Bringing the World to Texas
Southwestern alumnae Rachel Wallis ’02, Chelsea Marshall ’09 and Alana Buenrostro ’11 all work together at the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth.
For Chelsea Marshall, Rachel Wallis and Alana Buenrostro, studying abroad was their favorite experience while they were at Southwestern.
Marshall studied in Spain and Oman, Wallis studied in Paris and England, and Buenrostro studied in Argentina and Mexico.
So how do students turn experiences such as these into jobs after they graduate?
For Marshall, Wallis and Buenrostro, the answer has been to work at the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth. The Council hosts international visitors who come to the Metroplex, and offers educational programming to schools and corporations in the area.
Marshall, who graduated from Southwestern in 2009 with a degree in political science, was the first to land a job at the Council. She serves as manager for the Council’s International Visitor Program, which connects international visitors with local experts and cultural experiences.
Marshall said the Council hosts about 200 visitors a year who are sent to Dallas by the State Department as part of its international professional exchange program. Visitors are sent to the city for three weeks to learn more about specialized topics such as energy, or how the United States addresses issues such as domestic violence and LGBT rights.
“This is one of the few places in Texas you can do international work,” Marshall said.
Wallis, who graduated from Southwestern in 2002 with a double major in political science and French, went to work at the council shortly after Marshall did. She joined the organization after having worked in Washington, D.C., for seven years at an agency that refers visitors to organizations such as Council on behalf of the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program.
Wallis actually spends half her time at the Dallas City Hall, where she is on contract to serve as a protocol officer for the city. She helps host international delegations on behalf of the city and promotes Dallas to the international community. She recently had the opportunity to go to Australia along with a 14-member delegation that included the mayor of Fort Worth and the CEO of the DFW International Airport.
Wallis is responsible for buying gifts for prominent international visitors and writing speaking points for Dallas officials who are hosting events. She also keeps track of all the gifts that are presented to Dallas by foreign dignitaries.
Buenrostro, who graduated from Southwestern in 2011 with a degree in communication studies, is the most recent addition to the Council’s 16-person staff. She joined the organization in July after serving as director of membership for the Greater Dallas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Buenrostro said she was familiar with the World Affairs Council because she joined it shortly after she moved to Dallas.
“I was always impressed by their programs,” she said.
Buenrostro now helps plan programs for the council’s 4,000 member organizations. These include speeches by prominent diplomats, journalists and authors, as well as trips to countries such as Cuba.
“I always knew I wanted to do something with travel,” Buenrostro said. “This is a perfect fit for me.”
Buenrostro said she hopes to use her knowledge of Latin America to bring more programs related to that area to Dallas.
Wallis, Marshall and Buenrostro also said they like their jobs because they are really just a continuation of the liberal arts education they received at Southwestern.
“I have a different topic every week I have to learn about,” Marshall said.
Marshall interned with the Council before she was hired there, and has made a concerted effort since she joined the staff to recruit Southwestern students for internships. In summer 2014, two Southwestern students were selected for the Council’s intern program.
Hunter Jergens, a sophomore international studies major, worked with Marshall helping host international visitors and Mandy Koohi, a senior political science major, worked for the Council’s director of development.
“The summer has been amazing,” Koohi said, adding that she had the opportunity to hear speakers such as the Russian Ambassador to the United States, and Ryan Crocker, who served as the United States Ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq. After she graduates from Southwestern, Koohi wants to attend graduate school to earn a master’s degree in Middle Eastern studies.
Jergens said he had the opportunity to meet visitors from the European Union as well as a group of librarians from Lebanon. He also hopes to attend graduate school and would eventually like to work in Washington, D.C.