Political Analysis and Public Policy Programme Leads to Exciting International Career
After graduating two years ago from HSE’s Master’s programme in Political Analysis and Public Policy, Svetlana Kosmakova took a job with the International Committee of the Red Cross as a Migration Program Officer. She recently spoke with Sanjay Rajhans of the HSE News Service about her studies at HSE, the trajectory of her career, and what advice she would offer prospective students in Political Analysis and Public Policy.
— Svetlana, could you begin by telling prospective students a bit about the work you do?
— For the past two plus years, I have been working for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). In my current role, I am managing migration-related programmes of the ICRC Regional Delegation for Russia, Belarus and Moldova. Within the Regional Delegation, I am the focal person for the Migration file and its development. This position combines both operational and analytical and strategic components. I am really grateful to the professors for giving us a deep understanding of policy processes and a systematic approach to research.
— What do you remember from your studies? Did your classes consist of lectures only or were they more interactive?
— They were actually very interactive, especially the Conflict Analysis course taught by Professor Nina Belyaeva. I have never attended a course that was so interactive. It was all about group work, team building, and understanding and anticipating your opponent's position.
I recall we had to make a case study and present it. My team chose to analyse the conflict between the US Government and Swiss banking institutions over banking secrecy (when the US wanted Swiss banks to violate the confidentiality and privacy of their US clients). When we chose this case, our knowledge of the banking system was very limited, so it was a big challenge for the group. But I think we managed to handle it quite well. In the process, we learned a lot about each other and how to work in an international team.
— How have your studies helped you get where you are today?
— My studies gave a tremendous impetus to my career. As far back as I can remember, I had a passion for doing good, but it was not before I joined the programme that I managed to turn this passion into a meaningful career.
While studying in the programme, we not only got to learn about rights and responsibilities, but we also got to exercise them by forming a student council and working on behalf of our fellow students.
During my studies, I not only acquired theoretical knowledge in my areas of interest (human rights and migration), but I also completed two research internships: one with the Bureau of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Moscow and another one with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok. Those two internships launched my international career.
— What was the scope of work in your first internship? Could you tell us a bit more about that one?
— My responsibilities included assisting with preparation of background materials, briefings and support for project planning purposes, as well as preparation of analytical material and research. Among other tasks, I completed an analytical review on social protection schemes for migrant workers and members of their families. The knowledge I gained proved to be very useful in my future assignment with the International Labour Organization.
— How did you go about conducting research for your term paper and Master’s thesis? Do you feel like your thesis helped you with your job after graduation?
— For my term paper, I dived deep into the subject of cosmopolitan values and migration, while my Master’s thesis was on human trafficking in Russia and Thailand. Both were supervised by Professor Belyaeva. The overall connection was the topic of migration, and three years after graduation I am still passionate about it, although I am working on it from a different angle now.
As for the sources and data for my thesis, that was the easiest part, I guess. At the time, I was interning with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP) in Bangkok, so I had access to all kinds of data and information, attended thematic meetings and events, and received guidance from my supervisors at HSE and at UN ESCAP.
— What advice would you offer prospective students?
— I would definitely advise them to be ambitious, but focused. The programme offers two different tracks and comprises many different and extremely interesting courses, but working on a lot of small things can divert one’s attention towards another goal. It is important to keep your eye on the bigger picture. A well-tailored, high-quality curriculum is essential for quality learning.