Home>Louise Bosetti, from the School of Research to the United Nations

28.07.2022

Louise Bosetti, from the School of Research to the United Nations

Louise Bosetti (credits: Louise Bosetti)

Louise Bosetti, a 2008 Alumna of the School of Research (Master's in Political Science), shares her story of how a change in academic path can sometimes reorientate a career and change a life. She is now working as Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration Officer at the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH). 

CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR ACADEMIC BACKGROUND? HOW DID YOUR INTEREST IN POLITICAL SCIENCE BEGIN?

I entered Sciences Po in 2006 as a Master's student, after three years of preparatory classes at the Lycée Henri IV ("B/L" stream, i.e. literature and social sciences) and an equivalency in History obtained at Paris-Sorbonne University.

I must admit that at the time I was not very sure of my choice of Master's degree, I was coming from a programme where I had been prepared for other universities and hadn’t been made aware of the options available to me at Sciences Po. However, having developed a taste for research during my years of preparatory classes, I decided to pursue a Master's in Comparative Politics, which incorporated elements of the Sciences Po core curriculum and specific courses from the School of Research. As for the choice of the Latin America specialisation, this was born from a lifelong interest in the region, due to my Spanish-speaking roots and my linguistic proximity to the region, and from a particularly striking context at the turn of the millennium in this part of the world. Indeed, the political and social developments that have marked the subcontinent since the turn of the 21st century particularly sharpened my interest in a region that had long aroused my curiosity.

WHAT DID YOUR YEARS OF STUDY AT THE SCIENCES PO SCHOOL OF RESEARCH BRING YOU? WHAT MEMORIES DO YOU HAVE OF YOUR SCHOOL, YOUR CLASS, YOUR TEACHERS?

Without hesitation a great open-mindedness and an incredibly international outlook. I still remember my year group, which was mostly comprised of Latin American students, and it was of exceptional richness!

The flexibility of the research Master's degree also allowed me to develop my intellectual independence and discover a region that was unknown to me until then. At the time, the second year of the Master's degree was devoted to research work for the dissertation. Even though I was a little anxious in the beginning, it turned out to be a very formative and enriching experience. I ended up spending over two months in San Salvador, with another classmate, and this taught me to develop not only my research skills but also my ability to adapt in such a different and, at the time, quite volatile security context.

More than 14 years later, I am very happy to be back in this region which I discovered thanks to Sciences Po and the School of Research.

WHICH TEACHER OR TEACHING HAD THE GREATEST IMPACT ON YOU?

It’s difficult to choose! However, I have a very vivid memory of Bertrand Badie's lectures on what was then called “the global space”. The clarity of his arguments gave me interpretation methods that continue to enlighten me today and help me to read and understand current events and contemporary world history. At the School of Research, I was particularly marked by Yves Surel’s public policy courses; he became my thesis supervisor and supervised me during my doctoral studies, before I ended up deciding to opt for another path. Finally, the kindness of Oliver Dabène, then director of the Latin America specialisation, and his deep knowledge of the region also had a great impact on me and made my time at the Graduate School extremely formative, both academically and personally.

WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT ROLE?

I’m currently working with the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) in Port-au-Prince, in the section that deals with Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration and Community Violence Reduction. I’ve been working with the United Nations for over 10 years, starting in 2011 as a Junior Associate Expert at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Vienna, Austria. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to work with various United Nations entities in Japan, Colombia and, more recently, Haiti.

WHAT WERE THE MAIN STAGES IN PLANNING YOUR CAREER PATH?

To be quite honest, my career path has been somewhat fluid and full of twists and turns, not always carefully planned!

After having first tried the academic path by registering for a PhD at the Sciences Po School of Research in 2008 straight after my Master's degree, I gradually realised that this was not my path, at least not at that time. I still felt too young to be able to fully contribute to the academic debate and I felt the need to gain professional experience outside the academic field to be able to contribute further upstream. That’s how I decided to leave the School of Research’s doctoral programme at the end of 2010. I’m mentioning this here because you don't often hear about people who decide to drop out of their PhDs and the opportunities that can also come from changing direction mid-career. It’s an important message that I want to communicate to the readers of this interview! Even though, at the time, it could have been perceived as a failure (giving up my scholarship, leaving the doctoral programme), I’m convinced that it was the right decision and that it allowed me to find my way in a field in which I have felt really fulfilled for over 10 years!

It was then by chance, when I was seeking to gain further international experience, that I came across the call from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the recruitment of Junior Professional Officers (JPO) in different United Nations agencies. It was through this programme that I joined the research department of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Vienna, Austria. After three years at UNODC, I applied for a position as a Research Associate at the Centre for Policy Research), which had just been created within the United Nations University. At the time I knew nothing about this organisation, but the prospect of joining a team from its inception and contributing to the development of its strategic vision appealed to me. That's how I spent two and a half years in Tokyo!

After more than five years working at various UN headquarters, I sought to gain field experience in peace missions. I was placed on a roster for this type of position after a competitive process, and I ended up joining the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia shortly after the signing of the peace agreement between the government and the former FARC-EP guerrillas. This experience was an important turning point in my career. I rediscovered a love of being in the field and the true meaning of UN work. I felt the impact of the values of this organisation, and the confidence that it could generate, especially with the ex-combatants who handed their weapons over to us.

WHAT DID YOUR TRAINING AND EDUCATION CONTRIBUTE TO THE POSITION YOU HOLD TODAY?  

Nearly 14 years after completing my Master's degree in Comparative Politics/Latin America specialisation at Sciences Po, here I am working in Haiti with the United Nations: I believe that the contribution that my training and education has made speaks for itself! It was in answering these questions that I realised just how much my training and education has guided and helped me throughout my career.

During my Master's degree at Sciences Po, I began to take an interest in issues of crime and governance in the countries of the Latin American region, and particularly in Central America. At the time, I did my dissertation research on anti-gang policies in El Salvador (the gangs are called maras and/or pandillas), and today I am in Haiti working on these same issues. There is no doubt that the regional, linguistic and technical skills I gained at Sciences Po have greatly contributed to my ability to perform my duties at the United Nations.

WOULD YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE TO GIVE TO A STUDENT WHO WANTS TO GO INTO THE FIELD IN WHICH YOU WORK TODAY?

For those who want to start a career at the United Nations, I highly recommend closely following the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ recruitment calendar for the Junior Professional Officer (JPO) Programme, it really opened the doors to what I have been passionate about for more than 10 years! It allowed me to get a foot in the door of an organisation that can often seem impenetrable and inaccessible. I also recommend applying to the International Volunteers Programme, I’ve worked with many of them and it is also a good way to gain experience in the organisation and start your career at a relatively junior level.

In my case, having a regional specialisation has greatly helped me, not only at the beginning but throughout my career. Indeed, at the time of my job interview with the UNODC team more than ten years ago, they told me that they were going to start a regional report on Central America and the Caribbean, and that was why they liked my profile: I had both the necessary language skills and the knowledge of the region, due to my research work at Sciences Po. The fact of having worked on and in Latin America, particularly in the context of my research at the School of Research, also helped me to raise my profile with the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia, and more recently, to join the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti. 

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