What’s it like to be a Royster Lawton Fellow?

Ask Ramya Ravichandran, who worked at the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“I came to realize the power of having a true passion for your work, and the potential for impact every person brings with this intrinsic motivation.”
  Ramya Ravichandran , Class of 2019; MPP Class of 2020  Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy

Ramya Ravichandran, Class of 2019; MPP Class of 2020

Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy

This past summer, I spent ten weeks interning for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in New York City. Thanks to the generous support of the Royster-Lawton Fellowship, I had the opportunity to pursue an experience that has greatly shaped me both personally and professionally.

In providing and coordinating international humanitarian assistance to crisis-affected people, OCHA upholds its commitment to purpose through all of its work. As an intern, I was faced with a varied set of projects, in addition to invaluable exposure to both the work of the United Nations and that of individuals working in New York within the social impact space.

“I knew I needed meaningful work – something that would not only allow me to pursue my passions and appropriately incorporate my existing skillset, but also provide me with opportunities to learn and grow.”

Let me back up though – what brought me here? At UVA, I majored in Computer Science, and I am currently pursuing the accelerated Master of Public Policy degree through the Batten School as well. Last spring, as a third year seeking an internship, I had two broad goals for my summer. First, I knew that I wanted to, in some capacity, harness the power of technology. On top of this, I knew I needed meaningful work – something that would not only allow me to pursue my passions and appropriately incorporate my existing skillset, but also provide me with opportunities to learn and grow over the course of the ten weeks. My eventual position more than fulfilled my goals, and placed me directly at the center of innovative technology, policy, and social enterprise. 

Each week looked different, which taught me the value of being flexible and having an openness to wearing several different hats at times. On some days, I used my more quantitative background and worked on platforms that provide information to humanitarian workers around the world, but on other days I conducted data policy research while Skyping with staff based in The Hague, Geneva, and Bristol. I came to realize the power of having a true passion for your work, and the potential for impact every person brings with this intrinsic motivation. 

Amongst my experiences in the office, one of my favorite memories was watching the World Cup and cheering on teams alongside staff from around the world. Relatedly, it was truly inspiring to see the level of cross-cultural collaboration, something I especially noticed as I walked around the office and heard several different languages being spoken on a daily basis. My internship also gave me the opportunity to attend panels discussing applications of innovative financing models such as Impact Investing for the SDGs and Forecast-based Financing in the Humanitarian System.

Outside of my internship, living in New York opened so many doors that I did not expect going into the summer. For example, my first weekend in town I attended The Impact Summit, a conference directly at the intersection of technology and social good. I was able to meet and connect with likeminded students from across the United States, and hear from inspiring speakers who applied technologies like blockchain and artificial intelligence to societal problems through their startups, in addition to advice from venture capitalists and impact investors. All of these experiences helped me develop my network and seek advice from professionals in the field.

I am incredibly grateful to the Royster-Lawton Fellowship for giving me the opportunity to accept this impactful internship, further refine my professional goals, and prepare me to create sustainable change in the world

Spend your summer working towards an impact. Apply here!