SIA alumni excel in careers at the United Nations

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- As an international body dedicated to improving the lives of people all around the world, it makes sense that working for the United Nations would be a popular career goal for students at the Penn State School of International Affairs.

Achieving that goal may seem difficult, given the highly competitive nature of U.N. careers, but SIA alumni aren’t just working at the U.N —they’re excelling, and credit SIA with helping them turn their ambitions into reality.

“Looking back, my most valuable experience at SIA was coming to the realization that I was capable of reaching places I did not think possible,” said Alfredo Malaret, a class of 2016 graduate who now works as a public security project adviser at the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean.


SIA alumni Alfredo Malaret, seen here in Peru where he now works with the U.N., is using his MIA degree to help reduce armed violence in and around his home country.

For Malaret, promoting stability and peace in Latin America and the Caribbean is a lifelong goal. He moved from Venezuela to the United States at age 18, motivated to learn as much as he could to then translate knowledge into practical measures aimed at reducing armed violence and encouraging economic growth and political stability in his home country and the region.

“SIA is designed for students to completely erase any pre-established limit they’ve set for themselves,” Malaret said. “SIA prepared me for my career by building my confidence to tackle challenges that, on paper, seem insurmountable.”

Fellow alumnus Said Maalouf said he always had a clear idea about what he wanted to do and where he wanted to work and SIA helped prepare him to translate those ideas into a career with the U.N.

“The work I did at SIA gave me a strong foundation for the work I’m doing now, and the Career Services Office gave me a lot of insight and guidance on where I could go and what I could do with my degree,” Maalouf said. “And I continue to benefit from my decision to study at SIA—when I tell people I graduated from Penn State, everyone is impressed; everyone has heard of the school and knows its reputation.”

Maalouf, who is originally from Lebanon and came to study at SIA on a Fulbright Scholarship after working at a nongovernmental organization in Paris, began his career at the U.N. as an intern during his time at SIA. Since then, he’s moved up the ranks from a consultancy position in the Division for Public Administration and Development Management, to a full-time position in the Department of Public Information, and has now come full circle with a promotion to a higher-level position in public administration.


SIA alumni Said Maalouf gives a tour of the U.N. headquarters to current students as part of a recent Career Exposure Trip to New York.

“We’re really lucky to be part of the SIA program—once an SIA student, always an SIA student,” Maalouf said. “We’re a part of a family of students and alumni who are always there for each other, and will always be there to support each other.”

Esra Sergi is another SIA alumna who has found great success at the U.N., having worked in the U.N. Secretariat for over two years, she has just been promoted to a position in Vienna, where she’ll plan and execute public communications campaigns at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and establish and strengthen relationships with various Organization’s partners around the world.

Originally from Turkey, Sergi’s interest in working at the U.N. began after learning about diplomacy and international decision making through various model EU and U.N. conferences as an undergraduate at the Middle East Technical University. Then, after landing a summer internship with the United Nations Development Programme in Turkey, she knew the U.N. was the place for her—and that she needed to pursue further education to reach that goal.

“I came to SIA because it was different than other schools, offering a professional degree with the mission of truly preparing students for leadership in the private and public sectors,” said Sergi, a 2014 graduate. “There was a very diverse, very impressive faculty, but perhaps the most important part for me was SIA’s capstone experience, which provided me an important opportunity to get professional experience and jumpstart my career.”

Sergi used that capstone experience  to spend a summer working at U.N. headquarters in New York—an experience that helped her continue to build her resume and professional network, which she has since successfully parlayed into a blossoming and rewarding global career.

“I want our current SIA students to know that I’ve been through what they’re going through, and faced those same challenges, and they can do anything they set their mind to,” Sergi said. “With hard work and perseverance, they can achieve anything. If I can do it, they can do it too.”

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