BAIS Alumni Now

The Bachelor of Arts (International Studies) leads graduates into a diverse array of positions and destinations around the world. Below are a handful of stories from BAIS graduates at different stages in their careers, told in their owns words, about of what theyhave gone on to do.

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Jemma Swan

Analyst - Deloitte

My career began with the completion of a Bachelor of Arts (International Studies) at RMIT in 2011 and I now work for Deloitte Access Economics in Melbourne. Deloitte Access Economics is one of Australia’s most recognised economics advisory practices and our team is a leader in policy, regulatory, health economics and strategic advisory, as well as forecasting and modelling services that provide detailed business insights ranging across sectors and regions.  

I’m an analyst in our ‘Health Economics and Social Policy’ team having started as a graduate in 2015. The clients I work for are predominantly government departments and agencies at both the state and commonwealth levels with a wide variety of projects, ranging from disability, education, family violence, occupational health and safety, to social impact investing.

Although my work does not currently have an international focus, my BAIS played an important part on my journey to my current role. I took an elective in economics during my BAIS because I wanted to better understand how we can use our limited resources to more effectively create the desired changes in the world discussed in other classes. From there, after graduating from the BAIS, I decided to focus more on domestic policy by studying a bachelor (and consequently honours) in economics. This second degree helped me secure my current role, however I use skills built through the BAIS on a daily basis. These include a strong foundation in written communication skills, qualitative research skills and critical thinking (among others).   

Finally, studying the BAIS with likeminded people really solidified my passion to work in an area where I can have a real positive impact in the community and the lives of others.


Laura McCormack

Solution Designer

I completed my Bachelor of Arts (International Studies) in mid-2015 and I now work as a Solution Designer for World Vision Australia. When I entered the degree I wanted to work more alongside the development stream of the program, and World Vision Australia is part of the World Vision Partnership, one of the largest international charities in the world which reaches more than 100 million people a year with long-term and emergency development programming. As a Solution Designer, I provide product and communications solutions to our Government relations and grants teams, helping them to develop and use the right tools to stay up to date in the exciting world of Digital Diplomacy, which is an area I studied as an elective in Digital Technology and Globalisation.

I applied to World Vision Australia in 2013 to do some volunteer work in communications, as I had enjoyed my Inter-Cultural Communication course wanted to get some practical experience in an international setting. One thing led to another and in early 2014 I was offered full-time work as the manager of Digital Media for the 40 Hour Famine. I’ve since spent a year as the strategic communications lead for WVA’s Policy team, helping to lobby the government for an increase in foreign aid spending.

Because the Solution Designers sit in World Vision’s internal creative agency, I handle a breadth of portfolios. On a typical work day, I might design and project manage creative solutions on behalf of the government and grants teams, who could be pitching for a major grant or lobbying the government, and need video, case study or a presentation about project modelling from a remote corner of the world. I could also be looking after our humanitarian affairs, advocacy, or indigenous programs teams, helping them to develop solutions to raise funds or awareness for different projects or international events. I am also part of a World Vision international working group who are in the process of designing a global solution to better fund fragile and emergency contexts, a role which takes me all over the world. Essentially, I’m an on-demand problem solver!  

During my years in the BAIS I became very interested in violence prevention and recovery, and chose to study Terrorism and Society, International Development and also in International Political Economy, which helped me to translate theory into practice and gave me plenty of opportunities for real-life experience and networking. I focused on the ethics of genocide recovery interventions in my International Research Project, for which I won the International Research Prize. I’m now a year into my Masters of Peace and Conflict Studies and am planning to do my dissertation on digital media as an atrocity forecasting tool, which is an area I feel confident in pursuing due to the support I’ve received academically and professionally.


Rosie Cooper, Project Facilitator for World Vision's Indigenous early childhood and youth program.

Rosie Cooper, Project Facilitator for World Vision's Indigenous early childhood and youth program.

Read more here <LINK>


Hayley Bolding

Founder of Atma

After graduating from the Bachelor of Arts (International Studies), Hayley went on to found her own NGO in India, Atma, and was a national finalist for Young Australian of the Year 2013.

Anonymous 

Policy Officer - Government Service

I completed my Bachelor of Arts (International Studies) at RMIT in 2014 and I’m now working for the Australian Public Service as a Policy Officer.

My day-to-day undertakings involve a range of policy-related tasks including writing briefings for the minister and senior executives of the department and leading research in relevant areas. A recent highlight involved delivering a presentation to a government minister and key stakeholders.

I applied for the Department's graduate program in 2014, after finishing my degree. Although the position was located in Canberra and would involve me moving away from Melbourne, I thought it would be a great opportunity to develop my professional skills and begin my career. 

It was during my studies in the BAIS that I developed an interest in social policy. What I learned in the degree, in particular Foundations of Social Research and Inter-Cultural Communication, helped me to develop an understanding of the Australian social policy environment.

I gained critical skills in Working and Managing in International Contexts, in particular the practical experience of preparing my resume and fine-tuning my interview skills - both as an interviewer and interviewee.

The experience from my time in BAIS has been invaluable. I have been able to successfully gain employment as a result of my studies and have been able to draw upon skills and knowledge from the course throughout my career.


Amy Parsons

Project Officer - yLead

When you decide to undertake International Studies at RMIT you’re probably the kind of person that takes an interest in global affairs and wants to make a difference in the world. Yep, I ticked those boxes. You’ve probably already started volunteering for one organisation (or more) that you feel passionately about. Yep, me as well. But what you don’t realise at the time of enrolment is that this degree will open your eyes to a huge variety of topics – history, security, migration, globalisation, human rights, development, the environment… the list goes on, and you think to yourself how does this even fit inside one degree??? You also don’t realise that this degree will introduce you to a bunch of like-minded change makers that are taking action in their fields of interest, which International Studies helps you achieve by equipping you with tools and skills that will benefit you in the workforce.

For me, I’d been volunteering for various organisations throughout high school and my gap year, but one stood out in particular… yLead. This not-for-profit organisation based in Brisbane reaches thousands of students every year from around the world, helping them to realise their potential and understand that leadership is not about a badge or a title, but rather the action you take.

International Studies is a degree which is broad in scope, allowing you to meet people with a wide variety of interests. Some will go off to become politicians, policy writers, heads of security. Others will get involved in community development, assisting asylum seekers and refugees, figuring out ways to protect the environment. That’s the beauty of the degree – although we study the same core subjects, our electives and internship choice allow students to embrace their passions and follow their chosen path.

Throughout my time at RMIT I was able to continue volunteering for yLead, travelling to schools across Victoria, wider Australia and New Zealand, to run leadership workshops with students. If anything this enhanced my learning within the degree as I was able to make connections and see relevance in both my volunteering and the subjects I was learning.

When it came time to choose an internship the CEO of yLead approached me and asked if I would complete it with them. While I also have interests in community development and disaster relief, I thought this would be a worthwhile opportunity. It definitely was because I have since started working full time work with yLead upon completion of International Studies.

International Studies is broad. It’s interesting and stimulating. You’ll meet brilliant people with brilliant ideas. You’ll feel equipped to tackle problems and think about issues in the world. When you’re completing the degree, you have so many ideas about where you want to complete your internship and what you want to do in the future, but if there’s one piece of advice I can give you it’s to find something you love or are passionate about and go for it. I know that it can be hard and stressful to find said internship, but you’re going to gain more from an area of interest than sitting in an office at a place you got because it was your last resort. If you’ve already been volunteering somewhere that you really enjoy, awesome! Ask them if you can complete your internship there… who knows, it might even land you a job like me!

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Ingrid Johanson

Arnhem Land Women's Centre Manager

I completed my Bachelor of Arts (International Studies) at RMIT in 2010. I particularly enjoyed Development Studies, International Law and Spanish, spending my last semester on exchange in Valparaiso, Chile.

Following my graduation, I went to the United Nations in New York to intern at an NGO working in inter-religious peace dialogue. I also spent time working at the Permanent Mission of Iceland to the United Nations in the Social, Humanitarian & Cultural Affairs Committee. My time at the United Nations gave me priceless experience in understanding the realities of international diplomacy and negotiation, and how different the UN’s operations are in practice when contrasted with the academic perspective or theories.

I was inspired by International Law in New York, and I returned to Melbourne to complete my Masters in International Human Rights Law at the University of Melbourne. This was an interesting step after my RMIT studies, as while the Masters was relevant to my Bachelor course, it was much more specialised.

Since then, I have been working with Indigenous communities in Australia, and am currently manager of an Aboriginal Women’s Centre in Arnhem Land. We operate women’s social enterprises in Arnhem Land, and have been running here in Maningrida for over three decades.

I have been living in the Northern Territory since 2014, and have come to learn and understand about the strong and diverse cultures and peoples living in the Northern Territory today- just at our Women’s Centre there are people from over 12 language groups. While the RMIT course is branded “International Studies”, all the themes of cross-cultural communication, development, politics and language are equally relevant in an Australian Indigenous context.

I would encourage anyone studying RMIT IS to look into working in the Indigenous field. There are currently surprisingly few qualified development professionals currently working in remote Indigenous Australia. The work here however is highly relevant to the RMIT IS degree, with great potential to learn and make positive change with the first peoples of our country.


Jess Lees, Australian Red Cross Aid Worker. Profiled in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Jess Lees, Australian Red Cross Aid Worker. Profiled in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Read more here <LINK>


Cassandra Oaten

Project and Policy Analyst

I completed my Bachelor of Arts (International Studies) at RMIT in 2011 and I’m now working for a trade and economic policy think tank.

The think tank is a research organisation focusing on the Asia Pacific region, it undertakes projects promoting good policy in emerging economies in the region to share ideas and messages of how good policy has improved and shaped other countries. 

I’m a Projects and Policy Analyst. What I do from day to day varies greatly, but includes researching multinational reports to keep up-to-date with policy developments across technology’s impacts on the finance sector, financial regulation, infrastructure investment and financial inclusion, writing internal briefings, speaking notes and submissions. I also manage and organise capacity-building training programs and projects which are mostly held overseas so that they are more conveniently located to the government officials we work with.

I started as a casual employee at the Centre in 2012, after undertaking a couple of internships in Melbourne and Beijing that spanned areas of corporate social responsibility, research and policy analysis.

It was during my studies in the BAIS that I developed an interest in geopolitical issues surrounding economic growth and development. What I learned in the degree, including in courses such as Global Political Economy (which was my favourite) helped me discover what I wanted to learn about and work in.

When I returned to Melbourne I researched the topics I was mostly interested in and called the companies that were working in those areas. I told them I was willing to work unpaid/casually or part-time. A good company will pay you; it is illegal in Australia not to. Small companies are not always able to commit to a full-time role. My role turned full-time eventually, after I proved myself.

Next month I will take a year of leave from the Centre to take on a position with the Trade in Services Division of the OECD in Paris to undertake a quantitative study they are being commissioned to do.

The possibilities with BAIS are endless; it’s all a matter of discovering what parts of it that interest you the most then never straying from that. My advice would be to always take an unpaid internship in your direct field of interest, and work nights if you have to. Try to not get desperate for money and stray from the field you love – we are young with few responsibilities only once! Keep going. You can do it!


Anonymous

Policy Advisor - Government Service

I completed my Bachelor of Arts (International Studies) at RMIT in 2012. After graduation, I interned for a policy think tank in Europe for several months and then joined the Australian Public Service in Canberra, where I am currently a Policy Adviser.

During the BAIS, I was always interested in working in government. I remember speaking to public servants for an interview project in the ‘Working and Managing’ subject and taking several politics courses to learn about policy and legislation. When it came time to do my course internship, I chose an Australian government organisation based in Spain. I think that both of my internship experiences put me in a good position to secure a job in government twelve months after graduating.

The government application process can be quite challenging; applications for graduate programs normally open from February the year before the program commences and there are often several rounds of online tests and assessment centres. Once you get through, you start work with a cohort of graduates and complete a targeted training program.

I find my job extremely rewarding and have found government to be the best place to use my skills to make a difference. Day to day, I do everything from developing policy proposals and writing briefings for Ministers to coordinating events and replying to correspondence from the public. I really enjoy both my work and life in Canberra.


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Madison Campbell

Coordinator - Australian Institute of Management, Western Australia

I completed a Bachelor of Arts (International Studies) (BAIS) at RMIT in 2015. I’m now working as a coordinator at the Australian Institute of Management, Western Australia (AIM WA) which is a not-for-profit organisation that provides professional development programs in leadership and management, throughout Australia and the Asia Pacific.

I work within the international department at AIM WA. I am responsible for preparing tenders to win contracts and liaising with clients and consultants to develop and deliver the training programs customised to the client. We provide training to all professional levels; from graduates to executives. 

I obtained the connections that lead me to AIM WA while on exchange at Tianjin University in China. During my exchange, I worked at the Australian Chamber of Commerce (AustCham), Shanghai to complete the my BAIS international internship. It was through my internship at AustCham Shanghai that I gathered the experience and networks that I needed to kick start my career.

My attitude and motivation to get as much experience as I could during my degree was driven by the mentorship of the lecturers and tutors of BAIS. The skills and experiences that BAIS provided has been invaluable to me so far and I’m confident this will remain so throughout my career.


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Stephanie Limm 

Researcher - House of Representatives, now studying Masters

I completed my Bachelor of Arts (International Studies) at RMIT in December 2016 and I am now working at Parliament House in Canberra. I am a Researcher for the Committee Office and support the Joint Standing Committee of Treaties and Joint Select Committee on Government Procurement. This means I work with both Senators and Members.

My position in the House of Reps is replicated across different secretariats; our job is the same but the subject matter changes based on what inquiry is running. My role includes writing briefing papers for the Committee, draft questions they ask in public hearings, draft reports, media releases and help to organise public hearings both in Canberra and elsewhere in Australia.

I applied for the position through the temporary employment register of the department, meaning my contract is currently six months. I decided to start here because I am also studying my masters full time and this will give me the opportunity re-evaluate how I’m going before the semester 2 census date. I was lucky enough to do my international internship during my degree in a House of Commons Committee in London, so I was chosen based on that experience.

The benefit of Committee’s is that you never get bored! Inquiries on average last about 6 months, and you are usually working on more than one at a time. You get the opportunity to specialise in a different subject area all the time, I know way too much about our future submarines program with France! It’s surprising how interesting you find subject areas that you would never have considered. If you’re graduating and don't really want to specialise, I can highly recommend Committees!

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Pieter Bossink

Regional Operations Manager for Australia Awards South and West Asia

I completed both my BA International Studies (2007) and MSS International Development (2009) at RMIT and I am now the Regional Operations Manager for Australia Awards South and West Asia. I am writing this piece in the transit lounge of Bangkok airport, on my way home to Colombo after delivering Reintegration Workshops for new Australia Awards alumni in Bhutan and Nepal.  Next month I will be in Islamabad to run a strategic planning workshop with the Executive Committee of the Australia Awards Pakistan alumni.  Frequent travel throughout the region is one of the highlights of my job.

Through this Program, the Australian Government provides long- and short-term education and training opportunities to public servants, women, and people with disability and from other traditionally marginalised groups.  With skills, knowledge, and abilities developed and enhanced in Australian tertiary institutions (like RMIT), Australia Awards alumni are able to make greater contributions in the sectors in which they work.  They are the agents through which Australia contributes to national development.  

Until 2015 when I started this role, I was Scope Global’s Regional Director for South Asia, managing the Australian Government’s Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) Program in Bangladesh, the Maldives, Nepal, Thailand, and Sri Lanka.  A few years before that, I went to Bangladesh as an AVID volunteer, working in urban poverty reduction with the UN Development Program.  My time at UNDP gave me experience in practices like community mobilisation, microfinance, socio-economic development, settlement improvement, and policy advocacy. Photographing the forced eviction of some 10,000 people from a slum in Dhaka is one experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

There have been many times in my career where I have been ‘doing’ things for the first time, but I’ve rarely felt unable to do them.  I think this is down to my studies at RMIT, especially the International Studies program.  I still remember clearly one of our lecturers telling us, ‘we are giving you the skills to do jobs that don’t exist yet’, and he was right.  My studies in globalisation, migration, cross cultural communication, intercultural technologies, etc. have given me the skills, ability, and confidence to learn and adapt quickly to new challenges and emerging issues, to understand the context in which they’re happening, and to take action and decisions that enable people to positively change their worlds.


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Jessica Heron

Project Officer in Myanmar, now studying Juris Doctor

Soon after I graduated from the BAIS in 2015 I moved to Yangon, Myanmar to start an internship with UN-Habitat. Over the coming months, I grew fond of Yangon and wasn’t ready to leave when the time came to go home. Unfortunately, my reality was a slim savings account and a lack of the dreaded ‘minimum 2 - 5 years’ work experience’ most employers ask of prospective employees these days. By no means the worst problem one must face in their life, though nonetheless a tricky place to be when attempting to carve out a career in international development. If being a millennial has taught me anything, it’s that what fresh graduates lack in financial certainty and an accessible job market we make up for with persistence, positivity and a heck of a lot of smashed avocado (allegedly). 

Three weeks after my internship came to an end and multiple job applications later, my savings account had gone from slim to none. But then I was offered a graduate level position as a Project Officer for a global development consulting firm called Montrose International, also based in Myanmar. I was stepping outside the realm of interning and I could already sense the responsibility load increasing, it was a welcomed feeling. Later that day I walked gleefully out of what would become my new office after successfully negotiating a 12-month employment contract.

Prior to arriving in Myanmar, I didn’t know consulting firms were the lead implementers of foreign aid and development projects. Many of the young researchers and technical experts I met working in Myanmar were development consultants working independently; this is major career pathway that I had previously had very little knowledge of.  Without being an expert in a particular field of development, my role as a Project Officer was to help coordinate the projects from a logistical and occasionally technical perspective. This would involve editorial oversight of research reports, daily project management tasks, assisting in field work and data collection as a research assistant.

I found the work of our technical consulting teams fascinating and a particular project sparked my interest more than any other, it was based on building the rule of law in Myanmar. The team of legal researchers I met had spent months collecting data in urban and rural communities to help determine how best to integrate informal community justice systems to a more inclusive and transparent State justice system. This was law reform at its rawest. I was inspired by the local and foreign legal academics I met who had dedicated their life’s work to developing the cornerstone of a modern state - the rule of law. This project planted the seed for what I wanted my specialisation to be and the wheels began turning to how I might get there.

I completed my contract with the consulting firm and moved back to Melbourne in January 2017. It was a difficult decision not to stay in Myanmar but I understood that if I wanted to branch out of the administrative side of international development I would needed to start my own specialisation. I am now undertaking my second trimester of the Juris Doctor and have not looked back since starting the degree. I am learning the nuances of how to effectively advocate for others and critically analyse issues from a legal perspective. This has been challenging at times but mostly fascinating to see how human rights advocacy works in practice. I have since begun working as a paralegal at an immigration and criminal law firm which has further cemented my interested in public and administrative law. I think the Juris Doctor is a great pathway for BAIS students who have an interest in human rights advocacy across various sectors and want to operate within the justice system to create tangible outcomes. The BAIS has provided with me a solid foundational academic background to succeed within the Juris Doctor program and also equipped me with serious tutorial debating skills which never go astray.

For more on Jessica, see <LINK>.


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Jack Britton

Translator and Researcher - Indonesian National Commission on Violence against Women

I completed my Bachelor of Arts (International Studies) (BAIS) at RMIT in 2016 and soon after left to start working for the Indonesian National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan). The skills I developed during the BAIS program were instrumental in securing this amazing role. Komnas Perempuan is one of three National Human Rights Institutions (NHRI) in Indonesia and has the specific mandate to create a situation that is conducive to the elimination of violence against women and the fulfilment of women’s human rights.

I work as a Translator and Researcher for the organization, embedded within the International Advocacy task force. My main roles are creating and translating key documents for international audiences such as reports to the United Nations human rights treaty bodies (CEDAW, ICCPR, UPR etc) and other different kinds of documents and correspondence.

My day to day work varies greatly. I have had the chance to meet foreign delegations, monitor the situation of human rights in the field, meet and report to UN Special Rapporteurs, and attend countless different seminars and conferences (including recently the world’s first women’s ulama congress, hosted in West Java). I also work trying to increase the international community’s awareness about issues of violence against women in Indonesia; I do this through writing for various online and print media and making sure English press releases are available for international press.

My first contact with Komnas Perempuan occurred when I was completing the internship subject for BAIS in Jakarta in 2015. During this internship through my host organization I met and interviewed staff from Komnas Perempuan, and through the process of doing this I knew that Komnas Perempuan was a place I would be interested working at in the future.

I applied for my current position during my final semester of BAIS; during that time I was writing my minor thesis/ research project on the issue of Polygamy and the Indonesian women’s movement. A staff member of Komnas Perempuan became a respondent for an interview regarding the issue, and funnily enough a year and a half later we now sit next to each other. Coincidentally one of the academics I cited extensively in the research project also turns out to be a current commissioner at Komnas Perempuan and has become a kind of mentor to me, I have the chance to work with her when working on reports to the international human rights mechanisms.

When I entered the BAIS degree it was compulsory to study a foreign language; I had a long standing interest in Indonesia and so I investigated the opportunity of studying Bahasa Indonesia. RMIT does not offer the language, however, they were happy to facilitate cross institutional study at Monash University. In my second year RMIT approved and supported me to undertake a semester’s exchange in Yogyakarta, Indonesia where my interest in the nation and language skills continued to grow and networks slowly began to develop.

BAIS turned out to be a fantastic degree in terms of general preparation for working in the field of human rights in an international context. Some of the tasks I completed during the degree are still fresh in my mind. I remember writing a mock letter to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health about the issue of virginity testing in the Indonesian military. Early in 2017 I met the current Rapporteur on the Right to Health at my office and submitted a report to him that included reports of human rights violations including the problem of virginity testing that continues to be an issue in Indonesia.

The combination of the internship unit, the compulsory language, the research program and the support provided in partaking in international exchange programs sets the degree apart from others.