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Education student commutes to UN to arrange briefings

Garine Palandjian (right) joined (l-r) Goma Mabika, a CIE student and Fulbright scholar from Congo; Olga Zhakova, a Fulbright scholar from Russia; and Matthew Kilbride a CIE student and graduate assistant in the Global Union, on a trip to the UN in October to attend a briefing on homelessness.

When life presents an opportunity, says Garine Palandjian, you have to be ready to take it.

Palandjian, who is pursuing an M.A. in Comparative and International Education in the College of Education, recently became the first student in the CIE program to obtain an internship with the United Nations.

For the next six months she will commute from Bethlehem to the UN’s headquarters in New York City, where she is assigned to the DPI-NGO (Department of Public Information-Non-Governmental Organizations) office. Her job is to organize weekly briefings, which are attended by more than 1,500 international NGOs.

The internship was made possible by Lehigh’s UN Partnership Program.

“A lot of people assume the UN is such a lofty organization that it is unrealistic to think you can be part of it,” says Palandjian, whose academic concentration at Lehigh is in international relations and political science.

“But if you find the right opportunities, this can happen. It will be a privilege for me to work with professionals in the field of global policymaking. I’ll be able to learn how NGOs work with the UN and see what the right place is for me,” she says.

Palandjian taught fifth and sixth grade at the Vahan and Anoush Chamlian Armenian School in Glendale, Calif., for three years before enrolling in the CIE program.

Preparing for a presentation in Montreal

One of the first NGO briefings she helped organize at the UN is titled “Disaster Relief and Preparedness: Haiti, A Year Later.”

“I researched potential speakers, including academicians as well as UN and NGO officials, to present information to the NGO community,” she says. “Organizing events like this is the main focus of my internship.

“These briefings are attended by Lehigh students. In fact, that is how I first learned about the internship opportunity.”

At Lehigh, Palandjian is part of a post-Soviet research group. She will make a presentation on her research at the annual regional conference of the Comparative and International Education Society in May at McGill University in Montreal. Other students in Lehigh’s CIE program will also make presentations at the conference.

Palandjian’s future plans are up in the air. She has traveled several times to Armenia and would consider working in education in that country or working for an NGO that is devoted to educational issues.

Palandjian’s adviser in the College of Education is Iveta Silova, the Frank Hook Assistant Professor in the CIE Program.

“Garine’s internship will be beneficial to her personally and to Lehigh more generally,” says Silova. “The contacts she makes will improve all our students’ understanding of the UN and will open up new opportunities for collaboration between Lehigh and the UN.”


Story by Katie Karabasz

Posted on Monday, January 17, 2011

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