What do you do?
I work as Programme Policy Officer for the United Nations World Food Programme. I support national governments in setting up or consolidating programs and policies to ending food insecurity and malnutrition. (Editor’s note: Serena is currently in Armenia but she will be moving to Nigeria soon where she has a long-term assignment.)
How do you see the connection between the time you spent as a Politics/IR major and what you’ve been able to do since?
Working for the UN requires being able to navigate different cultural contexts, disciplines and ethical issues. My time at Ursinus prepared me very well for a career in the UN. I appreciate that the IR major is interdisciplinary, with the right emphasis on theory, regional/country studies, economics and history. The interdisciplinary training gave me the tools to analyze our contexts quickly and deeply - this understanding of contexts is at the heart of us building the right partnerships and programs.
It also made me understand the different vocabulary used by different disciplines - especially when looking at policy evidence to influence your work. At Ursinus, through the Model UN club as well as courses with Ambassador Melrose - I got a lot of first-hand experience and lessons in listening actively and understanding other parties’ needs, motivations and positions - key to any negotiations and partnership building - which is at the core of multilateral work.
What advice do you have for students currently majoring in, or considering to major in IR?
Find an issue you strongly care about, and throw yourself into it - a lot of work is technical and is continuously evolving - and is the best way to get your foot in the door at entry level.