Zoe Hammes: Native Youth Advocate

Zoe Hammes (International Studies Graduate 2016)

Native Youth Advocate

I graduated from UWM in December 2016 with a BA in International Studies with a focus in foreign politics and a minor in Women and Gender studies. I studied abroad twice – a semester in Florence, Italy at SRISA and a summer program at the United Nations in NYC. Also, during my time at UWM, I was a public affairs intern with Planned Parenthood. Currently, I am working for the Red Cliff tribe of Ojibwe as a project coordinator on a mental health grant.

From the diverse classes I took and the many skills I learned from them while an International Studies student, I was able to market myself well to employers and mold these skills to different job opportunities. Since graduating in 2016, I have worked for a hospital, domestic violence shelter, and now a tribe. The three focuses of languages/culture, economics and politics have helped me market myself as a well-rounded and competent employee at each of these diverse employers.

My job currently is working on a native youth suicide and substance abuse prevention grant. The grant is focused on finding solutions to these issues through a native lens – something my international studies degree helped me learn how to do. The grant promotes native culture to prevent substance abuse and suicide in native youth. This means I help teach Ojibwe and promote traditional cultural activities. My international studies degree gave me the capability to understand what it means to be a visitor to the culture and tribe. It also equipped me to understand the intersectionality of the youth’s mental health, substance abuse and their identity as native, among other things.

Overall, my experiences at UWM helped me gain the skills and knowledge to find jobs I was passionate about while also making me a competitive asset to those employers. Everyone from my UWM professors to ambassadors from the UN even to people in hostels while studying abroad helped me find both academic and life skills to help me find my path during school and after graduation. Now, I find considerable value in the vast array of things I learned in such a dynamic degree like international studies. As I think about going back to grad school soon, I’m thankful my degree has left a range of options open: business school, grad school or law school. Go Panthers!