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UN Sustainable Development Challenge: Where Are They Now Series- Part II  

Our UN Sustainable Development Challenge: Where Are They Now Series reconnects us with Alex and Patricia, our graduate finalists of the 2017 Challenge competition. In Part I, we asked about their reasons for participating in the challenge and descriptions of their impactful proposals. Now, we explore their experiences as UN Sustainable Development Challenge (SDG Challenge) participants and goals for their graduate education.

Alex Miller, a finalist in the School of Diplomacy’s 2017 graduate-level U.N. Sustainable Development ChallengeAlex Miller was a finalist in the School of Diplomacy's 2017 graduate-level UN Sustainable Development Challenge. Miller received his Bachelor's Degree in English and Political Science from the University of Michigan in 2012. He entered graduate school because he wished to continue learning about the daily challenges that impact foreign policy practitioners. Miller hopes this SDG competition will allow him to hone his skills and contribute to sustainable development in sub-Saharan African.

Describe your experience as a SDG Challenge Finalist and your plans to follow up on your proposal.
My experience as a finalist was great. While I was slated to present last, it was fascinating to watch the diverse presentations from both undergraduate and graduate students before me. Although I was quite nervous about presenting in front of School of Diplomacy professors, they were all really kind and appreciated my proposal. The questions they asked, which I initially worried would be "gotcha questions," were very constructive. Additionally, I'm glad I got to know each of the participants - I still keep in contact with some of them. After the competition, I approached my former volunteer colleagues to gauge the feasibility of implementing my proposal. Next summer I plan to continue exploring existing initiatives that target the health needs of the LGBT community.

How did your Challenge experience impact you?
The SDG Challenge provided me with immediate financial means to pursue graduate study and showed me that I am capable of presenting confidently in front of a group of peers and professionals. This presentation skill has definitely benefitted me during my Master's program. While I have not officially declared specializations, I plan to specialize in Africa and International Development & Economics. My proposal drove this decision as a deeper understanding of Africa and the complexities of economic development will help me to bring my proposal to life.

What are your hopes for the future?
I'm currently looking to either work for the U.S. Department of State or go into consulting. The array of classes and specializations and the career development staff at the School of Diplomacy will definitely help me with any career route I pursue.

What suggestions or advice do you have for SDG Challenge 2018 participants?
Be confident and enthusiastic about your proposal. Be passionate in your mission and careful that the logistics of your proposal are not understated.

Patricia GrazaPatricia Zanini Graca was a finalist in the School of Diplomacy's 2017 graduate-level UN Sustainable Development Challenge. Graca is a Brazilian native who received her undergraduate degree in Languages from the Universite Sophia Antipolis in Nice, France in 1999. In 2013, she obtained her M.B.A. with a specializing in Marketing from ISAE/ Fundação Getúlio Vargas in Curitiba, Brazil. Graca believes that education is a catalyst for change, which motivated her to become an educator and to lead fundraising initiatives for nonprofits. Currently, she is pursuing her Master of Art in Diplomacy & International Relations at the School of Diplomacy.

Describe your experience as a SDG Challenge Finalist and your plans to follow up on your proposal.
The quality of the projects was outstanding. I was proud to be selected among the finalists. I think that the SDG Challenge was very well planned. To bring my proposal into reality, I have been talking and showing my project to a variety of people that work in the field. I have received many compliments on my ideas and I am excited to continue the conversation with influencers both at the UN and within civil society.

How did your Challenge experience impact you?
The SDG Challenge was a turning point in my life. Because of the SDG Challenge, I started the Master's program at the School of Diplomacy and each day I am closer to accomplishing my dream of working for the UN. To achieve this dream, I selected my academic specializations of Global Negotiations & Conflict Management and International Organizations. Both of these areas of study are essential in today's frantic world. International organizations are very important actors in international politics because they gather and disseminate information, facilitate cooperation and shed light on issues that are vital to an interdependent and connected world. Being able to negotiate with the different groups that work within these organizations is a crucial skill that I will need to be successful at the UN.

What are your hopes for the future?
I hope to learn how to become a diplomat and an agent of change to make the world a better place. The School of Diplomacy and International Relations will give me the skills and the tools I need to reach my professional goals.

What suggestions or advice do you have for SDG Challenge 2018 participants?
To 2018 SDG Challenge participants, I suggest reading, networking and learning as much as you can during the entire process. Think outside the box, try to engage with your local community and bring creative solutions to ordinary problems.

Categories: Nation and World

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