Rachel Irwin (CWR '04)
Degree: Bachelor of Arts, German Studies and Anthropology
Graduation Year: 2004
Current occupation: Researcher
Brief description of current company/organization:
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) is an international think tank dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament. I work in the global health and security programme which aims to highlight global health policy as an integral part of foreign and security policy. Right now we are doing research mainly on health in fragile states, including Afghanistan.
Company/organization website: www.sipri.org
What do you like most about your company/organization?
We do interesting research with a group of fantastic people. I've been able to interact with and learn from some very high-level individuals, including former directors of UN agencies and career diplomats. I am always impressed with how approachable and down-to-earth they are. Also, I get to take my dog to work, which is an added bonus.
Any advice for future CWRU alumni?
I took a lot of badgering (sometimes even bordering on cruel) for being an anthropology major. But the reality is that I have a job I love and I'm doing interesting and meaningful work. So, yes, anthropology is actually a relevant and worthwhile field of study! Also, I am really glad that I moved to Europe after graduating. It's cliché, but being an ex-pat gives me a different perspective on global politics, as well as variations in day-to-day life and what is considered "normal" to different people.
What does being a Case Western Reserve University alumna mean to you?
The two things I appreciated the most about being at Case Western Reserve University were the close relationships with my professors and the ability to do independent research as an undergraduate. I was very fortunate to have that experience because I managed all the "growing pains." To make all the stupid research mistakes (and learn from them) very early on. . . those experiences have definitely made me a better researcher today.
What did you do immediately after graduation?
After graduation, I moved to England where I completed a master's degree in medical anthropology at Oxford and then another in international health policy at the London School of Economics. I also lived in Geneva whilst I was doing fieldwork for my Ph.D. at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. It's a really fun study in which I examine the rituals and symbols of policy-making at the World Health Organization and I compare the WHO to a famous anthropological study of a tribe in what is now Zambia in the 1960s. I should be submitting it very soon!
Where do you live and how do you like living there?
I currently live in Stockholm, which is a great city. In Swedish we have a word "lagom" which translates into "just enough" or "just right" (sort of like Goldilocks). Stockholm is large enough to be cosmopolitan and have good arts, food and a social scene, but is not so big as to be overwhelming. I live in the city, but also next to a massive park and the Baltic Sea, so it is very easy to enjoy the outdoors.