Meet Newhouse Alumnus Felipe Estefan
Syracuse University is among the first institutions of higher learning to recognize the need to educate students on the theory and practice of public diplomacy. The University offers a dual degree program for Public Diplomacy, enabling students to complete an MS in Public Relations from Newhouse and an MA in International Relations from Maxwell within two years of study. Students also complete internships and policy-oriented seminars in Washington, DC. Felipe Estefan is a 2010 graduate of the Public Diplomacy program. He was previously a columnist for Colombia Reports, a Planning Producer for CNN, and is currently working for The World Bank. Estefan’s passion for communications as it pertains to diplomacy is what has made him a model student, TA and outstanding communications professional.
Q: Why did you choose Newhouse?
A: I chose Newhouse because it is known for excellence in communications. It is so well known in the industry and has such a strong alumni network, which has made it the ideal choice for me. The coursework offering and the fact that they think about the connection between international relations and communications and have professors studying and teaching what that connection looks like was very appealing, as well. At the end of the day, it was the Public Diplomacy program that drew me to Newhouse.
Q: What do you think about the Newhouse Public Diplomacy program?
A: I think it’s a cutting-edge, innovative program. Traditionally, diplomacy was understood as a government-to-government function, where governments communicated with other governments. Now we live in a world in which people are more interconnected. We can all share our experiences and our cultures with one another. Because of that, diplomacy is no longer just about governments talking to one another behind closed doors, but it has become a practice in which what citizens say to one another and what governments and citizens say to and about each other is increasingly important. The Public Diplomacy program focuses on that topic. The Newhouse-Maxwell connection provides for a great opportunity to take a wide range of courses that prepare students to be successful public diplomacy practitioners in a highly interconnected world. I had to take courses ranging from graphic design all the way to statistics, and I came out better prepared because of it. The program prepares you with real-life, marketable skills and an interdisciplinary focus, which serve as the foundation for a successful career. Nowhere is that more evident than when looking at the profiles of recent alumni. Even though the program is fairly new, all the amazing things that the alumni have already accomplished are a testament to the quality of the program.
Q: How did you know Public Diplomacy was for you?
A: I didn’t. When I was an undergraduate, I was very lucky to attend a liberal arts school, Hobart and William Smith, where I was able to explore the interdisciplinary linkage between media and international relations. I knew I wanted to continue the exploration of that linkage and I didn’t want to be boxed into a specific field. The Public Diplomacy program emerged as one of the best options so that I wouldn’t have to be constrained to just studying strategic communications or just studying international relations. The idea of exploring the connection between the two fields around the concept of Public Diplomacy seemed like a great opportunity – clearly foreign policy and communications have an inherent connection.
Q: How did Newhouse help to get you where you are now?
A: Newhouse provided me with clear, marketable, hard skills that have proved to be incredibly helpful in finding jobs and performing successfully in those jobs. I particularly learned from the public relations campaigns course and from the graphic design course on how to create and disseminate messages effectively. On top of that, Newhouse provided me with a space and a community that fostered and developed my critical thinking around communications and digital media. Being a part of the amazing Newhouse family was, and continues to be very helpful, and was what ultimately led me to where I am today.
Q: What is your favorite part about working for The World Bank?
A: The travel is incredibly rewarding. At the end of the day, I think that life is about stories – the stories of people – both the ones that they create on their own and the ones that they create with others. Those stories are the center of what I do at the World Bank. What drives me is being able to travel around the world and witness those stories that are taking place in countries like Uganda, Indonesia, Brazil, Ghana, South Africa, and trying to make sure that those stories are increasingly defined by hope, happiness and prosperity.
Q: What is your favorite Newhouse memory?
A: Having to work in the labs until 2 a.m., trying to make a poster with my classmates and nearly losing our minds. As crazy as that sounds, there was such a sense of community. We were all in it together. I also loved being a TA for Doc Mason. It was great being able to work with students and help them refine their understanding of media as they in turn helped me refine my own. I often remember that in my first semester as a TA, the first weeks no one would come into my office. As students realized how great it was to be able to talk through and develop your ideas with someone else, I started getting more and more students to my office, to the point that I once decided to do a marathon 10-hour session so that I could work with each student on their final assignment. It was so rewarding being able to witness how their Newhouse education and experiences were helping shape how they understood the power of communications. It was also very rewarding to watch the students grow. I’ll always remember a student who really had trouble with public speaking. She came to my office hours and we spent two hours rehearsing a presentation she had to deliver in class. She went from not be able to deliver the presentation at all, to standing in front of the class and hitting a homerun. Watching her give her speech in class in front of 50+ people is something I’ll never forget.
Q: Do you have any advice for Newhouse students?
A: A piece of advice my mom gave to me when I was starting my college career was to always look to open doors that will lead to many more doors. That has been with me since the very beginning and has driven every choice I’ve made in my career. You always want to learn as many different things as you can. Try as many things as you can and have internships in as many sectors as you can. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. If you do that, when you need to pull skills from your bag of tricks, you’ll have a lot more to pull from. In addition, never underestimate the power of communications. Media and communications are such powerful tools. Never underestimate what a single person can do when they know about communications. What you can achieve by applying the tools you’ve learned at Newhouse is beyond your wildest imagination. Use those tools to do something that has social impact and purpose.