Politics and International relations grad, Salina Alvaro, sitting in the Google office typing on her laptop

From an arts degree to influencing Australia’s global future

27 September 2021
Majoring in Politics and International Relations created opportunities for recent arts graduate, Salina Alvaro

From interning for a US senator to influencing Australia’s place in the world as a communications manager for the Lowy Institute, Salina Alvaro has cleverly melded her studies with her work.

As a student, Salina took up every opportunity at uni – interning at the European Australian Business Council, studying in Washington DC and interning for a US Senator. As a young graduate she started working at a leading political think tank, so these professional experiences clearly paid off.

Why did you choose to study Politics and International Relations at Sydney?

I chose Politics and International Relations (PIR) because I wanted to better understand and engage with politics.

Studying PIR at Sydney is truly more than the sum of its parts. It’s the conversations with peers and teachers in hallways and shaking hands with political leaders and everything else. The ‘ah-ha!’ moments studying solo in the library added to my experience just as much as the ‘shiny’ moments.

There are courses, teachers, and likeminded peers for whatever your interest, whether you want to learn about territorial disputes in the South China Sea or understand how Australian political parties work.
Salina Alvaro, Politics and International Relations graduate

Having now completed honours, I am confident that the University of Sydney is the best place I could have studied politics and international relations. I would love to start studying PIR at Sydney all over again – it was a real privilege and joy.

What were your tutors like?

I couldn’t have had better teachers throughout my degree for their expertise and experience in both professional and academic fields.

I spent hours every semester learning from the best researchers in my field, with opportunities to ask questions and gain advice for my own research in both classroom settings and one-on-one.
Salina Alvaro, Politics and International Relations graduate

I chose to stay on at the University of Sydney because I admired the department’s academics. Professor Megan Mackenzie and Dr Gorana Grgic agreeing to supervise my thesis was particularly special – they were my dream supervisors!

How about professional experiences while you were studying?

Outside of the classroom, I undertook several professional experiences before graduating.

I interned at the European Australian Business Council (EABC) as part of the Internship for Credit program.

On day one, I found myself being introduced to the President of Croatia. The opportunities to speak with other international leaders and officials continued through to the last day of my placement.
Salina Alvaro, Politics and International Relations graduate

In this role, I assisted with events and member engagement, and conducted research for the CEO in preparation for meetings with government and business leaders.

I also spent a university break in Washington DC, interning for a United States Senator during the day and taking political science classes in the evening. I don’t think you can get a better U.S. politics primer than interning on Capitol Hill.

Salina poses for a photo with C-SPAN political editor Steve Scully.

Pictured: Salina Alvaro with US political editor, Steve Scully. "One of my favourite teachers while studying abroad, C-SPAN's Steve Scully, was selected to moderate the second presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Vice President Joe Biden."

I received incoming media requests, recorded constituent opinions and casework, and wrote legislation co-sponsor requests. The night classes included opportunities to pose questions to presidential campaign strategists and attend intimate panel discussions with White House press secretaries.

I’m still in contact with the Senator’s team and frequently draw on the insights I gained from speaking with constituents from South Carolina.

What’s happened since graduation?

I continued working as a Marketing Associate at ustwo, a leading design and technology company, for the first few months after graduation.

I loved working at ustwo and initially planned to relocate to their New York office. But when I saw that the Lowy Institute was hiring a Communications Manager, I couldn’t help but throw my hat in the ring.

How did you land a job at the Lowy Institute?

I attended Lowy Institute events as a student where I had the opportunity to hear from world leaders like the Secretary General of NATO.

When I saw the role advertised on their website, I thought it sounded like the ideal way to connect my professional experience in marketing and communications with my academic studies in politics and international relations.

How did your PIR studies shape your work at Lowy?

A key part of the role is understanding the Institute’s research and communicating that across a range of platforms for several audiences, including academics, social media followers and foreign policy practitioners.

PIR was the ideal preparation for my role at the Institute as our research covers a range of topics including politics, foreign policy, defence, aid and development, and journalism – all areas covered in my undergraduate coursework.

What does a day in the life of a Communications Manager look like?

The Communications Manager works on external communications promoting the Institute’s events, commentary, and research.

I start the day by checking emails, social media notifications, and top news stories – once these tabs are open, they do not close. After an initial scan for any major stories published overnight, I turn to creating a daily report on media coverage to send to staff, updating our website with new content, and scheduling social media posts for the next few hours.

Mornings always involve reading a lot of news articles, watching tv broadcasts, and listening to radio segments. While working from home, I try to leave my desk for a coffee run by midday.

Afternoons can involve anything from sending a publications alert about new research to editing a podcast. I continue posting to social media throughout the day and always have Twitter and Meltwater open to monitor comments, shares, and media coverage of our work. A group of us finish a daily crossword together via Zoom which is a nice way to break up the afternoon.

Thinking of studying Politics and International Relations?

Click here to check out our FAQ page, answering all your frequenlty asked questions about the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Advanced Studies (Politics and International Relations).

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