February 24, 2022

By Mason Doyle, Program Assistant

On January 14, 2022, the Graduate Fellows Program (GFP) of the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area (UNA-NCA) commenced its first session of the Spring 2022 program.

Originally founded in 1991, the Graduate Fellows Program aims to educate and inspire graduate student Fellows from Washington Metro Area universities through an unparalleled investigation and analysis of the United Nations and the most salient international issues of today. Key to building every Fellows’ understanding is the development and adoption of a “UN Lens” – an intersectional view from the vantage point of the UN system, its agencies, initiatives, institutions, and key players, that affords Fellows the opportunity to both holistically examine the opportunities and challenges facing the community of nations, while also learning how to effectively navigate the UN system.

In addition to this intensive examination of the UN, Fellows are also provided with singular career support, mentorship, and networking opportunities throughout the semester. Whether through dedicated career strategy and guidance sessions, a mentorship program that pairs Fellows with experienced professionals in a variety of international fields, and unique networking possibilities, the GFP aims to assist Fellows as they consider careers with the UN and international organizations, and to empower them as they work to find their directions for growth.

Prior to the start of the program, Fellows were required to complete a 60 question assessment tool that afforded them the opportunity to reflect on what they already know about the UN, and to expand their knowledge on a wide range of salient topics. In addition, Fellows completed the SDG Primer, an intensive course used by the UN to train and inform UN agency personnel on the Sustainable Development Goals.

The 2022 cohort of Graduate Fellows, 31 exceptional graduate students competitively selected from over 100 applicants, is the most diverse and impressive yet. They come from a variety of backgrounds, with a plethora of different experiences, and have unique motivations and future aspirations, yet they are all similar in their interest and commitment to the UN and its ideals, and to learning more about the intersection between the UN and the most pressing issues of today. Recruited from the Washington area, our 31 Graduate Fellows hail from universities throughout DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia, as well as a few DC-resident students in virtual programs, and are engaged in doctoral, master’s, and law programs in an array of areas of study. Universities represented include Georgetown University, George Washington University, American University, Gallaudet University, the University of Maryland, the University of Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University, George Mason University, the University of Illinois, and the University of Texas, Permian Basin. The Fellows come to us from a vast mosaic of U.S. states and other countries. Our numerous international Fellows hail from countries such as Mongolia, South Korea, China, Indonesia, Lebanon, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Italy, the U.K., Argentina, Brazil, and Colombia.

As of the publishing of this article, six sessions of the fourteen planned have been held. The GFP team, along with the essential contributions and participation of the Fellows, have weaved an intricate collection of salient issues together, focused on opportunities, challenges, successes, and failures facing the UN and the world as a whole. Thus far, topics as wide-ranging but equally important such as climate change, human rights, democracy, autocracy, and geopolitics, and global risks and existential threats have been covered.

On these topics, renowned experts, such as a former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council, and a former U.S. State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Organizations, have been brought in as guests to offer their insights, expertise, and ideas through rich, conversational discussions with staff and Fellows. Additionally, these first few weeks featured the first of our career sessions. Here, the Fellows explored and engaged with the intersection of the Sustainable Development Goals and international careers, while also learning many practical tools and skills that will be of assistance in the career planning and job search processes. The entire team is excited to engage with the Fellows on upcoming topics that include multilateralism, UN financing, conflict and violence prevention, global health, and governance, as well as a unique, field perspective from the UN Resident Coordinator in Guyana.

The GFP team is thankful not only for the support of UNA-NCA, but also for the passionate engagement, new perspectives, and innovative ideas consistently shared by the Fellows each and every week. We look forward to continuing this journey and experience throughout the rest of the semester.

To learn more about the Graduate Fellows Program, you may download the 2021 GFP Annual Report found here.

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