Alumna interns at U.N.


U.N. Women

Joëlle Santos ’09, right, holds up a sign at the International Women’s Day celebration. Other U.N. Women raised awareness for movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp.

Mason Cooney, Copy Editor

Ten years ago Joëlle Santos (‘09) envisioned herself at medical school, tailoring her courses at Convent to subjects like biology, and not expecting to pursue a career in international affairs or gender studies — much less be an intern at U.N. Women.

But now, Santos works at the United Nations, interning in the Peace and Security sector of U.N. Women where she and her sector focus on integrating women in peace-building efforts.

“I’ve always had an attachment to exploring what it is to be a woman,” Santos said, “but it wasn’t until college that I wanted to be an advocate for change through gender and women’s participation in the political sphere.”

Santos is also a full-time student, studying conflict and security at the New School’s International Affairs graduate program, where she has also studied gender and development.

“I have to thank Convent for being a platform to remind me that women have a special place in society and are unfortunately marginalized,” Santos said. “But I always found that the introduction to exploring gendered aspects of my life came from the outside, not from classes directly.”

Santos went to Santa Clara University hoping to go to law school until her sophomore year, when her professor introduced her to comparative politics and international affairs in the Middle East, according to Santos. She then became interested in political science and joined a Model U.N. club.

After college, Santos worked as a Google project manager for two years for different country and regional offices. There, Santos realized that globalization is essential to how a lot of the world works, which she said inspired her to go to the New School for a development focus in her degree.

“It’s always through small moments that I get interested in something else and that opens another door,” Santos said. “In my mind it looks like a tree with all these crazy branches.”

Last summer, Santos spent 2 1/2 months interning in Cape Town to help an organization create an annual report, which she says bred her interest in data visualization, information design and reporting.

“I’ve been using [those skills] at my current job at U.N. Women,” Santos said. “The peace and security unit needs those skills to analyze conflicts in countries and then gather all the information.”

Santos says the advocacy work she and her team do is essential to creating policy.

“This path that I’ve carved out would not be applicable to someone else in my program or my younger brother,” Santos said. “It feels very personal to me and there’s a sort of beauty to the way people have found their life path because it’s very unique to them.”