Monday, June 30, 2014

2004 Graduate Discusses United Nations Career

Interview by Mahala Nelson 
Photo by UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras 

Q & A with German, International Studies and Economics major Phil Bastian '04

How did you gain interest in an international career?
When I was at Pacific, I studied abroad in Germany, which definitely helped. Then I got a Fulbright scholarship and went back to Germany. After that, I made a bit of an effort to stay, because I really liked living there, but it was very difficult finding a job. I went back to Portland for a while and eventually was hired by the Federal Government, where I worked for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. I didn't mind the work there, but I really wanted something more international, so I applied to Columbia, where I got my Master of International Affairs. 

During the summer, I got an internship with the International Labour Organization, and that was my first experience in the UN system. I enjoyed that experience, so I applied for another internship with the UNESCO office in New York. That was a really fantastic experience, as my pass allowed me to go to all of the major UN meetings. So, for example, at one point I got to watch Bill Clinton brief the Security Council on the situation in Haiti. Ever since then, I've sort of been in and out of the UN system, and it's definitely my hope to stay.
Phil Bastian '04 shaking hands with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras).

What were your biggest struggles after graduation?
Finding a job was definitely not as easy as I thought it would be. I had very good grades, had gotten awards at graduation and spent a year on a Fulbright scholarship. Still, it took over a year of temp work and applications before I was offered a job with the Federal Government.

How did you prepare for your career after graduation?
Once I was employed with the Federal Government, I tried to make the most of their training programs. I went back and took those math classes that I should have taken long before.

What resources best prepared you or helped you start your career?
I know I tried reading What Color Is Your Parachute at one point, but it just didn't click with me. I have always found most of my career information by searching the Internet. In retrospect, I really never had a solid plan or something to keep me organized.

What do you do now? Can you give me an example of a recent project you have been working on?
Right now, I work as an economist at the Office of the High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (OHRLLS). I have always thought this office was special, since it's an initialism of initialisms (the last three letters stand for LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS, respectively). Basically we work with those three country groups, which are particularly vulnerable to everything from economic shocks to rising sea levels. Our office is scattered all over the place, doing everything from planning a meeting of government ministers in Benin this summer to writing reports. 

Personally, I have been working on two different Reports of the Secretary-General. That is to say, member states have asked the Secretary-General to prepare a report on a specific topic; we write the report, he puts his name on it. I did a lot of the calculations--we like to say things like "Least developed countries have a per capita income of $802 per year." The data we get is for each country separately, though, so to get to that figure I have to do a weighted average of our 48 countries. There are all sorts of other complications that go into that, as well. As the only native English speaker in my office, I have done a lot of editing as well. It can be very tricky getting just the right words to explain complicated economics concepts, and I take some pride in getting it just right.
What has been the biggest perks of working internationally?
Well, it may sound a bit shallow, but you know that famous UN building that people recognize around the world? Well, I work there, on the 32nd floor. We have a great view of the New York skyline and the river, depending on which way you look. There are always interesting things happening at the UN. You never know who might be visiting to give a speech to the General Assembly or brief the Security Council. There are also a lot of really smart and interesting people around, and it's great to be able to work with them as colleagues. 

Also, while New York City is not international in the sense of being outside of the United States, it is one of the most cosmopolitan places on earth. I remember there was a Korean restaurant that opened in Portland and my friends and I went to see if it was any good. I don't think any of us had ever tried Korean food before. Now that seems unfathomable to me. We have so many choices of food and cultural activities here--it's like nowhere else. I live in a traditionally Polish neighborhood, and I regularly see random people on the streets speaking Polish with each other. A little bit to the south there is a high concentration of Latinos--mostly Puerto Ricans. These enclaves are all over the city. I really loved living in Oregon, but I think it would be very difficult for me to move back, just because I'd miss the diversity here.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable: Advice from an Alumnus

By Nicole Vickers '16 and Berkley Holzschuh '14

It wasn’t until Cisco Reyes ’03 stepped out of his comfort zone and did something new that his life fell into place. While he cautioned he is the exception, and most journeys have hurdles, Reyes believes success is a matter of risk taking and hard work combined.

As a student at Pacific University, Reyes said he wasn’t sure precisely he wanted to do with his career or even which career path he wanted to follow until the spring semester of his senior year.
Cisco Reyes '03

Reyes spent his time at Pacific not stepping out of his comfort zone to try to become a physical therapist, which was his first ambition, but rather playing baseball and coaching throughout the summers. Looking back, Reyes said “[he] developed late professionally because of [his] unwillingness to be ‘uncomfortable.’ Students need to learn how to be okay with being vulnerable; they’ll learn more about themselves that way.”

By putting themselves into more "uncomfortable" situations, networking or going to events, according to Reyes, students will be able to not only make connections that will help them later on in life, but they will be able to get their C.N.P. or Certified Nice Person. 

 “People won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” said Reyes. The more students are able to network and have a variety of friends, the better their chances are of being able to know the one person who, if they vouched for them, could mean the difference between having their dream job and getting passed over for the person who did make the connections.

Making these connections, networking and putting themselves in uncomfortable positions isn’t something students should try just for the sole purpose of helping their careers, it is also something that can be very beneficial in helping students find out more about themselves. Not only will new experiences and new people help to avoid some of life’s hurdles, they will also help students to develop and grow as individuals.

The more students are able to put themselves in uncomfortable positions, whether that be volunteering, staying away from home for a summer to work closer to your academic career or even just making and maintaining friendships, the more luck they will have.

A favorite quote of Reyes by Thomas Jefferson sums up his theory, “I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Fogged Lense: Media arts alumni gives advice to students unsure of their future

By: Nicole Vickers '16 and Mahala Nelson '16

When a student chooses a major, it is generally because they have a specific job in mind. The degree is just means to an end. But for a lot of creative majors such as studio art, creative writing or media arts, sometimes the path isn’t always so clear. 

For Daven Sprattling-Mathies ’07, he wasn’t sure what he was going to do with his media arts degree, but that didn’t stop him from enjoying every moment of his college life. 

“I still get teary-eyed thinking about my time at Pacific,” said Sprattling-Mathies. “I remember the big picture, the undocumented value in the experiences I had and the people I met. Not all of those experiences were good, either, but they were all important to who I am now.” 

For many who walk into college with an idea of what they want to become, that can change during the course of their four years of undergraduate. Students may find that what interests them may not be what they originally thought. 

This applies to all students who feel as if they aren’t sure where their education is going to take them. No matter what major a student chooses, there are always options and different doors being opened. As long as they feel that they are going in a positive direction then who knows what kind of opportunities might present themselves. 

“You get out of your education what you put into it, and that goes beyond the classroom,” said Sprattling-Mathies. “I think that's incredibly important for any student to realize, but especially for Media Arts majors who don't have a clear path to follow. You have to motivate yourself to keep going even when it feels like you're stumbling around in the dark.” 

Sprattling-Mathies started as a media major and realized that it was in the technical side that he belonged.

“I think media arts represent the union of the arts and the sciences,” said Sprattling-Mathies. “I also love to write, but I felt I had lot more to learn from video production because of all the tech involved.” 

Once out of college, Sprattling-Mathies found a job working in a bank, but soon realized that it was stifling and so decided to start up a photography business with a fellow Pacific graduate, Corey Bennett ’09. Currently Sprattling-Mathies works in a marketing department and has been able to make seemingly small decisions that have large impacts in his work. He has a personal investment in his company and enjoys his work there. 

 While it isn’t always advisable to quit a career, it is advisable to make sure that whatever job you are working in, that it allows you to have whatever creative freedom you want. If you are stuck in a stifling career, it never hurts to try and do something about it. Whether that is being open to a pay drop or to a new and completely different career path than originally planned, Sprattling-Mathies advises to never forget your passions, be open and know that everyone walks their own path at their own pace.