Pathways to Success: Career Accomplishments of Elliott School Women


The Elliott School marked International Women’s Week with a speaker series featuring distinguished alumnae, called Pathways to Success: Career Accomplishments of Elliott School Women. The featured panelists ranged from recent graduates to seasoned professionals, and work for powerful institutions including the State Department, the World Bank, and the White House. They are passionate about issues like stopping modern day slavery, ending poverty, advocating for immigration and human rights, and of course, advancing gender equality globally.

The conversation that ensued was an up-close and personal look into how successful careers in international affairs emerge. One thing became clear — there are many pathways to career satisfaction and success. All the women described turning points in their careers that were as full of serendipity as of hard work; trajectories did not always follow a straight line.

Other takeaways from their collective wisdom were the importance of taking advantage of faculty mentors and the career services office. In many cases, these resources provided important routes to internships that led to jobs and other opportunities. Language fluency was cited by many as not only opening doors to career opportunities but opening windows into new worlds that deepened their commitment to international affairs.

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, the conversation moved on to tips for dealing with sexism and discrimination in the workplace. One panelist, the author of the #MeTooNatSec letter, signed by over 200 international affairs professionals, called for the international affairs community to address the serious gender imbalances in senior leadership positions.  

The women spoke sagely of the spectrum of workplace issues that often start in a permissive environment where people are spoken over, shut out of meetings, and shut out of the decision making process — problems born out of an imbalance of power. The panelists emphasized the importance of remaining professional, being prepared with a toolbox of responses for managing workplace situations such as scripting difficult conversations, and above all surrounding yourself with people who can support you to reach your goals.

Pathways to Success: Career Accomplishments of Elliott School Women featured the following distinguished Elliott alumnae:

Rumana Ahmed, BA ’11, former Senior Advisor to the Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Global Engagement, White House

Christie Arendt, MA ’06, PhD ’17, Global Affairs Section Head, U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights & Labor; Elliott School professorial lecturer;  

Andrea Barton Grote, MA ’10, Senior Program Manager, American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative;

Jenna Ben-Yehuda, BA ’02, Vice President, Wittenberg Weiner Consulting; Founder; Women’s Foreign Policy Network; Elliott School adjunct professor;

Candice Bennett, BA ’98, MA ’03, President, Candice Bennett & Associates; Director of Development, Good Shepherd Housing & Family Services; former candidate for local office;

Sanola Daley Nelson, MA ’08, Women’s Employment Senior Expert Consultant, International Finance Corporation; former Advisor, Diversity & Inclusion, Inter-American Development Bank;

Barbara DeRosa-Joynt, BA ’90, MIPP ’05, Division Chief for Biodiversity, U.S. Department of State;

Davina Durgana, BA ’10, Senior Statistician and Report Co-Author, Walk Free Foundation’s Global Slavery Index; Assistant Professor and Senior Practitioner Faculty, SIT Graduate Institute;

Kathy John, MIPP ’09, President, 2KJohn Associates, Immigration and Human Rights Consulting; former Associate General Counsel and Fraud Prevention Counsel, U.S. Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review

Maura K. Leary, MA ’11, Communications Lead, Poverty and Equity Global Practice, World Bank Group

International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of all women. These events were sponsored by The Elliott School of International Affairs; the Gender Equality Initiative in International Affairs; the Leadership, Ethics, and Practice Initiative; Graduate Student Services; and GW’s Global Women’s Institute.


The KAKEHASHI Project: Elliott Students Build Bridges with Japan


To better understand Japan’s culture, business, and trade relationships with the U.S., a group of nine Elliott School graduate students selected through a competitive process are headed to Japan to participate in a people-to-people exchange program over spring break from March 10-17. The seven-day trip is fully funded by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. During their trip, the students will attend lectures and discussions with government agencies, employees, business leaders, and think tank researchers about Japan’s trade policies and investment ties with the United States.

Another group of undergraduates representing students from across GW are going on a similar exchange also through the auspices of the Kakehashi Project. The undergraduate experience will focus on a cultural and historical introduction to Japan and will include a homestay with a local family.

Emily Yoder, one of the M.A. participants, has never been to Japan nor does she speak the language. A fan of Japanese pop culture, Yoder said one of her motivations for applying to the program was to “finally see what the culture of Japan is really like, as opposed to how it is conveyed to us in the U.S.”

Christine Kobza mentioned another common theme among the students as to what they are most looking forward to, “the food – especially sushi.”

While not overly anxious about his upcoming travel, Aram Mohammadi said that this would be his first experience not being able to read the words written on signs and street corners. The others nodded in agreement.

For both Zoe Yousik and Joseph Conrad, this will be their second trip to Japan.

When asked what surprised them most about their first experience in the country, Yousik responded, “it was more beautiful than I had imagined, more natural. The Japanese aesthetic of beauty is so different to ours.”

Conrad agreed, adding “the Hanami (cherry-blossom viewing) experience in Tokyo is more quiet and peaceful than you could imagine for being such a massive city.” Both students are eager to return and gain more insights into Japan’s famously distinctive society. For all of them, spring break can’t come soon enough.

David Shambaugh candid

David Shambaugh Speaks Out On China

David Shambaugh posed portrait

Professor David Shambaugh is an internationally recognized authority on contemporary China and the international relations of Asia, with a strong interest in the European Union and transatlantic issues. He is also a prolific author, having published more than 30 books and 300 articles. We asked him to share his insights on the recent significant political developments in China.

Q: As a well-known and highly regarded China expert, do you agree with the US Department of Defense’s new strategy report claiming that China’s fast-growing technological and military capabilities make it a greater threat to America than terrorism?

A: Yes I do. Of course, they are both significant threats to American security. Terrorism is always a near-term threat, while China is more of a long-term potential threat. But China’s military capabilities are rapidly improving–and they already challenge US allies in the Western Pacific, as well as the ability of the US Navy and other military forces to operate in that theater. This is only going to increase over time.

Q: What is your opinion of China’s plans to remove presidential term limits from its constitution, allowing President Xi Jinping to stay on beyond his second term, which ends in 2023? What impact will the decision have on U.S. foreign policy in regards to China?

A: Well, this is another indication of Xi Jinping’s concentration of power in himself and continuing rollback of norms, regulations, and institutions inaugurated by Deng Xiaoping nearly four decades ago and rigorously adhered to since then. This is not good for the Chinese political system, and in my view weakens it. For the United States, and all of China’s other interlocutors, this means we will be dealing with Xi Jinping for a very long time to come–unless, he encounters health difficulties or is overthrown. Xi Jinping is a very powerful and strong leader for China, and he has a clear vision of how he wants to “make China strong again.” China is going to increasingly challenge the United States across the globe, and we had better have a sensible strategy to deal with it.

Q: In addition to being a GW faculty member, you are also a GW alumnus, having received your BA in 1977 from the Elliott School’s predecessor, the School of Public and International Affairs. What was the university like when you were a student here and how has it changed?

A: There has certainly been a lot of change in the forty years since I was an undergraduate on campus. The physical transformation of buildings and the classrooms has been a noticeable improvement. New institutions have also appeared–such as the Elliott School–while some have disappeared, such as the Institute of Sino-Soviet Studies. The establishment of the Elliott School, and its rising international reputation, has truly been a major accomplishment.  Also, in those years, the university was almost totally a commuter university with little on-campus life my impression is that there is much better campus life for undergraduates nowadays (including on Mount Vernon campus). Academically, the university was always good, but has gotten much better. The faculty hires are now much more rigorous, and we are attracting top scholars. All in all, as I walk across campus, I frequently reflect on the growth and changes in the university since I was an undergraduate exactly four decades ago.

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