Neither gloom nor grey skies nor threat of rain stayed career-oriented college students from the swift sense of enlightenment offered by the Second Annual International Career Development Seminar. Not-so-bright and early on Saturday, Oct. 29 over 100 people gathered in the Harry Sudakoff Conference Center to hear eight prominent speakers from the international community.
The festivities started with an introduction by Dorothy Watson, the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA) Sarasota-Manatee Chapter Program Chair, and co-chair of the seminar. Watson introduced the collaborating colleges, University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, Ringling College of Art and Design and New College of Florida, as well as her co-chair and the Seminar Moderator, New College associate professor of political science Barbara Hicks.
“I wanted to give young people interested in International Studies ideas and inspire them [with this seminar],” Hicks said about organizing the event. “We don’t have a real budget for International Studies, but we are given $1000 from the Social Sciences budget. So we decided to just spend it all in one go, and with help from the President [Gordon “Mike” Michalson] and Provost [Stephen Miles] we were able to set up this inspiring event.”
The seminar was the result of a joint effort between the UNA-USA/UN Foundation and the New College International Studies Program, which is directed by Hicks, who also serves on the Board of Directors of the UNA-USA. Their goal was stated as “to strengthen the interest and participation of Americans in International Affairs.” The program sponsored up to 75 NCF students to attend for free and included a box lunch as well as a catered networking reception at the end of the day.
The speakers themselves represented many different associations with international programs. Divided into two groups, the first half spoke primarily about international aid work, while the second focused more on international careers in the private sectors.
The first, Mike Beard, the Director of the “Better World Campaign,” spoke about careers in international not-for-profit groups. He specifically hailed advocacy here in the states as a way of funding programs that can effect huge amounts of change in underdeveloped nations. One of his major campaigns is for mosquito nets for children’s beds. Even with 10 million nets having been donated, the rate of children dying from malaria in Africa has only risen from one every 30 seconds to 45.
The second speaker was John Ericson, who is the Chief of Outreach Human Resource Management at the United Nations. His presentation was primarily on how to join the UN and what it’s like to work for the UN. He spent a great deal of time describing different methods by which young and ambitious graduates might be able to help the UN transform the world.
One of the more curious speakers was Marie Johnson Colbert, who does Career Planning for International Art and Design through the Parson School for Design. Although she didn’t specifically speak on international aid work, she spoke of her experiences in the fashion industry and how she had seen firsthand what new industries can do to further the development of struggling cities and towns.
The youngest speaker present was an Eckerd College graduate who spent two years in the West African country of Gambia, working with the United States Peace Corps. Daniel Niebler described his life in Gambia, living in a mud hut in a small village in order to assist in Health and Community Development. He talked about the long application process that is a part of the Peace Corps, detailing how if anyone was interested in working with the Peace Corps out of college, they should apply at least one year in advance. Taking questions from the audience, it showed that Niebler truly enjoyed working in Gambia and that it was an amazing personal experience. He praised the Peace Corps for not only for preparing him for the field, but also for the reintegration process when he returned home.
Jeffry Oleson, a Senior Foreign Service Agent (FSA) from the U.S. Department of State also discussed application processes, but continually stressed the benefits of working for the Department of State and his own experiences as an FSA. He informed the audience that one of the most attractive aspects of any prospective FSA is if they have learned how to learn. He also emphasized that the State Department offers very good benefits, the least of which are Student Loan Repayment Options.
From the business sector, Kevin Cleary, a Vice President at IBM, talked of their hiring process as well as the different traits they look for in any new employee. He discussed how IBM’s future was continuing to grow away from just technology and was beginning to develop in ways in which they can “leverage technology to solve the world’s problems.”
The penultimate speaker, Natalie Reid, is a senior associate in international litigation at Debevoise and Plimpton LLP. Her presentation covered how important education is to preparing people for the future, and how broad spectrums of “learnability” can help them adapt to working in careers like international law.
The final speaker of the day was Chris Friday, who, while not an expert in any international areas of study, is a coach for the personal development in junior and senior professionals for Game On Nation. He urged the audience to their feet and helped them practice funny exercises that are meant to assist in preparing for interviews.
Each speaker gave short presentations on their lives in different international careers. The common thread between the wide range of speakers was the practicality of all different types of degrees in international jobs, but also stressed the advantage of knowing of unique languages. Many of the speakers specifically referenced New College and the versatility of any liberal arts degree or program as a basis for an international career.
“I was very pleased with how [Saturday] went,” Hicks said in an interview after the seminar. “I want to expand the young professionals section of the local UNA and get more students to join in. We have the highest concentration of retired FSAs and I want to help build a connection between them.