February 8, 2021 | Online
International affairs researchers Chantal de Jonge Oudraat of WIIS, Michele Dunne of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Elizabeth Hedge of the Global Women's Institute, and Rui Zhong of the Wilson Center, joined WFPG for an engaging discussion on research careers in international affairs and foreign policy. The panelists shared their career path, advice for those entering the field, and how research can make an impact on the world of policy and advocacy during a conversation moderated by WFPG Executive Director Kim Kahnhauser Freeman. The participants then joined speakers in breakout rooms for more informal discussions. This program was a part of our Professional Development Series co-hosted by Women In International Security. Members can watch a recording here or on our Member Career Resources Platform.

What We Learned

What does a career in research really look like?

  • Research is a team effort. It requires collaboration with scholars and senior staffyou have to share expertise and work together to create quality work.
  • Researchers do a lot more than just research. They engage in fundraising, grant writing, planning conferences, logistics, and more.
  • Researchers find their way into the field from many different backgrounds. Some go straight into graduate programs before entering jobs at think tanks, while others have experience as practitioners or policy-makers before deciding to turn to research.

What are important traits of successful researchers?

  1. Curiosity and creativity with an entrepreneurial mindset
  2. Strong writing skills and being open to edits and constructive feedback
  3. Persuasion and the ability to confidently sell experience and your work

    Any kind of job experience can be helpful, and any skills gained will contribute to your future work, from project management to finances to social media!

How much education do I need?

  • Required credentials vary by position and organization, but many entry-level research positions require a BA or MA.
  • For think tanks, to be a senior scholar or fellow, a researcher usually needs a PhD, JD, or significant high-level policy experience.
  • There are also significant opportunities for analytical work in federal service and the intelligence world, many of which do not require PhD’s.
  • Any additional education can help you to leave your options open and allow for changes in your career path down the line.

What impact does research have on policy and advocacy?

  • Research should strengthen global knowledge and inform policy.
  • Think tanks can work closely with the government to inform the policy debate and a politician’s agenda.
  • In order to have an impact, research needs to be shared widely and tailored for different audiences.
  • Communication is key. Learn how to deliver your findings in a concise and simple way.
  • Partnerships with NGOs and in the field are critical to to bridge research and practice.
  • Ensure that the problems and questions you are exploring are impactful.
  • If you care deeply about the issue you are researching, you will devote more time to it and ultimately create a better product.

Thank you to our speakers!

Chantal de Jonge OudraatChantal de Jonge Oudraat has served as President of Women In International Security (WIIS) since February 2013. Prior to joining WIIS, she was the founding and executive director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) North America. Her previous positions include senior advisor to the US Institute of Peace Center for Gender and Peacebuilding; associate vice president and director of the USIP Jennings Randolph Fellowship Program; adjunct associate professor at Georgetown’s Walsh School of Foreign Service; and senior fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins SAIS. Her areas of specialization include women, peace and security, international organizations, arms control and disarmament, and peacekeeping. She did her undergraduate studies at the University of Amsterdam and received her PhD in Political Science from the University of Paris II (Panthéon).

Michele DunneMichele Dunne is the director and a senior fellow in Carnegie’s Middle East Program, where her research focuses on political and economic change in Arab countries, particularly Egypt, as well as US policy in the Middle East. She was the founding director of the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East at the Atlantic Council from 2011 to 2013 and was a senior associate and editor of the Arab Reform Bulletin at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace from 2006 to 2011. Previously, Dunne was a Middle East specialist at the State Department, where she served in assignments that included the National Security Council, the Secretary’s Policy Planning Staff, the US embassy in Cairo, the US consulate general in Jerusalem, and the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. She also served as a visiting professor of Arabic language and Arab studies at Georgetown.

Elizabeth HedgeElizabeth Hedge is a Research Associate at the Global Women’s Institute, directly supporting the Empowered Aid Research Project. Prior to joining the GWI, Elizabeth was the Policy & Resource Mobilization Specialist in UN Women's DC Liaison Office, where she supported advocacy, outreach, and partnership building with the government and DC foreign policy community. She also served as Gender Specialist for the Program on Gender Equality in International Affairs at GWU’s Elliott School, where she worked to mainstream gender in curriculum, research, events, and career guidance. She has taken part in multiple research and policy efforts on violence against women and girls in humanitarian settings and the Women, Peace, and Security agenda. She holds an MA in International Affairs with concentrations in Global Gender Policy & Conflict from GWU’s Elliott School, and a BA from Loyola Marymount University.

Rui ZhongRui Zhong is the Program Associate for the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States at the Wilson Center. She holds an MA from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a BA in International Studies from Emory University. She has completed coursework at Peking University and earned a graduate certificate at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center in China. At the Kissinger Institute, she manages Mapping China’s Cultural Genome, a curated project that collects top-level speeches and commentary on China’s global cultural ambitions. Her research interests include China’s role in the East Asian Political Economy and how nationalist interests can impact business, technology and cultural policies. Rui's writing has appeared in publications including Foreign Policy, The Washington Post, and Chinafile.

Kim Kahnhauser FreemanKim 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, Kim was a Fulbright teaching fellow in Tirol, Austria, and researched public housing for the Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching and Service in DC. Kim 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.