Equipped to Lead and Succeed

Meet Karli Williams '22

Graduate Student, Humanitarian

The international studies major and French studies minor talks about diversity, critical thinking, and how she plans to help make a difference in the world.

What attracted you to USF?
Diversity, academics, location — especially diversity. I come from St. Louis, Missouri. In St. Louis there is diversity but it’s limited. It’s primarily black or white. That’s how people think. I wanted to take myself outside of that way of thinking because it’s not how the world looks. By coming to San Francisco and being at USF, I gained a better perspective of how the world looks by being surrounded by people who come from different backgrounds, cultures, and understandings of the world.

Now that you’ve graduated from USF, can you look back and tell what you liked best about it?
I can’t say just one thing because I liked so many things about the school. Most importantly, I really loved the professors and the close-knit community that developed in each class. I remember when I was in my senior year of high school, thinking about different colleges. One day I was reading the USF website and one quote jumped out at me: “We don’t teach our students what to think, we teach them how to think.” I believe that statement is so true. All of my professors taught me how to think critically, how to look at concepts through a world lens, and how to look at ideas through the lens of somebody else rather than just myself.

What are you doing now?
I’m doing a master of public administration degree at Columbia University, specializing in international organization and U.N. studies and a concentration in human rights and humanitarian policy. I chose Columbia primarily because of the U.N. studies specialization and also its location, considering its close proximity to the United Nations headquarters in New York.

How did USF prepare you for the life that you now lead?
The humanitarian outlook of USF, the social justice emphasis, the change-the-world culture, and the understanding of cura personalis helped prepare me to do my current work as well as decide on a future career. Taking on a French studies minor has also helped me a lot because a second language is beneficial to my career plans.

What are those plans?
My ultimate goal is to work for the United Nations, specifically for the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) or for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). As for my current work, I’m about to start a yearlong internship with the Department of State, working in the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.

Your career advice for USF students?
Utilize the Career Services Center. Take advantage of their resources. Let them help you with resume building, job and internship searches, mock interviews. I remember during my freshman orientation at USF, a person from career services told us that we should have three internships before we graduate. This was some of the best advice that I received and I made sure to follow it. While at USF I interned with the Association Prométhée Humanitaire in Paris, France, and with the International Rescue Committee in San Diego. And I completed a temporary summer position with the City and County of San Francisco. Internships are a great way to learn and to dip your toe in different fields. They really help in decision-making for a career after you graduate.