Alumna Uses International Studies Degree to Make Her Mark on the World

After only six months in the workforce, alumna Diana Sussman Tockstein (’19) is already putting her Bachelor of Arts in International Studies to good use. As the development coordinator for Junior Chamber International (JCI), Sussman Tockstein wears many hats, including running a small nonprofit within JCI called the Global Youth Empowerment Fund. The Fund provides grants for youth-led projects worldwide that advance the United Nations’ (UN) Global Goals for Sustainable Development.

JCI is a nonprofit comprised of young, active citizens from around the world who are engaged and committed to creating impact in their communities. In addition to her role with the Fund, Sussman Tockstein helps to maintain JCI’s external stakeholder partnerships, which include the Ban Ki-moon Center for Global Citizens, the AIESEC youth leadership movement and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Youth, a brainchild of former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

“I enjoy the fact that every day I’m doing something different. Some days I’m managing a grant application, some days I’m on a phone call with a representative from another International NGO discussing partnerships, or sometimes I’m talking to JCI members around the world,” said Sussman Tockstein. “I love how diverse this job is, and it has helped me shape my professional skills a lot. I also enjoy working with people from every corner of the world and having dynamic and collaborative coworkers!”

In November, Sussman Tockstein and her colleagues hosted the annual JCI World Congress in Tallinn, Estonia. This five-day event brought together 5,000 JCI members from 100 countries for trainings in the areas of personal development, digital innovation and sustainability.

“Working to run an event attended by people from all over the world was challenging, but incredibly rewarding,” explained Sussman Tockstein. “During World Congress, I got to meet many of our members and external stakeholders, and push myself out of my professional comfort zone.”

Sussman Tockstein attributes her career success, in part, to the International Studies program at SIUE. According to the alumna, the knowledge she gained about international politics, world history and diverse cultures has served her well in a position centered on international relations. Sussman Tockstein also acknowledges the impact her professors had on her as a student and now as a professional.

“One of the best parts of my education at SIUE was my relationships with my professors. I was floored at how much my professors cared and respected me, both as a student and a person,” said Sussman Tockstein. “One of my favorite classes I took at SIUE was ‘Social and Political Philosophy,’ taught by Dr. Bryan Lueck. That class opened up a different way of thinking for me and helped me understand different points of view, even ones I didn’t agree with. Philosophical and critical thinking helps me every day at my job, and I’m so grateful to Dr. Lueck for explaining philosophy in a way that anyone can understand!”

While she is still early in her career, Sussman Tockstein is already making her mark on the world. The knowledge and experience she gained while at SIUE allowed her to dream big – and to successfully fulfill those dreams upon graduation.

“One of the main comments I got when I was getting my degree is, ‘what can you actually do with a liberal arts degree?’ And the answer (I came to find out) is – anything! My well-rounded education helps me every single day, professionally and personally. I thank SIUE for giving me those tools and skills,” said Sussman Tockstein. “My career has just started, but my world has opened up to something amazing and continues to do so. I advise all [College of Arts and Sciences] students to not give up on your passions or interests. Hard work and a good attitude can open up many doors!”

Photo: Diana Sussman Tockstein (’19), alumna of the SIUE International Studies program

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