In the mid-2000s, Rachel Lammers decided to pursue a graduate program in international affairs. The choice for her Master’s in International Affairs was obvious: the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at Georgia Institute of Technology.
Lammers knew she wanted to “deep dive” into the subject of international trade. At the same time, she wanted hands-on experiential learning that would give her the practical problem-solving skills to take her future ahead. The Sam Nunn School provided both.
“It’s a place that I think sets the standard to create future leaders,” she says.
As part of her program, Lammers learned the importance of managing data. Dealing with vast amounts of data wasn’t something that came naturally, and the rigor in which Georgia Tech taught the subject was more than a little challenging at times.
But being able to aggregate and analyze data at multiple points is an ability Lammers looks back on with pride. Recently, the former student headed up the US Department of Defense Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO), promoting and facilitating direct foreign investment to Afghanistan to support the Afghan economy’s transition from a donor-dependent state to a thriving market economy.
“I would not have been able to do it without my experience here,” she adds.
But what is it that makes a graduate program at Sam Nunn School stand out from the rest?
It boils down to the school’s effective triumvirate of flexible course offerings, career development programs and work experience opportunities.
At the intersection of international relations, policy and technology
Earlier this year, Hurricane Michael left many Georgia farmers with ruined crops and endangered animals, with estimated losses between $2.3 and $2.8 billion. Family farmers were left vulnerable to the devastating effects of climate change.
But a vibrant tech startup scene is now a Georgia mainstay. One of the major hubs for US startups, entrepreneurs are flocking for the hip, cost-friendly environment, housing a large cluster of companies in some of the fastest-growing technology industries, including information security, telecom and healthcare.
These events place Georgia at an exciting intersection of international relations, policy and technology – the very subjects Sam Nunn School of International Affairs specializes in.
From climate change to tech startups, Sam Nunn School graduates are poised to launch rewarding and exciting careers in response to local and international events.
Adam Owens would know. Owens, who graduated in 2007 from the MS INTA program worked as a Country Director for Syria at the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
He describes how the Sam Nunn School is a master at producing specialists well-versed in the ways science and technology interact with policy and society.
With sound critical thinking abilities and great communication skills, Sam Nunn School molded Owens into a practitioner of international affairs and foreign policy – so much more than someone merely equipped with a deep understanding of the subject.
The emphasis on technology served Owens well in his role. It’s a “leg up” when Sam Nunn School helps students understand how technology can empower people and institutions. Owens saw the importance of this himself during the Arab Spring and other recent democratic movements, which social sites like Twitter and Facebook majorly impacted.
“Tech gave me an appreciation of the growing role technology plays in international affairs in a globalized world,” he says.
It’s a well-rounded educational experience at Georgia Tech, according to Nekabari Gora (MS INTA 2014).
As a graduate student, Nekabari’s focus was on international affairs and economics, but thanks to the dedicated faculty and staff creating paths for liberal arts students to integrate science and engineering into their studies, he also got to complement his studies with learning opportunities in public policy and computer science.
Today, Nekabari oversees all program enrolments, operational performance, and regulatory compliance for NRG Energy’s 20-megawatt dispatchable demand response resource portfolio, situated across New England as manager of operations and regulatory affairs. Before this, he worked in NRG’s Sustainable Products team, which facilitates the implementation of renewable energy projects for Fortune 500 customers with expressed long-term sustainability goals.
Fusing sustainable development goals with technology is something Nekabari is familiar with, due to his trip to Costa Rica and later South Africa with Sam Nunn School as a part Dr. Michael Best’s Technologies and International Development Lab.
“While at the International Telecommunications Union (an auxiliary group of the United Nations) Global Youth Summit in Costa Rica, my lab mates and I were challenged to develop an application that could be used to address the second millennium development goal of improving primary school attendance and completion rates worldwide,” he says.
“Our SMS and web-based app, Goal Z3R0, was well-received at the conference, and as a result we were invited to demo our application at the International Information and Communication Technologies for Development Conference in Capetown, South Africa, later on that year.”
Comprehensive career counselling and internships
The Sam Nunn School has plenty to offer when it comes to career-ready graduates.
Working together with the Georgia Tech Center for Career Discovery and Development, the school hosts employer information sessions, talent and skills workshops, as well as alumni networking events to support student career development. This, in addition to regular counselling, helps students pinpoint strengths and limitations, specific career interests and the type of work environment they would excel within.
Allison Stanford, who attended the Fall 2017 Career Fair, managed to make a connection with a top recruiter which ultimately landed her a coveted job in the federal government.
The alumna of the MS in International Affairs said:
“The interdisciplinary nature of the Nunn School has opened numerous doors for me both academically and professionally. Academically, the Nunn School has helped me to actually home in on what I’m specifically interested in and has given me the chance to expand my knowledge of my area of expertise through rigorous coursework, and outside opportunities, such as publications.
“Career wise, I am certain that if I did not study at the Nunn School, I would not have been offered my first job with the Department of Defense.”