Elizabeth Hegedus-Berthold is determined to make the world a better place. A 2009 graduate in international affairs from Northern Arizona University, she is currently working for the County Supervisors Association, which is a lobbying and policy research organization for Arizona elected county supervisors. According to Elizabeth, her connections helped get her the job—her boss "loves to hire NAU students because they're skilled and thorough." More importantly for her, she says, is the way that those same connections are helping to shape her future. This fall, Elizabeth will travel to Bologna, Italy to begin graduate work at the prestigious Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), whose alumni typically go on to positions of influence around the globe.
"(Being admitted to Hopkins) is a huge and incredible thing for me—it's really the kind of experience that can completely change your life," she says. "I'm very proud and very pleased by the education that I got, and it was my academic advisor, Geeta Chowdry, who encouraged me to apply for this (graduate) program, and to do an undergraduate thesis. Without her help and support, and the support of the other faculty who helped me, this wouldn't even be possible."
Admission to SAIS requires more than just being a great student, however, only one out of every 100 applicants are admitted. For Elizabeth, her volunteer work and international experience also played a key role. Those experiences have also been helpful to many others, as well. For instance, she volunteers with No Más Meurtes ("No More Death"), which is an organization that provides food, water, and emergency medical care to people who are in danger on the U.S./Mexico border.
"My experiences with No Más Muertes began when I was at NAU," says Hegedus-Berthold. "There is an incredible academic community surrounding border issues there. I connected with some members of the group through Mark Montoya's Race, Ethnicity, and Citizenship class: there were also some people in the history department that were really involved in that community."
According to Elizabeth, most of her international travel experiences also occurred through her connections with NAU. As part of her work with No Más Muertes, she spent time in Mexico. As a member of the forensics and debate team, however, she traveled across the Atlantic.
"I was part of the speech and debate team, and got to travel to Europe with additional support from the university, including the vice provost for research and the political science department," Elizabeth said. "I went to two international debate tournaments—one in Dublin, Ireland, and one in Slovenia, near the Croatian border."
These international experiences had a transformative effect on Elizabeth, and helped open her eyes to the variety of perspectives found around the world.
"It was amazing to participate in international debate tournaments with students from all over the world," she says. "Things take on a whole new dimension in that environment. I remember when a U.S. state department employee came to speak at the debate tournament in Slovenia, and one of the students from Kosovo really held her accountable for some of the things that had happened in his town during the U.S. military presence there. It was a very interesting conversation to witness."
As she looks to the future, Elizabeth says she will always be glad for the undergraduate foundation she received.
"I continue to be very grateful and very glad that I chose to study at NAU," she says. "I could not have been more pleased with the education I got there."