Anna Serenko '13GCPS

Through UN Internship, Graduate Student Sees “Peace-Building” Value of Athletics

Attracted by its internationally respected Sport Management graduate program, Anna Serenko ’13GCPS came to St. John's University from her native Russia with dreams of working at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games. This spring, however, she obtained a prestigious internship with the United Nations’ Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP), and her focus completely changed.

Now, rather than work for a professional sports team or league, Serenko plans to focus on job opportunities with charitable and other nonprofit organizations. "I never thought I would end up at the UN, promoting sport as a tool for peace-building and community development missions," she said. “But I’m confident this is the right fit for me.”

Serenko applied for the position while waiting for responses to her inquiries about internships at organizations such as the Brooklyn Nets and the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). She became interested in the United Nations after writing a research paper on social and economic development through sport.

Today, her internship responsibilities include aiding in preparations for the 3rd UN-IOC Joint International Forum on Sport for Peace and Development, taking place in New York this June. In addition, she writes articles about the UN's Sport for Development and Peace (SDP) initiative, along with speeches for the office’s Special Advisor and the UN Secretary General, when he discusses issues related to the effort.   

After majoring in public relations as an undergraduate in Russia, Serenko wanted to narrow her specialization to a specific market. "I chose sport,” she said, “because I've always been involved in physical activity—from ballet to boxing. St. John's offers one of the best Sport Management programs in the US, and the idea of moving to New York City for a few years was very appealing to me."

Serenko said she prefers the American educational experience to the formality of Russia. "At St. John's, I feel relaxed, but still professional. I enjoy the classroom atmosphere and the interaction between students that comes with group projects and presentations." She added, "That's the kind of practical experience that instantly translates to the workplace."

Serenko credited Dr. Emese Ivan, Assistant Professor of Sport Management, with broadening her view of international sport management. "She has guided me through the sport for development and peace movement," she stressed, and it was for her class that Serenko wrote the research paper that eventually led her to apply to the UN. All the faculty members she has encountered at St. John's, she said, have been "open-minded, friendly, understanding and supportive."

Looking ahead, Serenko hopes to eventually work for an organization that implements sport-related projects for a foundation or governing body: "I'm totally committed to work in the not-for-profit sector."