Government and Nonprofit Career Fair

November 13, 2020 | Watch Video 

Bethany Aquilina Brez, Millennium Challenge Corporation
Lauren Catipon, Department of Energy and former Foreign Service Officer
Sandra Pepera, National Democratic Institute
Sarah Yerkes, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Moderator: Kim Kahnhauser Freeman, WFPG
Co-sponsored with George Washington University, NYU, UPenn, and the University of Delaware
Takeaways | Panelist Bios | View Employers

On November 13, 2020, WFPG held a virtual Non-Profit and Government Career Forum with George Washington University, New York University, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Delaware. During the panel discussion, Bethany Aquilina Brez, Lauren Catipon, Sandra Pepera, and Sarah Yerkes shared their advice with students on getting your first job and navigating a career in international affairs. WFPG Executive Director Kim Kahnhauser Freeman moderated the discussion. The forum also included a virtual career fair, which offered students an opportunity to meet with representatives of various NGO's, non-profits, and government agencies. This year's employers included: the Council on Foreign Relations, Department of State, Peace Corps, Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Institute of International Education.

Advice from our Speakers

Career Path

  • You are going to have a long career, so you have time to make mistakes and to zig and zag. The most important thing is to build a portfolio of skills and experience that will enable you to take opportunities when they arise.
  • Have a plan for your career but be willing to adjust it, and remember to check in with yourself periodically.
  • Reinvent yourself. Taking risks can be scary, but that is how you can continue to grow professionally.
  • Raise your hand. Take as many opportunities as you can, whether you seek them out or others offer them to you. Always ask yourself: What can I learn? What can I contribute?


  • Build your network! Reach out to fellow alumni or colleagues for informational interviews.
  • Prepare for informational interviews. Know the bio of who you are meeting, what questions you want to ask--and don’t forget to say thank you.
  • You have more knowledge and experience than you realize, so speak up and let your voice be heard.

Build your skills

  • Every job or experience can help you build transferable skills.
  • Strong written and verbal skills, and the ability to take clear and concise notes will help you in any policy job.
  • Bring curiosity, optimism, empathy, resilience, critical thinking and creativity to everything you do.
  • Recognize when a problem requires a practical rather than elegant solution. Don’t let the “perfect” become the enemy of the “good.”
  • Participate and get engaged--dare to speak up and lead.

Keeping it in perspective

  • Be honest about how difficult it can be, and give yourself grace. You don’t have to be amazing at everything at the same time.
  • It is not only okay, but expected to ask for help--in all aspects of your life. Success requires a support network.
  • Practice self-care. In order to bring your best to your career, you need to have physical, spiritual, and intellectual well-being; figure out what that means to you. What allows you to bring your best to each day, to your community, and to your personal mission?
  • Pay attention to the people you care about, and how your career decisions might impact them. If you have a partner, be ready to make decisions together.
  • Live your life according to your values and be authentic to yourself

Thank you to our speakers!

Bethany Aquilina BrezBethany Aquilina Brez, the Senior Advisor at the Millennium Challenge Corporation, provides guidance and leadership to MCC’s senior leadership team on strategy, agency operations, foreign assistance resources, and internal policy issues. Over the course of her career at MCC, Ms. Aquilina Brez has worked on a range of US foreign assistance operations, including advising MCC countries and leading the implementation of a $44.4M policy and institutional reform program in Sierra Leone. Prior to joining MCC, she worked with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs as a Strategic Planning and Oversight Specialist; with UNFPA in New York, Sudan, and Uganda; with UNHCR in Kenya; and on education programs in Northern Uganda with a local NGO. She holds an MA and MPH from Columbia and a BA from Princeton.

Lauren CatiponLauren Catipon is the Deputy Director of the Office of African and Middle Eastern Affairs at the US Department of Energy, and has had a long career in international affairs, including as the Director for US-EU Relations, Eurasian Energy Security, and European Economics at the NSC, as a Senior Director in Government and Public Affairs at BP, and as a 20-year veteran of the US Foreign Service. As an economic officer in the Foreign Service, Ms. Catipon lived and worked in five countries (Kazakhstan, the Philippines, Georgia, Ukraine, and the Netherlands) and covered a wide range of US foreign economic policy issues, as well as science and technology, political and political-military affairs. She holds a BA in Foreign Language and Linguistics from the University of Delaware and a MA in International Affairs from GW's Elliott School.

Sandra PeperaSandra Pepera is a career diplomat and international development professional. Before joining NDI as its director for Gender, Women and Democracy, she was a senior officer at the UK's Department for International Development, where she led programmes in the Caribbean, Rwanda-Burundi and Sudan. Previously, Ms. Pepera worked in British domestic politics; lectured at the University of Ghana; and worked as a political analyst. Her experience spans strategy development, political and risk analysis, diplomacy, general management and corporate governance. Much of Ms. Pepera's career has been spent working in or on transitional economies, focusing on the building of resilient and inclusive institutions. She led work on women and politics at the University of Ghana and in outreach public policy during the unstable political transition in the early 1990s. This included supporting the ANC Women's League during South Africa's transition from apartheid to majority democratic rule.

Sarah Yerkes Sarah Yerkes is a senior fellow in Carnegie's Middle East Program, where she focuses on state-society relations in the Middle East and North Africa. Dr. Yerkes is a former member of the State Department's policy planning staff, where she focused on North Africa. She was also a foreign affairs officer in the State's Department's Office of Israel and Palestinian Affairs. Prior to that, Dr. Yerkes served as a geopolitical research analyst for the US military's Joint Staff Strategic Plans and Policy Directorate (J5) at the Pentagon, advising the Joint Staff leadership on foreign policy and national security issues. She has been a fellow at the Brookings Institution and the Council on Foreign Relations, and has taught at Georgetown and George Washington Universities. She holds a PhD from Georgetown University and a MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard.

Kim Kahnhauser Freeman Kim Kahnhauser Freeman (moderator) is the executive director of the Women's Foreign Policy Group, a non-profit organization which promotes women’s leadership and amplifies their voices in international affairs. Since joining the WFPG team in 2006, she has held roles of increasing responsibility supporting the organization’s global issues programs, membership outreach, mentoring initiatives, and strategic development. Previously, Ms. Freeman was a Fulbright teaching fellow in Tirol, Austria, and researched public housing for the Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching and Service in DC. Ms. Freeman was a 2011 State Department Young Turkey/Young America Fellow, and holds a BS in International Politics from Georgetown and an Executive Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Georgetown's McCourt School of Public Policy.