graduation cap and tassel

Alumni Profiles

Meet some of our graduates.

Claire Bangser


Hi! I'm Claire! I studied International Studies with a focus on West Africa at Wash U and minored in art and French. During college, my research focused largely on women's issues, agriculture, and the intersection between traditional land systems and externally-influenced development projects, particularly in Mali. I studied abroad my junior year with SIT Mali where I worked at a women's farming cooperative and fell in love with the people, language and culture. I now have a job as the Program Coordinator for a Maternal Health program at Ashoka, based in DC but involving a good bit of travel.

My advice for graduating seniors is to figure out what really makes you happy before picking a job. Dig to find the source of your passions in your everyday life. Then consider how this will work into your life post-college and make it a priority.

Thomas Hernandez


IAS allowed me to tailor my academic experiences to fit my intellectual curiosities and to grow into a field I would never have imagined studying. From the International Leadership Program to the Senior Capstone, the program not only allowed me to study what I was passionate about, but also to grow as a leader in this field. As a result, I was able to apply my research experiences in the South Caucasus to my current work at the National Democratic Institute (NDI) in Washington, DC. I currently apply my coursework experiences to work as a desk officer for the NDI's democratic strengthening programs in Armenia and Azerbaijan. Through my IAS-supported experiences in Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Kazakhstan, I entered my line of work with a similar level of experience as colleagues who had been out of college for years or who have received advanced degrees. Even in Washington or abroad, I stay connected to my network of IAS classmates and professors, who continue to support my professional endeavors.

Carl Hooks      


Studying IAS has proven to be highly beneficial for me as a Wash U student. The flexibility of the major has let me combine foreign language, culture, politics, and environmental studies courses to pursue my specific interests in Chinese development and foreign policy. This uniquely interdisciplinary academic experience is something I could not have achieved within any other major or department.


Lana Jaffe


I graduated in May 2011 with a major in International and Area Studies from Washington University.  I pursued this major because of its interdisciplinary flexibility, which offered me access to specific area-based studies in addition to a well-rounded understanding of international affairs.  I focused on Korean Language and Literature and Russian Language and Literature, and, through the IAS major, I was able to connect both of these interests into a coherent path of study as well as develop a broad understanding of relevant international issues.  As an IAS major, I took courses in my main areas of interest but also took coursework in other specialties, such as African civilization, Chinese literature, American foreign policy, and theoretical perspectives.  At the same time, the IAS major allowed me an opportunity to take four years of Korean language, three years of Russian language, and one semester of Hebrew.  After I graduated, I completed a graduate program at the University of Chicago where I received a Master’s degree in Humanities in June 2012.

Meghan Luecke


When I started at Wash U, I resisted the idea of writing a thesis because I thought it would only benefit students who wanted to pursue a career in academia. But it turned out to have personal and professional benefits I had not expected. Though writing the thesis was hard from start to finish, it was also the most satisfying thing I accomplished in college. It teaches you about your own writing style and thinking process. In-depth research of your chosen topic can be tremendously helpful for figuring out what you want to do later in life. When you prove to yourself (and to future employers) that you can manage such an enormous amount of information and write such a thorough analysis, it opens up opportunities you might never have considered.


Rachel Meyer


I majored in International Studies and minored in Environmental Studies, and studied abroad in Prague in the fall of my junior year. When I returned to Wash U, I knew I wanted to find a meaningful way to combine my two interests, international affairs and environmental science, in my senior year. I decided that writing a thesis would be the best way for me to focus my efforts as it allowed me complete freedom to research a topic I was passionate about. The experience of writing my thesis on a United Nations climate change policy was both challenging and incredibly rewarding, as it pushed me as a writer and a critical thinker. I continue to use my research, writing and critical thinking skills daily at my job as an analyst at Avascent, a consulting firm in DC specializing in government-driven markets such as the aerospace, defense, energy and healthcare industries.

Lauren Olens


The semester I spent on the WU Program in Santiago, Chile was one of my favorite semesters in college. While I had previously taken classes on Spanish literature and Latin American history at Wash U, my Chilean university offered a wider breadth of South American-focused courses, covering topics such as its economy, development and theatre.  Moreover, the conversations with people I met in Chile, customs I encountered, and new university system allowed me to gain new insight into Chilean culture. When I came back to Wash U, I was able to use what I had learned and the cultural awareness I had gained to enhance many of my WashU classes.

In addition to my interest in Latin America, I also took Chinese and East Asia-related courses as part of my IAS major. I was even able to take a Chinese language class while in Chile. Upon my return, I merged my regional interests in a senior honors thesis on historical Chinese immigration to Latin America. After graduation I moved to Shenzhen, China to teach English, improve my Mandarin, and gain a deeper understanding of Chinese culture.  

I definitely recommend studying abroad! It's a great opportunity to really learn more about the world and your own interests as well.

Emily Reisman


When I joined the International Leadership Program I could not have understood the impact it would have in the long-term.  Without my even realizing it, the program took my international curiosities and mobilized them, transforming my academic interests into a sense of global citizenship.  It is difficult to pin-point how this happens; somewhere between the focused classes, the weekly seminar, and the international activities emerges a sense not just of expanding knowledge but of real engagement with the issues at hand.  After all, this isn’t about text’s about the world we live in!   I think perhaps more than any of the courses or activities themselves, it is the collective energy when being surrounded by so many passionate peers that has stayed with me.  I feel privileged to have been part of such an amazing group.

Landen Romei


After graduating from Wash U in 2008 with majors in IAS and Spanish, I started working as a Program Assistant at the Inter-American Dialogue, a think tank on Latin America, located in Washington DC. I made my initial connection to the Dialogue by attending a Sigma Iota Rho Town Hall and discussing my research in depth with one of the speakers. He later was able to set up the interview for me that led to my job offer. (Note: take advantage of IAS events!) I immediately set to work on planning conferences on democracy in various Latin American countries as well as editing and fact checking reports on those conferences. Information I had learned in classes on Latin America and first hand while studying abroad was invaluable to my new job. (Note: study abroad and learn a language!)

I use Spanish daily and Portuguese on occasion and would not have gotten my job without them. More recently, I’ve been working with Latino migrants in the US and their families back home on improving financial literacy with special attention to budgeting and remittance services. Within my first year on the job, I traveled to 5 countries and 3 other US cities, taking as much time as possible to explore each place. I’m able to apply my studies to the real world, learn a lot about this field and others, and figure out which graduate degree to pursue in a year or so.  The best bit of advice I can give is to find a passion and stick with it. Your vision for the long term will come later.


Isaiah Sciford 


"I appreciate that all of my classes focus on areas of continuity and overlap between more traditional studies like economics, political science, and history. As a result, my experience with the International and Area Studies program has helped me to think in an increasingly interdisciplinary way about the complex regional issues in the Middle East and North Africa that interest me."                                                              

Toby Shepard


During my internship I worked with the Crisis Management Training Division (CMT) of the Foreign Service Institute, which is part of the Department of State.  Through this program, I was given the opportunity to meet the Executive Secretary of State, the Director General of the Foreign Service, and many other important figures within the State Department.  I also participated in brown bag lunches with other State Department interns and employees to discuss topics ranging from terrorism and nuclear nonproliferation to how to move up in your career.  I heard Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speak at a presentation to interns from many different organizations in DC.  I volunteered at the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue and therefore contributed to an important diplomatic summit. The opportunities and experiences I had really gave me a glimpse into how the State Department works and the type of career I might have if I decide to join the Foreign Service.

My advice for students looking at internships in the future is to think about applying early in the school year.  Most internship deadlines for government organizations are in the fall, so be sure to plan ahead.  Also, be sure to keep in touch with former professors and supervisors periodically to check in and to continue your relationship after your internship.  Chances are, they are interested in knowing how you are doing, and if you are fresh on their minds it may lead to a recommendation or a possible job opportunity down the road.  For people who are thinking about joining the Foreign Service, I highly recommend interning at the Department of State to hear insider information on what a career in the Foreign Service is really like. Working in DC was an experience like none other, being completely surrounded by people who are politically informed, active, and passionate about today’s issues.

Emilie Weisser


I originally chose to pursue the IAS minor in Russian Studies because of my interest in Russian scientific and medical history (I was a Biology major with another minor in Public Health). With the help of my professors in the Russian department, I was able, at times, to incorporate my interests in science and medicine into my courses in Russian language, literature and cultural history.  The ability to integrate my science background into my Russian coursework really helped me to engage in the language and literature and has led me to develop a love for Russian culture. With the help of my Russian professors, I received a Critical Language Scholarship from the US Department of State to study in Kazan, Russia the summer after I graduated. The time I spent in Kazan was an amazing learning experience.  My complete immersion into Russian life allowed me to engage with the materials I had learned in class in a whole new way.

The Russian Studies minor also allowed me to explore the regions of Central Asia and Eastern Europe and further developed my interest in global affairs. I am currently working as an intern for Ox Optimum, a company that (in collaboration with Marquette University) is developing course materials for universities across the country on global social entrepreneurship based on the writing of David Bornstein and Tina Rosenberg and their New York Times column “Fixes.”  My IAS minor also contributed to my desire to live and work internationally. As a result, I chose to join the Peace Corps and will be serving in Albania starting March 2013 working as a Health Educator.