Site Visit Days: New York City; All students gather for an introduction

Elliott Site Visits — NYC Edition

To get the inside scoop on New York’s vast career options, 16 Elliott students recently spent three days in the Big Apple to visit major employers and hear about the personal career journeys of Elliott alumni. Held in March, the NYC site visits were a first-of-its-kind event, made possible through Dean’s Fund resources and organized by Elliott’s Office of Graduate Student Services. On the go from dawn past dusk, Elliott MA candidates discovered new ways to make use of their global affairs education. Visits included Deloitte, the UN Population Fund, Citi Public Sector Group, New York’s Federal Reserve Bank, and the Council on Foreign Relations. What were the takeaways? Gathered here are reflections from four students with diverse interests and career plans.


Site Visit Days: New York City; Students stand outside employer building
Elliott School graduate students visit a potential employer in New York City
Site Visit Days: New York City; All students gather for an introduction
16 Elliott School graduate students and graduate alumni spent 2 days in New York City visiting 7 different employers

Laura Batista, MA candidate, class of 2018

The trip helped me realize that not all career paths in international affairs are rooted in Washington, DC. The visit to Citi Group meant the most to me. Aside from the relevance of this employer to my current studies, international economic affairs, I also enjoyed listening to career advice from an Elliott alumna with Citi. Her story was inspiring, especially because most people whom I have met in the finance sector have been men with finance degrees. As a young woman venturing into the financial services sector, I felt a degree of respect and admiration and aspire to have a career as fulfilling as hers.

Alexander Bierman, MA candidate, class of 2019

I am in the Security Policy Studies program, concentrating on Asian regional security and cybersecurity. While I do not have a specific dream job in mind, I would like to leverage my knowledge of East Asia and the Chinese language. The NYC site visit trip introduced me to a wide range of career opportunities and affirmed my desire to move to the city one day. Hearing stories of how Elliott alumni’s paths led them to where they are in their careers today was fascinating. Most interesting to me was the visit to the Council on Foreign Relations. The building’s interior is beautiful and reminiscent of an early 20th-century mansion. We talked with the main editor of Foreign Affairs magazine, which I have been reading since high school. Learning about job opportunities at the Council made me certain I will apply for a position there after I graduate.

Grayson Shor, MA candidate, class of 2018

The NYC trip made me realize two things. First, the value of a degree from the Elliott School. This is something each employer we met highlighted multiple times. Second, how lucky I am to be an Elliott student – to be surrounded by federal agencies and organizations of all types from every corner of the globe. While New York is very diverse and exciting city, I realized there is likely no better place in the United States for me, someone who is passionate about international development and public service, to study and intern than DC. In short, learning about opportunities available to me in NYC, left me with a new appreciation for what I have access to in DC.

Trevor Tackett, MA candidate, class of 2018

One thing that stands out in my mind about the trip overall is the quality of connections I made with fellow classmates representing a diversity of Elliott academic programs. I’m thankful for these new friendships and look forward to seeing where their careers take them. Most meaningful to me was our visit to Citi Group. Citi was extremely prepared to present the company in a way that spoke to where I currently find myself – looking for different ways my skillset can impact the global community. One quote I remember from our time at Citi: “We can teach you how to be a banker, but we can’t teach you how to have a globalist mentality.” This told me that if I’m willing to continue working hard and learning, my Elliott School training will open doors to career fields I never previously considered.


New York City view

Jenna Ben Yehuda from IWD speaking on a panel

Elliott Alumna Fights for #MeTooNatSec Progress

Jenna Ben Yehuda from IWD speaking on a panel
Jenna Ben Yehuda speaks on an International Womens Day panel

It’s been four months since an open letter to the national security community known as #MeTooNatSec, authored by Elliott School alumna Jenna Ben-Yehuda (BA ‘02) and signed by more than 223 women who work in national security, was published. The letter calls on the national security community to take a comprehensive set of actions to reduce the incidence of sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace. The letter lays out specific recommendations, drawing a path for constructive engagement:

“This is not just a problem in Hollywood, Silicon Valley, newsrooms or Congress. It is everywhere. These abuses are born of imbalances of power and environments that permit such practices while silencing and shaming their survivors. Indeed, in our field, women comprise a small fraction of the senior leadership roles — 30% or fewer in most federal agencies.

In honor of the International Day of Women, Ben-Yehuda spoke at an Elliott School career panel focused on sexual harassment in the workplace. She described the way a culture of abuse can begin in an environment in which people are spoken over and excluded — sometimes unintentionally —  from meetings and the decision-making process. Ben-Yehuda emphasized the importance of having more women in top leadership roles and cited research studies showing that sound policies arise in inclusive environments.

In a recent Foreign Policy feature, Will State Miss its #MeToo Moment?, the article questions whether significant change can come, despite former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s implementation of mandatory sexual harassment training, in a “culture in which patriotism and pursuit of the diplomatic mission meant ignoring or downplaying complaints of harassment.”

Asked if the #MeTooNatSec letter would be submitted to the new Secretary of State, Ben-Yehuda responded: “We will continue to work all angles to pursue reform. It is important to ensure there’s continuity on the reform process, and it’s our goal to work with all leadership at the Department.”

Asked how she would rate progress on specific measures to reduce the incidence of sexual harassment or abuse in the workplace, Ben-Yehuda responded, “Some of these reforms take more time to take hold and implement than others. The key is continued forward momentum and an ongoing acknowledgement at all levels both that all employees are entitled to a workplace free from harassment and assault. We’re hopeful we’ll see transparency efforts take hold within the coming months. Transparency is critical to understanding the magnitude of the problem and identifying the best ways to address it.”

Add to the conversation on Twitter at #MeTooNatSec, @jenna_dc, @StateDept, #MeTooMilitary, @WomensFPNetwork.

Jennifer Cooke, new director of IAfS

New Director of Elliott School’s Institute for African Studies Named

The George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs announced the selection of Jennifer Cooke as the new director to lead the Elliott School’s Institute for African Studies. Cooke is formerly director of the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), where she led research and analysis on political, economic, and security dynamics in Africa. She is a frequent writer and lecturer on U.S.-Africa policy and provides briefings, testimony, and policy recommendations to U.S. policymakers, the U.S. Congress, and the U.S. military.

Jennifer Cooke, new director of IAfS

“Jennifer Cooke’s experience in government, her focus on human rights issues, and her policy expertise in the political and economic developments in Africa make her the ideal person to lead the Institute for African Studies,” said Reuben Brigety, dean of the Elliott School of International Affairs. “I am confident that she will build the institute into a top-tier resource for academic research and public policy discourse on Africa.”

Cooke is a frequent commentator in print, on radio, and on television, and she has testified before Congress on Boko Haram in Nigeria, the political crisis in Côte d’Ivoire, and the African Union. She travels widely in Africa and has been an election observer in Sierra Leone, Mali, Nigeria, and Ghana. Growing up, she lived in Côte d’Ivoire and the Central African Republic, as well as Belgium, Italy, and Canada.  She holds an M.A. in African studies and international economics from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and a B.A. in government, magna cum laude, from Harvard University.

Acting interim director, Ambassador Liberata Mulamula, will remain on with the institute as its Associate Director and continue work on her research on political transitions and women’s’ leadership in Africa, especially in post-conflict countries.

The Institute for African Studies is also pleased to announce the appointment of Professor Yolande Bouka as the new Visiting Assistant Professor of African Studies for the upcoming 2018 – 2019 academic year.

Launched in 2016, the Institute for African Studies has rapidly become a university-wide hub for GW students and faculty with shared interests in the world’s second largest continent. Because of Africa’s diverse geo-political landscape – which spans nearly every major global issue, writ large – the institute also attracts faculty and students focused on particular global themes, such as sustainable development, conflict and security, and governance. Even more broadly, the institute draws high-level diplomats and policymakers from around the world, who gather at the Elliott School to share perspectives. Host to some 50 events in the past year alone, the institute fills a longtime gap in the Washington, D.C., area.

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