rita s. guenther '97
Major: Russian, Russian Studies & Political Science
Career field: Non-Profit/Academic
Job title: Senior Program Associate
Employer: The National Academies
In two to three sentences, please describe what your current position entails.
I work with international partners on sensitive issues. My position entails coordinating scientific publications and research on policy-relevant topics. I assist scientists around the world as they seek to address difficult, real-world problems directly relevant to science and security issues.
What has been your career path to date?
Upon graduation from St. Olaf, I worked for a non-profit for 1.5 years then moved back to Russia to work for 9 months. Following this, I began graduate studies at Georgetown where I received an MA. I then began working at the National Academies where I continue to work, but in the fall of 2002 I began my Ph.D. studies at Georgetown.
Which country(ies) has your work taken you to?
How did your interest in working internationally develop?
From the earliest days I have been interested in international work, but I only learned after I graduated from St. Olaf how diverse the world of international work actually is.
Which parts of your St. Olaf education best prepared you to work internationally?
A firm foundation in core subject areas such as history, economics and literature has assisted me greatly, but the main advantage I have gained from my St. Olaf education was my deep knowledge of Russia and my Russian language skills. These continue to pay dividends daily!
What is the most difficult or challenging aspect about working internationally?
It is very easy to think about the world through the lens of one's own experiences, but we must always force ourselves to view the world from others' perspectives. This is not easy, but critical to real understanding across linguistic or cultural boundaries.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of working internationally?
Having the privilege and opportunity to travel the world and meet very interesting people has been tremendously rewarding and humbling!
What does being a “global citizen” mean to you?
Being a "global citizen" for me means remembering that the world should be livable for all of its citizens. We should therefore use all of our talents and resources to ensure that we all have access to safe living conditions, health care, education, freedom and protection from harm. We each have but one life to give, and hopefully that life will contribute positively to the betterment of others!
What advice would you offer current students interested in working internationally?
I would advise students to think broadly and not to allow any one career path to be pre-determined. There are a thousand roads that lead to our destinations, so don't be confined to International Relations or Foreign Policy - the world is so much bigger. Learn everything you can and have fun! A smile is a universal sign of good will and good cheer! Everyone can speak it regardless of one's major.
Please include anything else you would like to share about your experiences.
Look for opportunities in the most unexpected places and don't feel too shy to ask for help or to ask questions! People are more than happy to help!
Rita S. Guenther firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 202-256-4913