Senior Paola Saldana Galvan cultivated a passion for international relations through her years at 鶹Ƶ, culminating in securing a fellowship with the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

After graduation, the FAS will support Saldana Galvan through her graduate studies, after which she will work for them full-time.

“Throughout the time, ’l be having internships and mentorship opportunities with Foreign Service officers, learning more about American agriculture and diplomacy,” Saldana Galvan said.

Much of her work, Saldana Galvan said, will be in international USDA business, trade policy, and food security initiatives. She will be able to help connect American agricultural businesses and farmers with opportunities to grow abroad.

The international relations major from Chicago, Illinois, is passionate about travel, the world, and political science. A clarinet player for more than 10 years, her journey to Lawrence began with music.

Saldana Galvan said she first encountered Lawrence at the Merit School of Music in Chicago. Two Lawrence alumni have worked at and led Merit since 1993: Duffie Adelson ‘73, a longtime employee and former president (2007-2015), helped shape much of the programming and the future of the school, and Charles Grode ‘91 took over as president and executive director in 2015.

“I knew that Lawrence had a really good conservatory and that I wanted to keep playing clarinet while I was studying,” Saldana Galvan said.

The world-class conservatory, smaller class sizes, and travel opportunities at Lawrence all appealed to Saldana Galvan. She considered pursuing the dual degree program to follow her love of the clarinet but ultimately found her passion is with international relations.

On her first visit to Lawrence, Saldana Galvan visited Jason Brozek’s Intro to International Relations class. She found Brozek, Stephen Edward Scarff Professor of International Affairs and associate professor of government, a captivating instructor and was immersed in the topic.

After class, she was able to sit down with Brozek and talk about Lawrence and the Appleton community, which ultimately supported her decision to attend.

“It (international relations) was not something I had previously heard of or considered studying,” Saldana Galvan said. “I ended up choosing international relations because I was interested in being able to travel and learn more about the world...and just immerse myself in that learning.”

Saldana Galvan had the opportunity to do just that over spring break when she embarked on a trip to The Gambia as part of the interdisciplinary course Field Experience in Development. Led by Brozek and Claudena Skran, Edwin & Ruth West Professor of Economics and Social Science and professor of government, the trip allowed students to conduct research abroad and give back to a local community.

While on the trip, Saldana Galvan learned more about The Gambian agricultural sector, how the Gambian government, intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) work together, and food security and nutrition initiatives in the country. She was able to speak to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Green-Up Gambia, an environmental NGO.

“It was a really transformative experience for me,” Saldana Galvan said. “It helped me learn a lot about what makes up the agricultural sector in other places, and how this knowledge can apply to my future career and how closely international travel and opportunities in new and exciting places align to my values.”

Saldana Galvan’s passion for international relations extends beyond the classroom to her involvement as president of the Model United Nations organization on campus. As part of the group, participants meet up with other “delegates” representing a certain country and work together to solve global problems.

Model UN also participates in annual conferences. At the start of Spring Term, they traveled to New York City for a conference. As part of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) committee, one of the topics she worked on was the displacement of children.

“Even though it’s a simulation, it’s still something that’s educational, and it feels meaningful while you’re there,” Saldana Galvan said. “It’s a really good opportunity to grow some of our diplomatic skills and make connections with organizations like the U.N. and learn more about how they work."

As a first-generation student, Saldana Galvan said while she was fortunate to meet a lot of people from different departments across campus, she appreciated the help from Lawrence in connecting her to campus.

“I think that Lawrence does a really good job of connecting you with opportunities and mentors and advisors and connecting you with people in the right places to be able to get what you need out of your education,” Saldana Galvan said.