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From Beirut to South Orange: Diplomacy Graduate Student Reflects on His Global Education and Career  

Ziad Al AchkarZiad Al Achkar
Brommana, Lebanon
M.A. Program: International Security and International Law Specialization

Ziad Al Achkar grew up in the small town of Brommana in the eastward mountains overlooking Beirut. As a child, Ziad didn't imagine his passion for education and leadership would take him to the United States. "When I was still in Lebanon, continuing my education in the U.S. wasn't on my radar until my family started encouraging me to explore options overseas," he said.

After graduating with a B.A. in International Affairs with a specialization in Globalization from Roger Williams University in Rhode Island, Ziad was brought on full-time to work for the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative as a Data Analysis Coordinator. Ziad worked with the Initiative for a year but knew his expiring visa would limit his options for continuing his work. He began to look towards graduate school as his next step. "In order to move into leadership positions within international relations, I knew that having a master's level degree would carry a lot of weight," he said.

After studying diplomacy at Seton Hall for a year, Ziad started an internship at the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (UNDPKO) where he gained valuable leadership skills. "Many of the assignments given to me by my directors were very hands-off," he said, adding, "It meant I had to take initiative to compile accurate data in, often, a very short period of time."

Ziad's tasks consisted of monitoring the security situations in Lebanon, Syria, and the Golan Heights region. "In terms of monitoring the developing situations in the middle-east, Syria became the focus." Ziad reflects, "ISIS arrived on the scene during my first week, and we began assessing their potential impact on border countries in the region."

Throughout his time monitoring the situation, Ziad updated detailed maps showing which factions held which territories and strategic military bases. His work was used multiple times during the week to update agency directors on developing situations.

"Syria became a very dynamic case, factions were constantly changing alliances or gaining and losing territories, so the weekly updates became very important," he said. Ziad's work conducting research and analysis of the Sudan crisis during his time at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative aided his ability to monitor the complex situations he dealt with at UNDPKO.

Some of the information Ziad compiled was used to brief different ambassadors and political affairs liaisons. "It was very motivating to know that the data I was compiling was being used to brief the UN Security Council on the weekly changes in the region," he said.

Ziad's extraordinary efforts working for UNDPKO did not go unrecognized. During the spring semester of his second year Ziad was awarded the Petersheim Experiential Educational Award for his contributions to UNDPKO, personal achievements, professional growth, and for demonstrating evidence of leadership development.

As Ziad moves forward as a specialist in international security, he hopes to put his skills to use in a career that applies conflict monitoring to the private sector.


  • 2015 Petersheim Experiential Education Award Recipient
  • Social Media Manager, Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations
  • Graduate Assistant, Department of Grants and Research at Seton Hall University
  • Intern, United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations
  • Data Analysis Coordinator; Signal Program on Human Security and Technology, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative at Harvard University
  • Fluent in Arabic, French, and English
  • Author, "While We Watched: Assessing the Impact of the Satellite Sentinel Project", Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, Summer/Fall 2013

Categories: Alumni , Nation and World

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  • Gwen DeBenedetto
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