Nevena Bosnic (Economics with minors in Political Science and International Area Studies, BS ’12, Honors) is the first Drexel student to be selected for the Carnegie Junior Fellows Program, a highly-competitive award that enables recent graduates to work for a year with a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Recently, we caught up with her to find out what the fellowship experience was like, and what she’s been up to since.
DFO: What motivated you to apply for the Carnegie?
N: I recognized early at my time at Drexel that no matter the issue at hand, I was most interested in analysis from an international perspective and through a global lens. When I learned about Carnegie – the institution itself, its reputation, the senior fellows, as well as the weight it carries in both public and private sectors– I knew I wanted to work there. At the time, I had just completed a coop with the U.S. Embassy in Athens, Greece, and I was enthralled by the Euro-zone crisis. However, I also wanted to expand my horizons and be exposed to topics that I had little or no understanding of, and the JF program offered just that. Moreover, being in Washington, D.C. made the most sense for me given the high concentration of public policy work as well as my interests.
DFO: What was the research you ended up working on as a Fellow?
N: I continued to work on the Euro-zone, but I also worked on emerging market economies, global inequality, the rise of the global middle class and its implications on governmental systems, manufacturing employment, and international trade agreements. These were all topics I was interested in but never had the opportunity to explore and delve into. One of the more unique projects I got to work on was focused on the geopolitical implications of climate change, specifically how climate change in the Arctic Circle was leading to a subsequent shift in the rapports of countries with interests in access to natural resources as well as new shipping routes.
Carnegie was the perfect marriage of economics and politics, the two topics I am most passionate about.
DFO: What was a typical day like as a Carnegie Junior Fellow?
N: There wasn’t one! You could be doing research all day, or writing, or working on an event, going to meetings…it was the kind of atmosphere where you wake up every day not knowing what you’ll do, or who you’ll meet, which was very motivating for me. There was a time when I was sitting in my office and General Petraeus casually strolled by, and when the senior fellow I was working with invited me to a meeting with former finance minister, Penny Wong.
I had a lot autonomy working on the portfolio of two senior associates. As a result, my work was very diverse—everything from manufacturing to outer space, and any area that might have geopolitical and economic implications. Although there was lots of reading involved, it was similar, though opposite, of my time at school. In college, you’re paying to study, learn, and take exams, but at Carnegie they were paying me to study, learn, and work with the most sophisticated professionals. It was exhilarating.
DFO: Do you have a favorite memorable moment from Carnegie?
N: I helped organize an event on the political and economic dimensions of Middle Eastern economies in transition, like Libya and Egypt, which were also experiencing widespread revolutions. It was a wonderful opportunity to organize the event, and have some of the most established and esteemed professionals in the community join in the discussions. As the experts, it may have been intimidating at times to speak with them about topics. However, you really have to go into it knowing that you’re about 20 years their minor, and that it’s ok not to know everything. You’re still young, growing, and figuring out what your passions are.
DFO: In what ways did the fellowship experience meet your expectations, and in what ways in did it surprise you?
N: It exceeded all of my expectations. I was exposed to many topics and areas in which politics and economics intersected in the most unique ways.
The people I worked with extraordinarily accomplished in their careers, but were also genuinely interested in my professional and personal development. They helped me think about what I wanted to do and what I would have to do get there.
For example, it was fascinating to learn about the ingenious ways a very distinguished and highly-esteemed female senior associate in the South Asia program conducted research in Afghanistan during the early 2000s, such as dressing as a man to have access to high level officials and groundbreaking information. From her and other associates, I realized that to be a catalyst in influencing public policy, there are infinite tracks to success. Some started out in journalism or government, while others were in banking or consulting. However, they all wound up in the non-profit, think tank industry. What surprised me was a function of my own naive perception of think tanks. I learned that though the goal of a think tank is to influence policy, it is very difficult—perhaps impossible—to quantify and measure the true impact of your work. The purpose isn’t only to influence the direction of policy, but also to inform policymakers and the public.
DFO: Looking back, how did Carnegie fit into your long-term goals? Did it help clarify (or change) your vision for the future?
N: I completed the fellowship in August 2013, and decided to stay in DC. Carnegie opened my eyes to a world that I had previously only known through books or reports, and it helped facilitate a stronger understanding of the role of think tanks in impacting policy discourse. It helped me realize that at this stage of my life, I’d like to have exposure to other work environments and experiences. Since I had never worked in the private sector, I decided to pursue that route. I am now working in the research and analysis department of a global commercial real estate firm. Though I can more directly quantify the impact of my work, I wonder whether this is most important. Carnegie really helped to steer me in the right direction in terms of questioning my personal and professional goals, as well as my values.
DFO: Do you have any advice for students who are thinking about applying?
N: It’s intimidating to put yourself in a position where you are sacrificing a lot of time and energy for a challenging application with no certainty as to its fate. But if you are really passionate about a topic or a region, and if you know what makes you tick, you should absolutely go for it.
I believe Drexel’s coop program was a beneficial part of my application because it showed that I hadn’t only graduated college, but that I had tested the waters and learned more about my professional interests. My three coops all helped me gauge whether a particular industry or career was right for me– and this is a huge advantage for Drexel students.
You graduate Drexel as a more competitive candidate than your counterparts at other universities because you have the 18 months of full-time work experience under your belt.
Thank you for the interview, Nevena!
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