Tell me about the work you do at the American Middle East Institute.
The American Middle East Institute’s (AMEI) mission focuses on supporting commercial diplomacy between the United States and countries of the Middle East and North African region. We bring ambassadors, ministers, and investors to Pittsburgh and organize U.S. business missions to travel to the region. My role as Communication and Development Manager focuses on our external image—digital and print branding, public programming—as well as building new relationships and improving value to our current clients.
Why did you decide to go abroad for college?
I decided to attend Franklin University Switzerland in Lugano, Switzerland because, firstly, I knew that I wanted to study Art History and Italian. Then, as I learned more about the school, I wanted their international and dynamic approach to education—small class sizes, a president involved in several aspects of student life (teaching an archeology course, open to meeting with students for career planning, and bringing new opportunities to campus), an international student body, and an interdisciplinary academic approach. I benefitted from this in innumerable ways.
Did the global focus in the Upper School at Ellis influence your decision?
The diversity at Ellis truly impacted me. I came with my own Italian background and fellow students came with their own cultural backgrounds. My worldview began to expand: global topics were more relevant to my life, my classmates were politically engaged, and I felt confident in exploring uncharted territory. For example, Caitlynn WESTON ’12 and I decided to put together a presentation on Buddhism for Culture Jam 2011. We contacted a Buddhist temple and visited to learn more about the core tenants of the religion. I knew that I wanted to continue to have a similar environment in college.
Do you have a mentor? How has that relationship benefited you professionally? Can you tell me about him or her?
I have had several along the way, though my most recent mentor was Gina Pia Cinali during my time at Al Akhawayn University (AUI) in Ifrane, Morocco. She was the Vice President of Institutional Research and Effectiveness and served as the Director of the Presidential Internship Program. While I was working with the President of AUI, Ms. Cinali was absolutely vital to my understanding of project procedures and always enthusiastic about supporting my professional goals. She gave me an unparalleled level of counseling, respect, and responsibility that I hope to pass on to others in the future.
Have you sought out advice or mentorship from Ellis alumnae since graduation? How have other Ellis alumnae supported you professionally and/or personally?
Yes, Mrs. Altman put me in contact with a few Ellis alumnae while I was trying to learn more about different paths in the arts field. I spoke to Chelsea KELLY ’05, who works in education at the Park Avenue Armory in New York. From her, I learned more about the various aspects of museum work. I have also connected with several alumnae through Facebook: Eleanora KALOYEROPOULOU ’12, Jane CAVALIER ’10, Courtney LESOON ’08. I would say these three were most instrumental in helping me to narrow down the field that I would like to pursue career-wise in the art world.
What advice would you give to young women who want to succeed in the workplace?
You need to advocate for yourself. No one will speak up for you if you don’t do so first. There will be people who are genuinely invested in bringing the next person up, but you need to work hard to find and nurture those relationships. Also, if you are pursuing a humanities degree, take a few marketing, graphic design, finance, or statistics courses in college as well. Leveraging these skills can get you a position in a company or organization in your field.
What is your best Ellis memory?
During the summer of 2010, Ellis organized a study abroad trip to Catania, Sicily, that was pioneered and steered by Dr. Jordan. It followed the model similar to Ellis’ mini-course excursions but was expanded over the course of two months. We had formal Sicilian history and Italian language courses each day and site visits in the afternoon. We learned about and saw the remnants of the Ancient Greeks, Ancient Romans, Islamic Caliphate, and Normans that all had a serious impact on the island’s formation and identity. This trip formed the basis of my understanding of the Mediterranean as a place of technological exchange for close to three millennia.
Was there a teacher or teachers who had a particularly strong influence on your life?
Ms. Sturdevant took the most interest in my progress as a student. Her support was unparalleled and essential to my confidence at Ellis. I was the only student at the time to have completed all four art history courses offered (Survey of Art, Art Then, Art Now, and AP Art History). Those classes were the foundation of my academic success and exploration in college.
For Ellis students reading this: is there any wisdom you’d want to pass on to them? What would you want them to know?
Find your unique intersection that combines your background, interests, and education. This will take some trial and error— don’t worry— but once you do know, pursue it passionately.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Dynamic. Resourceful. Committed.
What does ‘Esse Quam Videri’ mean to you?
Whatever you want to do, pursue it widely and deeply while seeking mentorship and counsel. Collecting others’ stories is essential, but at the end of the day, you are in charge of your own education. You will have to meet your own standards. And, honestly, “being” is much more difficult than “seeming” because only you will know when you are satisfied.