|Viviana De Santis|
|SFS, Class of 2019, International Political Economy|
|Language: Spanish and Italian|
|Certificate: International Business Diplomacy|
|Proseminar: Policy and Strategy with Professor Keith Hrebenak
|On-Campus Activities: United Nations Association of Georgetown, The Hoya, Georgetown Retail and Luxury Association, Club Tennis|
Congressional Intern at Office of Representative Joseph R. Pitts (PA-16)
Research assistant for Professor Brian Taylor
Intern at Estée Lauder Companies
Intern with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
Research assistant for Professor Fuad Hasanov
International Relations intern with Italian oil and gas multinational Eni SpA, Eni U.S. Operating Co.
For International Political Economy major Viviana De Santis (SFS’19), her time in D.C. and her studies at Georgetown have given her a chance to fully explore the international, political, and economic realms of her major both on campus and off. She’s been involved with international relations at both public and private sector entities like the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and The Estee Lauder Companies, interned on Capitol Hill to get an inside view of American politics, and conducted research with a senior economist at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), just to name a few.
Coming from Abroad
For De Santis, 37th and O feels just as much like home as her hometown of Avellino, Italy. She credits her sense of belonging to the international community at Georgetown. “At any and every moment, I am given a chance to speak my language or languages closer to my native one than English and to keep my habits, cultural norms, and rituals alive through the many opportunities that are available only in truly (and not just nominally) global places like Georgetown and the SFS,” she says.
De Santis advises other students coming from abroad to “learn as much as possible about all immigration requirements for both the immediate and the more medium terms.” In order to do a summer internship after her first year in the United States, De Santis had to declare her major earlier than most students. But, she knew “from the minute [she] applied to the SFS” that she wanted to study international economics. According to De Santis, “college had always meant for me that time had come for me to take my brand-new adventurer hat from my closet and step outside of my comfort zone, whose limits coincide with the social sciences and at whose core lied philosophy, history, and classical languages... Economics and business represented the most intriguing options.”
Finding Her Place on Campus
From the the beginning, De Santis has been active in the food and culture scene in Washington, D.C. During her first year at Georgetown, she joined The Hoya as a staff writer for its arts and culture section, The Guide. While on The Hoya, De Santis specialized in food and restaurant reviews. Getting the chance to interview Oscar-nominated actress Saoirse Ronan about her role in Brooklyn ranks as one of her favorite memories at Georgetown. “Serving as Deputy Guide Editor and having to scout for and assign stories related to the arts scene around the District to writers who often tended to be native English speakers and much older than I was helped me develop confidence in my communication skills to an unprecedented extent.”
De Santis also enjoys exploring DC’s food and culture scene independent of her role on The Hoya, calling it her “key to break through the ‘Georgetown bubble.’” She tries to find at least one new restaurant every two weeks because, as she says, “I love being dragged to distant geographical locations by the flavor and smell combinations typical of their local cuisines.”
Operations with the Georgetown Retail and Luxury Association
During her junior year, De Santis decided to transition from international studies to the business realm. She took on a leadership role with the Georgetown Retail and Luxury Association (GRLA). In her role as director of the Operations team, De Santis coordinated a number of events. Her favorite memory at Georgetown involved executing an event on April 8, 2019 featuring Fabrizio Freda, the President and CEO of The Estee Lauder Companies.
De Santis was responsible for all of the pre-event planning, as well as the event execution, which included a keynote address, a catered reception, and a series of exhibits about the company. She says, “the level of responsibility and fulfillment I felt equipped with during the preparation months as well as on the day of the event made me realize how important an education, especially at a global school like Georgetown, is to defining one’s character.”
Learning from Advisors
De Santis credits a few classes and professors for being particularly invaluable during her time at Georgetown. Her favorite classes include her proseminar Policy and Strategy with Professor Keith Hrebenak and an International Business Diplomacy course called Business Investments and Negotiations with Professor Theodore Moran.
De Santis says that her proseminar Policy and Strategy “taught me that nothing, no less than my non-native proficiency in English or my inexperience with the field of politics, could make me shy away from confidently developing an opinion on matters of discussion and voicing it, when appropriate.” Hrebenak continues to be her mentor. Business Investments and Negotiations, taken as part of her International Business Diplomacy certificate, was entirely discussion-based, which she says pushed her “to develop my active listening skills, as the internalization of previous comments was necessary to the externalization of one’s own.”
De Santis also found a mentor in Professor Gerald West, who taught her gateway course in her International Business Diplomacy certification. After taking his class, she embarked on a research project supported by West which investigated corporate social responsibility approaches in the oil and gas industry.
De Santis has had the opportunity to work alongside professors in a research capacity. Over the summer after her first year, she helped Georgetown history professor Brian Taylor with his research on African American participation in the U.S. Civil War. During her senior year, she worked with her former International Finance professor and senior IMF economist Dr. Fuad Hasanov, assisting him with his research on the potential for economic development through automated manufacturing.
Finally, she thanks her dean, Mitch Kaneda, for guiding her through her four years at the SFS. All of them, she says, “helped me to keep my vigil, no matter the tiredness and darkness all around me, and to prefigure the breathtaking vision of the valleys below the mountains I would climb.”
Exploring Private and Public Sectors Through Internships
De Santis has spent her time in the U.S. gaining valuable work experience, whether in the private sector, the U.S. government, or the NGO realm. Her journey, she says, has been a constant search for new opportunities, during which she “let no concrete life plan weigh her down.”
De Santis spent the summer of 2016 learning about the U.S. political system in the Congressional office of Pennsylvania representative Joseph Pitts. She says, “This experience proved extremely valuable as it not only let me peek behind the curtains of American politics, so strikingly different from the Italian or other major European political systems, but also exposed me to many different aspects of political activity, from health care and energy to human rights and foreign policy.”
Following her sophomore year, De Santis pursued her interests in the business world by interning with The Estee Lauder Companies. After junior year, she shifted from business-oriented lens to a more international one, interning at the UNHCR North America field office. That experience, she says, helped her to “understand how the public and private sectors must necessarily join forces in strategic alliances in order to tackle some of the world’s most dire problems.”
Finally, as a result of winning a day-long case competition, De Santis had the chance to intern with the international relations team of the Italian oil and gas multinational Eni SpA, Eni U.S. Operating Co during the fall of her senior year.
She reflects, “I would not change a comma of my Georgetown story, and walk right into the same alleys that I once did, no matter how exposed to the sun or dimly lighted, deserted or populated, narrow and long or wide and short.”
Working Towards an Start-Up Project
Post-graduation, De Santis will join the D.C. office of the Cornerstone Research Group, a firm that provides economic and financial analysis to attorneys in litigation, as an entry-level analyst. She hopes the opportunity will help her to “complement my already strong qualitative skill-set with the ability to critically collect, process, and interpret Big Data.”
Ultimately, De Santis plans to put the data analytics skills she learns at Cornerstone Research Group to use with a startup project that she says she’s been cultivating over the past year. “I desire to contribute to the establishment of a framework for sustained innovation in my country of origin, Italy.”