Founding Editor-in-Chief | Foreign Policy Rising
You are the Founding Editor-in-Chief of Foreign Policy Rising. Tell us about what inspired you to launch a platform that advocates for women in political journalism.
I was having wine with a good group of female friends—mostly writers and recent graduates from my master’s program—talking about how challenging it can be to break into foreign policy and to begin writing and putting our voices into the world. That’s when we decided to start Foreign Policy Rising—as a way to elevate women’s voices in the space and get more women writing.
Then after doing my research, I realized there was also a “market need” for promoting political journalism among women. I love the work of Foreign Policy Interrupted, an organization working to address the gender disparity of foreign policy experts in the media. But they’re mostly geared toward mid- to senior-level women who’ve already broken into the field. There’s still a lot more we can do to get young women into foreign policy, international politics, and political journalism.
You've lived abroad in Switzerland, Spain, and the United Kingdom. As an American, how would you describe your experience overseas? Has your experience changed since the election of Donald Trump?
Living abroad has shaped who I am and how I view the world. It’s taught me to adapt quickly to the cultural, linguistic, and professional context I’m in.
I’ve also never felt more American than I have since living abroad, which seems counterintuitive especially because my experience as an American is a multicultural one. My mother was born in the former Yugoslavia, and my father’s parents immigrated to New York from Ireland.
After the election, a lot of my friends reached out and said: “you’re so lucky to be far away from all this.” My reaction has been the opposite. Trump’s election has started to make me think about my transition back to the States. I care deeply about US politics and US foreign policy, and I feel an urge to return home to help change things.
You have experience as a freelance and self-employed writer. Tell us about the benefits, and what has been challenging.
As a consultant, you have to be skilled in your trade, which, in my case, is communications, writing, and editing. But you also need to be skilled in customer service, finance, accounting, and business development. I’ve loved the experience for that reason. It’s forced me to practice and strengthen numerous skills.
I also love being able to take on projects that I find interesting. One of the organizations I’m working with now, for instance, is Ada-AI—a non-profit dedicated to making sure Artificial Intelligence (AI) is more inclusive and participatory on a global scale.
Most importantly, I’d be nowhere without my self-employed friends in London. All of them women, actually. We get together and talk about how things are going or how much we charge for different projects. These open and honest conversations help us navigate negotiations and remember our value. Freelancing can be isolating and lonely, but having a network of peers has helped me through it.
You were a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Spain. Tell us about your experience.
It was fantastic to be immersed in a Spanish public school system, but I was really excited about the project I launched outside of teaching: a bilingual poetry workshop. I had people from the Madrid community—Brits, Americans, and Spaniards—come to my house every Sunday to read poetry in English and Spanish, and write and share in whichever language they preferred.
Although it started out structured, like reading and discussing a poem by Alfonsina Storni, our discussions would evolve into beautiful conversations about life, politics, philosophy, and culture. It got me hooked on the idea of how to bring different cultures and people together—to meet over poetry and coffee and move our conversations forward.
When did your interests in international affairs, feminism, and gender equality become clear to you?
Being a feminist and gender equity advocate has been a part of who I am for as long as I can remember, but it was implicit. As a child, I simply felt that things should be equal. I have an incredible mother who helped me see that. She was denied a formal education because of her cultural background (she comes from a traditional Albanian family), but she’s always been so strong and entrepreneurial.
I became explicitly feminist when I found the language to talk about it. When words like “gender equality” were introduced into my vocabulary. I had strong female friends who encouraged me to read feminist books and articles, and we would discuss feminist leaders and thinkers like Gloria Steinem.
You served as a Program Associate at New America NYC. What did you do, and how did the position influence your career interests?
At New America, I organized and managed the think tank’s events in New York, which meant everything from generating ideas, preparing invitations, live tweeting, and writing post-event articles. It exposed me to the various aspects of event planning and communications.
It also meant that I had to dive into a new policy issue every week, exploring topics like criminal justice reform or what was happening in Syria, or listening to conversations between Anne-Marie Slaughter and global thinkers like David Miliband and Eric Schmidt. Through these events, I met so many interesting people—thinkers and journalists—and learned a lot really quickly. The experiences helped shape my decision pursue a career in international politics and policy.
What did you study at university, and how has it helped you in achieving success?
For my undergraduate studies, I went to Boston College (BC) where I majored in English and minored in Hispanic Studies. Studying English was the best decision I could have made. It taught me writing and communication skills, the ability to analyze a text with nuance and depth and to argue a point cogently with evidence. These skills have served as the backbone for a lot of the work I do, not just as a writer, but as an analyst, too.
In graduate school, I studied International Relations Theory at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). In my dissertation, I used the same tools I developed at BC to analyze literature—like close readings of texts—to talk about international politics and foreign policy. It provided me with an interesting edge.
Madeline was the recipient of the 2015-16 MSc in International Relations Theory Fred Halliday Dissertation Prize.
You interned at the United Nations. How did you get your foot in the door at the UN?
I applied online. This isn’t always the advice people give. You should also be networking and reaching out to people, but I got lucky. One piece of advice I’d give to women especially: If you really want something, but don’t fit all the qualifications or think it’s too competitive, apply anyway. Make the case for yourself. Define what makes you different.
The primary challenge with the United Nations internship was that it wasn’t paid. So in order to make it work, I continued doing my consulting work some days, in the evenings, and on the weekends. The people I worked with understood and were flexible, which I appreciated.
What is the career trajectory you envision for yourself in the next 3 or 5 years?
Sometimes, when you have a really strict plan, you might miss opportunities that come out of left field. No matter what plans I have for my career, I like to keep some elasticity, flexibility, and open-mindedness to things that might surprise me.
So in the next 3 to 5 years, I still want to be growing, to feel challenged. (You can ask me that when I’m 70 years old, and I’ll probably say the same thing!) I want to be around people who inspire me, working on a mission that I can get behind and with people I believe in. I think that if you make decisions based on your guiding principles, values, and gut, then each step you make will take you in the right direction.
What advice might you offer to young women interested in foreign affairs and/or a career in journalism?
Don’t be afraid to put your voice out there, and I know it can sound trite, but you need to produce and create—whether or not it’s perfect. I can’t tell you how many times I write an article and think it’s not good enough. But perfect is the enemy of the good. It’s better to create and put your voice out there, to contribute to the conversation. Every time you do it, you’ll gain more confidence.
Madeleine Albright has a great quote: “It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent.” You can only develop your voice if you speak up and put your words, ideas, and voice on paper.