Tar Heels Experience the World of Diplomacy in DC
UNC Global Affairs
Students walk the halls of the U.S. Department of State for a Foreign Policy Classroom session. (Photo by Emmy Grace)
During the Diplomacy Initiative’s first-ever Washington Week, UNC-Chapel Hill students explored careers in international affairs and networked with alumni in our nation’s capital.
Over Spring Break, 19 first- and second-year Tar Heels visited the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Institute of Peace, the Mexican Cultural Institute, the Atlantic Council and the embassies of France, Norway, and Japan to meet with global problem solvers and high-ranking diplomats, including Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations.
Led by the Office of the Vice Provost for Global Affairs, Washington Week connects Carolina to the capital to help students interested in solving global challenges network and explore career opportunities in diplomacy and more broadly in federal service.
“Our students told us they felt at a disadvantage to students at universities in the Washington area who have direct access to the world of foreign affairs,” said Barbara Stephenson, vice provost for global affairs and former U.S. ambassador. “With Washington Week we narrow that gap and level the playing field for Carolina students. Washington Week is a chance for Tar Heels to get a feel for what international affairs and global problem solving look like in practice.”
The students came from a range of academic backgrounds, including global studies, health policy, sociology and computer science. Maria Livas Bravo, a second-year global studies major, believes she is now equipped with a better understanding of how her interest in international affairs can translate into a fulfilling career.
“This experience has helped me identify the plethora of career paths I have to try after I graduate from Carolina,” said Bravo. “Specifically, our visit to the United States Institute of Peace was particularly insightful to me as it seemed like they do the exact kind of work I have been wanting to do since choosing to be a global studies major.”
The week’s program not only afforded students the opportunity to observe Washington’s global leaders, but to engage with them as well. Participants joined students in the Honors Seminar on Public Policy and Global Affairs for a networking reception with 18 Carolina alumni including Samantha Smith Atkinson ’08, staff director of global public policy for Government Affairs at FedEx Corporation.
Brian Gamberini ’07 was impressed by the students he met at the reception. The alumnus double majored in political science and public policy, and today represents Home Depot as a senior manager for state and local government relations.
“The students were so professional and ambitious,” said Gamberini. “D.C. is a city where knowing the right people provides you an opportunity to differentiate yourself from the other candidates for jobs and internships. I am happy to offer my assistance and network to the next generation of Tar Heels.”
After flexing their networking muscles – some for the first time – participants said they developed a greater sense of assurance as they prepare to enter the professional world.
“Looking back on the week, I am more confident in my ability to adapt to dynamic situations and interact with others from different backgrounds,” said Brenner Cobb, a second-year majoring in peace, war and defense.
In addition to the knowledge and skills gained during Washington Week, participants found a new community among their cohort. From navigating the Metro and sharing a table of Ethiopian food to karaoke and late-night talks, the group created bonds to last.
“The opportunities I had to visit notable landmarks, speak to the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, form friendships with the incredible individuals I traveled with, and create unique and lasting memories made Washington Week the highlight of my time so far at UNC-Chapel Hill,” said Cobb.
Funding for Washington Week was provided by the Chancellor’s Global Education Fund. Applications for Washington Week 2024 will open in fall 2023. For more information, contact Emmy Grace, program manager for global education.