Vesna Jaksic Lowe graduated with an MS in International Affairs with a concentration in Governance and Rights from The New School in 2011. She works as a communications consultant and freelance writer. Current projects include Carnegie Corporation of New York, Sustainable Development Goals Fund and Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict.
You were an award-winning journalist before you decided to apply for the SGPIA. How did that career get started, and what prompted you to apply for Graduate School?
I always loved writing and was curious about everything from sports and travel, to international relations. Journalism appealed to me because it is about so many things – the world we live in, the people, and the issues that affect our lives. After getting a bachelor’s degree in Communications/Journalism, I worked as a reporter for Greenwich Time and Stamford Advocate daily newspapers in Connecticut before joining The National Law Journal weekly legal newspaper. As a reporter, I covered everything from robberies and car accidents, to local politics and elections. I learned something new every day, and got to interview people from all walks of life.
I grew up in Croatia and was usually the only foreign-born journalist and former ESL student in the newsroom, so I often found stories about immigration or local news with international ties. The more I covered immigration and social justice issues, the more I learned there is a wrong side and a right side to most stories. I started to feel compelled to engage with the right side. I volunteered for a United Nations Association group and as an English conversation partner for new immigrants, but felt that wasn’t enough. I applied to graduate school to learn about human rights and international affairs, and help pave the path for advocacy work.
Why did you pick SGPIA?
It was the only program that I applied to. I knew I wanted to be in New York, and always loved what The New School stood for—its history as a progressive and bold academic institution, and a place that welcomed exiled scholars from all over the world. The Master of Science option appealed as it was targeted for students like me, who had more than five years of related work experience.
What was your experience at TNS and in New York? Was is what you expected?
Getting away from the pressure of daily journalism deadlines to learn about human rights and international relations felt like a treat, and I was extremely grateful for it. As a journalist, I got to report on issues related to human rights, but for the first time, I had a chance to study these topics in-depth. It was challenging as I also worked and had an internship, but I found it really stimulating and rewarding.
Did your SGPIA experience change your career trajectory? How?
My goal was to transition from journalism into non-profit communications and advocacy, and I did that. Having a master’s degree also allowed me to seek out new opportunities, such as a UN consultancy. And like anything else, it’s the people who make the place—I am still friends, and even colleagues, with some of my SGPIA classmates.
What is your professional focus now, and what motivates that?
I work as a freelance writer and communications consultant for progressive organizations, often those focusing on human rights and international affairs. My current projects include Carnegie Corporation of New York, Sustainable Development Goals Fund, and Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict. As a mom of a young child, working independently has allowed me to create a flexible schedule, which is really important to me at this point in my career and life.
I try to use my skills from journalism and non-profit communications to create positive change, whether that’s raising awareness about injustice against immigrants or promoting human rights. My motivation has always been to move the needle towards justice and equality, and help raise the voice of the most marginalized and vulnerable groups.
How difficult was it to get a job immediately post graduation? Did you feel prepared to enter the workforce?
I was on a visa, so I had a lot of pressure to find work before my documents expired. I spent most of my final semester focusing on my job search and landed a job at the ACLU right after I graduated. SGPIA taught me about a host of issues related to human rights and law that were involved in my work at the ACLU, but I learned a lot on the job, as is usually the case.
How relevant do you feel International Affairs is at the moment?
International Affairs have always been critical and will only become more important in an increasingly globalized world facing challenges that know no borders, including climate change, disease and poverty. The current U.S. government is unfortunately abandoning its duty to confront these challenges and promote human rights, which makes it even more imperative for all of us to become advocates and insist that these issues be prioritized. As students of International Affairs, we should strive to promote global values, get others engaged, and insist on leaders who value global cooperation, respect everyone’s fundamental rights and protect the world’s most vulnerable people.
Any advice for prospective students, especially international students, considering TNS?
International students face many obstacles, such as not being eligible for many grants, loans and scholarships, and having to contend with student and work visas, not to mention the current backlash from our own government against immigrants. My advice would be to get help whenever you can, whether that’s from International Student and Scholar Services, your classmates, professors or alumni.
And I hope all international students recognize the immense value of the knowledge, perspectives and experiences they bring from their home countries. It is vital that they share their stories so we learn from them and demonstrate the value and power of diversity. Those of us who hail from other countries can help tackle some of the fear-mongering, bigotry and discrimination against immigrants and refugees by creating personal connections, building tolerance and helping bridge divides.
Vesna Jaksic Lowe is an SGPIA alum and award winning newspaper reporter who works as a communications consultant and freelance writer. She has previously worked for the ACLU and Physicians for Human Rights. She is a recipient of 12 journalism awards, including the Society of Professional Journalists. You can read her work in the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the Washington Post and the New York Daily News. www.vesnajaksic.com
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