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Alumni Spotlight on Alice Bosley '07: Innovation at the United Nations

Kristina M. Jenkins
 A true citizen of the globe, Alice Bosley ’07 lived as a child in Saudi Arabia, has worked in Africa and Iraq, and currently resides in Geneva, Switzerland.

But even with so many stamps in her passport, Bosley remembers her time in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania as a student at The Shipley School as both pivotal and formative.

A Strong Foundation

The foundation Bosley built at Shipley remains a support, even working halfway across the world for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva at its two-year-old innovation office. “I think Shipley taught me how to be excited about the things I am doing and to dig deeper into everything,” says Bosley.

Bosley began her schooling at Shipley as a Kindergartener and ended her grade school tenure there, graduating with the class of 2007. “When I graduated, Shipley considered me a lifer, but I actually wasn’t there my whole way through.” From her third and fourth grade years, as well as her sixth and seventh, she lived in Saudi Arabia with her family and attended the international school there.  

A Global View

The daughter of a neuro-ophthalmologist, who practices in Saudi Arabia still, Bosley moved back and forth overseas with her family for both personal reasons—the first move back to the United States was so her older sister could graduate from Shipley—and political. “We moved back to the United States after 9/11 because it just became more dangerous to live in that part of the world,” she says.

Certainly, spending such a significant amount of time abroad as an adolescent made an impact on Bosley’s worldview, and she does attribute her longstanding interest in international affairs and humanitarian work to spending a number of her formative years in Saudi Arabia. “I think having a connection to another country and another way of living and going to an international school really affected the way I saw the world,” she says.

Compassionate Participation in the World

Although the core interest in her current international work may have been sparked by her childhood experience, Bosley credits her time at Shipley with preparing her to be a good citizen of the world and a strong team member at the United Nations. “I work in an international workplace now, and it is so interesting to me that using the methods I thought were totally normal—like delving into broader themes and looking at all of the different aspects of something—is something that not many schools do.”

For Bosley, strong evidence of that education system’s impact has stuck with her throughout her time in higher education at Stanford University and in her career. “University was a huge time in my life, of course, but I feel like all of the foundations were built at Shipley, by far,” she says. “The whole idea of volunteerism and really staying open to what was happening in the world around me, a lot of that came from Shipley and its values.”
That focus on community awareness and being open to the world around her gave Bosley the foundation she needed to go back off into the wider world, heading to Stanford University to study international relations and then to the United Nations in New York City to intern for a diplomatic mission. Following that internship, another opportunity arose to work on a project to rethink refugee communities, which took Bosley to Geneva for the first time to intern with the then brand-new UNHCR Innovation.

Creative Beginnings

When the call came in to return to Geneva for a staff position, Bosley jumped at the opportunity, departing from a position as an Institutional Development Officer at The American University of Iraq, Sulaimani.

The chance to work in such a creative environment truly drew Bosley right in. “Our office was created about two years ago, with the purpose of rethinking the way UNHCR works and really improving the way we serve refugees around the world,” she says.

Established in 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly, Bosley says the inner workings of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees remain very similar to operations 60 years ago. In order to capitalize on new technology and ideas, the innovation office was founded. “Our office aims to create a culture where taking risks, trying new things and pursuing new ideas and partnerships is okay,” says Bosley, “We focus on bringing in new tools or new systems that could help us do all of our work better around the world.”
As a project-based office, the diversity of the work is great, and any given day could see Bosley building new housing units in Ethiopia, developing a refugee-focused website or working with a UNHCR fellow on microentrepreneurship in Costa Rica.

“It’s so much fun to come to work everyday and just try and solve problems,” says Bosley. “There are many other jobs where you can do the same thing, but to do it and to know my work has this really good purpose, and it’s really helping people is great.”

Of course, the challenges of the work are many. “There are so many days spent battling the bureaucracy of the system,” says Bosley. But after just two years, she already can see the hard work of the small innovation office taking effect. “It’s extremely rewarding when our work really does help people and you can see that it’s making a difference. That’s pretty exciting.”
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The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.