2018 Diversity Workshop Inspires Students and Young Professionals

2018 Diversity Workshop Inspires Students and Young Professionals

On Saturday, July 14, 2018, eighty-three multicultural students and young professionals from across the United States joined APSIA for a workshop to inspire them to seek out the field of international affairs.

Farah Pandith, former Special Representative to Muslim Communities for the US Department of State and Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Harvard Belfer Center, opened the day with a keynote address stressing the need to treat everyone with dignity and kindness. Briana Suarez, APSIA’s Diversity and Inclusion Fellow, moderated the conversation. Ms. Pandith reflected on her own career and emphasized the need to cultivate an expertise on key issues. She also stressed the need to “articulate your analysis so that people will hear it” without letting emotions rule the day (even if you feel frustrated or disheartened).

Next, Bunmi Akinnusotu, Chief of Staff, Young Professionals in Foreign Policy moderated a panel to explore the range of career options in international affairs. Julie Hackett, Resource Mobilization Specialist for UNICEF, explained the role of overseas work in launching her career. Margo Bailey explained how her graduate work prepared her to serve as a member of the Strategic Planning Team in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation at the US Department of Health and Human Services. Jane Rhee, Executive Director of Global Public Affairs for The Estée Lauder Companies Inc., talked about her path from the US Department of State Foreign Service to the private sector.

Speakers all shared stories of colleagues and mentors who helped them make “strategic professional moves.” They encouraged students to build relationships and draw on others’ experiences.

Then alumni from eight APSIA members joined participants for lunch:

  • Parul Agarwal, Associate, Data + Design, HWC
  • Nashwah Akhtar, Communications Associate, Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies
  • Miles Bullock, Policy Associate, Results for America
  • Alexandria Cruz, Coordinator for Social Policy and Practice, Conservation International
  • Trevis Harrold, Foreign Service Officer, US Department of State
  • Gabrielle Keleher, Program Support Analyst, Risk Mitigation Consulting
  • Simone Kendall, Foreign Service Officer, US Department of State
  • Cortney Sanders, Senior Fellow, Center for Budget and Policy Priorities
  • Engda Wubnah, Foreign Affairs Officer, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, US Department of State

They shared their personal trajectories and answered questions from students

After lunch, participants separated into tracks, one for sophomores and juniors and another for seniors and young professionals.

Sophomores and juniors held a conversation about finding mentors and allies with Courtney Ball, Director of People and Culture at the Eurasia Group. Courtney explained the three types of mentors that students should seek: career coaches, professional advocates, and personal supporters. Ideally, she said, one person can fulfill all three roles. She also offered tips for finding mentors and allies via social media.

Sophomores and juniors then had the chance to learn more about ways they can access the tools needed for international careers, such as study abroad, fellowships, and internships. Sahil Jain, currently a Country Officer for the US Department of State, talked about his experience with the Rangel Fellowship and other international opportunities. Tschuna Patterson, Senior Research Specialist for CNA Corporation, discussed her experiences with Fulbright, as well as internships with the Public Policy and International Affairs program and the Peace Corps. She reminded students that opportunities in consulting offer exposure to many different types of agencies and fields. Brian Price, Operations Officer for Africa at Project Concern International outlined how he gained international experience to launch his career in international development. Sharon McCoy, Career Counselor for The George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs moderated.

Seniors and young professionals listened to best practices in applying to graduate school from Karen Ohen, Director of Admissions at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, and Fernando Peña, Senior Assistant Director of Admissions at the University of Southern California Master of Public Diplomacy program. Enrique Sondakh, International Admissions & Operations Manager for APSIA, moderated.

Savannah Wallace,a recent graduate from American University,  said “I am planning on applying to graduate school after being in the workforce for two years. I feel like a lot of the sessions, particularly the best practices session, greatly lessened my anxiety.”

Afterwards, Kizito Byenkya, Acting Policy Advisor for Africa at the Open Society Foundations, Annie Yu Kleiman, Senior Associate, ideas42, and Nes Parker, Senior Manager for Strategy at Monitor Deloitte offered honest advice about navigating the professional landscape as multicultural professionals. Moderated by Alli Phillips, Program Officer for Curriculum and Training Design at the United States Institute of Peace, the conversation also explored ways to build critical intercultural competencies, such as Annie’s time in Afghanistan with the US Air Force.

To close out the day, Carmen Iezzi Mezzera, APSIA Executive Director, thanked attendees, sponsors, and speakers. She encouraged students to think about what's next for them and offered APSIA's assistance in the future.

“There were a lot of opportunities for networking with the panelists and with our peers. I liked that I was able to make professional connections with people of every age and [walk] of life," said Selma Newbill, a rising Sophomore at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Zach Villegas, a rising Junior from Virginia Commonwealth University, agreed. “I wanted to see what options I had [in this field] after finishing my undergrad. This forum really helped me understand what I have to do.”



Through this workshop and other Diversity Forum programs, APSIA seeks to inspire students and young professionals to seek out the field of international affairs and provide tools to help them do so.

The 2018 Diversity Forum series is made possible by













The participation of an attendee was made possible through the patronage of