SPP Alumna Corina Ajder won this year's Alan R. and Barbara D. Finberg Fellowship at Human Rights Watch (HRW). Established in memory of the Finbergs, early supporters of HRW, this fellowship is open to recent graduates (at the master's level) in the fields of law, journalism, international relations, area studies, or other relevant disciplines from universities worldwide. Ajder, who graduated in 2016, is the first CEU recipient of the prestigious fellowship. Below she writes about her motivation for applying and the importance of the foundation she received as a CEU student.
When I read the job description for the Finberg fellowship, I felt it ideally integrates not only what I have done previously, but what I love most doing: I love being in the field, conducting interviews. I love winning over challenges. And I feel some of my best work took shape under pressure – and those were exactly the kind of things the fellowship required. Even so, I almost let the fact that there are over 1000 applicants for 1 position stop me from applying. I thought it would be impossible.
I grew up in Moldova in the 90s, experiencing the sharp inequality that was taking shape after the Soviet Union collapse. This sense of inequality and injustice was exacerbated attending a private school, on a need-based scholarship. As a kid and even later, I couldn’t understand why many of my classmates were living in nicer houses and travelled abroad, while my parents worked two and sometimes three jobs just to make ends meet. I still remember the dread I felt having friends visit in our modest Soviet apartment. That sense of shame is now replaced with gratitude towards my family, which proved to be a springboard to finding my life passion in fighting inequality and attaining economic justice for many trapped in similar and much worse circumstances. HRW is a powerful place to carry out this mission.
I hope that making my own impossible dream possible can encourage other capable young people to follow their dreams and dare to make that first step in that direction.
When I first applied to the Finberg Fellowship at Human Rights Watch five years ago, I didn’t get it. And I am glad I didn’t, because these years have helped to crystallize my interests, find what I love, which is in economic justice, going out in the field and conducting interviews, learn about human rights reporting and advocacy, and deepen my academic studies at CEU. I feel ready and excited to use this opportunity at HRW to create the highest possible value for the vulnerable groups I care about. I am excited about the future and the opportunities to learn from professionals in the field.
CEU’s generous scholarship scheme and the School of Public Policy were crucial to my growth as a professional with its quality education and knowledgeable faculty. Courses on Global Governance and Political Economy taught me about the workings of the global economy and confirmed my passion for business and human rights. I am truly grateful for the opportunities my MPA has opened and to the generous and continuous support of CEU’s Career Services, and Ann Gagliardi in particular, who helped me prepare for the interview.
I am honored to be the first CEU graduate to receive this prestigious scholarship and represent an institution which puts human rights at its very core.