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GSN Associate Director

Natalie Jesionka, Division of Global Affairs

Tolu Lanrewaju

Rutgers Graduate School-Newark
Office of the Dean

Visit: 175 University Avenue, Conklin Hall Suite 241, Newark, New Jersey 07102

Phone: (973) 353-5834

Doing Social Good Better

If you meet Natalie Jesionka, Associate Director of the Division of Global Affairs (DGA), you’ll quickly find out that she’s entirely oriented towards social good. Whether it’s in her teaching at RU-N, in her research, or on her own time, Jesionka’s mission is to help.


“What I’m really trying to do is foster a sense of empathy and compassion for the rest of the world and for local communities,” she says. Or in other words—for everyone. The range of classes she teaches at DGA attests to this: Gender and Human Rights, Social Change, and Human Trafficking.


In these courses she focuses on building understanding and consensus. “It’s very easy to be divided right now, but I think there are so many similarities in the variances of opinion.” Her goal is for students with differing opinions to work together to make positive change, and to make graduates more competitive in the job market.


As DGA Associate Director she strives to connect students with fellowships and global opportunities. Most recently she brokered a partnership with the Nobel Peace Prize-winning NGO, Peace Boat, so that two DGA students will intern there.


In her own research, her long-running focus is human trafficking, a topic about which she lectures around the country. This work led to a recent role as a consulting producer on a trafficking documentary called The Wrong Light. That in turn led her to a new vein of research — a critical investigation of social good, including NGO accountability, ethical travel and voluntourism. “I look at how we can be more effective when we do good,” she explains.


The daughter of Polish immigrants, Jesionka says she had a global perspective even as a child. “You’re just inherently tuned into two worlds.” In high school she started a chapter of Amnesty International, and as an undergraduate at Rutgers-New Brunswick she founded an NGO to teach girls about human rights.


Today she continues to advocate and share her research on her online publication Shatter the Looking Glass, and with a column on The Muse. Still, her passion for social good continues to grow. She recently launched a small ethically-sourced fashion brand called Global Electives, as well as a travel scholarship for first-generation women.


“I want students to gain fluency in the idea of a globalized world,” she says. “What happens around the world really does impact them whether they know it or not.”

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