Austin Ruckstuhl, IBEI Alumni 2015-16
Name and Last Name: Austin Ruckstuhl
Master studied at IBEI: Master's in International Relations
Current working company, position and city: Meta (formerly Facebook), Messenger Policy Manager, Remote (USA)
1. Why did you choose IBEI Master’s?
With my bachelor’s in Political Science, I was finding it hard to break into the policy world without an advanced degree. I wasn’t interested in law school or taking on the immense debt of US higher education. IBEI was the perfect launchpad for deepening my subject matter expertise and honing my research skills, all in a multicultural environment.
2. What is your experience at IBEI?
I found the coursework challenging, the teaching passionate and the practical opportunities door opening. The professors inspired me to do my best work and reinforced my love for policy and research. I used the theoretical knowledge I learned at IBEI in my research role at the United Nations University (UNU) campus in Belgium. In fact, I only found that research role through connections I made during an internship, facilitated by IBEI, at the former UN University campus in Barcelona.
3. Describe your career path since graduating from the IBEI
With much support and motivation from my professors, I wrote my dissertation on ‘digital rights’. That led me to research tech policy issues at the United Nations, then work as an advocate for internet users at the Internet Society. Now I work on a policy team, focused on privacy, at the world’s largest social media company.
4. How did the master programme prepare you for the work you're doing now?
The program taught me how to think through formal theoretical approaches and conduct rigorous research, which I still use today. I also learned how to think deeply about complex issues while considering diverse perspectives. It also opened doors for me that I had previously not been able to access. The year before IBEI, I was managing a restaurant in Los Angeles. Now I work on one of the largest Tech Policy teams in the world.
5. Is this more or less what you pictured yourself doing after the master programme?
In some ways, I always knew I would be working on issues that are important to me while trying to improve the lived experiences of marginalised groups. For many years, I thought I would always work in academia or the non-profit sector but I feel lucky to be able to apply my passion and concern to privacy reviews of products used by billions of people.
6. What advice would you give to current students who want to follow this career path? / Some advice to future IBEI students?
Tech policy is inherently international. A degree from IBEI, perhaps along with a few other technical or policy certifications, could well-prepare students to thrive at the intersection of research, regulation and human impact that lies at the heart of the most difficult challenges in tech policy. Find mentors. Dive deep into a small number of issues that interest you. Stay focused and work hard.
7. What do you miss most about IBEI?
I miss chatting about difficult questions with professors. I miss the time I had to formulate my opinions and test them out in deep conversations with others. I miss drinking from the firehose of information and ideas. Most of all, I miss the deep connections with peers and staff that encouraged and inspired me to become the best version of myself. (Thanks especially to Andrea Bianculli!)