Mishti Sivaramakrishnan, ESIA ’16, follows her ambitions around the world

For Sharmishta (Mishti) Sivaramakrishnan, ESIA BA ’16, all roads seemed to lead to a career in international affairs with an important stop at GW’s Elliott School along the way.

Her journey began when she was in fourth grade in Muscat, Oman, and first heard the word “diplomacy.” Years later, as a high-school student in Singapore, she unexpectedly walked into a meeting of the school’s Model United Nations group. She signed up. Next, she went on a class trip to Cambodia, where she encountered a society still recovering from the brutal legacy of the Khmer Rouge regime. Again, she signed up, joining an international non-governmental organization that works to educate children in post-conflict regions. Today, eight years later, she is the U.N. Youth Representative for the group, Caring for Cambodia, and the youth ambassador for the World Summit Award, a global competition to inspire socially conscious digital innovation.

A Singapore citizen, Mishti lives in Switzerland, where she is completing her first year at Geneva’s Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. Recently, she shared her thoughts on the Elliott School and offered a few words of wisdom for current students.

What drew you to the Elliott School?

GW was the first school I visited on my first trip to the U.S. in June 2011. One particular moment I will never forget is walking by a protest at the American Red Cross near campus. GW students were among the protesters, and I remember thinking to myself how cool this was, to see students taking issues into their own hands. When I attended GW, I realized how most of my friends had this same proactive approach to their lives.

At GW, you were very active beyond the classroom. What were a few high points?

There were just so many opportunities to learn about the practice of international affairs! Starting in the spring semester of my freshman year, I interned for all but one semester. Through my work outside the classroom, I was able to build a network of mentors and friends in the field. You also meet the most amazing people at Elliott School events. A few times I attended talks given by Christine LaGarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, and Dr. Jim Yong Kim, [then] president of the World Bank.

Were there other landmark experiences during your studies here?

A crowning moment for me was the Elliott School conference on Cambodia I organized my junior year. The school’s Sigur Center for Asian Studies hosted it. I really wanted to open the eyes of people who had never been to Cambodia, to show the complexities of development in Cambodia, and to illustrate what drives Caring for Cambodia’s work. It took almost the whole year to plan. The Elliott School provided a perfect convening platform both for those who were and were not familiar with Cambodia. I was amazed by how many people from outside GW were there!

Do you recall professors who helped you develop academically and professionally?

One big influence was Professor James Foster. I took the class he co-taught with the World Bank’s chief economist, Kaushik Basu. I had a real GW moment with Professor Basu when I happened to run into him at the 2015 U.N. General Assembly. Irene Foster, one of my economics professors during my freshman year at college, was also a big influence. Her commitment to development economics is one that inspires me, and I hope to one day exemplify her own commitment to helping the most impoverished communities. And one of my political science professors, Heidi Hiebert, was a huge source of support. We spent hours talking about my professional development, and she encouraged me to attend the Graduate Institute in Geneva, where she earned her degree.

What advice would you give an Elliott School undergraduate student?

Follow your ambitions, and don’t let anything intimidate you. Attend events, apply for professional opportunities, be it internships, volunteer projects, or otherwise. Learning in the classroom always inspired me to find opportunities outside the classroom. The Elliott School name was a big help – it opened doors for me to internships and events. Nine times out of 10 I got into an event that was technically closed. The Elliott School provides inspiration; we need to provide the hard work. This is what drives me every morning. —Amy Aldrich



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