Spotlight on Social Sciences Alumni: Jonathan Elkin
Name: Jonathan Elkin
Education (UR and Additional): BA (Political Science & African/African-American Studies), University of Rochester, 2008
Job Title: Analyst
Employer: Fontheim International
Community activities: Volunteer with Voices for Sudan and the International Rescue Committee
When and how did you choose your major?
I doubled majored in political science and African/African-American studies (AAS) and decided on each at very different stages of my college career. I remember knowing that I wanted to major in political science before I even applied to college. I think at that point I had aspirations of running for political office. It was a subject that interested me and I felt like I thrived in discussion-based classes. My decision to major in AAS was a little less premeditated. I took my first class in the AAS department during the first semester of my freshmen year. It was called “The History of Race in America” and is taught every four years by Professor Hudson. The class was challenging and intellectually stimulating. As I continued to take classes in the AAS department, my appreciation for the academic and personal development I was gaining, coupled with the seminar-style class environments, led me to take classes in AAS nearly every semester until at one point I realized that I could actually complete a major in AAS. So I did!
What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?
I was involved with Hillel throughout my time at Rochester and was an RA for two years. I met a lot of great people, and gained some very close friends, through my involvement in both communities and also had the opportunity to cultivate and develop leadership skills. The experience of holding leadership positions in college gave me some additional confidence upon graduation as well as valuable skills that I’ve been able to draw upon in the years since then.
What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?
After graduation I joined the Peace Corps where I lived and worked in Azerbaijan for two years. After spending a semester abroad in Kenya, I wanted a more immersive cross-cultural experience and an opportunity to learn about, and engage in, the development of another community. It was an exceptionally rich and constantly stimulating experience – one that I think will inform a lot of what I do in the years ahead.
What do you do now and why did you choose this career?
I work as an analyst at Fontheim International – a consulting firm specializing in corporate social responsibility and international trade. Having spent a few years in the international development field as a volunteer and later at a nonprofit, I became curious about the potential to maximize the sustainability of development work when done through public-private partnerships and international business. As such, the chance to learn from, and contribute to, the work at Fontheim International seemed like a unique opportunity to gain a better understanding of this way of promoting growth, civil society, and human rights abroad.
How do you balance your work and personal life?
It can definitely be a challenge to balance work and personal life – I just try to maximize the time that I have. Unlike college, it’s nice to have a clear break between work time and personal time and I try to ensure that personal time doesn’t revolve too much around preparation for the next day.
What advice do you have for current students?
My advice for current students would be to go to office hours, see speakers whenever they come to the university, and try to find a good balance between work and personal life. College, and the University of Rochester in particular, provides many opportunities to be exposed to new and stimulating ideas and form meaningful relationships with faculty and fellow students. I wish I did a better job in some of these areas while I was a student – there really is a place for all of it.