Student Stories

Vanessa Gonzalez explores career potential in MAIS

December 11, 2020

“Studying my Master’s was really an opportunity to explore my future and my goals,” says Vanessa Milost Gonzalez, a recent graduate of the Master’s in International Studies (MAIS) at SFU.

Gonzalez grew up in Brazil, and completed her undergraduate program at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. After earning her BA in Economics and International Studies, she wanted to continue these studies through grad school, specifically seeking another International Studies program for its intersectional and holistic approach.

“International Studies programs are not that common,” Gonzalez explains. “A lot of related programs are in international development, or foreign affairs, but not International Studies.”

So when a friend recommended she look into a Master’s in International Studies at SFU, Gonzalez jumped at the chance.

Gonzalez sought a master’s program that would match her diverse experience and interests, and allowed her the freedom to explore these avenues.

“I wasn't sure if I wanted to do research, if I wanted to go into academia, or if I wanted to be an entrepreneur,” she says. “I took [my master’s] as a space to explore these different things. And I'm so thankful that SFU allowed me to do all that. Everything I wanted to pursue I had access to.”

Since 2016, Gonzalez has managed her own company, Aplica!, a consultancy designed to streamline the university search and application process. Through Aplica! Gonzalez advises high school students, predominantly from Brazil, on how to successfully apply to Canadian and American universities. Gonzalez participated in Coast Capital Savings’ Venture Connection at SFU, and won the 2019 Venture Prize for female founders.

Gonzalez’s background working with students helped her to ease into the role of teaching assistant (TA) at SFU. She accepted this paid position to familiarize herself with academia and teaching at a university. For three terms she assisted the teaching of International Studies 101, and although Gonzalez decided not to pursue a career in teaching, she recommends that graduate students take on a TA-ship.

“It’s one of the best things you can do to earn both experience and an income,” she says. “I really learned so much, watching classes and learning with the students. I think I did become more attuned to a lot of global events and challenges.”

Gonzalez deepened her understanding of academia and research through her thesis, which examined North-South research partnerships. Gonzalez conducted 26 in-depth interviews with researchers from Brazil and partners in the Global North to understand the potential benefits, outcomes and power dynamics between researchers in so-called “developed” and “developing” countries.

Gonzalez also spent time at the SFU Institute for the Study of Teaching and Learning in the Disciplines (ISTLD) as a Research Assistant.

Now, Gonzalez is beginning a new position at SkyHive, a Vancouver-based artificial intelligence company, where she merges her experience in international dynamics, economics, learning, and tech. A certified B Corporation, SkyHive aims to address global poverty and unemployment through an understanding of work forces and labour markets, and maintains research relationships with universities.

“I’m excited,” says Gonzalez. “The world is changing so much - I don’t want to be reading about the changes in the news, I want to be in the conversation.”

Gonzalez is thankful for her time in the Master’s in International Studies. “This is a great program to find one's place in the world,” remarks Gonzalez, “not only professionally, but also personally.”