Tiffany Lowe's Internship
CHAPS Graduate Tiffany Lowe on her Internship Experience with the UN
On March 11th, 2013 I began my internship with the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Unit in the Division of Sustainable Development (DSD) within the Division of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) in the United Nations (UN) Secretariat. What was originally a full time two month internship, extended to six months, and opened possibilities that were previously unimaginable for me. In addition, I gained an invaluable amount of experience working in international affairs and learned about the place of cultural heritage in it.
In sustainable development, cultural heritage is a resource that can be a driver for environmental protection and socioeconomic growth, thus building resiliency against the development challenges. As the geography of most SIDS means that natural resources are limited, heritage tourism (natural, intangible, and built) is a vital and often primary economic driver for many island states. The cultural sector industry is currently at 7% of the GDP in SIDS (compared to 3-6% in developed countries) and is estimated to grow year by year due to techno-economic changes; increased commercialisation; the post-industrial economy; cross-promotional linkages; and media convergence.1 The dependence of tourism on cultural heritage is inextricable from one another. For SIDS cultural preservation is not just essential to tourism, it is necessary for their environmental sustainability.
In general the work done at the UN Secretariat is office work and some of my responsibilities were light administrative tasks, note taking during negotiations, and providing program support to my unit. However, the UN offices are dynamic and a workday there is anything but routine. Because the unit I worked with directly supports SIDS member nations, I was constantly in meetings on policy, initiatives, and new ideas for sustainable development issues, many which involved natural and intangible heritage. After I attended these meetings, I was responsible for synthesizing and analyzing the information then reporting it to my unit. Essentially, everyday there was a new project or task to be completed.
As cultural heritage becomes an increasingly important resource both in the United States and internationally, I think it is wise for other CHAPS students to look at their own work histories and professional experiences to see where it can be applied. While working in international affairs is not for every CHAPS candidate, I think it is a viable option for those who are interested in working outside of strictly cultural preservation or management. This would be especially helpful for urban planning students getting CHAPS certification or the dual J.D. students.
CHAPS candidates interested in international affairs will need to be comfortable working outside the traditional boundaries of the cultural heritage field. This is where the interdisciplinary and global focus of CHAPS is an asset, as it prepares you to think laterally, study different geographic areas, and see the different discipline intersections. In international affairs, cultural heritage preservation is seen as a tool for economic and social development and is recognized as a basic human right, therefore many of the jobs for heritage professionals will be in those areas. However, my story is just one example of the many opportunities that are available to students of cultural heritage.