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Northwestern University

Careers for Global Thinkers

Alumni encourage Weinberg students to consider the rewards of international careers

Over a 32-year career with Colgate, Justin Skala ’82 has traveled the world, living in eight different countries and propelling an enterprise that now operates in more than 200 nations.

And every move required the Northwestern political science graduate to adapt to a new culture, customs and language.

“It was a challenge, but also an amazing opportunity to become native, not merely a tourist,” said Skala, currently the president of North America and Global Sustainability for Colgate-Palmolive.

Skala wasn’t alone in touting the rewards of a globetrotting professional life at the Weinberg Student-Alumni Engagement program’s Nov. 10 panel, “Careers for Global Thinkers.”

Emily Eckert ’04, a project manager at Chemonics International, which spurs development in more than 60 global nations, continues to be motivated by the way environmental, health, educational and energy programs coalesce to support and empower beneficiaries.

“Ultimately, we’re trying to work ourselves out of a job because we want local people to build and promote themselves,” said Eckert, who holds a degree in French.

Marnie Van der Voort ’97 has worked on international issues stateside, including Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Olympics and later as the deputy director of the Mayor’s Office of International Relations at the City of Chicago. In the latter role, Van der Voort helped facilitate collaboration and best-practice sharing among mayors from cities around the globe.

“It was fascinating to see these leaders learn from one another and then return to their cities to improve the quality of life for their citizens,” the communication studies alumna said.

Allison Finn, a 2012 theatre and international studies major, is currently a program coordinator for Global Nomads Group, a New York-based nonprofit that connects youth in the Muslim and Arab worlds with their U.S. peers through virtual exchange programs. She relishes the opportunity to work with national and local partners across Asia, Africa and North America to guide healthy conversations around conflict prevention.

“This is a way to create a more connected world and break down stereotypes,” Finn said.

The compelling rewards of an international professional career aside, Skala urged the nearly 50 students in attendance to understand their underlying motives. A global career, he reminded, is not simply tourism on someone else’s dime.

“If your heart and mind are in the right place, then find an organization that can help make it happen, a place that has a global footprint and has set international work as a priority,” Skala said.

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