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Refining Global Citizenship

Shriya Bhattacharya B.A. '18

International Relations

Shriya Bhattacharya '18

Shriya Bhattacharya is the definition of a global citizen and change agent. 

Although Shriya only graduated from Agnes Scott College in 2018, she has accomplished more than some dream to accomplish in a lifetime. She has lived in 3 countries including India, Belgium, and the U.S. and visited 12 others. Her writing has been published in Teen Vogue, Brown Girl Magazine, and Ms. Magazine. She currently works as a Program Associate for the Universal Access Project, a project of the United Nations Foundation that convenes donors, advocates, and partners to protect U.S. foreign aid for global sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Being a global citizen

Home is everywhere. I’m a global citizen,” Bhattacharya said when we asked her where she’s from. 

She was born in the United States and moved to India when she was only 12 years old. Later, Shriya came back to the U.S. for college and studied abroad in Brussels, Belgium because she wanted to be in the center of European politics. She is settled in Washington D.C. (for now). According to Shriya, being a global citizen and a Scottie means that you openly engage with others who are different from you.

You learn to accept people with different values and morals and engage in conversations with them. That is such a critical skill in my field,” she said. “I didn’t learn these things at Agnes for the first time, but I refined them at Agnes,” Bhattacharya explained. 

Shriya used her own global awareness that she acquired both before and during Agnes Scott to further her own leadership and interpersonal skills in her college internships and in her current job.  

“I would be the calm, level head in situations when everyone else was a little bit overwhelmed,” she explained. There’s an element of positivity that everything will be okay because you have experienced moving and meeting new people. You’ve seen more of the world.” 

 

The value of a liberal arts education 

Shriya holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations, but also emphasized that she minored in dance while at Agnes Scott.

“I never leave the dance part out of it because it’s taught me as much as my major has,” she said. 

She praises Agnes Scott’s emphasis on collaboration in the classroom and intellectual exploration. Shriya explained how she had multiple academic interests, but was able to dive into each discipline fully at a liberal arts college, without feeling as if something was lacking.

“[Agnes Scott] gave me the ability to multitask.” she said. “As an International Relations major and dance minor, I was using different sides of my brain. I jumped from microeconomics, to theatre, to labanotation (which is the written form of dance), to advanced political science. Because my attention was being grabbed in all different ways, I had to focus on different areas of studying. I think that really transferred to my current job where I have to manage so many different components.”

A change agent at any age 

Landing a position at the United Nations Foundation is quite a feat at any age, but especially for a recent college graduate! Having professors who knew her well enough to write strong recommendations really aided her job application. Additionally, Shriya thanks Agnes Scott’s Center for Writing and Speaking (CWS) for helping her to submit the most competitive application possible. The CWS is a peer tutoring center which helps students with essays, presentations, and even preparing for interviews. Shriya was a peer tutor herself for two years. 

“I regularly met with other tutors who helped review my application materials and prepare for the interviews. It also created a sense of community, knowing that I had other people who were supporting me in my endeavors,” she said. 

Shriya’s work at the United Nations Foundation spans very different areas: advocacy, communications, private sector engagement, and fostering strong partnerships. 

No day is the same in my professional life, nor was any day the same at Agnes. Flexibility and adaptability are crucial skills that need to be learned, especially if you’re going into international development or government,” she said. 

Shriya in India with women

Pre-pandemic, a major component of her job was traveling to other countries to hold events centered on the importance of sexual and reproductive health information and services for women workers in global supply chains. When asked about her proudest accomplishments, Shriya described planning the logistics for a two day, 300 person event in India. She managed the entirety of conference logistics, everything from selecting speakers and catering lunch to organizing registration and transportation!

The power of the pen 

Another pride point for Shriya lies in her publications. While she has completed some interviews and storytelling through her role at the United Nations Foundation, she was hungry for other writing opportunities and decided to pick up some freelance work.

 “I realized how much I missed writing when I left Agnes Scott because Agnes places such a core emphasis on writing essays, thinking deeply, and analyzing thoughts and getting different perspectives. I actually wasn’t getting that in my current job,” Bhattacharya stated. 

Beyond her nine to five job, Shriya is a health and politics writer for Brown Girl Magazine and occasionally writes for Teen Vogue and Ms. Magazine. She chose Brown Girl Magazine because she believes it is important for the voices of women of color to be heard. Her work primarily features youth activism and global health. She has even launched her own website. When asked about how her work was selected for publication, Shriya said simply, “I just emailed them. I researched and pitched my strongest pieces to the editors.”

Surprisingly, one of Shriya’s most missed parts of the writing process was editing.

 “The job you feel when a final draft is rolled out is so great. I hadn’t felt that joy in a long time in terms of writing something.” She loved that Agnes Scott encouraged students to produce their best work and be open to criticism.  

Shriya Bhattacharya at the 2018 Agnes Scott graduation ceremony.

Why a women’s college? 

Shriya attributes much of her confidence to her experience at a women’s college. However, she was not always so keen on the idea. Her parents largely encouraged her to look at Agnes Scott, but, when the college’s admission team visited her school in India, her opinion changed. 

 “It was a complete 180 degree change of perspective in my mind. Women can really do anything, and Agnes Scott tries so hard to paint the picture of ‘it’s not a dream, it’s a reality’… seeing women hold all of those leadership positions and not seeing any men was a very fresh perspective that I needed, especially coming from a more traditional background. Seeing that I could do anything was a huge confidence boost for me.”

Engaging the intellectual and social challenges of our times 

Agnes Scott’s mission statement is to “educate women to think deeply, live honorably, and engage the social and intellectual challenges of our times.” May we all strive to have Shriya’s level of confidence, global awareness, and leadership skills to engage our own intellectual and social challenges. 


About the writer: Alexsis Skeen is the Assistant Director of Admission at Agnes Scott College. Her undergraduate degree is in public relations, but she also loves producing creative writing pieces such as short stories. In her spare time Alexsis enjoys cooking, hearing live music, and going on bike rides. 

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