We recently caught up with Erisa Takeda ’17, a political science and French double major with a minor in environmental studies. She now works for The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) at their regional office in Jakarta, Indonesia to make it a more inclusive city for citizens with disabilities. She will also attend Sciences Po, a highly selective graduate school in Paris, after she concludes her time in Jakarta. Read more about what Erisa is currently working on, her career plans, and her advice for LMU students in her Q&A below:
Q: We heard you were recently accepted to graduate school (congratulations!). Can you talk a little bit about what you’re studying and what you hope to do with your degree in the future?
A: I was – thank you! I’ll be studying Cultural Policy and Management, pursuing a Masters in Public Policy. In all honesty, I don’t have a definite and concrete plan on what I hope to do with my degree. But, I’ve always been very interested in using subtle approaches, such as culture, to direct and drive international relations, not only at the governmental level, but particularly at the public level. So, in whatever I do in the future, linking culture and international relations will remain at the core. For now – to give you a little more specifics – I’m thinking of working in the field of cultural heritage to see its value in cities. Although, we’ll have to see because I change my mind so often!
Q: What are you currently working on at UNESCO?
A: I work for the Social and Human Sciences sector at the Regional Office in Jakarta, Indonesia. Since this sector is kind of the ‘human rights’ sector of UNESCO, I help with several projects. One such example is building inclusive societies/cities for persons with disabilities and addressing the bioethics of transboundary haze and its effect on the most marginalized communities. Also, since I was initially supposed to work for the Culture sector, the Programme Specialist for Culture has also asked me to help with her project that promotes and protects cultural rights for persons with disabilities.
Q: What have been the most challenging and the most rewarding parts of your position?
A: One thing that I still find challenging is understanding the inner workings of the UN. Despite my major being political science and wanting to work at the UN for a while, I never knew how it really did its job – how it translated, let’s say, the ideas ingrained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or Sustainable Development Goals to tangible outcomes. Now that I’ve worked on some projects, I’m getting a clearer picture, but I still have a lot to learn. But thanks to my incredible boss and team, they have made this learning curve one of the most rewarding aspects of the job. I’m treated as an employee (not an intern), and I am able to attend all meetings and be deeply involved in all projects. Through this experience, I’m learning a lot about policymaking as well, which will be beneficial for my grad program.
Q: How has your LMU education helped you with your career goals?
A: Because of my interest in various subjects, the liberal arts education suited me well. But I would say that the main component that almost forced me to hone in on what I wanted to do in the future was the honors’ thesis. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea to do this, especially since it is not compulsory, but it really propels you to explore all your interests, including career/grad school options, because it’d be very difficult to write several dozens of pages on something that bores you. Through this research and writing process, I rediscovered certain topics that I’ve always been curious about – and this helped me find my grad school program and the general path I want my career to go.
I should also add that professors have your best interest at heart. So it was really helpful for me to talk to them about my general interests and to get their perspective on what they think my strengths are.
Q: What is some advice you want to give to LMU students?
A: Just because I graduated, I am not instantly a master in life and am in no position to be giving advice. But I would say that if you’re anything like me, who grew up wanting to be a ballerina for a second and a lawyer and a graphic designer the next – basically someone who has never had a real clue what they wanted to do and is struggling to figure out their future plans – take classes that grab your attention, even if it’s just an inkling. And pursue your curiosity.
Lastly, despite its difficulty, don’t worry. I know that’s a phrase that gets thrown around so often, but it’s true. There really is no point in worrying – it just invades the space in your mind that could be useful for something else.