it has something to do with the disproportionate nature of their short legs and big ears that makes them so lovable. For these incredibly thought out reasons, I without a doubt would be a corgi, potentially in a costume or sweater, because what is better than that?

The #ElliottProud series highlights Elliott School MA alumni and seeks to answer common questions posed by prospective, current, and incoming students. The views expressed by alumni profiled do not necessarily represent those of organizations they work for, are affiliated with, or the Elliott School of International Affairs. For more information or to submit questions, e-mail esiagrad@gwu.edu.

#ElliottProud: George Raskovic

Blog_ #EP RaskovicGeorge Raskovic is a graduate of the International Affairs MA program. His focus while at the Elliott School was in international development, environmental and energy policy. In 2017, he was awarded the Freeman Fellowship Award, which allowed him to work for a climate change resiliency organization in Indonesia. During his time there, he witnessed firsthand the economic vibrancy of urban Asian communities and decided to do his capstone on the economic and social growth potential of e-commerce in Indonesia for the US-ASEAN Business Council. After his graduation, George started a Research Internship at the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Energy and National Security Program. He is interested in how new technologies in clean energy can ensure sustainable and substantial development in emerging markets.

Describe your current position and what are your primary responsibilities?

I am currently a research intern at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. My responsibilities include conducting extensive research on the sanctions regime against Russia, its effects on the U.S. economy, and a vulnerability assessment of U.S. energy companies doing business in the country.

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?

As new technologies allow for more accurate and in-depth data to be published, being able to understand and interpret them is essential for any professional in the field of policy. Furthermore, professional experiences abroad are crucial, for expanding one’s worldview, establishing cultural understanding, and being able to navigate the diverse community of international affairs successfully.

When you need inspiration, you … ?

I take a walk! DC is a city of museums, food, music, and everything is a short distance away.

If you could travel anywhere in the cosmos, outside of Earth, where would you go and why?

Mars is going to get popular soon; I guess I should go check it out before the lines get too long.

The #ElliottProud series highlights Elliott School MA alumni and seeks to answer common questions posed by prospective, current, and incoming students. The views expressed by alumni profiled do not necessarily represent those of organizations they work for, are affiliated with, or the Elliott School of International Affairs. For more information or to submit questions, e-mail esiagrad@gwu.edu.

 

#ElliottProud: Briana Suarez

Blog_ #EP Suarez

Briana Suarez graduated from the Elliott School with a degree in Security Policy Studies in 2018, concentrating on Conflict Resolution and Intelligence. Building on her undergraduate degree in International Relations from the State University of New York, New Paltz, the SPS program allowed her to combine her interests in humanitarian aid and war studies, bridging her understanding of both and their relevance during warfare. Briana worked at GW in different departments and previously interned with Doctors Without Borders (MSF) prior to her graduate studies.

Describe your current position and what are your primary responsibilities?

I am the International Admissions and Operations Manager at the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA). I am responsible for connecting prospective students with leading graduate schools in international affairs and public policy, such as the Elliott School, and providing them with the resources and opportunities to apply, afford, and achieve a career in this field. This includes webinars on applying to graduate schools, panels, info sessions, fairs, and so forth. Additionally, I work with these graduate schools to make them better and help them in continuing to make their students positive agents of change. 

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

One of the most critical courses I took during my time at Elliott was the “Writing for Policymakers,” taught by the distinguished Professor Chris Kojm. The amount of writing, editing, and restructuring done in that short period made me a more critical and concise writer. Policymakers and professionals do not want to read term papers or reports about these topics nor do they have the time. And yet, you are often tasked with briefing and teaching them the context behind these topics in 2 pages or less to help them make a well-informed decision. If you are unable to convey your argument and points in a concise manner, no amount of passion or conviction can help you succeed. I eagerly recommend this course, especially if taught by Professor Kojm.

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

I find the most challenging part to be getting the word out about all of the amazing opportunities available for students. There are so many resources at the disposal of prospective and current graduate students from how to pay for graduate school all the way up to how to network and get a job in your respective field. I stay motivated by reminding myself of the important work I am doing and remembering that having someone like myself to guide students during their graduate school application and process makes the world of a difference. Finally, I remind myself that I want to see the international affairs field more representative of individuals like myself. My work helps in changing the landscape and face of the field to include more diverse voices and perspectives; to include more underrepresented individuals, be it women, minorities, those with disabilities, and so forth. That keeps me going when I feel like the work is overwhelming.

If you could throw a parade of any caliber, what type of parade would it be?

A parade that celebrates wine, cheese, and bacon with free samples from different vendors. Lots of confetti, giveaways, and the aforementioned things.

The #ElliottProud series highlights Elliott School MA alumni and seeks to answer common questions posed by prospective, current, and incoming students. The views expressed by alumni profiled do not necessarily represent those of organizations they work for, are affiliated with, or the Elliott School of International Affairs. For more information or to submit questions, e-mail esiagrad@gwu.edu.

#ElliottProud: Jacob Hart

Blog_ #EP HartJacob Hart is a research assistant with the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. He received his MA in European and Eurasian Studies at GW’s Elliott School of International Affairs and his BA from the University of Kentucky. Before joining NATO PA, he spent a year in the Senate as a Legislative Correspondent and completed internships on Capitol Hill as well as with the Center for European Policy Analysis.  

Describe your current position and what are your primary responsibilities?

Currently, I am serving as a research assistant with the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Brussels. My main responsibility is assisting the committee directors in research, writing, and editing for reports for our annual plenary session, this year in Halifax, Canada. Beyond working on the reports for the annual session I have been able to compose committee resolutions, and speeches for different parliamentarians from across the Alliance as well as drafting memos on research for future reports. Outside of work for the annual session, I create background documents for the committee and presidential visits.

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

The Elliott School Graduate Student Services (GSS) office was instrumental in my receiving this opportunity. My capstone for the EES program was crucial in developing the writing abilities that I use every day in working on reports to drafting memos. Additionally, I would not have received this opportunity without the Elliott School’s Career Center. Tara Sonenshine has become a mentor to me. She first told me about the Research Assistant Program as well as connected me with a fellow Elliott School Alum, who helped me to prepare for the interview and program.

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

The NATO PA has far exceeded my expectations for what I would be doing following graduation. Before coming to The Elliott School I had a very narrow view of international affairs career opportunity, however, learning about the diverse world of prospects within the international affairs world has really opened me up to everything from think tanks to the Hill and even my current posting with a Multinational Organization in Brussels.

How do you feel about pineapple on pizza?

Personally, I’m a big fan of pineapple on pizza. We used to eat it a lot growing up, so it is quite normal for me. It wasn’t until later in life that I learned some people found this to be a bizarre pizza topping.

The #ElliottProud series highlights Elliott School MA alumni and seeks to answer common questions posed by prospective, current, and incoming students. The views expressed by alumni profiled do not necessarily represent those of organizations they work for, are affiliated with, or the Elliott School of International Affairs. For more information or to submit questions, e-mail esiagrad@gwu.edu.

 

#ElliottProud: Maria Dolores Vallenilla

Blog_ #EP Vallenilla

Maria Dolores Vallenilla is a Venezuelan lawyer with over 8 years of professional experience and a master’s degree in International Development Studies from the Elliott School of International Affairs. She is currently working at the Inter-American Development Bank to advance gender equality in the mining, oil and gas sector in Latin American and the Caribbean.

Describe your current position and what are your primary responsibilities?

Currently working at the Inter-American Development Bank as a consultant in the Extractive Sector Initiative and managing technical assistance to include a gender equality approach in mining, oil and gas policy. The policies and programs we are looking to implement do not only in integrating more women in the sector through formal direct and indirect employment opportunities but also thinking through policies and interventions that mitigate risks and maximize benefits to women in host communities that tend to experience the short-end of these investments when compared to men.

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

Hard. As an international student with visa restrictions, I concentrated on International Organizations as soon as I started my master’s program. After working in part-time internships through summer and my 2nd year, I started applying for jobs early in 2016. Fortunately, I started working at the IDB 2 months after graduation and I believe that the IDS program was key to my career change and continues to be key in my career advancement.

Start early, develop a smart networking strategy, patience and perseverance are key for any DC job search.

What do you wish other people knew about your organization?

Working in an International Development Bank does have its perks, even after the short-contract to short-contract phase that can sometimes be exhausting. I have had the possibility to personally contribute by overseeing consultants who are devising policy; seeing that policy finally enacted is amazing.

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

In this HEAT? A tortoise, so I can easily go into the water and hide under my shell during the summer months in DC.

The #ElliottProud series highlights Elliott School MA alumni and seeks to answer common questions posed by prospective, current, and incoming students. The views expressed by alumni profiled do not necessarily represent those of organizations they work for, are affiliated with, or the Elliott School of International Affairs. For more information or to submit questions, e-mail esiagrad@gwu.edu.

#ElliottProud: David Okun

Blog_ #EP Okun

David Okun works at the U.S. Department of State as a Country Officer in the Office of Children’s Issues, where he assists families in the aftermath of international child abductions and formulates bilateral and multilateral foreign policy recommendations. He earned an M.A. in Latin American & Hemispheric Studies at the Elliott School of International Affairs, where he focused on the nexus of security and economic development in Latin America and Colombia in particular. Prior to grad school, David entered public service as a dual-language elementary school teacher in North Texas through Teach For America. David holds bachelors degrees in Spanish and International Affairs from the University of Georgia.  Outside of work, David sings in a Washington, D.C.-based men’s a cappella group.

Describe your current position and what are your primary responsibilities?

I currently work at the U.S. Department of State as a Country Officer in the Office of Children’s Issues.  My role is twofold: I assist families in the aftermath of international child abductions by working with them to explore the options they have to seek their child’s return.  At the same time, I work with U.S. law enforcement, courts, non-profits, and particularly foreign government partners under an international treaty that seeks to prevent and resolve abductions.  I’m fortunate to use my M.A. in Latin American & Hemispheric Studies every day, as I cover a portfolio of countries in the Western Hemisphere, and frequently communicate and collaborate with our stakeholders in Spanish.

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

 IAFF 6358: Security in the Americas with Prof. Jenna Ben-Yehuda.  She is an expert practitioner in the field and weaves both theory and practice into her coursework.

Of course, USAJobs.gov and careers.state.gov for job openings and career paths at State.  The Consular Fellows Program is underrated in my opinion and can be a great stepping stone for recent grads who have certain language skills to work overseas at a U.S. embassy or consulate.  It’s relatively low-commitment in that it’s not a career-length job so you can see if you like the work and want to apply to be a Foreign Service Officer.

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

I’d say both navigating the complex waters of federal bureaucracy and feeling like I always want to do more than there’s time for.  In my current job, that manifests itself when talking with parents: I can tell them what their options are, but I can’t tell them what to do, or which one is right for them because every abduction scenario is unique.  On the flip side, when working with our partner countries, it’s often helpful to think creatively in how to combat the problem and how to improve our treaty obligations, but also recognizing what is and isn’t feasible here in the U.S.  I stay motivated by remembering that people (especially the kiddos!) are counting on me.  #ForTheKids

The best compliment you’ve received? 

When I got back from studying abroad in Spain and was taken for a madrileño by native speakers for a few months.  Now my Spanish is a chameleon; I adopt the accent and dialect of whichever group I’m communicating with.

The #ElliottProud series highlights Elliott School MA alumni and seeks to answer common questions posed by prospective, current, and incoming students. The views expressed by alumni profiled do not necessarily represent those of organizations they work for, are affiliated with, or the Elliott School of International Affairs. For more information or to submit questions, e-mail esiagrad@gwu.edu.

#ElliottProud: Lindsay North

Blog_ #EP North

Lindsay North graduated from Trinity College in 2006 with a BA in English/Creative Writing. A circuitous path via publishing, advertising, New York City and South Africa led her to the International Development Studies program at the Elliott School, which she graduated from in 2012. During grad school, she interned at MSI on the DG Analytics team, which turned into a full-time position after she graduated. Lindsay spent several years with MSI in DC and then in Pakistan, and was then recruited by DAI to join their USAID/OTI program there. After four years in Pakistan, she’s now back in the US and working with DAI remotely from Portland, OR. She provides M&E, research, and technical support to their portfolio of CVE, conflict, and stabilization programming.

Describe your current position and what are your primary responsibilities?

I currently work as a Global Practice Specialist within the Center for Secure and Stable States (CS3) at DAI. My focus is on M&E, program design, and research in VE- and conflict-affected environments. 

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

All of it! The practical focus of the program was a huge asset—I gained a foundational understanding of program design, qualitative research methodologies, and how to build a logframe, among other things. Colleagues who had graduated from other programs didn’t usually have those skill sets when they first started. I also liked the option to take classes at other schools with GWU. The Capstone was an incredible experience, both in terms of working with a client and the fieldwork component. I had fantastic professors as well—I’m looking at you, Professor Roberts and Professor Fink!

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?

I thought I’d be focused on education, and conflict/CVE was not on my radar at all. However, I interned at MSI on the Democracy and Governance Analytics team and it was fascinating. I also had an amazing boss in Lynn Carter, who became a mentor and friend. That led me to pivot from my initial focus on education, to look more specifically at issues of education in conflict-affected environments, and then youth empowerment in conflict settings. I joined MSI full-time after I graduated where I worked on more CVE- and conflict-related projects, which led me out to Pakistan, and then I ended up staying there for four years.

If you would be any type of food/drink, what food/drink would you be?

Pho ga.

The #ElliottProud series highlights Elliott School MA alumni and seeks to answer common questions posed by prospective, current, and incoming students. The views expressed by alumni profiled do not necessarily represent those of organizations they work for, are affiliated with, or the Elliott School of International Affairs. For more information or to submit questions, e-mail esiagrad@gwu.edu.