Politics and International Relations

Travis High
Travis High

Travis High

What do you do?

Over the past six years, I have been a lead author of several strategic planning documents, including the Sustainable Health Agenda for the Americas 2018-2030 and the Pan-American Health Organization’s Strategic Plan 2020-2025. I regularly liaise with national health authorities, PAHO country and subregional offices and technical departments, and WHO HQ in Geneva on planning, monitoring, and assessment processes. Most recently, I have supported the PAHO’s Incident Management System (IMS) for the response to COVID-19 in the Americas.

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?

The impact of Ursinus, in terms of how I got to where I am today, comes across in different and sometimes unexpected ways. Participating in the Model UN was a definite highlight. It gave me directly transferable experience, as I have been responsible for drafting several key resolutions and official documents at PAHO and also contributed to WHO documents.

Foundational courses on IR theory, U.S. foreign policy, the global economy, and world history were essential for building an understanding of global politics and economics and how policy is set. I see these dynamics at play all the time. Thanks to my Spanish courses, I developed enough proficiency to be able to work in a bilingual environment every day and gained an understanding of Latin American culture, history, and politics, both of which I have since built upon.

Finally, interning at the American Friends Service Committee in Philadelphia toward the end of my time at Ursinus was the spark that really got me moving forward in my career.

What advice do you have for students currently majoring in, or considering to major in IR?

As with any field, IR students must not only complete their coursework, but also through a combination of education and internship experience, get a good grounding in the skills and competencies that are most needed wherever they hope to work after graduation.

For example, for entry-level roles in program management for most development agencies, NGOs, and international organizations, you must know how to write reports and proposals for different audiences and how to plan programs and monitor and report on results.

For careers in the UN and similar organizations, students can review the UN Leadership Framework to understand what characteristics are most in demand (e.g. systems thinking), beyond the functional skills required for particular jobs (e.g. planning). Systems thinking, for instance, is something IR students can build on through their regular coursework. Beyond that, strong proficiency in standard or specialized software/systems is always helpful, as is practical language experience.