Enid Portuguez Shifts From Journalism to Advocacy

One wouldn’t expect a lifestyle and fashion journalist to pursue a graduate program in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution (NECR). Nonetheless, Enid Portuguez, then an online writer for InStyle magazine, wanted to get back to her political roots. She had studied criminology and law during her undergraduate years and wanted to shift her focus back to political stories with an international scope.

She was drawn to the NECR program due to its interdisciplinary approach. She felt that, with this curriculum, she could integrate her journalism skills and apply them to the urgent international issues that she felt compelled to address.

While in the NECR program, she homed in on studying assaults on freedom of the press, particularly in her family’s home country of the Philippines. She says, "Everyone's rallying around Charlie Hebdo right now, but attacks like that happen all the time all over the globe."

After graduating in 2012, she landed a job as the Digital Media Officer of the World Federation of U.N. Associations (WFUNA), a global NGO based in the U.N. As a result of the NECR program at Columbia, her role has shifted to advocacy, an endeavor that fulfills her in a new way. It’s a much different sector from journalism. She says, "I feel good about what I do every day."

What intrigued you about Columbia and NECR?

I've always been interested in politics and international affairs, but I didn't want a career working on policy. The NECR program really appealed to me because it had a different, interdisciplinary approach that I felt could be applied to a variety of fields.

How did you apply your media skills to your work in the program?

There are times when I missed being in a newsroom and the hustle and bustle of reporting. I used those skills during the program whenever I was doing research or refining ideas. I even took a class at Columbia Journalism School on covering conflict. It was great to have those media skills as a foundation prior to immersing myself in the program’s coursework.

Can you tell me what else you studied in the program?

I was definitely interested in classes that examined all sorts of conflict in a very holistic way. I took Peter Coleman's class, Dynamical Systems. I learned that the nature of conflict is never black and white, and it always starts with a one-on-one, interpersonal clash. The course changed the way I viewed my individual interactions as well as larger, organizational or worldwide conflicts.

What opportunities arose for you due to the program?

I got to spend a summer in Vienna working with an NGO called the International Press Institute. I spent two months at the organization, writing stories for them and researching various press violations around the world. I will always remember that experience of living in Vienna. I don't think I would have been able to do that without going to graduate school.

What was the subject of your Capstone project?

My Capstone project explored press freedom violations in the Philippines, which is where my family is from. The Philippines is the third worst country for press freedom violations behind Somalia and Iraq. Specifically, I looked at the Maguindanao massacre [in which almost 60 people, about half of whom were journalists, were killed during an election convoy].

Assaults on media workers and freedom of the press happen in many other countries, too. Everyone's rallying around Charlie Hebdo right now, but attacks like that happen all the time all over the globe. It only seems to get attention when it happens to a Western country.

Can you tell me a little bit about your job now and how the program helped connect you with it?

My role at WFUNA is a combination of what I was doing in the media industry before graduate school and what I studied in the program. I assist with projects like our peace and security program, for instance. I may not be working as a mediator, but using my skills to form the message about these conflicts is important.

With my new job, it's about feeling good about raising awareness for human rights issues or development, peace, and security. I get to work with people on issues that are important to me. In short, my contribution to the world has shifted from journalism to advocacy. I feel good about what I do every day.