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Dr. Matt Kirwin delivers the keynote address at the “International Studies Professional in Today’s World” event.

Dr. Matt Kirwin delivers the keynote address at the “International Studies Professional in Today’s World” event.

A panel of graduates from OHIO’s Center for International Studies answers questions during the “International Studies Professional in Today’s World” event.

A panel of graduates from OHIO’s Center for International Studies answers questions during the “International Studies Professional in Today’s World” event.

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Center for International Studies welcomes alumni back to campus for special events


Ohio University’s Center for International Studies (CIS) welcomed several alumni back to campus recently to talk with students, share advice and answer questions about the work that they are doing.

The alumni returned to campus for “The International Studies Professional in Today’s World” events hosted by the CIS inside Baker University Center on Friday, Feb. 17. The events included an alumni panel discussion and a keynote address.

“I’m really happy to be back here in Athens,” said Dr. Matt Kirwin in the keynote address. Kirwin is the division chief of the Division of Africa and the Americas, Office of Opinion Research, Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the U.S. State Department.

A graduate of OHIO’s CIS with a master’s degree in international affairs, Kirwin began working for the U.S. State Department in 2010 and has covered the Sahel and Nigeria as an analyst. He explained during his remarks that he was first drawn to OHIO due to the uniqueness of the campus and its educational environment.

“You can do some really creative things here,” Kirwin said. While a student at OHIO, for example, he worked with others on a study of sports in Africa and ended up hosting conferences and other special events related to the study. Kirwin encouraged the students in attendance to take advantage of opportunities like this and to get involved in different projects while they are on campus. He also said that he enjoyed his classes at OHIO and pointed out that he still uses the skills he learned in his first statistics course on campus.

Kirwin served in the Peace Corps before studying at OHIO, and said that his mix of education and experience helped him land his position with the U.S. State Department. He advised students to get as much experience as possible, and told them that if they are interested in working for the State Department it is smart to try to get an internship there first.

In his work with the U.S. State Department, Kirwin studies issues such as Ebola and access to healthcare in certain African countries. As part of one research project, Kirwin studied the migration of residents from certain African countries to Europe and examined why people are moving and where they are going.

Kirwin then compiles reports on the issues he is studying and gives the reports to policymakers who use the information to help make decisions. He enjoys the opportunity to work around the world and to help political leaders in the U.S. make decisions, and he is thankful that his experience at OHIO helped prepare him for the work.

Also during the Feb. 17 events, a panel of CIS graduates gave short presentations and answered questions from students, faculty and staff. The panelist were:

  • Richard Kraince, an associate professor of cooperative education at Antioch College who conducts research on the relationships between social movements and educational reform in Indonesia, Malaysia and southern Thailand.
  • Jocelyn Probasco, a volunteer specialist at the Ohio Association of Foodbanks who currently helps impoverished Columbus residents regain food eligibility in compliance with state law while using cultural competencies to encourage clients to advocate for themselves.
  • Abukar Sanei, the founder and acting director of the Center for Policy Analysis and Research (CfPAR), based in Columbus, Ohio.
  • Sonita Uijt de Haag, a human resources liaison at Ohio University, where she serves as a strategic human resources business partner for the Provost's office, President's office, Office of Information Technology and University College.

“Focus on something you do well and have a passion for,” Sanei told the audience members. He also told them to reach out to agencies and associations they are interested in working for to see how they can get involved. 

Probasco added that students may need to volunteer or work part time in the field they are interested in working in. This may require working another job to pay the bills, but it is important to get the experience needed for the positions the students hope to hold in the future.

When asked about skills that graduates need today, Probasco said that communication skills are key. She encouraged the students to become comfortable speaking in public and to hone their writing skills.

“Be confident in yourself,” she added.

Uijt de Haag reminded the students that while graduate school is a tremendous amount of reading, writing and work, it is work that is going to pay off for them in their work and in their careers.

“What you are doing now is making you a globally-minded citizen,” she said. She added that the students should be patient and remember that the work they are putting in now will help them in the future.

“Life is a marathon, not a sprint,” she said.

Kraince encouraged the students in the audience to take part in international events on campus and in the region, to do field research whenever possible, to work with mentors and to live abroad for a time, if possible, in order to get international experience. 

This article was provided by the Office of Global Affairs and International Studies.

Videos of the events are now available

To watch videos of the Center for International Studies alumni events, please use these links for the panel discussion and the keynote speech

For more information about the events or about the CIS, please contact the Center for International Studies at 740-593-1840, international.studies@ohio.edu or stop by the offices in the Yamada International House on East Union Street at the top of Jefferson Hill.