Oh the places you’ll go…

By Tom Dziadkowiec and Meghan Casey

On Thursday, January 28, 2010 the UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations hosted its annual international career panel. Four highly respected individuals came together to share their experiences in international affairs with the UCLA community. From the rural regions of Uganda, government offices abroad, to Washington D.C. and Santa Monica, each individual brought stories of accomplishment and instilled feelings of aspiration to the packed 6th floor room in Bunche Hall.

Richard Walden is CEO of Operation USA, a Nobel Prize Winning Relief Organization based locally in Culver City, CA.  Walden earned a B.A. in economics from the University of Pennysylvania and and attended the Wharton School of Finance. Later Walden went on to earn a J.D. from the University of Pennyslvania Law School. He began his career as a human rights lawyer and worked for California’s Health Facilities Comission. In 1979 Walden organized relief efforts in war-torn Vietnam and was responsible for sending one of the first cargo planes carrying aid supplies to the region.  During the Panel, Walden was critical of “umbrella funds”, such as the recently established Clinton-Bush Haiti Relief Fund. He argued that these funds create an unncecessary middle-man and delay aid from reaching receipitants. While Operation USA maintains a relatively small budget, it effectively delivers relief aid to communities affected by disasters and poverty.

William Davis is the current Director of the UN Information Center in Washington DC. Davis discussed the tools aspiring students need in order to pursue a career in international relations.  After earning his BA in Political Science from Duke University, Davis went on to earn a Master’s in Public Policy. Davis emphasized the importance of earning a Master’s degree because it allows students to narrow career goals and develop marketable skills. Davis used his experience as a Presidential Management Fellow to emphasize the importance of networking, which he argues is key to obtaining desirable positions when competing with more qualified applicants. He added that overseas experience can go a long way in bolstering marketable skills, which are imperative in today’s job market.

Robert Banks is an experienced Foreign Service Officer and Professor of Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California. He is also USC’s current U.S. Diplomat in Residence.  Banks earned his B.A. and M.A. from Boston College and later received his doctorate from Oklahoma State University. He has nearly thirty years of experience working in various countries, including Korea, Nicaragua and Germany. When Banks discussed his own experience with the Foreign Service Examination, he noted that it required a lot of studying and knowledge of current international affairs. Banks spoke in detail about the skills needed to be successful at the State Department.  Students who are interested in working for the State Department need to possess strong writing skills because Foreign Service Officers spend most of their day writing. Just as William Davis mentioned, international experience improves a job applicant’s marketability.

Last but not least, Nicholas Smith, who is a current graduate student in the African Studies Program, discussed his microfinance loan program in the Kibale District of Uganda. Smith began his microfinance program, The Buseesa Community Development Center (BCDC), with help from a few small grants and a group of nuns in Uganda. BCDC is helping nearly 45 families through loan assistance (primarily to women).  The program is already succesful and is enabling families to send their children to private schools. BCDC’s microloans also help families purchase valuable resources like cows, which are important status symbols in the community. Smith advised students to learn languages and to travel to the regions in which they are interested. These skills and experiences will allow students to focus their career paths. Smith added that these experiences will give students the initiative to achieve their own goals.

Below are several resources discussed by the panelists. The Burkle Center for International Relations would like to thank the speakers and those who attended for helping make this panel a success.

Other websites of interest:

www.interaction.org NGOs and their role abroad

www.careers.state.gov Employment directory for the state department


www.kiva.org Site for those interested in providing loans to developing regions

kulakowski@spa.ucla.edu Ed Kulakowski, UCLA School of Public Affairs Diplomat-in-Residence

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