Kyra Stephenson-Valley graduated from the MA in IR Program with a concentration in International Law in 2017. She is from Toronto, Ontario, Canada and completed her undergraduate studies with a BA in Politics from New York University.
Where do you currently work and what do you do there?
I currently work at National Action Network (NAN) which is a civil rights organization founded in the spirit and tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with over 100 chapters across the entire United States. I serve as a Policy Advisor in our Washington, DC Bureau where I work on a broad range of policy areas (health, financial services, foreign affairs, immigration, etc.) at the federal, state and municipal levels. I am also the Managing Director of the Kenneth Cyril Valley Foundation (KCV) which is a nonprofit based in Trinidad and Tobago. KCV operates regionally increase access to quality education through scholarships, mentorship, and community service initiatives including disaster relief. Additionally, I serve as a Commissioner on the DC Mayor's Advisory Board on Caribbean Community Affairs where I give voice to the priorities specific to the Caribbean diasporic community in DC.
How did the IR Program prepare you for what you're doing now?
Through the IR program, I was able to do my concentration in International Law at NYU Law. Which allowed me to deepen my legal understanding of how development disparities are perpetuated globally. Also, as part of my studies, I interned on the Global Policy and Advocacy Team at Global Citizen and worked on their #LeveltheLaw campaign. This drove my interest in public policy, specifically how laws affect people who are not in the room when they are being made, and the inequalities those laws often engrain. My studies changed my appreciation for what justice and accountability in development policy look like.
Through NAN, I have the opportunity to provide advise on policies based on how they may impact communities of color, with a primary focus on the Black community. The truest form of accountability is ensuring that communities are involved and well represented through the entire legislative process. NAN occupies a unique space as both a continuation of grassroots, faith-based movement and national civil rights organization with international recognition. This allows us to cover a broad range of issues and take action from the streets to the board rooms, to the White House and Capitol Hill, all in the spirit and tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
During my internship, I saw firsthand how nonprofit organizations activate the SDGs and how we can all make contributions to the Global Goals. At KCV, we are using SDG 4 as the framework to equip next generation of Caribbean leaders to use innovation, entrepreneurship, community service, and advocacy to be catalysts for sustainable development in their communities and across the region. Our goal is for our ALMA Scholar Mentorship Programme participants and scholarship beneficiaries to feel empowered to engage in the legislative process, speak up, and create enduring change for the generations coming after them.
Why did you choose the IR program at NYU?
NYU was my dream school since 7th grade, so it was an easy decision to pursue my BA there. What was harder was choosing exactly what I wanted to study. I knew I wanted to make a difference in the Caribbean and contribute to an ecosystem where young people knew they could realize their dreams in the Caribbean, as opposed to having the realization of their dreams being tied to going abroad. I knew wanted to devote a lot of time thinking about what the best vehicle for Caribbean development would be but I still wasn’t even sure how to articulate what I wanted to accomplish. I ultimately decided to study Politics with a concentration on international politics and an undeclared interest in Latin America and the Caribbean. I really liked the way that NYU thought about Politics -- it was more than just theory or games, but actually encouraged us to think about real-world applications and history. NYU’s IR program, in addition to being pretty accessible to me through the BA/MA program, stood out to me because of its encouragement of cross-school learning. I was able to take classes at Columbia’s SIPA, in CLACS, and of course, complete a concentration in International Law through NYU Law. I wrote my thesis on the Caribbean Integration Project which explored accountability in a regional system through a comparison of the evolution in jurisprudence in the Caribbean Court of Justice and the European Court of Justice.
Which has been the class you most enjoyed? And the one in which you learned the most?
I enjoyed Professor's Fousek's Global and International History class the most -- it was the class that had the most profound impact on how I thought about History and Politics and contextualized my understanding of decolonization and movements towards south-south cooperation.
What advice would you give to future students of the program?
I would encourage them to start interning early and be as involved as possible, not just on campus but throughout the city. There is so much opportunity for significant self-realization in New York and there are so many ways to figure out what you like or don't like.
What is your favorite place on campus? What do you like best about student life at NYU?
The 7th Floor of Kimmel is where all of the student leaders would hang out, I loved that I was surrounded by so many people who wanted to make positive changes starting with our campus. The policies that we came up with in those working groups and the friends I gained informed my graduate thesis and the career I pursued post-grad.
What is the best thing about living in NYC?
There is so much to do in New York, so many people to meet and so many things to get involved in. There is really something for everyone -- you just have to put yourself out there to find it.
Last updated June 11th, 2019