SIA student’s summer internship leads to full-time position at UN Population Fund

Penn State SIA alumni Jennifer Gibbs was able to start her career after graduation at the UNFPA thanks to an internship she found through one of SIA's Career Exposure Trips.

When Jennifer Gibbs signed up for the School of International Affairs’ annual career exposure trip to New York, she didn’t know that their visit to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) would lead to a summer internship—and, in turn, a full-time job after graduation.

But that’s exactly what happened.

“When we visited the UNFPA, I learned about the work they do and became fascinated, and I was able to make a connection that helped lead to my internship that summer,” Gibbs said. “Now I’ve been fortunate to have that lead to a full-time, contract consultancy position, and it’s really just been fantastic.”

In her internship and now her full-time position, Gibbs works in the UNFPA’s Division of Human Resources where she helps deploy qualified professionals to surge to areas in critical need of additional UNFPA assistance. The UNFPA’s humanitarian branch works on issues like gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health, child marriage, and genital mutilation around the world, and is directly supported by Gibbs and her office, who help find and connect specialists on these and related issues with UNFPA offices around the world in need of emergency support during times of humanitarian crises.

Gibbs helps maintain the UNFPA’s roster of specialists, builds relationships with potential candidates for supporting areas experiencing humanitarian crisis, and helps deploy these professionals with UNFPA offices around the world when the need arises—making her an important link in responding to some of the most pressing humanitarian issues in the world.

“The UNFPA’s focus is dedicated to making sure every child is born wanted and every pregnancy is safe, which I’ve always been passionate about,” Gibbs said. “And now I get to apply that passion on an international scale. It’s been challenging, but, more than that, it’s been very rewarding.”

Gibbs said that taking advantage of the networking and career-building resources available at the School of International Affairs was a major contributor to her landing her current position with the UNFPA.

“Networking—not being afraid to talk with people, follow-up, and create professional relationships—is so important, and SIA does a good job of teaching that lesson,” Gibbs said. “If I hadn’t gone on that career exposure trip last year, this position probably wouldn’t have happened.”