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Intercultural and International Communication | SIS

Alumni Profiles

Our alumni answer the question: what can I do with a degree in Intercultural and International Communication or International Media? Their stories indicate a broad swath of opportunities for putting classroom learning to work in professional settings around the world.

Linda Jamison

SIS IC Alumni Linda Jamison Portrait

VP for Global Talent Development, US Institute of Peace

Graduation Year: 1989

Graduation Program: International Communication

Why did you choose SIS (and the IC program in particular)?

I really wanted to come back to AU as a student after I had spent a summer living at AU when I did an internship in the US Senate. SIS caught my eye. I was looking for a graduate school in international studies, and since I was already working on AU campus, it felt like kismet. I originally started out at AU studying in the political science department, working as SIS. I saw how interesting and exciting it was and that’s where I wanted to be, so I moved into the International Communication Program. IC really appealed to me because it provided a framework to understand national security and foreign policy. The IC program gave me a unique lens. At the time I enrolled, Perestroika and Glasnost were breaking the lock on the mystery that was the Soviet Union. The IC field was popping open just as the Cold War was ending.

How did your SIS/IC academic experience prepare you for success?

It gave me a broader, less rigid understanding of foreign policy and national security. Throughout my career I’ve relied on what I learned in the graduate program at SIS. What I learned helped me broaden my intellectual horizons and help me develop a textured world view. In particularly, I recall taking a class from Eric Novotny, where we examined developing countries through a communications lens. We looked at communication tools and techniques that ignite development—and ignite human potential. The class, and the program, gave me a nuanced understanding of communication as a development tool.

How do you feel the work you are doing today is serving the global or local community?

The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) is focused on finding non-violent solutions in conflict-afflicted regions abroad. I’d known USIP since the 1980s, and after I left the White House I had an opportunity to become part of the USIP team. Certainly, communication has a critical role in peace building and conflict resolution where dialogue is at the heart of trust-building and renewed understanding. There’s a lot of opportunity to apply a communication framework—not to mention the intercultural framework—to US foreign policy. I remember when I started traveling overseas; I was better-prepared because I had developed a cultural awareness that began as a student in the IC program.

What advice would you give to current students in the IC program?

The best advice that I was given when I first began my career was – it’s where you work not what you do that matters. You can have your dream job, but if it’s at a place where you don’t embrace the philosophy or the values, you’ll be miserable. It’s important to remember that success is not a straight line: it’s following opportunity—and making sure you’re true to your own values as you make choices. You have to drive the train, because no one’s going to take your hand. Take the initiative to get involved and follow-up on all prospects. You never know where they will lead.

Zoe Stathopoulos

SIS IC Alumni Zoe Stathopoulos

Communications Specialist, Alive & Thrive, FHI 360

Graduation Year: 2013

Graduation Program: International Communication

Why did you choose SIS (and the IC program in particular)?

As an undergrad in the School of International Service (SIS), I liked the idea of continuing with SIS; I liked my professors and enjoyed the flexibility and variety of nighttime classes since I would also be working full time. As a senior, I was accepted into the BA/MA program, which allowed me to move seamlessly into the MA program, and even take a few MA classes in my final semester as an undergrad.

In a perhaps unconventional fashion, I decided to pursue a master’s degree in a field broader than my bachelor’s. Like many of us, I am interested in a range of topics. To that point, I was looking for a program that would allow me to take courses across disciplines – in cross cultural relations, diplomacy, international development, research, and human rights. And, I was looking for a program where the skills I learned would prove valuable in a number of career tracks. So, I chose the MA in International Communication (IC).

How did your SIS/IC academic experience prepare you for success?

The project I’m working on at FHI 360, called Alive & Thrive, aims to save lives, prevent illness, and ensure healthy growth and development by improving nutrition practices, such as promoting optimal breastfeeding practices and diversifying diets for children. Alive & Thrive is a behavior change project – which means communication plays a critical role. The cross-cultural understanding and confidence that I gained at SIS has helped me better understand cultural dynamics, create stronger relationships with colleagues across the globe, and, therefore, more effectively contribute to achieving our program objectives.

How do you feel the work you are doing today is serving the global or local community?

The general cultural knowledge and awareness that you gain at SIS is invaluable. From learning about the nuances of high and low context cultures, to the way systems of communication are designed and operate in various countries, your understanding of “communication” takes on a much broader and significant impact. You see how communication is interwoven into the tiniest fibers of life.

I also benefitted from having classmates with such diverse backgrounds. Some came to the program with degrees in math, development, film, human rights and diplomacy. Interacting with so many different people helps us explore various perspectives.

What advice would you give to current students in the IC program?

Challenge your professors and classmates. Play devil’s advocate. Help be the facilitator of dialogue.

And another tip: if possible, take a class with a travel component. When overseas, you meet with students, professors, advocates and policy makers who are living and breathing the challenges you’re only reading about. For example, when I was in South Africa with Professor Hirschmann, we spent an afternoon in one of Cape Town’s largest “townships” speaking with the staff of a local non-profit who are working tirelessly to improve the health and education of the township residents. That perspective can’t be learned in the classroom.

Alison Yost

SIS IC Alumni Alison Yost

Graduation Year:2007

Graduation Program: International Communication

Why did you choose SIS (and the IC program in particular)?

In high school, I was an exchange student in France, and during my time abroad I became interested in the way culture, background, politics, etc. affect the way people communicate. At the same time, a US spy plane was shot down in China and sparked a diplomatic disagreement between the two countries. To resolve it, Secretary of State Colin Powell released a statement that was translated differently in the U.S. and China, and gave each country what it needed to hear in order to resolve the issue and save face. This sparked my interest in the role communication plays in international affairs. I did my research and American University’s International Affairs and International Communication program was at the top of every list. The recognition of the great depth that AU had in its professors and students inspired me to apply to the program. When I finished my undergraduate degree in SIS, I knew I wanted to stay in the SIS IC program, so I decided to do the joint 5 year BA/MA program.

How did your SIS/IC academic experience prepare you for success?

One of greatest things about the program at AU, that I didn’t fully appreciate while I was there, was that it helps you see the interconnection between theory and practical applications. Systems and processes and statements don’t exist in a vacuum; there is always a political climate, an economic climate, a social media climate, and a cultural climate that affects how information is perceived. AU gave me the perspective to see how all the pieces interconnect. Part of my job now is ensuring that interpretations and perceptions around our communications are accurate and reflective of the work we do at New America. It’s more than writing press releases and statements; it’s helping people understand the way information is distributed and the perceptions you can’t control. It’s helping manage the message when you’re up against a variety of different perspectives, channels, and ideologies.

How do you feel the work you are doing today is serving the global or local community?

The Open Technology Institute, part of the New America research institute and civic enterprise, works at the intersection of technology and policy and looks at the different ways that technology is part of our world today—the role it plays in national security, how it can be leveraged to connect communities, and how to make the benefits of digital technology available to all. We look at how to set up technological resources in local communities that don’t have access to internet—by, for example, creating “mesh”, or computer-to-computer, networks. We’re looking at ways to support communities so that they can take advantage of everything the internet has to offer in viable, sustainable, collaborative ways. In addition, OTI intervenes on behalf of net neutrality. New America advocates for a free and open internet as a crucial right moving forward, especially given the increasing scope and importance of technology in today’s world.

What advice would you give to current students in the IC program?

I would say just to take advantage of everything AU has to offer. There are lots of seminars, speaking events, and opportunities to present papers. Don’t be afraid to experiment – AU is so connected with every aspect of the DC community, so there are many opportunities to meet with, and learn from, people who are doing interesting work around the world. Do internships, externships, or just set up informational interviews so that you are leveraging the connections that AU provides once you leave campus.

Wendy Belzer Litzke

Wendy Belzer

Wendy works as the Vice President for Government and Community Relations at Goucher College in Baltimore. She served previously as the Special Assistant to the Director at Voice of America, and the Press Secretary / Communications Director at the Office of Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez (D-NY). Wendy came to AU from Boston College, where she graduated Summa Cum Laude with a BA in Spanish, having spent a year abroad in Spain. She studied in both the International Communication and Comparative and Regional Studies programs at SIS, concentrating on Latin America and communication strategies in complex humanitarian emergencies. According to Wendy, IC was a “perfect fit,” given her dual interests in communications and Spanish, the interdisciplinary nature of the field, and the flexibility of the program. She was impressed by “the number of opportunities open to me upon graduation.”

Nilar Chit Tun

Nilar Chit Tun

Nilar came to the IC program to pursue her interest in “the intercultural element that keeps communication between people, cultures and governments so interesting… and delicate at the same time.” After graduating from AU, Nilar’s career has taken her around the world: She worked in Myanmar as a Communications Officer with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and in Haiti with Chemonics International and with AED in conjunction with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She currently works as a Knowledge Management Specialist at the World Bank/IFC, and has been stationed in Yangon, Port au Prince and Washington. Nilar came to AU from Marymount University in Arlington, VA where she graduated with Honors with a BA in Communication, having spent semesters abroad in Martinique, France and Switzerland. In her spare time, Nilar pursues her passion for cooking as a recipe tester for the Washington Post food section.

Sybille Reinke de Buitrago

Sybille Reinke de Buitrago

Sybille is currently a Fellow at the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg in Germany, where she works on issues of international relations, international security, and peace and conflict resolution. Having experienced firsthand the unification of East and West Germany, Sybille’s interest in International Communication was sparked by her observation of the roles of culture, socialization and identity in different communication patterns among people. At AU, Sybille concentrated on communication patterns across cultures, identity construction and socialization, and perception patterns and their impact on behavior and policy. She held internships at the National MultiCultural Institute, the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies, and People to People International. Reflecting on the IC program, Sybille recounts: “What I liked most was that courses reflected current developments and themes and that faculty often had first-hand practical experience… The international student body is also a great plus, as one can discuss issues with the benefit of different perspectives.”

Hilary Eckert

Hilary graduated in spring 2012 with an MA in International Communication and concentration in Health Communication and Promotion. Hilary came to American University with a BA in Communication Studies and a minor in Spanish Language and Culture from the University of Maryland, College Park. While at Maryland, Hilary studied internationally in Israel and Morocco. She also worked for the University’s Education Abroad Office and interned at the Department of State. During her time at American University, Hilary’s research interests centered on creating culturally and community-appropriate health interventions and strategic communication materials. She assisted faculty member Dr. Maria De Jesus on a federal grant proposal, served as a project coordinator at COTELCO (the Center for Research on Collaboratories and Technology Enhanced Learning Communities), and worked as a Health Education Intern and Contractor with Adventist HealthCare’s Health & Wellness Department. Hilary is currently a Health Communications Fellow with the National Institutes of Health in the National Cancer Institute’s Office of Biorepositories and Biospecimen Research. 

Yukiko Inoue

IC Yukiko Inoue Alumna

Yukiko is originally from Japan and never imagined she would one day study abroad or work internationally. Yukiko completed her undergraduate studies in French at the Sophia University in Tokyo, and spent one year in France as an exchange students at Université Catholique d'Ouest in Angers. After completing her degree in IC, Yukiko returned to Japan and currently works for PwC Japan as a finance and accounting consultant. In this role she advises major Japanese companies and international corporations on issues such as project management, risk management, communication, system design, and human resources management. Working with clients in different fields, Yukiko utilizes her understanding of cross-cultural communication to contribute to project objectives and facilitate intercultural relations between firms operating in Japan. “I truly believe what I learned in the IC program, especially from my classmates, contributes extensively to my career.”

Shanti Shoji

IC Alumna Shanti Shoji

Shanti is the Cultural Affairs Coordinator at the Japan Information and Culture Center (JICC), Embassy of Japan. Prior to joining the Embassy of Japan, Ms. Shoji worked in Japan for six years – two years as an English teacher at public junior high schools on the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program, and four years working for Labo International Exchange Foundation, a Japanese non-profit international exchange and education organization. Besides Ms. Shoji’s passion for intercultural communication and international exchange and education, she enjoys travelling, the outdoors, running, and enjoying all that DC has to offer. A native of Portland, Oregon, Ms. Shoji graduated from the University of Oregon with a BA in Japanese and International Studies. In 2009 she received her MA in International Communication from American University’s School of International Service.

Gabrielle Dorsey

Gabrielle Dorsey

After completing her Bachelor's degree in Spanish and Creative Writing at the University of Miami, Gabrielle earned her Master's in International Communication in May 2010 at American University. She then began work as the International Admissions Counselor in AU's admission office. She now lives in Houston, working as the Assistant Director of Admission at Rice University, where her duties include domestic territories, international recruitment, and application review and staff training, among others. She is also a College Associate for Martel Residential College at Rice, in addition to serving on the Graduate Scholarship Committee at the MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Justis Tuia

Justis Tuia

Justis currently serves as both the Program Manager of the Education through Cultural and Historical Organizations Program and as a Program Officer with the Magnet Schools Assistance Program at the U.S. Department of Education (ED). In these roles, he oversees a portfolio of discretionary grants in the areas of arts education, arts integration, strategic foreign languages, communication, leadership, STEM, gifted education, international baccalaureate, and cross-cultural understanding. His interests and specializations lie in the areas of program management, process optimization, research methods, cross-cultural communication, comparative politics, and East Asian foreign affairs. Justis joined the U.S. Department of Education in January 2010 as a Presidential Management Fellow after spending several years working in the fields of higher education and human resources. His first position with the Federal government was with the Department of Defense at the Pentagon, where he split his efforts between the Office of Culture, Religion, & Military Equal Opportunity and the newly established Office of Sexual Assault Prevention & Response. He currently serves as the president of LGBT and Allied Employees at ED, the principal representative for Asian American Pacific Islander Connections, a board member of the Joseph Priestly District of the Unitarian Universalist Association, and a member of the Truman State University National Alumni Association Board of Directors. He is a former International Scholar Laureate and Diversity Fellow of The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars. He earned an MA in International Communication from American University's School of International Service and a Bachelor of Arts degree, summa cum laude, in Political Science from Truman State University.

Allison Cash Spiro

Allison Cash Spiro

After graduating from the IC program in 2009, Allison began working for NAFSA: Association of International Educators. Allison has had an upward trajectory at NAFSA and was recently promoted to a new position as the Associate Director for Education Abroad Outreach & Regulatory Practice. Having studied abroad four times between undergraduate and graduate school, including an internship at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, Allison is a strong believer in the transformative power of international and cross-cultural education. Her interest in pursuing a career in this field is what led her to the International Communication program at AU. Allison also has a BA in French from the University of Louisville.

Christina Kiser

Christina Kiser

Christina graduated from IC in May 2011 and currently works as a Foreign Operations Specialist with the US Government, liaising with representatives of her agency abroad, and with foreign representatives stationed at their respective embassies here in DC. “I get to act as the face of my agency for the reps and convey to them how much we appreciate their partnerships and trust, and vice versa…  I am really loving it! I also have opportunities to travel internationally, which I am really looking forward to.” At AU, Christina focused on Public Diplomacy and wrote her SRP on the 2008 Beijing Olympics and their reception in American print and broadcast media. Meanwhile, she interned at the British Embassy, and worked with the British Council on Marshall Scholarship applications and other projects. She also interned at the Department of State in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs: “This gave me a great window into the integral role aid programs play in the US's overall public diplomacy strategy, and also gave me fantastic contacts going forward.“


Brigitte Basile

Brigitte is originally from Virginia, and completed her IC degree in 2010 with a focus on intercultural relations. While studying at American, she was a Board Member of International Communication Student Forum and worked as a facilitator and coordinator of the TALK intercultural dialogue program, sponsored by International Student and Scholar Services. Brigitte currently works in D.C. as the International Program Director for the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, a program which sends volunteers to serve for one or two years in economically marginalized communities within the U.S. and overseas.

Distinguished Alumnus Dr. Naren Chitty

IC Alumnus Naren Chitty

Dr. Chitty earned both his MA in International Communication and his PhD in International Relations from SIS. He was recently named Associate Dean – International, Faculty of Arts at Macquaire University, one of Australia’s top universities. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Dr. Chitty has also served as Director of the International Communication Department, Deputy Dean of the Division of Society, Culture, Media and Philosophy, and Director of the Soft Power Advocacy and Research Center (SPARC). He was also the driving force behind introducing international communication degrees at the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral levels at Macquaire. Dr. Chitty is the author of numerous scholarly works in the areas of soft power, public diplomacy, new media, international media, international communication theory and practice, and foreign policy.


In addition to be being a distinguished scholar, Dr. Chitty has been a practitioner in the field. He served as a Counselor for the Sri Lankan Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Washington, DC as well as a national television policy planner and as the deputy director of a community development NGO. Dr Chitty was Secretary General of the International Association for Media and Communication from 2000 through 2004 and was awarded the Order of Australia 'for services to education' in 2009. His experience as a practitioner in the field informs his research as he continues to be on the cutting edge of issues that are pivotal to international communication.