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March 2018 - Zeinab Khalil

March 2018

Zeinab Khalil

BA International Studies (International Security, Norms and Cooperation); BA Middle East and North African Studies; minor, Women's Studies (Gender, Race and Nation); Honors '14

Hometown: Midwest

University of Michigan Affiliations: Michigan Women of Color Collective, Muslim Students' Association, Sweetland Writing Center, Michigan Daily

“Pursuing an International Studies major at the University of Michigan has opened up key professional doors for me into the world of global affairs and public policy. While navigating this field can be daunting given its magnitude and breadth, I would say what has helped me most in my academic and professional trajectory is a mantra a dear mentor of mine shared with me: start local and move up (it is much easier to do this than to start globally and move down). Practicing this has allowed me to find clarity in my work and interests, while cultivating enduring and close relationships with colleagues, supervisors and clients. With this in mind, my work began in the field.

I worked at Nazra for Feminist Studies in Egypt, where I gathered testimonials from women human rights defenders resisting violence and intimidation from security state actors. I also spent time in Turkey organizing an anti-violence and political education collective with women displaced due to militarized homes and borders. My work then took me to a nonprofit in New York, where I worked to build the political power of immigrant communities in southwest Brooklyn through direct actions and advocacy, but also by building partnerships with local council members and the mayor’s office in order to strengthen city relations while opening routes for the community to access productive governmental resources. I eventually decided to go back to school and completed a master's degree at Yale University in global affairs and public policy.

Graduate school was important in helping me further specify my career interests while adopting a strong foundation in research methods, policy writing, and various analytical tools. I grew deeply interested in addressing through research, advocacy and policy, the intricate intersections of gender, migration, and global governance. After graduate school, I transitioned to working in larger organizations like the UN Development Program and the Open Society Foundations. There I focused on issues of democratization and civil society. I also began to learn in greater depth about the management and operational side of global institutions and immersed myself in work on nonprofit strategy, program evaluation, and grant making. The nature of working in larger international organizations is very different. You grow more distant from the ground even though you might have a greater impact in shaping the structure and outcomes in local settings--so the work demands a great deal of responsibility and critical perspective.

Overall, I would encourage PICS majors to hone in on a specific geographic or thematic focus, pursue internships and jobs (throughout the summer, but also year round) that will provide you with strong mentorship, and write! Write a thesis, write for a blog, write for yourself—write a lot because the world of international relations and policy will require your sharp writing in endless briefs, memos and think pieces.”