Seeking World Peace, Literally

by Risa Mongiello '03

Less that a year ago I was in the final stages of writing my thesis and preparing for graduation. Like most Scripps seniors, I was anxious about the future and about taking the next step. Questions like “Should I go to grad school?” and “Will I ever find a job?” ran through my brain. All I wanted was to finish my thesis, enjoy what little time I had left as a college student, and graduate with a smile on my face.

In the short period of time since May 2003, my life has gone into overdrive. After graduation, I took a summer internship at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to educate and prepare the next generation of nonproliferation specialists. Since then, I have launched into the world of graduate school at the Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS), and things haven’t slowed down since. By working toward a master’s in international policy and nonproliferation, my hope is to enter into the field-of international security and, at some point, engage in arms control policymaking. It has been a leap from where I was a year ago, enjoying the comforts of my Claremont Colleges lifestyle.

When I reflect on my Scripps experience, however, I often recall how that period of time laid the groundwork for where I am today. Had I not majored in international relations or become a serious activist for peace and social justice issues on campus, it is unlikely I would be here at MIIS pursuing a professional degree in the international arena. My professors and fellow classmates at Scripps not only challenged me intellectually, they encouraged me to take whatever it was I found inspiring and to go for it. And that’s what i’ve done.

Next fall. I will participate in the International Professional Service Semester (IPSS) to work at the United Nations Department for Disarmament Affairs (UNDDA) in the Weapons of Mass Destruction Branch at United Nations Headquarters in New York.This will be my first real experience in a major international organization; there is no doubt it will challenge and stretch my every capability. Though it is technically an internship, I will be treated as regular staff and expected to complete all assignments in a timely fashion. Part of this position will be to draft regular reports for United Nations personnel, including the secretary general of the U.N. and the under-secretary general for disarmament affairs, on issues relating to weapons of mass destruction (WMD). I will also be tasked to monitor developments in WMD issues through open-source literature and to distribute significant articles to other members of the Branch.

Talk about pressure and responsibility! Regular reports for the secretary and under-secretary generals? What am I getting myself into. And to think that less than a year ago, I came into the field as a lowly summer undergraduate intern with very little knowledge of even what the word ‘nonproliferation’ meant! It’s amazing how fast life can change.

As I prepare to leap into the express lane of international security and arms control, I’m trying to keep a level head. Though it is overwhelming at times, I am also quite excited. Thank you, Scripps, for giving me the confidence to do things that I may not have done otherwise.