July 1, 2019Alumni Cameron Michaely Noel [View Image]
2012 graduate Cameron Noël’s time at the School of World Studies and studying abroad have proven instrumental to his professional and personal lives. Now a program assistant with USAID’s Power Africa partnership, he previously worked with the UN’s World Food Programme. Noël credits his School of World Studies education with giving him “a solid foundation for a global career” further cemented by his study abroad and internship experiences while here.
Noël double majored in International Studies concentrating in Social Justice and French. His coursework also included Chinese and German. The classes here helped him think critically about how international systems work or fail to work and where he could fit in professionally. On a personal level, the School of World Studies made Noël “educated…[in such] a profound sense” that it “formed his worldview.”
While technical skills are important to the energy development work done by organizations like Power Africa, understanding “the cultural context” of the people with whom they collaborate and serve is vital to success. When Noël screens and interviews candidates, he’s found that it’s both clear and advantageous when potential hires have a nuanced “understanding of of the world… in a lived way” as fostered by the School of World Studies.
Noël greatly appreciates our “interdisciplinary approach” and “flexibility.” He benefited from the variety of opportunities and resources the school offers such as the media center. He credits the faculty and staff as supportive “mentors” who helped set him on his path. The School of World Studies “felt like a family” and has been an “important piece of [his] current success.”
Studying abroad, not just once but thrice, has also been vital to developing Noël’s success and worldview. After spending a semester in France, he pursued summer programs in China and Guatemala. Noël’s time in France helped him achieve fluency in French, a skill he uses regularly in his current position and because of which he was assigned Niger and Guinea portfolios by Power Africa. This experience also exposed Noël to how “different cultures function in the nitty gritty” and gave him the necessary confidence to negotiate such cultural differences.
Noël’s subsequent global education in China and Guatemala helped him further focus on his skills and career goals. In China, Noël worked within the local community and found how much he loved being in the role of an educator and cultural ambassador. His time in Guatemala proved to be “a keystone of [his] experience at VCU.” By working directly with the community there to help create sustainable livelihoods, Noël realized how to combine his passion for international work with environmental justice into a cohesive career trajectory.
All three of Noël’s study abroad experiences “led to a common point” which inspired his decision to pursue an M.A. in Global Environmental Policy from American University which he completed in 2017. This realization has informed his work with the U.S. government and U.N. family.
Interning with the French Film Festival was another important experiential learning opportunity for Noël. He describes the internship as an “incredible” experience in gaining leadership skills that has proved “formative” to his career.
Noël is well on his way toward his professional goal of a “climate centric career” which mitigates the consequences of climate change. Ultimately, for Noël, being an engaged global citizen and School of World Studies success story revolves around “ensuring a better, healthy planet for the next generation.”