Alumni highlight: Helen Beckner

Helen Beckner
Helen Beckner

Helen Beckner participated in the Wisconsin in Washington program in fall 2012, where she completed her internship at the National Defense University. She graduated with a B.A. in International Studies (Global Security option) and Spanish from UW–Madison in May 2013.

Helen has continued working in the security field, primarily in the private sector. The bulk of her most recent work has been related to Russia, Eastern Europe, and former Soviet states. Most recently, Helen was working in Moscow, Russia, as part of the Alfa Fellowship Program—a competitive international initiative run by Cultural Vistas in the U.S. and fully funded by Alfa Bank. The fellowship is a 10-month residence in Moscow that includes 240 hours of intensive Russian language training and participation in a high-level professional development assignment each participant identifies.

Helen received an offer to work at Control Risks in Moscow for the duration of the fellowship program, where she served as a research assistant and worked with the global risk analysis team on issues related to Russia, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. Her fellowship was terminated a month early due to escalating travel restrictions and elevated concerns of health and safety related to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to her departure in Moscow, Helen was responsible for gathering information daily about COVID-19 developments affecting trade, travel, markets, and overall business operations in Russia and CIS countries to help colleagues draft time-sensitive reports for clients.

Reflecting on her most recent professional experience in Russia and her other academic and professional experiences since her participation in the Wisconsin in Washington program, Helen has been thankful for the directors and managing staff of this program and from the International Division who advised and encouraged her through every step of her career. The skill sets and the connections she made through the program have been valuable and long-lasting, and she can always count on her contacts from UW–Madison to be there to support her.