Liberal Arts in Action
Political Science & International Relations

Josh Simons '08 (International Relations)

Senior Research Associate

I currently conduct public policy studies and am one of the New York state's leading experts in local redistricting. The journey was a pretty straight line really. I was a research assistant to Dr. Benjamin, and we received a grant to do a more robust study on the same topic I was working on as a student. He convinced me to put off law school for a year to work on that study, and 14 years later, here I am. My studies prepared me in a variety of ways including subject matter expertise. I also picked up some very useful skills from some of the electives I took during my last semester (like geography/GIS), and those turned out to be tremendously helpful.

A liberal arts education goes far beyond general education topics, or even specific subject matter expertise. A liberal arts education, at its core, is learning how to learn, and hopefully fostering a sense of enjoyment from learning. A liberal arts education is not a trade school. It behooves us to teach our students marketable job skills, but that should be secondary to teaching them how to learn and adapt. A liberal arts education trains the mind to recognize patterns, to assimilate information into understanding, and reject rigidity in thinking, favoring the ability to allow new information to augment our understanding of a thing.

Dr. Gerald Benjamin was my professor, my mentor, my boss, and is my friend. In many ways he inspired me to become the professional I am today. I also have to give credit to Dr. Nancy Kassop. She inspired me to believe in myself, and really saw something in me that even I could not see.

December 2022 


Blerta Cela '03 (International Relations)

Blerta CelaDeputy Regional Director for UN Women for Europe and Central Asia

I am the Deputy Regional Director for UN Women for Europe and Central Asia. I manage the regional team based in Istanbul and our program presences in Europe and Central Asia. Currently, I am coordinating COVID-19 responses in the region to ensure that women and girls and gender equality are at the forefront of the responses. I also coordinate the whole regional office program portfolio, including resource mobilization and partnership development. I deliver presentations in many forums and high-level meetings, including with governments, civil society, development partners, ambassadors, media, private sector and other stakeholders. Studying in New Paltz provided me with an opportunity to know and deepen my passion for international development and human rights and to learn from brilliant professors. Being exposed to a multicultural environment enhanced my ability to communicate and connect with people from different cultures and backgrounds - which has been a critical part of my career and professional development.

The liberal arts education in New Paltz provided me with well-rounded knowledge and skills across various areas. It made me recognize that development change is a long-term adaptive process and requires a culture of ideas, knowledge and innovation. It enhanced my curiosity and free thinking, writing and sharing of knowledge and ideas - which ever since has provided me with a broad perspective on programming and management approaches and building lasting partnerships.

Professor Kathleen Dowley remains one of my most favorite professors to this day. She inspired me with her impeccable knowledge of various political systems around the world, women and politics and the Model UN. It is thanks to her that I started learning more about the United Nations and developed a strong passion to join the UN family. I still refer to her lessons and schools of thought on women and politics in my areas of work.

May 2020 

Tenzin Rangdol ‘16 (International Relations)

Tenzin RangdolGraduate Student at Johns Hopkins University

This fall, I will be attending the Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), as a recipient of the Dalai Lama Foundation Graduate Scholarship. The scholarship exists to develop the human capital of the Tibetan people “by supporting the pursuit of excellence among Tibetan students in a field of graduate studies of their choice.” As a Tibetan American, I often struggled to reconcile the hardships that my grandparents and parents had endured as refugees, with my American identity and newfound interests. However, through academic exploration and service within my local community, I understood that the American identity is not defined by a single arc but by a plethora of unique perspectives.

My collective experiences, passion for international affairs and desire for a career dedicated to service have solidified my commitment to a career in diplomacy. I realize how a career in diplomacy requires the duality of tactfully representing one’s national interests while simultaneously understanding the nuances of a foreign culture. I am confident that the rigorous international relations program at SUNY New Paltz and at SAIS will help me develop the analytical skills and foreign policy acumen that will enable me to thrive within this duality.

August 2018

Lianna Faruolo '11 (International Relations)

Lianna FaruoloMarket Research and Due Diligence Analyst, Greater China Region

Currently based in Taipei, I conduct contract work for several investment advisors and due diligence firms. This usually involves utilizing open-source information and my own network to establish a firm understanding of the target firm/person's business and personal history, relations within the firm, the government, and other circles, other assets and interests, patterns of illegal activity or other unsavory behavior, and the firm's positioning within the industry and future outlook. I also work as an English teacher and occasionally co-lecture at a local university's Political Science Department. 

Studying international relations, political science and economics laid the foundation for my general knowledge of the international situation and the dynamics of political economies, developing world issues and security. This has enabled me to identify an industry of interest and at once roughly understand the dynamics and influences of the political economies surrounding it. My thesis/capstone and independent studies gave me the tools required to effectively conduct independent research and analysis. I absolutely utilize these resources with every new project. Also, the comprehensive nature of the programs has given me an edge whereby I can seamlessly transition from one industry to another. As an example, when I arrived to Taiwan, I focused on military studies and security, business and government relations, then on to SOE and corruption cases, to today currently focusing on the Chinese online industry. Whatever new focus tomorrow brings, I'm certain I'll be utilizing the knowledge I gained at New Paltz to help me prepare for it. 

Of course the most important and influential aspect of the programs were the resources provided by the professors both in and out of lecture classes. They constantly challenged us to create more informed and critical analysis, which continues to influence and strengthen my current professional work.

 April 2016

Abe Uchitelle '10 (Political Science)

Abe UchitellePresident of DragonSearch

I lead business development for a digital marketing agency. In addition to managing our sales efforts, I'm also a member of the company's leadership team, helping to drive the strategic direction of our company.

New Paltz gave me a great education, and more importantly an opportunity to take a leadership role in student government and to create independent study opportunities. I blended my political science studies with my philosophy minor to focus on a deep dive in political theory. Between the two departments, we put together texts that complimented each other and explored the foundations of political theory from the perspective of both departments. At the end of the day, you get out what you put in, and New Paltz was a great environment to grow. 

I like to say that my liberal arts education taught me how to learn and how to reason. With this foundation, I feel as though I could step into any business and have an impact no matter what the subject matter or product. It helped me gain confidence as my ideas were constantly challenged by my peers and professors, and it helped me think critically about any situation. 

August 2016 

Michelle Feldstein '10 (International Relations)

Michelle FeldsteinPolicy Analyst, Department of Homeland Security

As an undergraduate student in international relations at SUNY New Paltz, I never would have imagined that I would one day work as a policy analyst supporting the Department of Homeland Security. I attribute my academic and professional interests to the stimulating courses and dynamic professors I had throughout my tenure at New Paltz. The Honors Program further cultivated my interest in homeland security, and I wrote my Honors thesis on U.S. counterterrorism efforts.

To further advance my knowledge of security issues, I enrolled in and completed a Master of Arts in Global Security Studies at Johns Hopkins University, where I researched international efforts to combat Islamist radicalization.

Ultimately, I credit my New Paltz liberal arts education with giving me the confidence to pursue a field that I am deeply passionate about and make it a career.

April 2016