Virtual Global Affairs Career Forum

April 23, 2020 | Co-sponsored by New York University

The WFPG hosted its first Virtual Global Affairs Career Forum with NYU Wasserman and NYU Wagner. Over a hundred students, recent graduates, and young professionals joined from across the country to connect with mid- and senior-level experts and hear practical career advice. The virtual program opened with a panel conversation with Devon Cone of Refugees International, Foreign Service Officer Menaka Nayyar, Stefania Piffanelli of the United Nations Information Center, Samantha Vinograd of CNN, and moderator and WFPG Executive Director Kim Kahnhauser Freeman. After the panel conversation, participants joined the panelists and WFPG mentors for more interactive conversations in issue-focused breakout sessions.

During the discussion, panelists shared the ins-and-outs of their daily work, how their work was impacted by the current crisis, their advice, and what they wish they had known. The panelists highlighted how being able to communicate well with others, both online and in-person, has been essential to their success. Piffanelli explained how she plans high-profile meetings at the UN and communicates her team's research with the US government, the World Bank, and other stakeholders. Written and oral communication skills are critical to Cone's advocacy work as she writes briefings that she discusses with policymakers and influencers in DC. Social media like Twitter also plays a large role in staying updated in the foreign policy sphere, as noted by Piffanelli and Vinograd. Vinograd explained how from her work in the White House to her experience on TV, she listens to the arguments of people from the opposite side of the aisle in order to critically analyze the issues she discusses on air.

The panelists also emphasized the importance of flexibility, advance preparation, and professional relationships. Menaka Nayyar described how adaptability plays a role in her public affairs work at the Department of State. As COVID-19 impacts the job market, all the panelists noted that being open-minded is critical at any stage in your career. Nayyar added, "Make sure you keep checking in with yourself to redefine what success looks like to you." Thank you to our panelists and breakout session mentors who shared their valuable time and experience! 


Meet our Mentors

Sharon Riggle, United Nations OSRSG for Children and Armed Conflict
Ms. Riggle is the Chief of Office/Chief of the Advocacy and Outreach Unit for the UN Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, where she is focused on the Global Coalition for the Reintegration of Child Soldiers, co-chaired by UNICEF. Her regional expertise spans Africa, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific. Previously, she served as Director of the UN Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific, and as a senior officer at both the World Food Programme and the UN peacekeeping mission in Sudan. She also directed the Centre for European Security and Disarmament in Brussels, and worked on police reform for the OSCE Mission to Serbia and Montenegro. She teaches children's rights at Hunter College and holds degrees from Michigan State (BA), University of Kent, UK (MA) and is a PhD candidate at the University of York, UK. @riggleSL

Samantha Vinograd, CNN and WFPG Board Member
Ms. Vinograd is a National Security Analyst at CNN and a Senior Advisor at the Biden Institute at the University of Delaware. Vinograd began her career under President Bush as the Deputy Attaché for the US Department of the Treasury in Iraq and subsequently served on President Obama’s National Security Council as the Director for Iraq, Director for International Economics, and Senior Advisor to the National Security Advisor. She joined Goldman Sachs in 2013, where her work focused on building public-private sector partnerships across a broad range of policy and business issues, and later led Global Public Policy at Stripe. Vinograd serves as an advisor to the US Fund for UNICEF, was named a David E. Rockefeller Fellow at the Trilateral Commission and a Millennium Fellow at the Atlantic Council, and serves on the board of the Women’s Foreign Policy Group. She is the co-founder and Managing Director of Global Opportunity Advisors. @sam_vinograd


Dawn Minott, United Nations Population Fund
Ms. Minott has worked for over 15 years with the United Nations Population Fund, where she is currently an advisor on gender and gender-based violence. Previously, she served as Special Assistant to the Executive Director of UNFPA, where she advised on a wide range of issues and formulated strategies from a gender perspective. Over the course of her career, she has worked with UNFPA and UN Women on issues such as sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS prevention in New York, Jamaica, Barbados, South Africa, and Nigeria. She has experience in identifying social, development and health problems that affect society and designing and managing programmatic responses, with a particular focus on improving the overall health and development outcomes of girls to be healthier, better educated, and more able to contribute to national economic growth and development. Ms. Minott holds an MA in Political Science from York University. @DawnMinott

Mariya Parodi, Amnesty International
Ms. Parodi, a senior press officer at Amnesty International, has over a decade of experience working for NGOs, IGOs, nonprofits, UN agencies, and local government. During her career, Ms. Parodi has worked in human rights communication for UNICEF, the International Rescue Committee, PEN America, StoryCorps, and the OECD. She has advocated for rape response policies in Hungary, championed educational opportunities for girls in Chechnya, and justice for torture victims in Morocco. While pursuing her masters in Budapest, she worked with the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union conducting research on hate speech response on online platforms. Ms. Parodi holds two BAs from CUNY Hunter College and MAs in Human Rights from Central European University in Hungary and in Human Rights and Humanitarian Action from Sciences Po – the Paris School of International Affairs. She is fluent in English, French, and Russian.


Deanna Bitetti, UNHCR
Ms. Bitetti currently serves as Senior Communications Officer, Global Communications at the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, where she works to raise public, political, and financial support for forcibly displaced people around the world. Formerly the Deputy Commissioner for Policy and Communications at the New York City Mayor’s Office for International Affairs, she helped create a global platform to share best practices on sustainable development initiatives and strengthen the City’s engagement with the UN and NYC diplomatic corps. She has also served as Senior Policy Advisor for the United Kingdom Mission to the UN; in senior positions in local and state government; as Associate Director of Common Cause NY; and as an adjunct lecturer in the Political Science Department at Hunter College. She holds a BA degree from Hunter College and an MPA with a concentration in International Economic Policy from Columbia University. @DBitetti

Devon Cone, Refugees International
Ms. Cone is the senior advocate for women and girls at Refugees International. Before joining RI, she served as the director of protection programs at HIAS where she was responsible for providing technical expertise to HIAS’ protection-related programming globally. She has also worked for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Lebanon, Uganda, Egypt, and Kenya and for a variety of NGOs providing services to refugees. As part of her work, she has developed curriculum and led trainings on refugee protection for government officials, NGO staff, and UN agencies. At the request of the State Department in 2015, Cone conducted an independent evaluation of the US Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) which is responsible for choosing, vetting, and resettling refugees into the US. Her writing has been published in Foreign Policy, the Forced Migration Review and The Huffington Post.


Ambassador Kathleen Doherty, Department of State, Retired
Ambassador Doherty served as US Ambassador to Cyprus (2015-2019) and as Dean of the School of Professional and Area Studies at the State Department's Foreign Service Institute (2019-2020). She retired with the career rank of Minister Counselor, and in her 30-year career, has served in Italy, the UK, Russia, Brazil and the Dominican Republic. She has also held numerous other positions within the Department including: Deputy Assistant Secretary in the European and Eurasian Affairs Bureau; Director, Office of European and Regional Affairs; Senior Watch Officer, Operations Center; Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of State; and Economic Officer in the Offices of Investment Affairs and Development Finance. Doherty speaks Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and some Russian, and received one of the Departments highest honors for her work on US-EU relations. She has a MSc from LSE and a BA from Colgate.

Menaka Nayyar, Department of State
Ms. Nayyar joined the Department of State as a Foreign Service Officer in 2006 as a public diplomacy-coned officer. Her diplomatic postings have included Italy, Estonia, Pakistan, Thailand, The Gambia, and Washington, DC. From 2018 to 2019, she examined volunteerism and civic engagement in the United States as a Una Chapman Cox Sabbatical Fellow. Nayyar has studied French, Italian, Spanish, Thai, and Urdu to varying levels of proficiency, and is currently studying Russian in preparation for her upcoming assignment as a press officer in Moscow, Russia. She holds a BA in Sociology, Cultural Studies and European Studies, an MA in Media Ecology from NYU and a MSc in Human Rights from LSE. @MenakaNayyar


Kate Howard, International Development Consultant
Ms. Howard is an international development consultant whose clients include US government and UN agencies, not-for-profit organizations and private sector companies. Ms. Howard is experienced in advocacy and resource mobilization, partnership engagement, policy and legislative development, and political campaigns and elections. Over the past fifteen years, Ms. Howard has worked in Africa, the Balkans, the Caribbean and Central and South Asia (including multiple assignments in Afghanistan and most recently, Egypt and Burma/Myanmar). Ms. Howard began her career on Capitol Hill where she served as both a senate legislative and committee staff member. She held appointments in the Clinton Administration at the Departments of State and Agriculture. She attended Georgetown University Law Center, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and Mount Holyoke College.

Onyeka Obasi, Community Development Corporation of Long Island
Ms. Obasi is a business development strategist with over twenty years in consulting, non-profit management, corporate philanthropy, entrepreneurial finance, and infrastructure financing. Ms. Obasi was the President and Founder of Friends of Africa International Inc., and the co-founder of Hemisphere Frontiers Consulting. She is an advocate for the use of big data and believes that technology and innovation are critical to sustainable development. In 2009, she received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Boston University School of Public Health. She is also a recipient of a Forte Fellowship for Women MBAs; is a member of Women in Fintech, Women & Blockchain; and sits on several nonprofit and social enterprise boards. She has been featured on prominent news media including Forbes, Good Morning Africa, BBC’s Africa Have Your Say, and Swedish Skånska Dagbladet. Ms. Obasi holds an MPH from Boston University, MPA from Harvard and MBA from MIT. @OnyekaMObasi


Stefania Piffanelli, United Nations Information Center
Dr. Piffanelli, deputy director of the United Nations Information Center (UNIC) in Washington, has over 20 years of experience with the UN, academia and the private sector. Before joining UNIC, she managed the work of the UN Peacebuilding Commission and the Peacebuilding Fund in Sierra Leone both out of NY and Freetown. Previously, she served as the special assistant to the UN Deputy Secretary-General and in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General. She also held a number of positions in the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs in development and gender equality, worked as a consultant for the UNDP Bureau for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and for UNDP Lebanon. Prior to her work with international organizations, she worked as a junior fund manager in Italy. She holds a PhD in Economics from NYU and a graduate degree in Economics from the University of Bologna, Italy.

Ann-Marie Wilcock, UNICEF

Ms. Wilcock is an advocacy specialist with UNICEF in New York, leading the organization’s global advocacy strategy on education, to help ensure every child has equal access to school and quality learning. For the last two years, she was campaign manager for UNICEF’s global campaign on Early Childhood Development, #EarlyMomentsMatter. Ms. Wilcock has also worked for the United Nations Development Programme in New York, in communications. Prior to New York, Ms. Wilcock worked in communications in Nepal and Myanmar with the Food and Agriculture Organization, in Pakistan with Doctors Without Borders, in Palestine with UNRWA and in Sydney with an Australian charity, the Fred Hollows Foundation. Before her humanitarian and development work, Ms. Wilcock worked as a political advisor, including as a press secretary to various government ministers in Australia, and as a newspaper journalist. She studied her Masters in International Conflict and Security in Brussels. @AnnMarieWilcock