Second Liberal Arts student selected as a 2020 Penn State UNESCO Fellow

Kirsten Schlorff
October 30, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Alejandra Castaneda, a rising senior majoring in international politics (international relations concentration) and management information systems, with a minor in French, has been named a 2020 United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Fellow. She joins fellow Penn State student Laura Guay and five students from other universities who will complete six-to-12-month fellowships at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France, during the upcoming year.

UNESCO seeks to promote peace and security internationally through collaborative activities focusing on education, science, and cultural heritage. The Penn State UNESCO Fellows Program is a highly selective and significant professional development experience for exceptional graduate and/or upper-level undergraduate students.

“UNESCO and I are delighted to have Alejandra as one of this year’s Fellows,” said Mark Brennan, Penn State’s UNESCO chair in community, leadership, and youth development and professor of agricultural economics, sociology, and education in the College of Agricultural Sciences. “Her personal experience and expert training at Penn State will prove invaluable as she works with several key UNESCO sectors.”

Before the new Fellows begin their assignment, they will each complete 40 hours of pre-departure training, interact with UNESCO staff, and engage in other professional preparation designed to ensure they are prepared to contribute to UNESCO and U.S. mission programs immediately and significantly.

“When I found out about the program, I was actually in Paris taking some really interesting classes, including a course on terrorism and security,” said Castaneda, who fell in love with “the City of Lights” while studying there and looks forward to returning in 2020. “I am excited that preventing violent extremism is one of the Fellowship’s core objectives, because I am very passionate about promoting peace and international collaboration.”

As part of her internship at Deloitte in Washington, D.C., this past summer, Castaneda worked on a social impact initiative with La Juanfe, a nonprofit organization based in Cartagena, Colombia, that aims to break the cycles of poverty of adolescent mothers.

“In such a globalized world, I think cross-cultural communication is one of the most valuable skills you can have,” Castaneda said. “I highly value the importance of culture, having experienced many different cultures since my family emigrated from Colombia to the United States when I was only two years old.”

The UNESCO Fellowship will likely be very different from Castaneda’s other experiences, most of which have been more business-oriented. However, she said it will provide her with a more well-rounded background should she decide to pursue a career in international relations.

Castaneda’s opportunities and experiences at Penn State, including the UNESCO Fellowship, have led her to develop professional interests in international relations, political science, and technology. After graduating in December 2020, she plans to return to Washington, D.C., to work as a technology consultant for Deloitte.

  • Mark Brennan

    Mark Brennan, Penn State UNESCO Chair Professor and professor of leadership and community development.

    IMAGE: Penn State
Last Updated October 30, 2019