#ElliottProud: John Mackedon

Blog_ #EP Mackedon

John Mackedon is an Online Communications Officer with the World Bank, working in the Europe and Central Asia region. John joined the World Bank in 2009 and has worked in gender, agriculture, climate change, and communications. Prior to going to the Elliott School to pursue a degree in European and Eurasian Studies, John lived and worked in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. From 2002 – 2004, John served as a Peace Corps Volunteer teaching English. Upon completion of his service, and in the wake of Georgia’s Rose Revolution, John moved to the capital, Tbilisi, to work as a journalist and development consultant. John was born and raised in northern Nevada and received his BA in English from the University of Oregon. When not exploring the nearby waters with his flyrod, John can be found sampling hoppy beers at a local brewery or brewing his own (hoppy) beer.    

Describe your current position and what are your primary responsibilities?

At present, I am an Online Communications Officer for the Europe and Central Asia region of the World Bank. I cover communication activities for 11 countries around Central Europe, the Western Balkans, and Turkey – meaning my team and I are responsible for all of the external communications coming out of these countries, from information on our country websites to media relations, to risk management, and everything in between. I wouldn’t say there is a typical day in my job. One day I could be writing a feature story on pepper farmers in Montenegro and the next day I could be working with a reporter covering the latest economic trends in Poland. I work closely with my counterparts in the country offices this is my favorite facet of the job. Working with my colleagues across the region keeps me connected – and traveling and working on the ground in these places is a big perk for me. My counterparts definitely have their fingers on the pulse – not just about development, but across the entire political and socio-economic landscapes of their respective countries. Having the opportunity to work and better understand this part of the world – from the Western Balkans to the newest members of the EU – makes my job both a challenge and a real pleasure.

 What do you wish other people knew about your organization?

The World Bank is an incredibly intricate and diverse organization. I think a lot of people assume that there are just a bunch of economists walking these halls, which is not entirely accurate. Don’t get me wrong – we have plenty of economists, but we also have a bunch of sociologists, and public health professionals, and journalists, and energy specialists and others. There is space for a wide variety of skills. We also have people from nearly every country on earth working here, which is amazing. I never grow tired of hearing Finnish or Georgian on any given elevator ride. This environment is very conducive to thinking differently and challenging assumptions, which is a key ingredient for doing development well. My approach to development, or even just my everyday work life, is positively influenced by the international nature of this organization. There aren’t very many Americans at the World Bank – and that can be very refreshing, actually. It’s also huge! We have more than 10,000 people in 120 offices around the globe. I hail from a small community in Nevada, so I am always humbled to remember that more people work in my building than living in my home town!

What Elliott School courses would you recommend for students interested in your field and why?

One class that always stands out in my memory was on international organizations, taught by Martha Finnemore. If you have the opportunity to take a course with her – any course – I highly recommend it. The one I took was one of the most interesting and well-taught classes I have ever been in. It forced the students to really learn about a number of international organizations (including the World Bank). I remember doing a paper on NATO and being so fascinated by the history of an organization that I had kind of taken for granted. Being forced to realize that these large, imposing institutions – like NATO or the UN – didn’t spontaneously spring from nowhere, that they were conceived by people who were trying to solve a very difficult problem, gave me a lot of inspiration. Grand ideas can come to fruition and new approaches to problems on a global scale are actually possible if the political will exists. More generally, I think that any class that interests a person is worth exploring. While the subject matter is clearly important, I think the less obvious elements of my course work at the Elliott School have served me even more in my professional life. Dealing with the dynamics of a study group, synthesizing massive amounts of information into a digestible product, building confidence to have an open and honest interaction with a professor – these are the skills I draw on every day at work.

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

In a word: brutal. I started looking for work while I was still finishing my degree and it was literally the day Lehman Brothers collapsed – setting in motion the global financial crisis. The federal government was in the middle of a hiring freeze until after the 2008 Presidential election, so there were not many places to even look for work, let alone become a new hire! I got so desperate that I started working with a temp agency, which is how I actually landed at the World Bank. My first job was answering phones and my second assignment was just replying to emails for a conference. This wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for when I decided to pursue a Master’s degree. That second gig was key, though – I kept completing tasks and asking my manager for more complex ones. I tried to get myself involved in enough areas that I would become the institutional memory for this conference and they would be forced to keep me – at least until the conference ended – and maybe find a more interesting role for me. That was 10 years ago. So, I guess my advice would be, become desperate! Just kidding. My advice is that any job can be an opportunity. Employers value diverse skills and they don’t always know exactly what they are looking for or what they actually need. In my case, I proved to my boss that she needed someone with communication skills to overcome some of the challenges of her program and she eventually gave me a fulltime job. Take the job you get and parlay it into the job you want.

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

I would by our dog, Leyla. With a fulltime position as a professional cheese taster and a side gig as a napping consultant, she has figured out the true meaning of existence!

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: Aditi Seth

Blog_ #EP Seth

Aditi Seth works as an Energy Market Analyst at ICF Technologies. She holds an M.A in International Science and Technology Policy with a concentration in Energy and Environment Policy from the George Washington University. She also holds a B.S in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Economics from Shiv Nadar University in India. Prior to pursuing graduate school, she worked as a thermal engineer for a year and a half in India. During her time at the Elliott School, she worked as a research assistant at the Institute of International Science and Technology Policy focusing on climate and energy policy and as a consultant with the Climate Technology Program at the World Bank.

When did you realize you wanted an international career?

I was always interested in energy and environment (my area of interest/concentration) from a young age. Having pursued a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, I felt only having the technical skills was not enough. I needed to know where engineers like me fit in the world of policy, which led me to pick the Elliott School for my graduate studies. Energy and environment is one field that is highly dependent on international relations. Be it a decision to subsidize oil and petroleum or be it a decision to invest more in renewable technologies; it all stems from policy decisions taken by respective governments as well as international treaties.

Describe your current position and what are your primary responsibilities?

 I am currently working as an Energy Market Analyst at ICF Technologies. In my day to day work, I perform quantitative and economic analyses of energy markets in the United States to assess and forecast electric power and fuel prices; including individual power plant performance, operation, valuation, and fuel consumption given the federal and national energy policies and other regulatory effects.

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 ISTP program gave me the freedom to choose my concentration and tailor my own education. This included being able to take classes offered by other schools at GWU!! I not only focused on energy and environment policy classes but also on quantitative skills I needed to pursue a career in this field. I did some subject matter classes from the Elliott School along with quantitative skills classes that ranged from advanced econometrics using R and STATA to environmental economics offered by other schools. This really helped me specialize in and acquire the skillset I needed to prepare for my current position.

What advice do you have for prospective students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree in international relations?

My advice would be to do your research know what you want out of this degree. Given the wide range of classes offered at GWU, it is easy to get confused when picking your electives! Be focused and choose the classes that will add the most value to you in terms of knowledge and skills.

How do you feel about pineapple on pizza?

Eeewww!!

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: 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.