Student Spotlight: Isabela Cunha

Today I’ve decided to share a short Q&A with a current International Organizations and UN Studies specialization student, Isabela Cunha. This specialization requires students to complete a core course in international organizations, and two additional three-credit courses. The content of this core course focuses particularly on the mandate of these organizations, their history, their governance structure, their funding sources and mechanisms, their key achievements and most serious challenges, and above all, their impact on the world around them. None of this is static – mandates change or atrophy, power shifts, funding fluctuates, influence waxes and wanes. 

You may recall in a blog post we announced the fluctuation of this specialization. Previously SIPA had a United Nations Studies program, which was phased out, making way for the highly-anticipated (and requested) UNS specialization, which is under the umbrella of the IO specialization. So we thought you’d find this Q&A with Isabela Cunha, conducted by our PA, Eric Medina, MPA ’15, interesting. Enjoy. 

Isabela Cuna

(Photo courtesy of Isabela Cunha)

What did you do prior to SIPA?
“I received my acceptance letter the day I had defended my undergraduate final thesis on the relationship between the Libyan crisis and migration policies in Europe. I completed my studies in the University of Brasilia (UnB) with a year in Sciences-Po Paris. During these five years, I have interned for UNAIDS and UNHCR Brazil, as well as Amnesty International France. I used to be a big Model UN enthusiast, which brought me to get involved with these projects within my university, including being the “Secretary-General” during the 14th edition of AMUN, the oldest Brazilian simulation. I also had the opportunity to organize a book on the subject of human security, which was published by UnB.”

Why did you choose IO & UN and is it meeting your expectations?
“I am a true enthusiast of the United Nations and its capacity to produce impact on people’s lives. I am Brazilian and I have a profound admiration for the Inter-American system of human rights. The International Organizations and UN studies specialization is an amazing tool for any concentrator, since it allows us to navigate virtually any agenda by understanding who the players on each subject are. In this sense, SIPA has been fantastic. SIPA was founded a year apart from the UN and it does breathe multilateralism. My classes have allowed me not only to build up on knowledge, but also deeply influenced my decision to spend my summer in West Africa. I have been to the UN many times in the last year and also had the opportunity to hear from speakers of different institutions, ranging from the EU to MSF, UNDP and other IOs, both UN and non-UN. SIPA is simply a rich place to be if you are interested in multilateralism and cooperation.”

What do you plan on doing after SIPA?
“My main focus is democratic governance and fight against state perpetrated violence. Coming straight from undergrad, my mission after SIPA is to find my first job. I would love to work with Latin America, so I am either going back to my region or staying in NYC/DC to work with NGOs or IOs dealing with Human Rights issues there.”


If you’re interested in learning more about the United Nations specialization, check out the department’s Fall 2014 newsletter.