New York: Food (Production), Career Goals and Shakira

We woke up to another unusually sunny and warm February day in New York, and began our day on the Upper West Side with a Q&A with Glenn Denning.

Glenn is the Director of the Master of Public Administration in Development Practice programme within Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). He is also an expert on agriculture and food systems, although his work has shifted to a sustainable development focus. We discussed the Green Revolution in Asia, technological developments in food production and the steps required to feed the growing population sustainably (intensify production strategically, improve distribution of food, cut food waste and change diets). The meeting brought a fresh and expert perspective on food production and security, and gave the delegation an idea of the potential options for postgraduate studies at SIPA.

The delegation with Glenn Denning.

Following our meeting with Glenn, we walked to the central part of the Columbia campus to go on a tour with two Fulbright Scholars, Alex Sinclair and Jeremy Olds. Alex, who is working towards her Master of Laws at Columbia, talked about the international perspective she has gained from studying in the US, such as the value of NZ’s administrative legal arrangements after studying the legal effects of the US Constitution. Jeremy, who is pursuing a Master of Arts in Journalism at the School of Journalism (one of the best in the world), shared his excitement about learning from and alongside the finest editorial and writing staff in the world, and emphasised the importance of good journalism in our time. Alex and Jeremy also gave valuable advice about overseas postgraduate studies, scholarships and adapting to learning in a foreign environment. One of the most interesting things the delegation heard was their observations of the Columbia University and New York communities’ reactions to last year’s election result. It was encouraging to see Kiwis in such great places.

View of one of the statues in the courtyard outside Columbia Law School.

After the tour of Columbia, we grabbed $4 street food and headed downtown, back to the UN Headquarters for the third day in a row, but this time, we were going into the Secretariat building – the staff only part! There, we spoke to Ben Schaare, a Kiwi working in the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Ben graduated from university and took himself to various roles and postgraduate study overseas. His current work involves promoting the Sustainable Development Goals through famous people such as Lionel Messi, Jack Ma and Shakira. From Ben’s experience, we realised again the importance of having international experience and networking to get your foot in the door at the UN.

The career development theme continued when Hector Sharp and Scott Colvin, UN legal interns, joined us. Touching on how many members of our delegation hope to work in the UN or in some international law capacity, we were given grounded, useful advice about getting ahead in the UN.

We topped off the day with an official UN Headquarters Tour, during which we visited the beautiful Security Council, Economic and Social Council, and General Assembly rooms.

The delegation in the General Assembly at the UN Headquarters – unfortunately the lighting was terrible for photos, which do not do the place justice!

– Julia Wiener