Maya Whitney graduated with her BA in International Studies from American University’s School of International Service in May 2019. While completing the final semester of her undergraduate degree, Maya began contributing to WIIS as a Program Assistant.
Maya joined WIIS a year after an inspiring semester spent studying abroad in Brussels. This opportunity to study abroad motivated Maya to change her professional focus from the international development sector to defense. While in Brussels, Maya studied the European Union and NATO, visiting European Union institutions and traveling to several countries hoping to accede to the EU: Bosnia, Serbia, and Georgia. Maya is interested in using policy tools to address structural issues as well as bridging the gaps between common people and policy practice.
Maya’s interest in international issues emerged from her high school experience in Vermont. Her high school had an international program with 40% international students boarding and 60% of students attending as local public school students like Maya. The international students added dynamism and perspective to history and world politics classes that piqued Maya’s sustained interest in international studies.
A school trip to India during high school also shaped Maya’s perspectives and interests. Her school group brought a nurse and doctor along with them to run a maternal clinic in South India. One story especially stuck with Maya: a mother came in to the clinic with her seriously undernourished baby, whom she had not been breastfeeding because of advice from her doctor. After further investigation, they discovered several formula representatives in the area who had been encouraging doctors to give such advice to their patients. Maya went on to research censuses in India and what they were missing about maternal and infant death rates. What she learned and saw there contributed to her conviction in the importance of policy to address structural issues: “It is so much slower to work baby to baby than to directly attack multinational corporations,” she said.
In her free time, you can find Maya traveling, enjoying art museums (she especially likes Renaissance and religious art), watching the Bon Appetit channel (she is a foodie!) and spending time with her friends.
Maya’s favorite experience at WIIS was witnessing policy taking place in front of her at the NATO Engages event in April. It was thrilling to have seen the statements and questioning of the Turkish Foreign Minister on US’ Syria policy and then reading about it in her foreign policy newsletter updates the next day, says Maya.