Alumni Q&A | Yale College grads

Meet a few recent Yale College alumni who majored in global affairs.

Erin Biel

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Erin Biel BA ’13 is an assistant general counsel in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), which is responsible for developing and implementing trade policies, overseeing trade negotiations with other countries, and monitoring and enforcing trade laws that create new opportunities for American workers and businesses. Prior to her current role, she served as an associate at the Washington-based law firm Covington & Burling. Erin has also interned at the USTR’s Office of the General Counsel and Interagency Trade Enforcement Center, the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration at the U.S. State Department.

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How did your time at Jackson shape your personal and career interests?
I had the good fortune of participating in the inaugural class of the global affairs major and elected to pursue a double major with ethnicity, race and migration. I would qualify that rather than Jackson shaping my personal and career interests, the reverse might be said: I was able to shape my coursework around my existing interests, and it is actually that flexibility and diversity of course options that drew me to the program. For example, at the time, I was heavily interested in Middle East politics, religion, and forced migration issues, as well as international human rights law. I was able to select coursework that touched on each of these areas and pair that study with time abroad in Egypt, which happened to coincide with the Arab Spring. That latitude to select my coursework to complement my personal interests was very important to me.

I also valued the exposure I had to practitioners both inside and outside the classroom, which I think is critical to spawning a young college student’s career interests. I was able to take courses from visiting professors and lecturers who were career diplomats, former national security officials, and practicing lawyers. Among the many extracurricular activities I pursued, I was a World Fellow liaison, which was a spectacular opportunity to meet professionals from around the world working in cross-cutting areas like conflict resolution, environmental conservation, and gender equality. Yale offers such unparalleled access to people living by example and pursuing meaningful careers, and I found those interactions to be among the most inspirational to set me on my career path.
What does your current role entail? What advice would you give students who are interested in pursuing a similar career as your current one?
For the past year, I have served as an assistant general counsel in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), which is situated organizationally within the Executive Office of the President. USTR is responsible for developing and implementing trade policies, overseeing trade negotiations with other countries, and monitoring and enforcing trade laws that create new opportunities for American workers and businesses. The work is dynamic, and the subject matter is both geographically and substantively wide-ranging (e.g., agriculture, intellectual property, services, labor, investment, etc.), so I feel as though I am constantly learning something new.

One piece of advice would be to have confidence in your abilities, something that I admittedly am still working on. Don’t hesitate to apply for a job that interests you; even if you fear rejection, there is typically little downside to applying for a new opportunity. And pursue a path that excites you; both academically and professionally, I chose my opportunities based off of what excited me as an individual, not based on a desire to replicate anything that someone had done before me. In the legal field, I think that academic and professional institutions—at least the ones I have been exposed to—are interested in attracting talent that is passionate about what they do, not a carbon copy of the last applicant.
Talk about your career path to your current role.
Building on some research I completed in relation to my ethnicity, race and migration senior thesis, I spent my first two years after college living on the Thailand-Myanmar border and inside Myanmar working closely with Burmese communities on migrant rights, women’s rights, and social entrepreneurship initiatives. While there, I liked to think strategically about how to make my advocacy efforts more effective and enjoyed coalition building with people of varied backgrounds and priorities to try to find mutually beneficial solutions to issues. Law school seemed like a natural next step to refine these skills, so I studied for and took the LSAT while living in Myanmar and then found myself back at Yale for law school, where I focused on international law.

Upon graduating from law school, I joined a law firm in Washington, D.C., and pursued a relatively diverse portfolio. My work included trade secret litigation before the U.S. International Trade Commission, corporate social responsibility (e.g., human rights due diligence), and a variety of international trade law and policy matters. After more than four years at the firm, I started to get the itch to pursue public service and decided to apply for the position that I am in today. I had interned at USTR while in law school and found the agency to be filled with bright, dedicated people and thought I would enjoy the working environment, which has proven true.
How did Jackson prepare you for law school?
Speaking frankly, I think that excelling in law school is less about the subject matter one studied in college and more about cultivating a critical eye and good attention to detail. I think these skills can be honed whether you study STEM, the humanities, or the social sciences as an undergraduate. That said, I benefitted from the small-group setting of many Jackson seminars, where the fervent exchange of different views and thoughtful discourse encouraged me to anticipate how my position might be challenged or questioned, and that contributed to my preparation for law school.

Yara El-Khatib

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Yara El-Khatib graduated from Yale College in 2021, where she received a B.A. in Global Affairs and a certificate in Global Health Studies. As an undergraduate, she grew passionate about strengthening health systems and their resilience through equitable, community-led, evidence- driven development and public health interventions. Prior to her senior year, she worked as an Associate Consultant Intern at Bain & Company, where she supported the integration of two biotech companies during COVID-19 through her role in communications and change management. She also previously served as a project management intern with VillageReach in Lilongwe, Malawi, where she helped VR transition the operations of a women’s healthcare hotline program to the Ministry of Health. Following graduation, Yara spent a year working with Population Services International in West Africa and Mozambique as a Princeton in Africa Fellow, where she supported several projects dedicated to improving awareness, access to, and voluntary uptake of sexual and reproductive health services. Yara is now a full-time associate consultant at Bain & Company, where she supports projects dedicated to social impact and healthcare.

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How did your time at Jackson shape your personal and career interests?
The interdisciplinary nature of both the Global Affairs major and Global Health Studies certificate, combined with career-oriented programming, allowed me explore various interests and determine which were the best fits for my longer-term personal and career paths. Through both quantitative analysis courses and various social sciences courses at Jackson, I built a strong skillset that showed me the importance of using evidence-driven solutions to maximize social impact; the capstone project further allowed me to gain real-world exposure to what this looks like in practice. I’ve taken these quantitative and multi-faceted social sciences experience to my jobs at Population Services International and Bain, where I’ve been able to apply and further my interest in and exposure to these ideas. I also had the opportunity to take courses across many schools and departments through my programs, which allowed me to find my deep interests in the intersection of climate change and health, as well as pursue meaningful research in that field as part of my course requirements. Finally, I confirmed that I wanted to pursue a path in global health nonprofit work after listening to and speaking with various Jackson faculty / guest lecturers who shared career opportunities and experiences down that path.
What does your current role entail? What advice would you give students who are interested in pursuing a similar career as your current one?
I am currently an Associate Consultant at Bain & Company, where my role involves quantitative and qualitative analysis, problem-solving, working in teams, and serving clients across many industries. While a generalist role, I have dedicated my time thus far to social impact and healthcare clients given my interests; through this work, I’ve helped develop a DEI curriculum for maternal healthcare workers, facilitate change management and vision renewal for merging biotech companies, and define strategy for physician practice management and operations.

For students interested in this path, I would emphasize the importance of building a strong understanding of quantitative methods while also being able to think creatively and critically. I would also leverage your jobs and/or extra-curriculars on campus to build the “soft skills”—teamwork, leadership, communication, etc.—which are crucial to the job and not easily learned in the classroom. Finally, consider how this type of role may fit into your broader career interests—for me, I see myself learning and taking these skills to pertinent areas in global health related to research, project design, coordination, and management. 
Can you tell us about your interests in the Global Health Studies program?
By the time I graduated, my specific interests in the Global Health Studies program lied at the intersection of health systems strengthening, climate change, women’s and mental health, and government. When I started at Yale, I knew I was interested in global affairs and diplomacy, but I had minimal exposure to the field of global health. That spring, I took the intro global health course as an elective for global affairs, and I became passionate about public/global health and the study thereof—I was fascinated by the way in which we were pushed to consider each issue not just from the biological perspective, but also from socioeconomic, cultural, political, and historical points of view. 
Over the next few years, I narrowed my interests to those I mentioned through a variety of academic opportunities. These included: coursework at Jackson, YSPH, and YSE; course assistantship and research at Jackson and YSPH related to humanitarian crises, diplomacy, and climate change policy; and practice experience / research through my capstone projects, Yale’s Social Enterprise in Developing Economies in Africa program, and the Clinic in Climate Change, Environmental Justice, and Public Health.
Beyond these various experiences, I found great community and an academic / learning ‘home’ within the program: I built many close friendships and relationships with mentors, both whom I continued to learn and grow from throughout my time in the program.
What was your experience like working as a Princeton in Africa Fellow?
My experience as a Princeton in Africa Fellow served as a wonderful exposure to the field of global health, sparked my interest in the clinical side of global health, and allowed me to leverage many of the skills I developed through my undergraduate studies. I worked as a Princeton in Africa Fellow within the Sexual and Reproductive Health & Rights division at Population Services International in Western & Southern Africa. Throughout the year, I supported several projects dedicated to improving access to and uptake of family planning and contraception methods, cervical cancer screening and treatment, and community sensibilization to reduce the stigma associated with various sexually transmitted infections. I had the opportunity to support and conduct various areas, including: quantitative and qualitative research for projects with organizations like USAID; project coordination and digital marketing using social media; and learning material and report development for various audiences (internal, external, donor-facing, etc.). In my last few months once COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, I had the opportunity to live and work in Benin; there, I continued this work in-person and took part in field visits for our programming while traveling locally and across the continent.

Clayton Land

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Hailing from Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, Clayton Land graduated from Yale in 2022, spending time in student government, the Yale College Council, and being among the founding members of the Rural Students Alliance at Yale. He is now a defense and security consultant for Guidehouse, a medium-sized consulting firm working in the public sector. Clayton is particularly interested in helping rural communities at home and abroad in a developmental context to bridge rural-urban gaps, voice the concerns of small towns, and advocate their case in policymaking.

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How did your time at Jackson shape your personal and career interests?
My time in the Jackson School shaped my personal and career interests by providing me with new perspectives on international conflicts and helping me reconcile my many interests. Not only did I learn about new aspects of past and present foreign crises, but I also engaged in intriguing conversation with my peers from a variety of backgrounds to develop new ways of understanding conflict and also how conflicts have similarities and differences to help us understand them better. During my time at Yale, I saw my interests shift towards policy in rural areas given my small-town background. The Jackson School helped find a passion for understanding rural-urban divides in an international context and how to work towards bridging that gap, allowing me to bring my small-town identity to a global scale in the classroom.
What does your current role entail? What advice would you give students who are interested in pursuing a similar career as your current one?
In my current role, I am a defense and security consultant at Guidehouse for a public sector client. In this role, we help with strategic planning and communications, meeting facilitation, and business process improvement. Upon graduating college, I knew that I wanted to work in the public sphere — whether domestic or abroad — but I was not sure where exactly. Public sector consulting has provided me with a wide array of knowledge of our nation's government processes, exposing me to different federal agencies and potential future occupations. If you feel similarly, look into public sector consulting or think tank positions to get started and help you find a path for your interests.
As a recent graduate, what has your experience been like transitioning out of Yale?
Transitioning out of Yale and into the professional world has been difficult but exciting as I chase my dreams. As a first-generation college graduate, navigating a non-blue-collar world has been a challenge, as I sometimes feel out of place while my peers have families that have been in these spaces for decades. I'm learning new formalities, skills, and ways of interacting with others that are foreign to me, which can be a bit of an adjustment. However, I find that my ideas and contributions in the workplace are just as valuable as my peers as I inject my small-town experience and critical thinking knowledge into my projects. In addition to this, I have found that social life can be a bit difficult upon graduating since you are not constantly surrounded by people your age, but I have been able to develop new and supportive relationships the longer I live in a new city.
At Yale you were involved with the Rural Students Alliance. How has that identity continued to shape your current professional experience?
After having been President of the Rural Students Alliance at Yale for two years, I have found that this identity has brought new, exciting experiences. Living in a city for the first time has taught me what it's like to grocery shop without a car, use public transportation, and have international cuisines a couple blocks away. In the professional sphere, I have found peers from small towns, and I have also been able to educate others on issues affecting rural areas today. I am currently planning a Lunch and Learn session to present how rural areas intersect with our client work and how being more aware of the conditions of small towns can make us all better consultants. While the transition to city and white-collar life has been new and challenging as I learn the ropes, it has been exciting to learn new things and present on how towns like mine have stake in the work being done in our nation's government.

Gaelle Conille

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Gaëlle Conille is an associate program officer in the development policy and finance team at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She works to identify gaps in the area of gender-sensitive macroeconomic policy and supports partners in evidence building and policy advocacy. Before joining the Gates Foundation, Gaëlle worked at the World Bank’s Africa Gender Innovation Lab (AGIL) where she supported research uptake efforts focusing on agriculture and land rights, social norms, and adolescent girls programming. Gaëlle also worked as a senior policy associate at the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL Global), where she conducted policy outreach for evidence dissemination and managed a funding initiative focused on taking evidence to scale.

After receiving her B.A. from Jackson in 2018, Gaëlle completed a master’s degree in development management at the London School of Economics and Political Science. At Jackson, she undertook a rigorous interdisciplinary curriculum, focusing on political science, ethnicity, race, and migration, and African and Latin American studies, and interned with Kepler in identifying barriers to low-cost tertiary education for female refugees in Rwanda. Gaëlle has also worked with UN Women in resource mobilization and with ActionAid in conducting a gender analysis of employment policies.

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How did your time at Jackson shape your personal and career interests?
My time at Jackson was formative in so many ways. It shaped my interest in evidence-based policymaking — using rigorous economic analysis to evaluate and design social programs and policies. At the same time, the interdisciplinary nature of the program made me a more well-rounded thinker and development practitioner. Outside of economics and econometrics, I completed coursework in history, political science and ethnicity, race, and migration. I was able to think about how power and politics shape the development process and how to apply an intersectional lens to my work. In my career, I’ve found myself constantly drawing from this interdisciplinary toolbox, in both big and small ways.
What does your current role entail? What advice would you give students who are interested in pursuing a similar career as your current one?
My current role has shifted the lens through which I work. While previously I specialized in applied microeconomic analysis, my current role has a macroeconomic focus. My team works with economic policymakers and engages with development finance institutions to understand the impact of economic policies and global financial flows on global health and development. I specifically work to identify gaps in the area of gender-sensitive macroeconomic policy and support partners who are working in this area. I am building relationships with the goal of advancing the state of knowledge and, hopefully, translating that to policy changes at the country level. My team is actually supporting the Yale Economic Growth Center on their Gender and Growth Gaps project and we are very excited about that body of work. I came back to campus last fall to kick off that grant, which was such a wonderful moment for me. Importantly, I also collaborate with teams across the foundation’s Gender Equality Division to ensure that our different workstreams connect at the micro and macro levels.

My advice to anyone pursuing a career in international development is to be flexible. You are at Jackson because you are intellectually curious and interested in solving problems at a global scale. But there is no defined path, and your work can look so different from one year to the next. When thinking about a specific role, it’s also important to consider the specific functions, beyond the thematic focus. Do you want to be an individual contributor? Do you want to lead and manage teams? Do you prefer an external facing or internal facing role? These are some of the questions I would ask myself, with the understanding that your thinking may change along the way.
Can you tell us about your first job out of undergrad? What did you learn from that experience?
After undergrad, I moved to London to complete a master’s degree at the London School of Economics and Political Science. My first role after that was as a policy associate at J-PAL Global. In that role, I wrote policy publications, cultivated new research partnerships, and conducted policy outreach for evidence dissemination. I also managed the Innovation in Government Initiative, a funding initiative focused on taking evidence to scale by supporting researchers who are working directly with governments in low- and middle-income countries. I’m very grateful to have started my career there. I was able to specialize in one sector, supporting MSMEs in low- and middle-income countries, while also being a generalist in applied microeconomic analysis and learning from my colleagues across sectors such as education, health, and agriculture. The skills I developed in that role will be useful to me for a long time.

I learned that rigorous impact evaluation can be such a valuable tool in understanding the impact of social programs and using the insights gained to improve them. But development is a politically contested process, and it isn’t enough to produce rigorous research and technical solutions — there also has to be demand for evidence. Some of the conditions that lead to evidence take-up include understanding the political economy, supporting internal champions and leveraging windows of opportunity (an election, a crisis, or another moment in time where a particular topic has become salient). I saw this in practice through supporting the Innovation in Government Initiative and that understanding has been reinforced since then.
How have you stayed connected to your fellow alumni? How has that been important to you professionally and personally?
Some of my close friends today are former classmates who I met through the program. I’ve also crossed paths with fellow alums (both grad and undergrad) in the various organizations that I’ve worked in. Professionally, it’s been wonderful to connect with them to continue shaping my understanding of the field and what different roles can look like. Personally, I’ve loved having this shared community as a source of advice and comfort.

Mason Ji

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Mason Ji is an attorney at Perkins Coie, where he practices international sanctions law, cross-border regulatory/trade law, and complex litigation (including international arbitration). He is also a lecturer of law at the University of Washington School of Law. Prior to practicing law, Mason was a delegate at the United Nations General Assembly, negotiating nuclear disarmament, climate change, and human rights treaties. Mason was also a White House Ambassador for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders under President Obama in 2015-2016.

Mason graduated from Yale University in 2016 with a B.A. in global affairs. He is also a graduate of Harvard Law School and the University of Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.

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How did your time at Jackson shape your personal and career interests?
I often tell others that majoring in Global Affairs at Jackson was foundational to my career interests. I was a delegate to the United Nations when I was an undergraduate at Yale, where I negotiated nuclear disarmament, climate change, and human rights resolutions and treaties. I was there when the sustainable development goals were negotiated in 2015. But I was literally learning on the job; had it not been for the amazing professors and practitioners at Jackson, who guided me and taught me about diplomacy, I would not have succeeded in my role at the United Nations.

After graduating from Yale, I studied global governance and diplomacy and public policy at the University of Oxford, directly informed by my time at Jackson. I then went on to law school to study international law and now practice in the international law space. Jackson has played an important role in shaping my career interests in the international space.
What does your current role entail? What advice would you give students who are interested in pursuing a similar career as your current one?
I am currently an attorney and my practice is a combination of international sanctions law, cross-border regulatory/trade law, and complex litigation (including international arbitration). I am also a lecturer of law at the University of Washington School of Law on international law and climate change.

For those who are interested in working in the international law space, whether as a policymaker or a practitioner, I would advise that you try to get as much experience from different perspectives as possible. For instance, my past experience as a diplomat and working in the foreign policy space showed me the policy rationales behind changes in international law. That perspective now informs my work as a practitioner in the field. My other piece of advice would be to develop an area of expertise early on. During my time at Jackson, I focused on multilateralism and East Asian affairs, both of which inform my practice in international sanctions law to this day.
Can you talk about your career path to your current role?
My career path thus far can be described as a transition from the public sector to the private sector. I started out in diplomacy as a delegate to the United Nations, then transitioned more towards a consultancy role with the United Nations, and now I'm an attorney. I believe starting out in the public sector and diplomacy laid a fantastic foundation for the work I do today, because I was able to see the decision-making process on the other side.
As someone who has had both public and private sector experience, what have been some of your favorite experiences from both?
My favorite experiences on the public sector side have to do with the people. Working at the United Nations can be tough, with so many different interests at odds, but the experience of working with representatives from 193 countries is eye-opening and humbling. In the public sector, I found the opportunity to interact with so many from such different walks of life to be rewarding. On the private sector side, my favorite experiences have centered around problem-solving. At least for me, no two days are the same, and learning to problem-solve quickly and accurately has been both challenging and exciting.