#WeAreElliott: Medha Prasanna

#WeAreElliott: Medha Prasanna

Medha Prasanna smiles, wearing a white blazer and yellow shirt. She is sitting at a sunny outdoor restaurant. Medha Prasanna, M.A. in International Affairs, 2022

Medha Prasanna is currently a second-year masters candidate in International Affairs, concentrating in International Organizations and Asia. In 2020 she graduated with a B.A (Hons) in Economics as well as a Post Graduate Diploma in Advanced Studies and Research in International Relations from Ashoka University, India. Medha is regionally focused on the Indo-Pacific, and is a research affiliate with the Sigur Center for Asian Studies. Functionally, she is interested in studying the effects of disinformation campaigns on political outcomes, and is pursuing a capstone to that end. During the spring semester she was a public information intern with the United Nations Information Center in DC.  She was selected as a Harold W. Rosenthal Fellow to work in the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee this past summer, and is currently the Indo-Pacific fellow for the committee. In her free time, Medha hosts a podcast where she interviews authors of compelling new books on the World Affairs Channel of the New Books Network. Medha is passionate about education for all and volunteered at the Teach for India Foundation and the Association for the Physically Disabled.

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

In my senior year I realized that academically I was still learning and growing, and I wanted to keep going, so I applied to graduate school. I chose the Elliott School because of the research and scholarship coming out of the school. In particular, the works of Michael Barnett, Martha Finnemore, Dean Alyssa Ayres, Deepa Ollapally, and David Shambaugh come to mind. The unique professional opportunities afforded by the School, and the generous scholarship package were also important factors in making the Elliott School the clear choice.

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

I am currently finishing up my fellowship with the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. My long-term goal is to work with an international organization in various capacities- as an information, political, and field officer. I want to be experienced in all the different cones of crisis management within the next 10-15 years. I hope to travel to a diverse array of conflict zones to help implement efficient, sustainable, and people-centric crisis responses. Following that I hope to come back to academia and research to write about what I learnt in the field. I believe that my recent experiences help me understand the policy and advocacy element of the humanitarian response landscape, and fits in well with where I hope to be in the next 10 years!

What tools or strategies has proved most helpful in making the most of your time at the Elliott School?

I think that the best advice I have ever received was to be open to new experiences. The Elliott School has given me plenty of opportunities and exposure to the different elements of the international affairs landscape. Not restricting myself to any one region or functional space was important to round out my experience as a graduate student. Shout out to Dean Ayres, and the Graduate Student Services Team: Jim Wylde, Sharon Swabb, and Sarah Denes for making these opportunities possible.

What advice do you have for students for staying motivated at work or in class?

Perseverance. DC is competitive, and at first it is going to feel like you’re a very small fish in a large pond. However, once you familiarize yourself with the people and institutions that you align with, it will be much easier to focus on what you want and actually achieve it.

What has been your most memorable experience while studying at the Elliott School?

It was fantastic to be invited to speak one on one with leaders of industry, who also moonlight as the advisory board of the Elliott School! They were engaged, interested, and offered great mentorship opportunities.

What is one book you think everyone should read and why?

Winners take all: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas

A highly engaging and easy to read book that offers a lot of food for thought on job market incentives for those graduating with social science degrees. It raises important questions about wages, debt, and having the best of both worlds in the pursuit of material comfort alongside changing the world. While it doesn’t offer a lot of answers on how to side step the toxic relationship between social justice and the privileged, it does articulate the problem for all in the industry.

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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.