March 7, 2013
“Just before the end of Fall 2001 semester, professor Ed Laurance announces the beginning of the brand new, amazing program that the Monterey Institute will offer. It is called IPSS. Students will go and work where they wish “not exactly as interns, but as professional staff with an organization”.
We had about a month from finding out about the program to making a decision and getting on a plane to our destination for the next six months. I was on board immediately! Living and working in Geneva was what I wanted. An opportunity came to work at the Headquarters office of UNHCR, with the policy and evaluation unit.
Arriving early to Geneva I thought I would have time to adjust a bit before starting work several days later. But when the office found out my arrival date, they asked that I immediately come to the office because all the people involved in the project I will be coordinating during my time there are gathering.
My first time to the HQ, a few minutes late to the meeting, going around table with introductions, my turn came… “Hello, my name is Lejla Mavris and I am here with the evaluation and policy analysis unit!” My boss and the rest of the team just looked at me confused – we haven’t even met yet and I was already representing the office! Apparently I made an impression and I was in. I spent incredible six months working as part of the team, not as an outsider intern, but really taken seriously and professionally.
Equipped with good foundations gained from MIIS, IPSS gave me an access to engage in work, gain experience, and further clarify my professional path. My main achievements are (as a result of taking the chance and being the first IPSSer) a published paper by UNHCR, presentation of that paper at the UNU-WIDER in Helsinki, and coordinating an external evaluation of UNHCR programs globally.
Finally coming a full circle exactly 10 years later, I am currently back on refugee issues, working on designing and implementing global and regional courses on security dimensions of managing refugee crises. To this day, I treasure my IPSS experience as one of the best!”