#WeAreElliott: Isabella Gabriele

#WeAreElliott: Isabella Gabriele

Isabella Gabriele, M.A. International Economic Policy, 2022, #WeAreElliott

Isabella Gabriele, or Bella, as she is known to most, is a second-year master’s candidate in the International Economic Policy Program at the Elliott School, concentrating in development studies as well as econometrics. Bella received her bachelor’s degrees from the University of South Carolina in both international business and finance, graduating in 2020. Her main interest is women’s economic empowerment in developing countries, with a focus on the Middle East. Bella is currently a policy fellow at the New York Center for Foreign Policy Affairs, where she does research and writing on impacts of American foreign policy around the world. Bella also works as a Senior Editor with the International Affairs Review, the Elliott School’s graduate student-run publication. In her free time Bella enjoys spending time with her friends and family, as well as yoga and cooking.

What path led you to apply to graduate school? Why did you pick the Elliott School?

International business and economics are big words and big worlds. As an undergraduate student at the University of South Carolina I learned a lot about the sector, but one of the most important things that was impressed upon me was that there is so much more to be studied and that industries are organic, always changing. When I decided to dig deeper and reach for those topics, I had yet to apply for graduate school. There are so many reasons I wanted to come to George Washington University and the Elliott School; obviously it has one of the top international affairs programs in the country and it’s located in the city that is arguably the center of the world when it comes to foreign policy, which were both very attractive to me. That being said, the reason I choose the Elliott School over the others boils down to the people. Throughout the application process I felt as though all the people I encountered truly wanted to see me succeed, in graduate school and in the future. One person in particular, Professor Michael Moore, really helped through the entire process. As the Director of the MIEP Program, he reached out to me personally multiple times before my decision, which made me feel more like a person than just another applicant getting a robotic response. He helped me form an individualized study plan that has strengthened my current knowledge and led me to new areas I never thought I’d get to study, like econometrics. That study plan steered me to other great professors, and even more, great friendships.

What has been your favorite course at the Elliott School so far and why?

So far, my favorite course at the Elliott School has been Topics in Economic Development, which I took in the spring of 2021. I could say that this course was the most exciting because it aligns exactly with my areas of interest, progressive economics in the developing world. While this is true, the best part about the class was the other students in it. Many were from my program, MIEP, and were in their second semester, so we were able to become more comfortable in the classroom setting and develop real relationships, something that had been difficult over the first semester with online instruction. These relationships were facilitated and furthered by the many group projects assigned by Rémi Jedwab, a wonderful lecturer. The topics of this course are meaningful in a way that’s deeper than most economics courses: it touches on issues in the developing world and equips students with the ability and skills to recognize these problems as well as begin to find solutions.

Where do you currently work, intern or volunteer, and how does it fit in with your career goals?

Currently I work as a Policy Fellow at the New York Center for Foreign Policy Affairs (NYCFPA). NYCFPA is a policy, research, and educational organization that conducts research and analysis on American foreign policy and its impact around the world. The organization is a small group of extremely experienced people with diverse backgrounds in foreign policy, one of the many reasons I benefit from working there. My colleagues are young and motivated to make an impact on the world, a goal that aligns exactly with my own career goals. In this position I have been able to research and push legislation to the U.S. Government that will allow for positive change in the scope of American foreign policy. We want to best represent the mindsets of American citizens by doing intensive research on what advantages them the most, as well as support similar liberties and freedoms in other states around the world. I’ve always wanted to give a voice to the voiceless, and I am glad to be able to do that with NYCFPA and in my future career.

Think of where you were (in life, school, career) when you applied to the Elliott School. What advice would you give yourself knowing what you know now, as a student?

When thinking back to when I applied to the Elliott School, it seems like a lifetime ago. I applied in the fall of 2019, before the world shut down because of the COVID pandemic. Online schooling and distant fellow student relationships were very foreign to me, and not at all what I expected of grad school. If I could give my fall 2019-self advice, it would carry one main message: endurance. The first semester at GW was difficult, all online and profoundly anti-social, both situations that do not work well with my outgoing personality. Staying focused and taking care of mental health became challenging because I was stuck in my apartment. Little did I know, so much good was yet to come. In the second semester, with the introduction of the vaccine, I was finally able to meet with my classmates in person and create deep and meaningful connections with people who are now some of my close friends. The endurance through the first semester was worth all that I gained, including Clare Otting and Mariana Jo Bonilla, two friends and classmates that made the second online semester a pleasure, not a challenge.

What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned so far at the Elliott School?

The most valuable thing I have learned at the Elliott School, and at George Washington University as a whole is that your uniqueness is your greatest strength. People at this school come from all over the country and world, all bringing different ideas and outlooks. This aspect is something that is so valuable to graduate education, especially in the field of international affairs. When we start our careers, we will be surrounded by a similar slate of diversity, and having that open and curious mind I’ve come to develop at GW will allow for what I believe to be a seamless transition. Foreign policy in the United States and around the world is defined and remembered by its failures, the root of those failures often being assumptions that everyone wants to be like those writing the policy. This is almost never the case, as the borders of the world themselves are defined by uniqueness: uniqueness in thought, culture, and people. The Elliott School gave me this perspective and the ability to view the world as a global citizen. This is something I cherish now and will through my life.

How do you feel about pineapple on pizza?

As one of the most controversial topics of my generation, I feel the need to weigh in… Because of my Italian heritage and deep-rooted customs, I do not believe pineapple belongs on pizza. As in most Italian dishes, simplicity drives perfection; all you really need is a crunchy crust, fresh tomato sauce, creamy mozzarella, and aromatic basil to make pizza; why deviate from what has been proven successful? Though to give the other side of this ongoing debate some credit, another Italian mantra in cooking is to trust your gut (or stomach), as fixed recipes may not produce a dish that is to your taste. Think something needs more salt? Add it. Want to make a dish vegetarian? Switch to mushrooms. Think pineapple should top your pizza? Do it. It’s all about the tastes of the chef, and for this one, pineapple is not a pizza topping. I will happily accept pineapple in the form of an upside-down cake though!

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The #WeAreElliott profile series is managed by the Elliott School Office of Graduate Admissions and highlights current students to answer common questions posed by prospective, incoming, and current students. For more information on this series or to submit questions, e-mail the Office of Graduate Admissions at esiagrad@gwu.edu.The views expressed by students profiled do not necessarily represent those of organizations they work for, are affiliated with, or the Elliott School of International Affairs.