Political Science Turns Practical: Sophomore Works as Intern at UN

Univ. Communications – Not only is Lendsey Achudi ’14 the sole undergraduate in the Kenyan Mission to the United Nations, she’s the only female intern. But far from being intimidated, she embraces the chance to make her own mark. As an assistant to Ambassador Dr. Josephine Ojiambo, her responsibilities range from drafting reports to preparing for meetings with high-level diplomats.

Achudi began her internship over winter break, working full-time for three weeks at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. She continues her internship over the spring semester, flying to New York on Wednesday afternoons and coming back to Rochester on Saturdays.

Is it a challenge? “Sometimes it can feel overwhelming. But I’m so grateful for the experience,” said Achudi. “Besides getting into the University of Rochester, this has become the greatest professional experience of my life!”

Her journey started at a conference in Spain called Ending Violence on the Planet and Dysfunction in Families. At the conference, she did her best to stand out. “I sought out the keynote speakers and asked critical questions, just as I’ve been encouraged to do by my professors,” Achudi said. “This type of networking is very important.”

And her outgoing personality paid off. A participant of the conference encouraged Achudi to reach out to the Kenyan delegation to the UN, formally known as the Kenyan Mission, about internship opportunities. She found herself submitting an application and a letter of acceptance arrived soon after.

Achudi’s path was eased by a broad range of resources available to undergraduates, including those from the David T. Kearns Center for Leadership & Diversity in Arts, Sciences & Engineering and the Admissions and Financial Aid Office, which underwrote her travel expenses. “If I found an opportunity, there were offices on campus willing to support me in taking advantage of it,” she explained. She’s grateful to three individuals in particular. “I can’t thank Dean Burdick, Dean Feldman, and Dean Kraus enough. They’ve been incredibly helpful!”

At the UN, Achudi works directly with Dr. Ojiambo, and there is an obvious excitement when she talks about her. “She is a woman working in a male-dominated environment. That’s amazing for a Kenyan and it shows that she is a very hardworking woman of strong character.” Achudi accompanies the Ambassador into high-level meetings, including those with the Kenyan Mission and the United Nations Security Council. With a card that identifies her as a Kenyan Adviser, she relishes her chance to gain insight into the inner workings of the UN.

Achudi stresses her personal development from the experience. Seeing firsthand how diplomatic engagements are conducted has been enormously helpful to her studies as an international relations major. “Theory and practice really can be useful together,” she says. “The internship has made me a more resilient person, as well.” Besides managing her classes, she also has to balance her responsibilities as a Renaissance Scholar, Model UN member, and Freshman Fellow.

Does she have any advice for other students? “U of R students have access to so many opportunities, but they don’t always recognize them. Everyone should go out and take advantage of all the possibilities out there.”

Article written by Dan Wang, a sophomore at Rochester, who studies philosophy and economics. Photos courtesy of Lendsey Achudi.

Research Grant Sends Undergrad to Kenya

Office of Undergraduate Research – University of Rochester student Theresa Kurtz ’12, spent the first month of her summer vacation traveling abroad to Kenya, Africa through funding provided by a Research and Innovation Grant, awarded to her upon admission to the University.

For four weeks, Kurtz lived with a host family in an apartment outside of one of the largest slums in Africa, Kibera. In Kibera, she delivered food to sick families and taught science at a small school. She also teamed up with a few Canadian students to help a local chief and pastor to find families in need. With assistance from local guides, the group was able to go into the homes of people and learn how these families live and support themselves in Kibera. “The families were eager to share their stories and enormously grateful for our aid,” Kurtz said.

When she wasn’t trudging through the alleys of Kibera, Kurtz taught science to grades 3, 5, and 6 at Damside School. “At first the students were ambivalent towards me and my unfamiliar teaching style,” she said, “But–with the help of candies and educational games–they started seeking me out in the schoolyard and begging me to come teach them science.”

Kurtz, who is a double major in math and neuroscience, said that she will never forget the talented students that she met in Kibera and is hoping to support Damside School in the near future.  “Though I study math and neuroscience at UR, the grant gave me the chance to research the educational system and lifestyle of citizens in Kenya from an anthropologic perspective,” she explained. “I am thankful for the insight I’ve received from my excursion, and I hope to make a bigger impact in this society now that I have been exposed to the problems and wonders of Kibera.”

For more news on undergraduate research, visit http://www.rochester.edu/college/ugresearch/index.html

Article and photos courtesy of Theresa Kurtz