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Guest Column: ‘My degree has helped me become a more well-rounded public servant’

By Jatnna Garcia ’18, MA in International Affairs

Three years ago, as I was finishing my first year as a Teach for America Corps member in Southern Texas, I started to consider what my next steps would be. Although I enjoyed teaching, I knew then that my passion lays with addressing the systemic issues my students faced, from a policy standpoint, and doing so at a larger scale.

As I considered transitioning into being a student once again—and since I had a bachelor’s in international relations—I decided to apply for international affairs programs and fellowships. I was honored to receive the prestigious Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship with the U.S. Department of State, which I took as a sign that I was on the right path.

After a year of applications, interviews, and paperwork, I decided to spend the next two years pursuing my master’s degree at Northeastern. Northeastern’s MA in International Affairs Program stood out to me because it was a brand new program, which meant I could help mold and craft my degree to fit my needs. There were few core requirements, and a lot of guided choice on what classes to take and different areas of international affairs to focus on.

Throughout my time at Northeastern, I was able to take multidisciplinary classes which connected one or several aspects of international affairs with other fields or disciplines. Overall, I took classes in sociology, criminology, political science, public policy, history, and, of course, international affairs. I had the freedom to explore topics such as the intersections of gender and globalization; gender and social movements; Africa during colonial and contemporary times; and development, what it means, its branches—social, human and economic—and the way we as western actors can and should approach development.

These interdisciplinary courses impacted my understanding of processes such as colonialism, neoliberalism, and globalization, by allowing me to see how the effects of the same varied and continue to vary when considering different target populations, and at the same time, they allowed me to interact with scholars from different fields who often made me challenge my own previous biases and understandings.

Because of the program’s placement under the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, I was able to learn more practical and applied skills. I took courses on policy analysis, international development administration, and institutional leadership, among others, which allowed me to learn more about leadership and managerial skills; how to research, draft and propose policy changes; how to assess the effectiveness and impact of policy decisions; what the best practices of leader-managers are; and the importance of including the voice of the poor in development choices.

While pursuing my master’s, I was also able to practice some of my newly acquired knowledge and skills within my on-campus job as a program assistant, and now senior program assistant, at Northeastern’s Center for Intercultural Engagement, and my internship this past summer with the Brazil and Southern Cone Office of the U.S. Department of State.

By combining theory with practice and giving me a broader perspective on the effects of policy decisions on different marginalized communities, and especially as I look forward to a career in the Foreign Service, my degree has helped me become a more well-rounded public servant. As my time at Northeastern comes to an end, I cherish the opportunities I had within and without the classroom, to learn from professors and classmates alike, to grow personally and professionally, and partake in and experience lessons I will take with me as I go back to the “real world.”

Jatnna Garcia graduated in May 2018 with a MA in International Affairs from Northeastern University. She works as a senior program assistant at Northeastern’s Center for Intercultural Engagement.

Published On: May 5, 2018 |
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