Globally Engaged Career Panel

Join the International Institute for a virtual conversation with a panel of distinguished professionals, all graduates of U-M area studies programs, who have pursued career paths with a global reach. Our panelists will share their stories and experiences, based on questions prepared in advance by U-M Masters in International and Regional Studies (MIRS) students. This event is open to anyone seeking new perspectives on globally engaged career paths and job search insights.

An open Q&A will follow!
Virtual meeting room:


Sarah M. Brooks is a program manager and human rights advocate at the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), a non-governmental organization based in Geneva. Her work focuses on support to and advocacy for human rights defenders in the Asian region as well as defenders of migrant and refugee rights. Prior to joining ISHR, Sarah worked to advance US foreign policy in the area of labor rights and supply chains; she holds Master’s degrees in Chinese Studies and Public Policy from the University of Michigan.

Lauren Cooper directs the Forest Carbon and Climate Program for Michigan State University Forestry Department and has experience in forest carbon project development and wood utilization linkages to sustainability. With an emphasis in Latin America, her current research looks at socio-ecological carbon cycling, conservation incentives, and linking human development with conservation. Her expertise is in policy implementation, impact assessment, stakeholder engagement, knowledge transfer, and forestry. She has field experience in Peru, Mexico, and Ecuador, and previously worked in Washington, DC at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) and has consulted with the World Bank and the United States Forest Service International Programs. Lauren received a Master of Science in Environmental Planning from the School of Natural Resources and Environment and was received both an Academic Year and Summer Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowship for the Quechua language at the University of Michigan.

Jessica Hill Riggs is an academic program specialist and a LEO lecturer at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies and the Program for International and Comparative Studies at the University of Michigan. She earned a dual master’s degree in Southeast Asian Studies and Public Policy from U-M in 2015. Jessica has been conducting research in Southeast Asia for the past decade on topics of Buddhist and Muslim social activism, interfaith dialogue, and trauma studies. She is the co-creator of the MENA-SEA teacher training program, a year-long fellowship program at U-M for K-12 teachers to learn about the religions and cultures of the Middle East and Southeast Asia. She is currently undertaking training to become a Vipassana meditation teacher and enjoys shooting film photography in her spare time.

Benjamin Sweeney is a program manager at the Federal Voting Assistance Program which assists overseas US citizens (including students studying abroad!), service members, and their families with absentee voting. Prior to this position, work in international development focusing on Eastern Europe and Eurasia, primarily on USAID-funded projects. He interned at the Eurasia Foundation on a social exchange program with Russia and later with IRG/Engility on a project promoting the development of energy legislation and regulation systems in Eastern Europe and Eurasia. He contributed to a number of projects with Internews, focusing on promoting journalism and press freedom in Eurasia. His next job brought him to Chemonics International Inc. where he managed projects focused on agricultural development in Moldova and promoting civic reform and development in eastern Ukraine. Benjamin graduated from the University of Toronto with a BA in Political Science, European Studies, and Russian language. Following this, he studied on a Fulbright grant in Georgia. He received a dual MA/MPP degree in Public Policy and Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies from the University of Michigan and studied in Georgia on a Boren Fellowship.

Event Moderators:

Katherine Downs, MA/MSW student in Middle East and North African Studies and Social Work; and Aaron Hoover, MA candidate in Japanese Studies.

Generous funding for this event comes from the following centers and programs:
Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies
Masters in International and Regional Studies Program
Kenneth G. Lieberthal and Richard H. Rogel Center for Chinese Studies
Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies
Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies
Center for Southeast Asian Studies
Center for South Asian Studies
Nam Center for Korean Studies
Center for Japanese Studies

This event is funded in part by five (5) Title VI National Resource Center grants from the US Department of Education.