Dahlia Rawji

Interview with Allison Smith, Program Manager at UNAGB


  • Tell us about UNAGB. What is the organization’s mission? What are your organization’s goals? 

UNAGB is the United Nations Association of Greater Boston, and its official mission is to build a strong network of global citizens in the Boston area. We also work to inform, inspire, and mobilize members of the community to engage with critical global issues central to the work and mission of the United Nations. In general, we are trying to represent the UN in Boston. This includes educating the community on what the UN and its agencies do, as well as addressing topics that are most relevant to the Boston community and the international community alike. Our approach includes running a Model United Nations program for middle and high-school students in the Greater Boston Area. More than 3500 students from 100 schools participate each year. This program has been in existence for over ten years, and becomes stronger each year with more interaction with students in classroom and conference settings alike. Model UN as provided by UNAGB is free from Title 1 schools and is successful because it encompasses a variety of 21st century skills like reading, public speaking and critical thinking.


  • What made you want to be part of such an initiative? How did your past experiences shape your career path? 

I did Model UN in college, and fell in love with it after my first experience of being in a conference setting. When I was looking for internships in my junior year of college, I found UNAGB and served as an intern in this office for a year. Upon graduation, I began to work in human resources at Liberty Mutual, where I learned invaluable skills that I use everyday, but also realized that this was not my passion. Since I stayed in the Boston area, I was still able to attend UNAGB events, so when a full-time position came up I immediately applied for the job and eventually got it.


  • What is some advice you have for college students who are looking for jobs right now, but are not sure what they want to pursue?

 It is important to understand that more important than the job description itself is the mission of the organization. In my experience, mission-driven people are the most motivated, and ultimately, it is important to believe in the organization and its goals. Also, it is important to know that when you are starting out in the work force, your first job is rarely your only job.


  • It is my understanding that UNAGB strives to inspire the next generation of global leaders. How does your organization try to reach that younger audience? 

We have many ways that we interact with schools and students. We write curriculum for Model UN. In fact, in some schools, students are required to take it, which could be a once or twice a week commitment. Other students choose to participate in Model UN and get experience from workshops and simulations. In addition to curriculum and other opportunities for Model UN exposure, we provide four conferences a years. Our chairs in the conferences, who we train and rely upon heavily are primarily college students from Northeastern University and once a year we host a conference in Worcester at Clark University and use their students as chairs. We look at Model UN as an education program, which we extend to adults. This appeals to college students and young professionals. We also have a program designed for young professionals, where we host events that discuss global and local issues.


  • What is the most effective way to reach this younger generation?

For the middle and high school students it does not hurt that it is a required class. It forces younger students into the program, and gets them interested in global issues. Model UN almost cherry-picks people itself, as it appeals to students that are interested in a variety of topics. For example, people that are interested in debate, international relations and travel are attracted to Model UN. Furthermore, there are a broad range of topics being discussed from climate change to women’s issues, which also attracts a variety of people. Though we find it challenging to market this program to middle and high school students, once you have a foothold, it is often word of mouth, from one student that loved a workshop, which can also attract students. Teachers and students love Model UN because it is not necessarily designed for the most successful students in the classroom setting. Students who are considered loud, chatty, and unfocused often make successful delegates, as they possess the necessary skills in tow.


  • What have been some of the challenges that you have faced before going into the public sector and with your work in it?

I definitely felt pressure to go into the corporate world as I went to Liberty Mutual before UNAGB, where though I had invaluable experiences, I knew very quickly that it was not my world.

I also feel that there are always people who are passionate about international issues and thus non-profits will never die. Additionally, non-profits provide a different work experience that large companies cannot, which is a community that is involving all and all-inclusive in terms of issue areas, which is very specific to UNAGB. These days more people are drawn to non-profits and this not just inclusive of an older crowd, but a lot of younger people because they are passionate about making a tangible difference with their work as well as being involved in a dynamic workplace.


  • What are some words of advice for this next generation of global leaders? 

My advice would be to be globally minded, compassionate, and to find what you are really interested in and work as hard as you can for it, without succumbing to societal pressures. I think that you really need to promote the spirit of diplomacy, and making the world a better place. We can avoid this by not being petty or overly competitive among non-profits, because we are trying to make the world a better place overall. There is certainly a competition to be the best non-profit, though a budget is not the way to make a difference, rather the tangible difference that you are making will have a more forceful impact and is made even stronger with collaboration and cooperation.


Dahlia Rawji

Wellesley College Class of 2016

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