LU alum Fisher '19 dishes on life after graduation in prestigious U.N. internship

Sakurah Fisher '19 shares her story about life after graduation from Lamar University and the Korea University Graduate School of International Studies, her journey to intern at the United Nations Development Programme and her plans for a bright future internationally.

Q: Can you tell our audience about your background?
A: I was born in Tokyo, Japan, and have been raised in Port Arthur, Texas, for the majority of my life. My experience growing up in a multicultural household has had a significant influence on my career interests in the international field and the East Asia region in particular.

I attended Lamar University as a Smith-Hutson Scholar and Reaud Honors College student following my graduation from Memorial High School in 2015. During my time at LU, I conducted undergraduate research as a 2017 McNair Scholar and 2018 David Beck Fellow and engaged in various leadership positions, including Lamar University Student Ambassador, Global Student Ambassador, Executive Vice President of Alpha Delta Pi sorority and President of the LU Rotaract Club, among others.

Thanks to the support I received from LU alums in the Rotary Club of Beaumont throughout my time as an LU Rotaractor, I was selected as a 2020 Rotary Global Grant Scholar to pursue my master’s degree abroad in the area of peace and conflict resolution/prevention. This prestigious scholarship led me to commence my graduate studies at Korea University Graduate School of International Studies in Seoul, South Korea.

Since my graduation, in February of 2022, I accepted an internship offer from the United Nations Development Programme based in New York to join the HQ team of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development Unit.

Sakurah FisherQ: What was your major? When did you graduate?
A: I am a 2019 summa cum laude graduate of Lamar University with a Bachelor's of Arts in Psychology and minors in biology and humanities. I received an M.A. in international studies (peace and security) from Korea University Graduate School of International Studies in February 2022.

Q: What interested you in your major?
A: My broad interests in international humanitarian, development and peace were cultivated through supporting and volunteering in overseas service initiatives with the Rotary Club of Beaumont while in LU Rotaract. These four years of service with LU Rotaract catalyzed my desire to transition towards a career in the field of international affairs while interconnecting my background in psychology with the discipline. After being recommended by Rotarians (who also are LU alums) to apply for the RGGS program, I became increasingly drawn to pursue my overseas studies in peace and conflict resolution/prevention — one of the six priority focuses of Rotary International. By selecting South Korea as my country of choice, due to its unique geopolitical position and relations between China and Japan and North Korea in the context of peace and stability in East Asia, I pursued my master’s degree in international peace and security as a Rotary Global Grant Scholar to Seoul in February 2020.

Q: Can you tell me about life after graduation? About your journey to your current position?
A: From graduation up until the commencement of my master’s program, I worked in the Early Onset Psychosis division of Spindletop Center as a Supported Education and Employment Specialist and a Disaster Crisis Counselor. This rewarding professional experience allowed me to support at-risk youths and young adults experiencing early symptoms of psychosis during their treatment and resilience building, such as through the attainment of income generating activities, educational opportunities and skills training, while participating in community outreach and advocacy. Through my two-year study abroad, I participated in various extra-curricular activities that complemented my learning of global affairs in the context of East Asia. This included conducting refugee policy research as a South Korea Ministry of Foreign Affairs Junior Fellow, interning for a North Korea human rights NGO, writing my thesis as a semester exchange student at Waseda University Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies in Tokyo, Japan, and tutoring North Korean defector children. The practical experiences and skills set that I cultivated within culturally diverse and multinational settings have served as competitive attributes during post-graduation job hunting, which led to the commencement of my internship at UNDP headquarters in early June.

Q: What is your current position?
A: I am currently an HQ intern for the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) Unit of the Regional Bureau of Africa (RBA) at UNDP in New York.

Q: What attracted you to the position?
A: What immediately sparked my attention to the position was the significant role that the TICAD Unit plays in facilitating partnerships with Japanese public and private entities for the effective implementation of 17 Japan-funded development projects in Africa this cycle year. With UNDP as a key partner with the Government of Japan and one of the co-organizers of the 8th annual TICAD.8 that will be held this August in the Republic of Tunisia, Africa, I was ecstatic to apply my background in Japanese and transferable knowledge/skills as a recent graduate to assist in the operational processes of preparing for the dynamic multi-stakeholder conference and supporting the development of homegrown sustainable solutions and peace and security on the African continent at the IGO level.

Q: What are some of your responsibilities?
A: I hold a number of responsibilities that supports the HQ team in smoothly operationalizing the implementation, monitoring, and review process of programs and UNDP-Japan funded projects in over 13 African countries. Weekly tasks often include drafting internal documents (e.g. briefs, meeting minutes, presentations) circulated within UNDP or for Japanese stakeholders, collecting/reviewing/editing project information and communication materials, and providing logistical assistance to the project monitoring/review process, among others. My current priority tasks ahead of the international conference TICAD8 in August are to assist with the development of a comprehensive project impact publication and the creation of a new TICAD webpage. Although overwhelming at times, it is exciting to work among talented international personnel and to cultivate strong relations within my team.

Q: What’s the most interesting aspect of your position?
A: By far, the most interesting aspect of my position is working within a global team of dynamic colleagues based in Tokyo, New York (HQ) and Tunisia. Despite the geographical distance and remoteness of our work, I have the privilege of closely contributing to dynamic communication projects and collaborative tasks during our weekly meetings while learning from United Nations experts on project management, finance, communications and partnerships. I am eager to continue to expand my professional network in the UN while honing new technical skills that will be advantageous in my future profession.

Q: How do you feel LU prepared you for this opportunity?
A: I believe that my involvement in various leadership positions and rigorous research activities while at Lamar University created a strong foundation for my interpersonal communication technical writing and organizational skills to develop and flourish beyond graduation. The fruitful opportunities and immense network that LU provides has had an astronomical impact on the trajectory of my life up to this point. I am forever grateful to the faculty, staff and donors of LU and alums from Rotary, whose generosity has allowed a first-generation woman of color such as myself to strive towards unexpected heights.

Q: What are your plans for the future?
A: Once my internship is complete by the end of the year, I would like to gain more international field experience related to youth/refugee development and empowerment within a developing country/region context. Whether through the UN system or other inter-governmental and international institutions, my immediate objectives are to seek professional opportunities in program or project management, and to strengthen my skills and competency in order to contribute to the advancement of sustainable solutions, resilience and peace in the most vulnerable areas of the world. Although I am still in the early stages of my career, I aspire to one day contribute back to Lamar University and for underrepresented students to have the opportunity to unlock their potential.