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Students gain skills to pursue global careers at Diplomacy Initiative forum

May 7, 2024
UNC Global Affairs

UNC alumni in foreign affairs judge annual Policy Brief Competition 

Can security alliances protect natural resources in the Arctic? How can the European Union reduce gender-based violence for refugees? What can diplomats do to reduce piracy in the Red Sea? Carolina students wrestled with these questions and have promising answers to these and other challenging questions for policymakers to consider. 

For the third year, Carolina students researched global challenges and crafted policy recommendations in the annual Policy Brief Competition. More students participated in the competition than ever before: 22 groups, or 58 students total, were selected as semi-finalists. Carolina alumni working in foreign affairs judged the competition and said they were impressed by the policy briefs, which ranged from improving migration policies to reforming UNC-Chapel Hill’s waste management practices.  

The Policy Brief Competition was part of the Diplomacy Initiative’s Forum on Skills in Global Careers, April 17-18. The Diplomacy Initiative creates learning experiences for students to develop the skills used by diplomats to solve grand challenges. On Wednesday evening, the Office of the Vice Provost for Global Affairs hosted an awards ceremony in the Nelson Mandela Auditorium for students who participated in this year’s Policy Brief Competition. The competition is designed for students to practice the skills used by policymakers to solve global challenges, and to communicate their analyses and recommendations concisely and persuasively. 

“The best skill we can teach students is persuasion,” Provost Christopher Clemens, who spoke at the ceremony, said. “And the Policy Brief Competition is about students learning how to persuade and then sharpening those skills.” 

The five alumni judges, who work in foreign affairs, spoke about the importance of creating briefs that are feasible, meaningful, accessible and distinguishable — qualities valued by high-level policymakers. 

“The Policy Brief Competition is so crucial because it helps us synthesize what we learn in class,” Hasti Sadri ’25 said. “And then we practice writing skills and apply them in a more practical setting, so we can be prepared for when we leave Carolina.” 

Sadri collaborated with Rachel Hatfield ’25, who won last year’s competition, on a brief about reimagining EU migration policies as more gender sensitive to account for the disproportionate hardships migrant women and girls face. Together, this year, they tied with another group for first place. The second standout brief, crafted by Alica Lenartova ’25 and Bryn Giugno ’23, highlights the UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ challenges when it comes to accommodating climate refugees in the face of increasing climate change and gives clear policy reform recommendations. 

The full list of this year’s finalists is below. 

“Students should participate in the UNC Global Affairs’ Policy Brief Competition because it’s an opportunity to make your voice heard on global issues,” Hatfield said. 

Following the award ceremony, students, alumni, faculty and staff gathered on the fourth floor of the FedEx Global Education Center for a reception. Students asked alumni for professional advice, met faculty who teach courses that participate in the Policy Brief Competition and learned more about winners’ policy briefs. The next day, Vice Provost for Global Affairs and Chief Global Officer Barbara Stephenson, who served in the Foreign Service for nearly 34 years, moderated a panel on careers in the U.S. Department of State with three of the alumni judges and Carolina’s diplomat-in-residence, Stephanie Hutchison. Other forum events included a simulation on disinformation, a discussion on careers in the intelligence community and what global policymaking looks like in the private sector. 

“[One of the judges] had to write policy briefs despite being in the private sector,” Emerson Anvari ’25, a semi-finalist in the Policy Brief competition, said. “It’s encouraging to see how many different career paths there are and how you can blend so many different things together. There is way more out there than I thought.”  



2024 Policy Brief Competition Winners 

“A Safe Place: Toward a Gender Sensitive EU Migration Policy”  

by Rachel Hatfield and Hasti Sadri 

“Climate Refugees: An Unprotected Status”  

by Alica Lenartova and Bryn Giugno 


2024 Policy Brief Competition Finalists 

“EU Strategic Dependencies: Diversifying Suppliers of CRMs”  

by Tavis Kimball, Will Morton and Claribel Ordaz-Rios 

“Wavering U.S. Power in Niger; Increased Russian and Iranian Presence in the Sahel”  

by Alix de Saint-Aigan, Ede Kosik, Aislin Farris and Samridhi Arora 

“Waste Management Program Improvement at UNC Chapel Hill”  

by Callie Tennyson, Ishon Liao, Baxter Gattis and Kunal Kumar 

“Advancing Arctic Security: Enhancing Strategic Cooperation on Arms Control and Resource Rights”  

by Neya Garcia, Flavia Nunez Ludeiro, Elsa Mitchell and Matthew Tweden 

“Countering Iran’s Terrorist Proxy Network After Decapitation”  

by Tyler Smith 


Alumni Judges: 

Jeffrey Brown ’15 (MA)

Angela Chin ’20 

Jennifer Davis ’94, ’97 (JD) 

Ned Kelly ’05 

Morgan O’Brien ’01 

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