Politics and International Relations

  • Jessica McIlhenny

Jessica McIlhenny

What do you currently do?

I currently work at an executive search firm, Koya Leadership Partners, that recruits talented people to be placed into leadership roles for mission-driven organizations nationwide. A few of the clients that I’m currently working with are Amnesty International USA, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and Wellspring Philanthropic Fund.

Prior to working at Koya, I worked in higher education for 8 years at various institutions in government relations, global policy & research and senior leadership support.

How do you see the connection between the time you spent as a IR major and what you’ve been able to do since?

I’m grateful for my time at UC studying International Relations as well as being involved in Model UN. While majoring in IR, I learned how to communicate effectively, partner with others on projects and negotiations, and understand that data is very important to help inform decision making.

What I love about IR is that the degree is the opposite of a narrow career path - you can go into government, policy, law, public health, the nonprofit sector or really any sector and still be able to apply what you’ve learned in your coursework in your job.

In my current role working to recruit the future leaders at mission-driven organizations, I’m often reminded about classes with Becky Evans where we’d talk about what qualities and skillsets that government leaders around the world possess. Also, thanks to my UC mentor Ambassador Melrose pushing me to apply to a US State Department program, I was able to go to Turkey for the summer right after college for a language immersion program.

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

The advice I have for students interested in IR is to pair your study with some sort of active engagement, which will look different for each student. This could mean getting involved in your community, participating in Model UN or running a voter registration drive. Being engaged in other activities as a student will complement your studies and allow you to learn more about yourself and others. Also, sometimes these types of experiences help uncover a passion or help provide clarity for your journey after graduating, too!