Graduate Fellows Program

We celebrate the accomplishments of the Graduate Fellows Program and are proud to present its first Annual Report!  It is through focused support and hundreds of hours from skilled volunteers that we can continue this excellent program – guiding the next generation of international leaders.

Applications for Spring 2022 are now open!  Apply here by September 30.


IMG_0236With the help of over 2,000 members, volunteers, and supporters in the greater Washington D.C. area, the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area (UNA-NCA) works to build public knowledge, strengthen U.S.-UN relations, and aid the UN in achieving its goals. Within this larger framework, the mission of the Graduate Fellows Program (GFP) is to help Fellows develop an understanding of UN issues, policies, and organizations while assisting them in preparing for UN-related careers. Since its founding in 1991 by UNA-NCA, the Graduate Fellows Program has brought together the resources of UNA-NCA with over 500 students and 40 international public and non-governmental organizations.

The Graduate Fellows Program offers all graduate students studying at a university within the DC-Maryland-Northern Virginia (DMV) region the opportunity to participate; learning to view the world through a “UN lens” alongside like-minded peers, experienced faculty, and foreign affairs professionals. Please note that graduate students who are temporarily residing in the DMV region but attending a school outside of this region may also apply. Part-time students, and student interns in the DC area who are employed in fields relevant to the Program are also welcome to apply.

Program seminars will focus on contemporary global issues related to the United Nations and will be supplemented by both mentoring opportunities as well as professional development support that draws upon UNA-NCA's extensive professional network. UNA-NCA’s access to the United Nations system of agencies, in addition to its diverse range of professional relationships, is a cornerstone of the GFP’s success.


IMG_0227UNA-NCA Graduate Fellows must be enrolled graduate students during spring 2022 in the Washington, Maryland, or Northern Virginia area studying international affairs, trade, development, or a discipline related to the United Nations.  Commitment of four hours per week is expected from each Fellow – 2 hours for the seminar and 2 hours for seminar preparation and career strategy and mentoring. Part-time students and interns, including young professionals in part-time employment in a related area, are especially encouraged to apply.  Students not from the Washington Metropolitan Area may apply with approval of the Graduate Fellows Program Director.

American citizenship is not a requirement and we encourage international students to apply!

The application has five parts:

  • The online application
  • A one page statement of interest for graduate fellowship program
  • A copy of the applicant's unofficial graduate transcript*
  • A letter of recommendation
  • An updated resume
*If you are currently in your first year of graduate school, so do not yet have a transcript, please provide a copy of your unofficial undergraduate transcript along with a current letter of enrollment for your graduate program

All supporting materials must be submitted in PDF format

Components of the UNA-NCA Graduate Fellows Program

We recognize that everyone must navigate this ongoing crisis in a manner that ensures their health and well-being. Therefore, if  in-person gatherings become a safe, viable option during the course of the 2021 spring semester, we will continue to provide accommodations for those not yet willing or able to attend, in-person.

Weekly Seminar

  • A weekly seminar held each Friday during the spring semester during which Fellows examine pressing global issues utilizing a ‘UN lens’ alongside prominent guest speakers from across the UN system. Whether seminars will be hosted in-person or via webinar during the upcoming spring semester will depend upon the evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Thematic areas include: 
    • Economic Development and Economic Policy
    • UN Budget and Finance
    • Gender
    • Human Rights, Education, and Social Development
    • Energy, Sustainable Development, and Climate Change
    • Conflict Prevention, Conflict Resolution, and Peacekeeping
    • Refugees and Migration
    • The UN’s Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
  • Fellows will be required to complete a series of readings/listenings/viewings prior to each seminar. We recognize that Fellows are likely to have a full course load in addition to a full-time or part-time professional commitment. With that in mind, GFP faculty pay close attention to the amount of time that weekly assignments require.

Professional Development 

  • Career support for Fellows will include sessions on career strategy, preparation and review of resumes, and mentor-matching arranged by UNA-NCA with seasoned professionals operating in fields relevant to Fellows’ interests. 
  • Other opportunities will include:
  • Free membership in the United Nations Association of the USA (UNA-USA) - A network of more than 180 chapters and divisions throughout the country comprised of people passionate about the mission of the United Nations.
  • Membership in the UNA-NCA Young Professionals Program, which includes invitations to networking events. Fellows must attend at least one UNA-NCA sponsored event during the Spring 2021 semester to earn a certificate of completion.
  • *Fellows may wish to participate in the Program for academic credit with their home university. UNA-NCA will gladly assist Fellows with such arrangements, including, if acceptable to the given university, offering Fellows the option of completing a term paper under faculty supervision in order to receive academic credit.* 

Certificate of Accomplishment 

Those who complete the program will be awarded a certificate by the UNA-NCA. 
Selection Process/Timetable

The UNA-NCA Fellows selection will be based upon a student's application and an interview with members of the UNA-NCA Graduate Fellows faculty.

Apply Today


Results - UN75 - Global Conversation

The UN’s Secretary-General, António Guterres, saw UN75 as an opportunity for the organization to listen to the people it serves.

Throughout 2020, the UN carried out its most ambitious effort to date to consult the global public, working closely with UN offices at the regional and country-level, as well as partners from all sectors. It asked people what they most want for the future – and what they most fear. It also asked about their expectations of international cooperation and the UN in particular. 

The results were communicated through the following reports:

Brian Urquhart (1919 - 2021)
By Ok Pannenborg, UNA-NCA Advisory Council

Credit: UN Digital Archives 

A giant of international relations and universal peace has left us

Last Saturday one of the most consequential leaders of the world's international system in the 20th century passed away at the venerable age of 101. Brian Urquhart arguably was the most accomplished global peace arrangement implementor the world had in the second half of the 20th century and may well join the historical pantheon of the great and the good, next to presidents, economic and social leaders and thinkers, world religious leaders and philosophers and kings. While most of these were or are national or issue-specific protagonists who achieved global recognition, Urquhart was a global leader by nature. As the number 2 at the U.N. for many years, he was seen and respected as a shepherd of the world's international order and system, as a global representative of the world community. While he was born British, he became the quintessential universal leader whose nationality and origin were felt to be irrelevant. His early joint learning experience with Indira Ghandi whom he was in class with at primary school gave him an early feel for the diversity of perspectives that would guide the shape and reach of the international system following the Second World War and emergence of the newly independent states from colonial rule. 

Brian Urquhart's significance lay in his unparalleled ability to implement and bring to fruition the newly minted values, norms and standards embodied in the multitude of United Nations' treaties, conventions and arrangements. Recalling the unique importance of conceptualizing and elaborating the new world ideas, postulates and standards agreed upon in the charters and covenants of the United Nations by such luminaries as Cassin, Malik, Chang, Falk, Myrdal, Röling, Abi-Saab, Galtung and many others, it was Urquhart who subsequently became the prime mover to actually translate these into practice in the real world of major conflict, national political contentions and geopolitical risk. Concepts such as universal peace, individual or collective self-defense, equal rights and self-determination, prohibition of use of force, non-intervention in domestic affairs, war crimes, and human rights and fundamental freedoms are all lofty ideals and currently globally accepted standards, they can remain distant in the letter of international law if not actually applied and regionally, nationally or locally enforced: it was here that Brian Urquhart set the gold standard and showed that these had meaning in the real world and should and could become an integral part of a more peaceful and better human condition. 

His military experiences in WW II, his sense of humor in combination with his phlegmatic calm in crisis, his irreverence and his understatedness guided his successes in lowering temperatures and successfully preventing conflict and war from the 1950s into the 1980s in the Middle-East (Suez, Lebanon, Cyprus, Sinai, etc.), Africa (Congo/Katanga, Namibia, etc.), Asia (Kashmir, etc.) and many other places, all the while overseeing the U.N.'s peace-keeping forces and their deployment (the U.N. 'blue helmet' was among his ideas to ensure they could be distinguished from other forces).

Appropriately, his work and approaches on behalf of the greater good and interests of the world community as a whole, as brought together under U.N. auspices, were recognized by the awarding of the Nobel Prize in 1988 to the U.N. Peace Keeping Forces. 

As students and practitioners of the principles of the United Nations and its Associations around the world -and in particular our U.N. Association here in the U.S. Capital Area- we will miss Brian Urquhart as our shining light of 'can do': while continuing to further develop deeper and better understanding and codification of U.N. ideals and values, we will remember him for a long time to come as the best 20th century champion for implementing these principles in practice among all conflict parties involved, with understanding, humor, tolerance and flexibility but equally with determination and mutual-interest-convincing, for those communities whose well-being and future often is dependent on their actual application.

See BBC radio piece by Mark Mallock-Brown here (45.00 minutes in).

Coffee Chat: Climate Change, Displacement, and Human Health and Security

Join UNA-NCA for its next Coffee Chat on Thursday, April 8th from 1:00-2:00pm EST. 

Persons displaced due to climate change will increasingly seek asylum within the United States; current immigration and asylum policy fail to define a ‘climate refugee’ and thus lack mechanisms for legal entry, resettlement, or workforce integration. Expanding access to asylum to climate refugees will mitigate national security risks, propagate economic growth at state and local levels, and affirm U.S. commitment to upholding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

This Coffee Chat will explore the potential impact of climate change on human displacement, current legal frameworks for supporting climate refugees, and the inextricable link between human health and safety and the environment. 

Register here.  

Dr. Shanna N. McClain, Earth Science Divisions Global Partnerships Manager, NASA
Dr. Shanna N. McClain is the NASA Earth Science Divisions Global Partnerships Manager and the Applied Sciences Lead for Risk Reduction and Resilience. She sits as a Visiting Scientist with the Environmental Law Institute, where she co-leads the program on environmental migration and displacement. She serves as Chair to the Environmental Peacebuilding Association’s Interest Group on Water, and to the IFRC-German Red Cross Anticipation Hub Working Group on Earth Observations. She worked previously for the joint UNOCHA/UN Environment Emergencies Section on issues relating to complex and protracted crisis. She holds a PhD in Environmental Science & Policy from Southern Illinois University, where her she examined the challenges of integrating three science and policy priorities – climate change adaptation, response to disasters, and resilience – into multilevel governance frameworks of international river basins.

Carl Bruch, Senior Attorney and Director of International Programs, Environmental Law Institute
Carl Bruch is the Senior Attorney and Director of International Programs at the Environmental Law Institute. His research focuses on making environmental law work. He has helped countries across Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia develop and implement laws, policies, and institutional frameworks to effectively manage water resources, biodiversity, forests, and other natural resources. He is an authority on the means to manage natural resources to support post-conflict peacebuilding, on environmental governance and institutions, and on ways to prevent, reduce, mitigate, and compensate for damage to the environment during armed conflict. In addition to working at ELI, Bruch has been an attorney with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (E-LAW). He is an adjunct professor with American University School of International Service, where he teaches a master’s-level course on environmental peacebuilding.
Ready to take action to support refugee rights? Join UNA-NCA and Lutheran Social Services (LSS) on Thursday, April 15th for an Advocacy Training.

Pablo Escribano, Regional Thematic Specialist on Migration, Environment, & Climate Change, IOM
Pablo Escribano is the Regional Thematic Specialist of the International Organization for Migrations on Migration, Environment and Climate Change (MECC) for the Americas and the Caribbean. Previously, he worked at the Donor Relations Division of the IOM in Geneva, Switzerland. He also participated in the implementation of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Observatory on South-South Migration, and worked on counter trafficking projects in West and Central Africa. Pablo Escribano holds master's degrees in political science and history from the Institute of Political Studies in Paris (Sciences Po). 

Our Condolences on Rep. Jamie Raskin's Loss

The Board of Directors and staff of the UN Association of the National Capital Area wish to express our deepest condolences to Representative Jamie Raskin (MD-8) for the recent loss of his beloved son at age 25 to depression.  

Rep. Raskin announced his son's death on New Year's Eve and the family launched The Tommy Raskin Memorial Fund for People and Animals that will benefit the charities he championed, including the Helen Keller Institute and Animal Outlook through the Greater Washington Community Foundation.

The family published an emotional tribute describing Tommy as "a radiant light in this broken world."  The Raskins detailed Tommy's lifelong penchant for helping others, describing him as a "daring outspoken defender of all outcasts and kids in trouble" who "always made time for the loneliest kids in class" at every stage of life.

There are no words to describe the unbearable sorrow the family, friends, colleagues and community must feel. This is a reminder of the need for greater attention to mental health as we work on building a more sustainable future for all.
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