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Careers in a Globalizing World: An International Career Panel

Careers in a Globalizing World: An International Career Panel

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Gain insight and learn to prepare for various professions in the international arena.

While there is no video of this event, please enjoy the audio recording.


Join us for the Burkle Center's 2024 "Careers in a Globalizing World: An International Career Panel."

Learn about a range of professions in the international arena and gain insight into how best to prepare for a career path in these fields! The event is free to attend and pizza will be served!



Writer-Director Theodore Braun’s feature documentary debut, Darfur Now, was named one of 2007’s top five documentaries by the Broadcast Critics and the National Board of Review. The film won the NAACP Image Award and earned Braun the International Documentary Association’s Emerging Filmmaker of the Year Award. Darfur Now was co-financed by Warner Brothers, which distributed it worldwide, and Participant, which spearheaded a global social action campaign. His docu-thriller Betting On Zero premiered at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival, where it won a special jury mention for investigative work, and received a WGA nomination for best feature documentary of 2017. His most recent film, ¡Viva Maestro!, about conductor Gustavo Dudamel, premiered theatrically in over 50 cities across North America in 2022 and received a WGA nomination for best feature documentary of 2022. It’s his second film with Participant and is streaming in North and Latin America on HBO Max. In 2008 Movie Maker Magazine named him one of 25 filmmakers whose work has changed the world. Braun teaches screenwriting at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts and is the Joseph Campbell Endowed Chair in Cinematic Ethics. In 2018 Variety named him one of the world’s Top Ten Teachers in Film and TV.


Ashley Fumiko Dominguez serves as the Director of Federal Relations within UCLA’s Government & Community Relations department. She leverages her expertise in immigration, education, national security, international affairs and government to assist UCLA in maintaining a strong and robust relationship with the federal government. Ashley has served as a member of the APLU CGA Executive Committee since 2020 and has served as the Immigration Task Force Co-Chair for APLU and AAU for three years and remains an active member of the task forces where she assists in setting immigration policy for the higher education community.

She is a recipient of APLU's 2023 Emerging Leader Award and AAU's 2021 New Innovator Award. At UCLA, Ashley serves on the Student Conduct Committee and the AANAPISI Committee. She previously served on Chancellor Block's Advisory Council on Immigration Policy, the Hispanic Serving Institute Committee and the External Affairs Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Task Force.

Prior to joining UCLA, Ashley served in the district office of Congressman Ted W. Lieu as his Special Projects & Events Supervisor, in the district office and leadership office of Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi in multiple roles including Personal Correspondent and District Scheduler / Special Assistant, and in the state office of Senator Dianne Feinstein as a Constituent Services Representative. Ashley was a first generation college student and holds a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degree in International Relations from San Francisco State University.


Humna Khan currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer and is a Co-Founder of ASTRO Mechanical Testing Laboratory, where she collaborates closely with industry leaders to ascertain the properties of 3D printed metal alloys and composites. In addition, she holds the position of Chief Operating Officer and Partner at MIMO Technik, where her responsibilities encompass the development of production flight hardware for prominent original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and emerging space enterprises. Humna's overarching mission is to push the boundaries within the additive manufacturing sector, encompassing aspects such as industry specifications, post-processing advancements, material characterization, and the consolidation of components and structures.

With a comprehensive two-decade tenure in the Aerospace & Defense industry, Humna has played pivotal roles in the space sector, spanning payload development, vehicle engineering, and launch operations, with a specialized focus on failure analysis. Her prior role involved leading the qualification of flight-critical hardware for rockets facilitating National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) missions within the U.S. Civilian Air Force Services. She provided guidance to the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) in this capacity. Subsequently, Humna contributed her expertise at SpaceX, serving as the Director of Quality Engineering, where she expanded Supply Chain efforts in developing technologies for Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy, encompassing landing legs, stage returns, Dragon capsule, spacesuits composition and other programs. Prior to her tenure at SpaceX, she served as the Program Manager for the NASA Process Control Program within the Office of Safety and Mission Assurance. She began her tenure on the Columbia Accident Investigation Board and with the launch of the Mars Exploration Rovers. She continued to support the human spaceflight program trough the retirement of the Space Shuttle. Additionally, Humna achieved distinction as the youngest Associate Professor at the School of Engineering at California State University, Los Angeles.

Humna's academic background is notable, comprising five degrees in Engineering and Business disciplines. She also possesses post-graduate qualifications in Strategic Business Development for the Space Economy and holds the designation of Six Sigma Black Belt for Lean Production. In her leisure time, Humna actively participates in the NASA CubeQuest Team, where she played a pivotal role in the development of a MiniSat capable of achieving lunar orbit, which subsequently launched aboard the NASA Artemis I mission. Currently Humna also serves as an Advisor for ASTM International, ASM International, SME, Women in 3D Printing, and RAPID+TCT.

Her strategic vision for the integration of advanced technologies revolves around streamlining the Qualification, Validation, and Certification processes, with the ultimate goal of automating manufacturing, enhancing design flexibility, and democratizing production capabilities.


Alexandra Lieben is the Deputy Director of the Ronald W. Burkle Center for International Relations and Lecturer in the Undergraduate Program in Public Affairs at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. A certified mediator, she teaches constructive communication, alternative dispute resolution, public dialogue, cultural competency, international conflict resolution, and community and economic development to undergraduate and graduate students at UCLA.

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[final transcript] intl career panel

Mon, Apr 08, 2024 1:34PM � 1:31:51


work, learn, ir, people, space, international, nasa, ucla, life, ai, thought, feel, started, ashley, opportunity, college, government, move, helps, called


Ted Braun, Audience Question 3, Humna Khan, Audience Question 2, Audience Question 4, Audience Question 5, Audience Question 1, Speaker 1, Alexandra Lieben, Ashley Fumiko Dominguez

Alexandra Lieben 00:00

All right, everybody. My name is Alexandra Lieben, and I'm Deputy Director of the Burkle Center for International Relations. And you find yourselves at our annual International Career Panel. We started doing this years ago, because we felt there was not enough opportunity to hear about international careers outside of here, essentially. And there's always this question of like, well, we're in Southern California, what can we do anyway? Do we have to move to the East Coast? Do we have to go elsewhere? And like, for those, I felt like let's pull people in. And we have done that successfully over the last few years, who have had wonderful careers in international fields, right. And also like, through the impact of their work, because like, there are many different ways to go out and change things and have an have an effect. We also do this, we target this to juniors, and really seniors, because for the first time in your lives, you have to make a decision on your own. Up to this point, in most cases, was your parents, right? Who kind of drove the agenda? And now suddenly is like now what? I'm about to graduate. Where do I go from here? What classes should I still take? What fields could be interesting for me? What should I do with my life? Should I go to straight to grad school? Should I start working? There's so many questions that come up. Quick show of hands, who here is a junior? You can rise them higher. Okay, senior? And the rest? Grad student, what are you?

Speaker 1 01:40

Second year.

Alexandra Lieben 01:40

Second year? Grad students? Anybody else? Community? Oh, so during the recession, we had community members in here, too. So the way this gonna go is like I will introduce one panelist after another. We start with Ted Braun. I will introduce him he will speak for about eight minutes or so. 10 I will stop him when he goes over 20.

Ted Braun 02:11

Send up a flare at seven.

Alexandra Lieben 02:14

Then we move to to Humna. And then lastly to Ashley. Yeah. And then, so you hear from everybody. Think about questions. Write them down, have them in your head, whatever method you use. And then I open up the floor. Okay, and all you can ask questions. And what I'm asking really, for me, it is always about people's journey. It's not just about the position you occupy at this point in your life. But how did you get there? Right? What did we all learn? Where do we go? Like, what decisions? Where did we think we were gonna be when we started out? Yeah, because it's always, it's like to show you too, because sometimes you look ahead and your think like I need to be able to map out my life. When in reality, that's not the case. Right? In hindsight, it looks like a pretty straight path. But looking forward, it doesn't. All right. Ted Braun. Writer and director Ted Braun works in documentary film, he has done like amazing work. His feature documentary debut, Darfur now won several awards and was named one of 2007's Top Five Documentaries. Not only that, but it also spearheaded a global social action campaign. So that's impressive impact to have. He subsequently did a docu-thriller, Betting on Zero, which exposed the health and wellness company Herbalife as a massive international pyramid scheme. I remember that story very well. It premiered at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival and won a Special Jury Mention for Investigative Work. Also received a WGA, that's a Writers Guild of America, nomination for Best Feature Documentary of 2017. His most recent film that you can also see on HBO Max, is Viva Maestro about conductor Gustavo Dudamel. Right, he's now the conductor of the LA Phil. It premiered in over 50 cities across North America in 2022, and also received WGA nominations for Best Feature Documentary in the same year. In 2008, Movie Maker Magazine named Ted one of 25 filmmakers whose work has changed the world. Ted Braun teaches Screenwriting at USC School of Cinematic Arts.

Ted Braun 04:29


Alexandra Lieben 04:31

We forgive him. The Joseph Campbell Endowed Chair in Cinematic Ethics. In 2018, Variety named him one of the World's Top 10 Teachers in film and television. Welcome Ted. Thank you for being here.

Ted Braun 04:43

Thank you. It's a real pleasure to be here. I live just down the hill. And if things had worked out differently, I'd very happily'd be biking to work here, so.

Alexandra Lieben 04:52


Ted Braun 04:58

When I was an undergraduate, I would never have attended one of these panels. I had no inkling that I was going to end up doing work internationally. When I arrived as an undergraduate like a lot of people in the United States, I had a very different idea of who I wanted to be by the time I left. I wasn't even sure I wanted to go to college, I I was a very serious classical musician, I was eager to go to Conservatory. My parents, they didn't quite decide for me, but they had a shaping hand in suggesting a liberal arts education would be a good idea. Over the course of my four years that changed. And I went from being primarily interested in chemistry, when I arrived, to abandoning music as a career and graduating with a degree in English. Mostly because the teaching was great where I went to college. I went to a small liberal arts college in Massachusetts Amherst College. So if that sounds familiar, I can assure you that before I was me, I was you. I got an inkling that I wanted to make films. In the summer of the second year out of college, I had a teaching fellowship. And I, because I loved cinema, ran an after school screening program at the place where I was teaching. And they said, why don't you teach a film class next year? I said, I don't know anything about making films. And they said, that's okay. We have a fund. You can study filmmaking over the summer. And I said okay, I'd like to at least have my hands on a camera. This was before there were these, you actually had to have a camera, you had to have a projector, you had to have an editing machine. All of this was beyond mere mortals imagination. So I did that. And it was like a light going off in a cave. And I decided this is what I want to do with my life. It was very impulsive. It wasn't based on really a whole lot of research or knowledge. But it connected with one important thing that I had had in my youth that I began to pay attention to, which was, as a musician, I like sharing things with an audience. I liked sharing an emotional experience that moved them in some way or another. And I had not been big on making things. But that impulse to shape an experience for an audience suddenly had an outlet in in cinema. And around the same time, I had fallen in love. And my girlfriend was South African. And this was a few years ago, it was at the height of Apartheid. And we took a trip together there. And, and I was shocked by what I'd seen, or what I saw there. She was a very wealthy, extremely wealthy, white South African, Jewish white South African. And her family was generally quite liberal by the time by the definition of the times. But the poverty and the injustice that I witnessed there really marked me. And in a way that I didn't have words for. I came back to the place where I was teaching. And I was asked to make a presentation, not unlike this one, about what I'd witnessed. Because at the time, injustice in South Africa was a big issue in the United States. When I graduated people wore armbands urging the college to divest from its investments in South Africa. So it was on people's mind. And I was asked to speak about it, and I bombed. I really just couldn't find words for what I had witnessed. And that stayed with me, and it marked me. And these two impulses to share something with an audience, which began for me in the experience of making music, and this rather important trip, which marked me in a way that I couldn't articulate ended up being really shaping impulses through throughout my life. After that experience of of studying cinema and teaching it in the following year, I decided to come to graduate school and was admitted to USC, UCLA didn't want me. They didn't want me but USC did. And I came out here and studied cinema. I had no interest in making documentary films. That came later. Mostly as a matter of opportunity. But the the, the years between when I was in graduate school, and when I finally made the Darfur Now film, were years where I began aim to define and shape the craft that eventually enabled me to express myself and to, to produce screenplays and feature documentary work that, that articulated my vision of the world and enabled me to respond to things. And those skills also eventually enabled me to become a professor. And that opened a door to international life as well. The guy who had shaped my experience as a graduate student was Czech. And, like a lot of people, my experience of cinema growing up was really profoundly influenced by by international cinema. And he came out of that tradition. And at the time, when I was beginning my teaching life, was working a lot in Europe. And going back and forth from his home, or his native home in the Czech Republic, to the United States, and I was invited to go and teach in Europe with him. So I began to participate in this international dialogue about cinema through teaching. And, and in in the mid aughts, in in 2006, my agent called he had been to a presentation on the Darfur crisis, which was a huge issue. Many people felt there was a genocide unfolding at the time that the world was going to let pass. And people were haunted by what had happened in Rwanda and Bosnia. And there was a big mobilization to try to do something about it. And he had been in an event and was driving home and his conscience was troubled. And he thought, what can I do? I'm just an agent. Maybe I can interest the client and making a film. And so he called me late at night, and described what he heard and asked if I thought there might be a feature documentary there. I'd never made a feature documentary. I had done short documentaries, I had done historic documentaries for television, but never never something of this scale. I said, let me look into it. And what I ended up finding were two things. One was an objective sort of story that had the elements of a great feature documentary film. But the second thing was a kind of injustice that I had first witnessed when I was in South Africa, and I had been sitting on for nearly 20 years unable to articulate. And now, after those years in between of learning how to make films, practicing it, and working internationally teaching, I felt that I had the skill and the ability to do something about it. And so I called him back. And I said, yes, I think there's a film there. And, and that began the chunk of the career that you just heard, Alexandra describe. So so it was really a kind of marriage of conscience and a natural inclination to want to share things, in this case, film stories with the world that led me to an international life. And, and it was also just, and this I would encourage you, it was an openness to discover something about myself that I didn't know, I did not think I had an aptitude for feature documentary filmmaking, it wasn't something that I pursued, I pursued life as a scripted filmmaker. And along the way, I acquired some documentary filmmaking skills, but when this chance, opened the door, or when this door open to this big opportunity, I jumped on it. And, and discovered, oh, I can do this, I can do this very well. And I love doing it. And, and so that that really propelled me into an awareness of the international world and an ability to engage and reflect some of its dimensions. Cool.

Alexandra Lieben 13:49

Thank you. It's really a journey to find what resonates with you. And yeah, finding the means to convey that.

Ted Braun 13:58

Yeah. I mean, that that would be succinctly what I'd say, or as succinctly as I can. There are lots of other pieces. So I would say international justice is the thing that I think probably is most at the center of what I do. And it's been largely out of what happened to me in South Africa and my seemingly, what it was really a feeling of impotence. You know, this is something terrible, it's haunting my conscience, and I really didn't have the, the skills to respond. Because my life up to that point hadn't equipped me for it. I liked movies, going to the theater, and I was a student of literature and I like beautiful music, which had exposed me to a lot of international elements. Classical music is largely international medium, so I was aware of the world in that way, but engaging it was something else altogether.

Alexandra Lieben 14:59

That's. About to move on. But it's an interesting point. It's also when when we have strong feelings about something, something we encounter is like, what do we do with it? Right? That's very much a question right now also, right? How can you transform it into something constructive into something positive that contributes in a good way. So your story is a good example of that.

Ted Braun 15:19


Alexandra Lieben 15:20

Humna, Humna Khan. Welcome. She has a two decade tenure in the aerospace and defense industry. I'm so thrilled she's here because we've never had anybody here from aerospace. So I'm like, totally excited. Humna has played pivotal roles in the space sector: spanning payload development, vehicle engineering, and launch operations with a specialized focus on failure analysis. Right now, she is the CEO and co-founder of ASTRO Mechanical Testing Laboratory where she works on 3D printed metal alloys and composites. She's also the Chief Operating Officer and partner at MIMO Technik, I would say, which is responsible for the development of production flight hardware. Humna has led the qualification of flight critical hardware for rockets within the US Civilian Air Force Services. She also led teams at SpaceX in developing the Falcon Nine and heavy rockets along with Dragon spacecrafts. She started out at NASA, age 19. Right? In the Office of Safety and Mission Assurance. Her mission had been to understand failure in order to secure the safety of future missions. That's an interesting point I want to get back to.

Humna Khan 16:36

Interesting to me, too.

Alexandra Lieben 16:37

And she worked on the Columbia Space Shuttle accident and Mars exploration robot problems. Humna holds five degrees in engineering and business disciplines. Not that anybody should be intimidated here. She also possesses postgraduate qualifications in strategic business development from the space economy and became the youngest Associate Professor at the School of Engineering at Cal State Los Angeles. In her leisure time, now listen up everybody, Humna actively participates in the NASA Cube Quests team, where she played a pivotal role in the development of a mini sat capable of achieving lunar orbit which subsequently launched aboard the NASA Artemis One mission. It's a hell of a pastime.

Humna Khan 17:21

I used to do it from my apartment in downtown LA, like ping the moon from the rooftop.

Alexandra Lieben 17:26

All right, you have a lot to tell us.

Humna Khan 17:28

Man, okay, well, I feel like I just want to talk to Ted all day. I'm here. I also feel like anything I say is gonna be kind of a bad influence, because that's a cool way to introduce me, but it doesn't really define me. So, I'll tell you this, my international realm came to me. I was also a reject from UCLA. I got into UCLA after I had completed school at USC, too. So so that's the only time that they wanted me. So, let's see I, when I started school, in kindergarten, I'll say I didn't speak a lick of English. I was born in Los Angeles. I came to school not thinking I was different until I learned that I really was. Everybody in school used to call me Mowgli, that little brown boy from Jungle Book. So I kind of lived that lifestyle, then I was like, yeah, dude, I am him, like a jungle swinging, like kid raised by animals. So I kind of went, and what I was learning throughout growing up was I was I kept being defined. And then I had to either decide to, you know, play that role, or, you know, fight that role. So a lot of what I was doing my whole life was fighting some sort of rule. Whether it be you know, something cultural, religious, something' stereotypical. That's what kind of drove me until this day. I ended up in the Space Program, just because, first of all, it's fascinating as hell. But I think when I was younger, also, in elementary school, I had this Trapper Keeper, that kind of ages me. But somebody's gotta remember. that kind of ages me. But somebody's gotta remember

Ashley Fumiko Dominguez 19:09

It's a binder. A very cool binder.

Humna Khan 19:11

That's super cool. And I had this, this character on it. And he was wearing these like, really cool glasses. And he had a hoverboard. He was kind of in space, and he had like, pizza dripping. And it was listening on his Walkman. It said, hanging out in 2020. And I was like, damn, I want to be that guy. So I kind of drove that route. And I feel like, that's not really representative 2020. But, you know, I tried to check the boxes. I got the hoverboard, the cool glasses, and the pizza kind of worked out. So but so as I was growing up, I felt like I was constantly you know, in this fight or flight mode, all the time. So different than me, I only know aerospace, so I got stuck in that career. I wouldn't say stuck because I love it. I love every single day of it. But what really defined me was my attitude towards it. Being part of the system, and being constantly challenged by the system, I felt like I was a misfit in, in my world, whether it be going to engineering school and being in a classroom of like, 70 guys, and me, and maybe somebody that was like questionably also another girl. And then or being starting at NASA and being in a room with middle aged white men, sorry, but constantly pushing the envelope there to be heard from, you know, whatever angle I could. Being brown, being an immigrant, being somebody who were scarf my whole life, and having to constantly have to prove my worth of being from here, and also didn't help that I did not grow up speaking English. So. So when I eventually was, you know, part of this, one of the things that shaped me the most when I was in high school was 9/11. Right? So I was in high school, this happened, I had been called things and been threatened in ways that I didn't like, I didn't even understand that I was different. Until then, you know, I grew up skating, skateboarding. So now I'm skating at skate park, and I'm being you know, hate crimed, you know, all kinds of racial slurs. And I was like, okay, you know what, then I'm gonna stay in fight mode. So I was going to a public high school. And I think this is where I become a bad influence was I faked this identity. And I started going to college at the same time, because high school was boring. So I was doing leading these two lives, I was going to high school in the daytime, going to college, like at night. And then eventually, when I graduated high school, I went to my college, it was Cal State, LA at the time, and I was like, I'm done, also. And they're like, there's a fake social security number and all this stuff. And they took me to court, I was a minor. And they're like, okay, well, this girl just like, faked this identity to do really well, in college, we're going to give it to her. I had to take my dad, because I was still too young for this. But after I finished that, so I did engineering. The reason I did it, too.

Ted Braun 22:03

Sorry, you broke the law to go to college?

Humna Khan 22:05

I broke the law to go to college. And I got valedictorian, but I was 17. But that, so that's why I felt like I had to do was constantly.

Ted Braun 22:16

That is a fun act of civil disobedience.

Humna Khan 22:17

A lot more came after that. So I was like, I need to push this envelope. So right after I finished my first couple of bachelor's, I went back to school, and I said, through my my syllabus, and books and everything on the table, I was like, this program sucks. Like, I did not learn anything. I learned how to read a book and memorize things for an exam. And I don't, I don't want to do this. They said, well, you can come back in five years and get into the master's program. I was like, why can I do it tomorrow? And they're like, you don't have the credentials to do it. So I was like, bend the rules. Tell me what I got to do. So I was constantly trying to bend the rules. So they said, okay, well, you have to get this score on your your GMAT, and bla bla bla. And I was like, gonna take the exam tomorrow. I didn't do so well. Now, the master's program was starting in 30 days. And I was like the next 31 days, the next chance to take my GMAT is in 30 days. So I said, all right, what I'm going to do is learn the test, not learn the content. So I learned the way that like computer adaptive test work. At this time, computers were kind of still new. So like, get one, right, go up four levels of difficulty, get one wrong go down to levels of difficulty. And what is the perfect algorithm to get the highest score? So I got one question wrong, not because I knew anything, but I knew how to play the test. And, again, I like hacked into the system got into like my Dean's home address over here in Brentwood, and was like, knock, knock, I passed, I want to start my master's tomorrow. They're like, you're going to be so much trouble. So after I did that, for a year, I went back and I said, okay, so I'm back, I'm gonna be professor because I want to rewrite this script. This is not what engineers should be doing. I haven't done any of this, like in real life, I don't see it applicable. So they made me a professor. That was funny, too. None of my students ever had to buy a book, but they were oftentimes in escape rooms, or having to do like weird quest throughout the university and learn things. So I did that for a while. Now at the same time. Well, when I first started college, I started at NASA. The reason I went into that was because the Columbia shuttle had gone down, we killed a bunch of astronauts, and I was like, why did this even happen? And as I went into it, I saw like, just failure, like warning signs of this, like, you know, triggers that were saying this, this is going to be bad. But NASA just continuing to say, well, it hasn't been bad yet. So let's keep sending them up. So I kind of challenged also the director at NASA at the time and wrote this letter, and he said, well get on the investigation board. So that's where I started my career. Um, failing. And that's what I made my entire story about was failing, and how I can learn from failure. So after that fact, I started, like, you know, working on on Mars, I was like, Earth kind of sucks, right? Like learning about this and seeing where civilizations headed and where our natural resources are. And I know people hate people who are like you should work on Earth and not focus so much on colonizing. But somebody's got to work on something for the next 200 years, when everybody burns up here. So I went into that, and continued to do a couple of masters in you know, in whatever making habitats on Mars. So that was kind of a fun life. But while I was at NASA for those 10 years, I started out working on the launchpad. And what I'd have to do with the space during the space shuttle era was like climb into a solid rocket booster. As an intern, I used to skate over through the swamp, into onto Launchpad, and sit on a thruster and make these connections and hope that there was no juice in it, or else, you know, we had 10,000 tons that was going to take me out. So did that. And constantly while working on the launchpad learned about different failures that were happening, and how we would mitigate those. So then, you know, I went to the Chief of NASA and said, how come we keep slapping failures on the wrist and not applauding the things that were going right? Eventually, kind of pushing that agenda, it became, okay, you know, what, you can have your own program and go out and work at the various different NASA centers, and through this NASA supply chain, teach how we could do risk mitigation, preventative maintenance, things like that, that would prevent, you know, a loss of life. What was happening at the time was this was during the war in Iraq. And it really influenced, you know, my economy, and the space economy, and the aerospace economy, defense economy. And either things were going up, or they're going down the way that my whole life was for for 10 years working at NASA was, I was working with a presidential budget, whatever congressional budget that they had. So whether it was for human spaceflight, in this case, it turned into more DoD defense things. And what also really drove me were my ethics for like, what I believed in the moment I got a contract that said, half of your pay is going to come from the DOD, for space, satellites for defense, I was like, I'm out of here. At it so happened that I happened to crawl into this basement once when I was at NASA. And I met Elon for the first time. And it was this weird basement where they're sitting in like these, like funny pillow chairs and playing with Legos. And I was like, what, I want to be a part of this, I want to build Legos. And he was like, well, I'm Elon, and I'm going to start a space company. And there was only like, nine or ten people there at the time. He's like, these are our people. So we talked back and forth. And then we grew kind of cool for a while, for several years, I just didn't want to be on that payroll, because they weren't making any money. So I had to kind of stay part of NASA. Eventually, I ended up at SpaceX back and forth consulting for several years when they went from 10 employees to 300. Then I went and went from 300 employees to 8000 and grew, instead of working on payload now, which was on like, Martian missions, and, you know, satellites and whatnot, went to launch vehicle engineering. And again, remember, my goal was to not be here on Earth was, you know, to get out. So launch vehicles was were the way to go. Blew up a lot of rockets there. My name was signed off on five that blew up, for sure. And I was like, something's not right here. But again, that was part of learning, failing at something. And, you know, learning how to cope with loss, whether it was with, you know, just a financial loss, or there was payloads on there that were people were working on for 10 years, 15 years, they put them on a rocket, we blew them up. And so you know, consoling people for their life's work, or whatever the case, but it was getting comfortable with that. So I also left on, you know, kind of an ethical note, when we were starting to get into astronauts, and I was like, this is not gonna fly. And then he's like, well, people have to die. You know, when you're starting new frontiers. So people are gonna go to space and they're gonna die, and we're just gonna have to be okay with it. I was like, I cannot say that to the government that I was the government liaison to the Air Force. So I left and we're still cool. But then I went to the government. So I started working for the Air Force. And for a couple years, got into the Space Force. I was still doing my misfit shit. So when I got when I got sworn in to the Space Force, the first thing I did the night that I got sworn in, I went back to my office, and I had like three screens open. And I went on to the CIA database, the FBI database, the DOD. And I just searched aliens, aliens, aliens. And I was like, I would know everything about aliens. So let's do that. That was what fascinated me, I was like, this keeps me going. So learned a lot of cool things there. So I stayed up all night. So then eventually, working through the Space Force where I thought we were like, going to be building cool things, ended up learning, like being in a bunker with Donald Trump. And he said, We need to build satellites that are going to destroy Syria and Iran satellites, so that we can go boots in on ground, when they have no telecom and no resources, we need to get these guys. And I was like, I'm out. I left I was like, I just don't want blood on my hands, I don't want to be a part of this. So that's what was kind of shaping me. Number one was being really good at being bad. And number two, was, whatever morals or ethics drove me, because at the same time, while I was kind of climbing the ladder in this world, I was like, what, what is all this worth, to me anyway, you know, getting some status, getting a name. And I felt like I climbed the ladder enough. And I was like, I want to go down to the dumps. And I want to be sub sub sub tier. And that's when I started my own my own company, bought another company. And now, what we do is one of the companies, we build flight hardware, for the space industry, for the aerospace industry, for satellites, and it's all 3D printed. Build that. And my other company, ASTRO, we test these things out. But the fun part at the same time right now is now I get to control some of the agenda. So as you know, we're in several wars right now. And the industry is booming, we see things come across the desk that are like, here's, like $500 million order for these missiles. Here is like, you know, this thing that we want to, you know, build these nukes, or these subs. And the fun part is, I get to say, I don't want to do it, nothing is worth that to me, I don't care. So the international realm kind of taught me a lot about that. So I can go on, I actually didn't have a train of thought. So but so I'm just kind of going with it. But if I were to, like, give anybody some advice, there's one thing is read. So you could, you could have a train of thought, you can learn how to kind of communicate that. My big thing throughout my life was being able to talk to anybody between the age of two or 100. And when you're talking to somebody is not necessarily being able to talk to them, but it's being able to receive from them and understand and learn from them. So it's mostly listening, which I'm trying to get better at. So there's that aspect is being able to hold that conversation. Be the loudest in the room, like take a bet, be a misfit, like push the agenda, push the envelope, be noticed. So I wanted to make him leave a memorable mark. My second thing is travel. So if you travel, you learn other cultures, you learn about other, you know, you see other places, when you get out of this bubble, there's so much more of a world and it makes you feel like you're not limited. So that aspect has led me to certain ventures that you know, I'm a part of, in different parts of the world when it comes to space exploration also. Or things that are not. Like this government is driven by defense, other governments are not, they're trying to do a lot more like on the medical realm or transportation or energy. So dabbling in all of that around the world is has been really fun. And I think the third one piece of advice is to empathize; is to learn how to empathize with people that you meet, stories that you're told. Whether it be in, you know, the business realm, like you know, contracts or whatnot, or it be just walking on the street, like, once you learn to kind of soften your heart and learn from people, that it kind of humbles you and makes you not take yourself so seriously. Like I very much do not take myself seriously. And as Ted got like a light, like a light bulb on and figured it out and do what he wants to do. Right now four years in, I don't know, I, every single day, I'm like, I don't want to do this, or I want to do that. And I my advice. Also, you might never figure it out. But why not? Why have it all figured out? Because the world is changing. Things are changing around the globe. But maybe we're too hard on ourselves, when it comes to knowing everything when you're a junior or senior in college. Like fuck it. Try it. Try something else. Try another thing fail, try another thing.

Alexandra Lieben 34:39

That's pretty good. Thank you. But it's really this the failure, right? It's like being willing to step out, risk something, try something out, because in the end, it's about learning, right? We learn about ourselves. We learn about this is right, this is wrong. Keep moving, keep moving forward. So next is a master listener by the way. That segue here. Ashley, Ashley Fumiko Dominguez. She is a wonderful friend to all of us here at UCLA. She is the Director of Federal Relations within UCLA S Government and Community Relations Department. Prior to joining UCLA, she served the District Office of Congressman Ted Lieu, in the District Office and Leadership Office of Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, and in the State Office of Senator Dianne Feinstein. During these jobs, she accumulated immense experience and expertise in immigration, education, national security, international affairs, and government. She took all of that and brought it here to her current job and that again, helps UCLA maintain strong relationships with the government because she knows what she's talking about. And she has the connections. Ashley's contributed her experience and gained exposure. Also, that's the other thing is like, get yourselves out there, right. By serving on many different committees and task forces. The APLU CGA Executive Committee, Immigration Task Force Co-Chair of APLU and AU for three years but she's also still an active member of the task forces where she assists in setting immigration policy for the higher education community. Super important here. She received APLU's 2023 Emerging Leader Award and a AU's 2021 New Innovator Award. She also served on Chancellor Block's Advisory Council on Immigration Policy, the Hispanic Serving Institute Committee and the External Affairs Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Taskforce. Ashley was a first generation college student and holds a BA and MA degree in International Relations from San Francisco State. Thank you for being here.

Ashley Fumiko Dominguez 36:44

Thanks for having me. So also, I guess you have three people that didn't go to UCLA for undergrad, but that's okay. It's really a hard act to follow both of you. So thank you very much for that. I'm going to just talk a little bit about what my story is, and then really get into some advice for you all. But I am curious, we are here at an international career panel hosted by the Burkle Center on International Relations. So how many of you are getting a degree in international relations or seeking that or thinking about it? A couple. Okay, how many of you are hoping to join the Foreign Service or the UN after graduation? Okay, that's what my plan was too. I was really, I'm also a kid that graduated high school during the 9/11 era. And so public services guided me my entire life. It was never even a thought not to be a public servant, that that has really just been the only thing that I've ever focused on. And so when I got to college, it was figuring out how I could be the best public servant, and I found IR, and I loved it. And I was going to be, you know, the youngest Foreign Service officer ever. Super excited about it. I went straight to grad school because I was poor. And it was the recession. And I didn't want to have to find a job. And I knew I needed to graduate degree to get in the Foreign Service. And I'm in grad school, I'm applying to the Foreign Service to get all the way to oral boards, which is not easy to do when you're 23, by the way, and they said, oh, come back when you have some life experience in like 10 years. And I was devastated because I was going to be the world's youngest Foreign Service officer. So it's the middle of the Great Recession when I graduate from grad school. I can't get a job to save my life. My best friend's uncle owns this random architecture firm that's in San Francisco and the executive or the CFO needs an executive assistant. And they're like, oh, PS you speak Japanese poorly, but you do. So do you want the job? And I said, Well, I have to pay my rent. So sure, I'll take the job. So I take this job as this guy's executive assistant, and it really that I thought the job was so below me. I had to get him coffee. I had to get his lunch order dry cleaning. I did do all this random shit that I was like, I have a master's degree la, la, la. This is so beneath me. But it really built a solid foundation for me. I learned so many things that have helped me in my entire career, like scheduling, how to about immigration stuff, because my boss was a German national. So what do I do about visas? What do I do about timezone differences? How do you get somebody upgraded without paying for it? Like all the most random things. And in the meantime, I was applying to every federal agency that I could think of, because my plan was okay, State Department won't take me now. I'll go work at some other random Federal Agency for a few years. I'll get on the GS scale, and it'll get easier it'll be easier to get into the Foreign Service. So eventually, I start interviewing and I'm not getting offers anywhere. I finally can't handle this being this executive assistant anymore because I spilled a tray of water and Steve Jobs once. I didn't get fired, but it was mortifying and I was like, okay, I gotta get a different job. I couldn't show my face in the office anymore. So then I took a job at some tiny, private nonprofit university in San Francisco, doing international admissions for international students. And this is really where I cut my teeth in the immigration world. I realized how hard it was for international students. I had no idea right post 9/11 how hard their lives had become, how they were chained to their universities, how they had very few options, how their post graduation options were abysmal. And I remember thinking, wow, that's really shitty. And this sucks, and I don't want to do this job anymore. And so I went to my mentor one day, who happened to also be my thesis advisor in grad school, and I was crying, and I said, I can't get a job with the federal government, like, I don't know what to do. And it's funny now, but she said, you were like an actress that won't move to Hollywood. You're never gonna get an acting job. if you don't move to Hollywood. You want to work for government, you have to go for government is in Washington, DC. And I said, well, the only way I could do that is taking an unpaid internship, which I can't do, because I don't have a trust fund. And I help my parents every month and I send them money. So what am I supposed to do and you'll figure it out. And so I did, I got a second job. And then I got a third job. And I literally did not have a day off for like a year. There was a woman that I had met that lived on the outskirts of DC that I had talked to and I said, hey, I want to I have to take an unpaid internship in DC will you rent your room on the cheap? She did. And so I took an unpaid internship with my hometown member, Nancy Pelosi. I had no idea that it was a big deal because I studied international relations. I didn't know shit about domestic politics. Like I knew there were Democrats and Republicans because I voted but like, I knew about realism and constructivism and liberalism. Like I didn't know like anything about like, you want to talk about, like the Cuban missile crisis or something. Sure, but I don't know who the Speaker of the House is. So I take this internship. And my idea is like, okay, I have enough in I have enough in savings to get me through six months of living in DC. And I had enough for like my rent, my metro pass, my phone, and then like $100 of food. So I had to turn it into a job. It just so happened it was when a Congress had turned over and she had nobody from San Francisco in her office. And so I was able to turn that internship into a paid position as a staff assistant, which is like answering the phone. And then I was able to turn that position into another position, personal correspondent, which is where you write her letters. That's what I thought my job was going to be. But I really found out what my job was, was making sure that Congresswoman Waters had this sprinkled donut. And then Congressman Thompson when his phone wasn't working, that I learned how to fix it for him because I was sitting right there. And so I learned all of these like random things. And then when everybody leaves at 10pm, I would start doing my actual job. Fast forward, my grandma gets sick, I move home to San Francisco. Speaker Pelosi doesn't have an opening. So she calls her friend, Senator Feinstein and says, okay, can you can you hire Ashley for a position? So Senator Feinstein hired me, I handled casework for her, which was helping people talk to the federal government, right. So if somebody has a problem with Social Security, and Social Security is making them wait in line for 12 hours, they can call their member of Congress and get help with that. So I did that for a bit. And then I've met my now husband, who works in the entertainment industry. And so I put in a transfer to Senator Feinstein's LA office, right. And then I got a call from Speaker Pelosi. And back then, you used to get a lot of pocket dials, and my name is Ashley. And so I would get them from everybody all the time. And I would get them often from her. So I would be like, at the grocery store, and her name would pop up and I would go oh my god let me get the phone. And it would be her purse calling me. And so this day was like I was on the treadmill, it was my lunch break, and I was working out and I'm like answering it like, okay, is this her purse? She's like, oh, hello, Ashley. I was like, oh, shit. So she wanted help getting her scheduler and her assistant had just left and she needed somebody that she knew and trusted to get her through the 2014 election. And I was like, waiting for the transfer. And I said, oh, I'm so sorry, Madam Speaker. I, you know, I'm getting ready to move to LA. You know, Senator Feinstein's gonna get me a job in LA. And she said, well, I'll get you a job in LA, like, I need you to get me through the 2014 election and call Dan to work out the details. And I said, well, no, no, I'm like, moving to LA in the next month. And she said, well, you can postpone a little, right? Talk to your fiancee call Dan and work out the details. I was like okay. So I called my husband and I said, so I gotta postpone the move. And he said, why? And I'm like, well I just have to. It's like a director telling you you have to go on set for six months, this is what's gonna have to happen. So I went and I got her through the 2014 election. And that was a really cool job. I did everything from holding her purse. I was really really good at it. So if you ever see her on TV, like you'll see she has like a person in front of her, two people on the side of her, and then like a person or two behind her. I was the person right behind her with her purse. So I was really great at getting her lip gloss out, very good at holding the bathroom door when the lock was broken. And then when the President called and we couldn't get the Chief of Staff on, I was good at taking notes and getting those to the Chief of Staff. Right. So it really ran the gambit. And then true to her word, when, when it was time for me to move to LA, she helped me get a job with Congressman Lieu, who was my boss before I came to UCLA. And it was great working for him, it was going from, you know, this office that was a well oiled machine to like a startup because every member of Congress is like its own little office. And so I helped him start up and, and get going, and then UCLA, poached me, and I've been here for six years. So I manage the university's relationship with the federal government. So that's everything from making sure that we're going to double the Pell to making sure that federal work study and SEOG are not eliminated, thank you, USAC, for helping that happen. To making sure that there's research funding and that, you know, we have that, that NASA is getting a certain amount of money. That NIH is getting a certain amount of money, that way our our faculty, our staff, and our students can compete for that money. And so it's really kind of a gambit, every day is different. And so talking about some advice, I think there are a few things that I would would say, is that I really got to where I am today, by not looking at it as a zero sum game. So those of you that are IR students, you know, there's a piece of pie. And if my piece of pie is big, yours is gonna have to be smaller, that's bullshit. Okay, there's enough pie for everybody. You can be kind, you can, there's a lot of pizza pie over there. Alexandra's, you know, motioning to it. You can be kind, and you can be helpful, and you can still be successful. I didn't want if, if the only way I was going to be successful meant that I had to be an asshole and to step on the person next to me, I just didn't want to be successful. That just that's, that's not going to work for me. And so I've done it by being kind, by having integrity, by helping those around me. I've built a reputation and a career on being helpful to those around me and building trust. Also being nice to people that are more junior than me, right. So whether it's an intern, whether it is you know, a staff assistant, whether it's the front desk, person, you never know, when that person is going to be the Chief of Staff, you never know when that person is going to be the member of Congress, you never know when that person is going to be a political appointee at a federal agency, right? Or that they're going to be on your interview panel, you just never know. So important to be nice. And then I think the other thing that I just really wish that I would have known when I was your age, is that you don't have to know what you're going to do. I think some of my colleagues here have said that you don't have to know if every single door that is closed, gives you an opportunity to open another one. So really, try that internship in investment banking. Try that, you know, volunteer thing at the Boys and Girls Club, figure out what you like and what you don't like. That way, when you get to the point where you're starting to look for a job, you can figure that out. And then the other thing I wish I would have known is that every job that you have, there's something to be learned there. If you don't turn your nose down at it. And you shouldn't leave a job, unless it's toxic or whatever, until you have mastered whatever it is that you're supposed to learn there. I could have if I wouldn't have poo pooed at that, you know, executive position, position, position, executive assistant job really early in my career, I could have learned about project management a lot sooner, I could have learned about how to use a CRM a lot sooner. But I was so focused on what my life was supposed to look like that I was leaving huge opportunities on the table. So those are a few things that and I'll just leave it there. So we have time for questions.

Alexandra Lieben 48:58

Thank you. I really thank you, the three of you, so much. This is really amazing. Through line is relationship building. Don't don't burn bridges. Like Ashley said, you never know who the next boss is like, the next person you need to work with. And also staying true to your values. That's the that's the other thing. You want to be able to look at yourself and feel good about it. It's open for questions. Who is? Always the first one. Come on, guys. All right. Yeah, stand up project.

Ted Braun 49:34

It's easier to hear you.

Audience Question 1 49:37

I'm a first-year master's student in African Studies. I actually did my undergrad in international relations. So going to the UN, it turns out after you finish your degree because you realize. But I want to say thank you firstly, for all of your advice and telling your stories because purpose is so important. I want to ask how all of you overcame the typical advice given that going into a job that is guided by morals or what you want to stand up for something that's beneath you, doesn't pay enough. And you will get to survive with that. So how did you get over hearing that from the crowd and just going along with what?

Ashley Fumiko Dominguez 50:23

I'll start with me I was I grew up poor. So it was fine to be poor, being a public servant, right? Like I like when I worked for Congress, I made no money. There, it was, before Congress had minimum salaries. It was before there was unions. It was like I left Congress after a decade, I think it was making like $55,000, living here in LA as like the second most senior person in the office. And so you don't go into public service for the money, which is why it can be exclusionary. They're, not everybody has the ability to live that kind of salary, not everybody has that ability to live on that kind of salary for any length of time. A lot of people that work for Congress, eventually, you know, pivot and become lobbyists. And that's what I am now. I'm still able to be a public servant, and my product doesn't kill anybody, which is why I can sleep at night. It's what prevents me from going and being a lobbyist somewhere else, where I could make four or five, six times what I make now because I don't have to worry about my product killing anybody. The Pell Grant never killed anybody, right. Me asking for it to be doubled, that's not going to kill anybody. And so that's, I think, you just have to figure out what matters, I was never motivated by money. And it also doesn't hurt that my husband makes money. So there's that part of it too, right.

Humna Khan 51:45

I, I've learned to be really good at being uncomfortable. So whatever situation I'm in, I feel like I'm driven by the discomfort. And when something becomes too comfortable, it's not a challenge anymore, then I feel like I'm not I'm not achieving, or learning something. So I've also never been driven by money. But I did like, as I shared with us, I wanted to leave a mark, or I wanted to, like, make sure that you remembered me. So just know that there's this funny thing about people, whoever you talk to their opinion comes from something that influenced them. So they're gonna put that on you. I started like, ignoring that, and finding what's comfortable, or what's uncomfortable to me, that's gonna challenge me to get to where I want to be. So as far as not having money, yeah, I grew up poor as well, Mowgli. And but there was a point like, where I was making the most I've ever made. And then during COVID, I took all of that, and I put it into starting my businesses. And for the most part, at my adult age, in my late 30s, I had four to twenty dollars in my bank account. I was like this is fine. But what are the things that I can't break or bend? What are the things that I'm willing to say, I can sacrifice this comfort? Or I can't sacrifice this, this is my this my line in the sand. So I think that's, that's one thing that can drive you into so many different opportunities, is when you're like, no, I'm not better than this job. Again, like, you know, we learned that you not that you just never know who's going to be the next whatever. But humble yourself, you know, empathy is being able to take and learn a lesson from anybody you come across.

Ted Braun 53:35

I think what Humna was saying about moving from failure, and acclimatizing herself, if not exactly failure, to things not working quite as you'd hoped is is something that, especially early in a career is is very helpful to keep in mind. And I know that, you know, I share with with both of my fellow panelists ambition, which I think you all do, too. And there's this point, right after you finish your degree and launch yourself into something new, where you expect to close the gap between your ambition and where you are very, very quickly. And that just doesn't happen. And or at least it happens very rarely. And for those that close it quickly, it oftentimes doesn't last very long. It's very few people who are able to close that and sustain it. And usually there's a lot of work behind that. And there are these periods, which you're sort of describing where I can work, which is good and I can make some money which is good, but this is not feeling quite right. And I think what you're hearing, and what I found was you work through it to the point where your conscience will guide you. You know, and I certainly, you know, travel that path. I mean, there was a period of time. Right after I'd finished my graduate degree, and was really beginning to build my career as a filmmaker, when I had an opportunity to do a lot of work, which was rare and really satisfying. I was writing and directing and editing hour long documentaries that were going right out on the air. And most of my peers were struggling to find jobs, and they were working as production assistants and I had a lot of autonomy. But at a certain point, I realized that the films I was making I wasn't really proud of. And they didn't really reflect my values. It was an opportunity that had allowed me to acquire a lot of skill, but it wasn't filling. And so I left. And I made a decision then to try to pursue work. And I didn't really know exactly what, but I went made a decision to try to pursue work that was more fulfilling. And as it happened, I ended up you know, I had a friendship with a guy who was the Tokyo Bureau Chief for US News and World Report magazine, an international career. We had gone to college together. And he wanted to write a script about his experiences covering the Tiananmen Square Uprising. I had never, I mean, I'd watched the Tiananmen Square Uprising, when it was unfolding on cable television, this was a big event. But it wasn't my my thing. I wasn't an IR person. But it was an amazing event. And as, as I mentioned, I was haunted by what I've experienced in South Africa, there was something that I had been sensitized to that I hadn't yet made sense of. And so, you know, in this period of time, after I'd left, a fairly, not wildly lucrative, documentary, filmmaking is not ever wildly creative. But after a sustainable life as a documentary filmmaker, I ended up writing a script about the Tiananmen Square Uprising. And it got us an agent, and it got us into the Chairman of Sony Pictures. So. So that opportunity arose out of a kind of a discomfort, and a discomfort that I decided to act on that initially, you know, seemed like a great opportunity. So there's this sort of seesaw that you have to pay attention to. And I think, as Humna was saying, getting comfortable with being uncomfortable, by pushing ourselves into new spaces, and then responding to them. It's great advice.

Alexandra Lieben 57:48

The humility piece is really important. Because it's being humble about who we are ourselves. And about what we know, right? Like, I mean, that's how we learn is like, that's what keeps our minds open, and us being receptive. And also the empathy piece comes in to like, we're not better than anybody else.

Ted Braun 58:08

There's one other piece that hasn't come up. And this is something I learned as a classical musician, and it served me really well. Discipline. Yeah, you are not going to go forward unless you work hard, and work well. And you have to pay attention to the people around you who are good at what they do, and their habits. Because, you know, you can have great values, and you can have big ideas, but to realize them takes a lot of steady hard work. You heard I didn't have a day off for, how long was it?

Ashley Fumiko Dominguez 58:43

A year.

Ted Braun 58:43

A year. You know, it, it takes that element, too. So I'm sure you you wouldn't be sitting here if you didn't have a good piece of ambition and discipline, but you need to nourish both of those things, as well as being a good human being.

Alexandra Lieben 59:01

Next question.

Audience Question 2 59:04

I had a question about like, more specifically for Ashley, like when you're working in IR, and like, right now we're looking at, like, what's going on in Gaza. And what's going on in Ukraine and what's going on in Haiti and like, you know, the broader Middle East and all these types of things. Like how do you grapple with like, feeling very small with all these issues that are going on and feeling like, change is very much needed, but it feels out of reach? And also like, kind of just feeling like, you're only one person and you know, you see things that need to be done and policies that need to be changed. And you know, and nothing's really happening. And I think like something that has really like, intensified this is like, we've seen like up like uprisings and like civil unrest, like, explode since October like on college campuses like.

Ashley Fumiko Dominguez 1:00:00

Here at UCLA.

Audience Question 2 1:00:01

Here at UCLA, everywhere. And, you know, for the people that are in Palestine and everything. And it's like, how do you but you know, the war is like ongoing, you know? And it's like, how do you kind of make sense of this? And like, realize that, and like, I guess? I don't know how to really phrase it, but like.

Ashley Fumiko Dominguez 1:00:20

How do you deal with it?

Audience Question 2 1:00:21

Deal with it. With like, you're seeing all of these, like, uprisings happening and everything, and nothing has really deeply changed yet. Because, you know, there's billions of American tax dollars still going to Israel and like all of these things, and it's just like really disheartening to see.

Ashley Fumiko Dominguez 1:00:37

Yes, so I have a I have a two part answer. And the first part is very cynical. And the second part is more pragmatic, and how you deal with it. And the very cynical part is that there is always something happening. It's just a matter of whether we're hearing about it or not. And there has always been something happening since the history of humans. Okay. So I think the difference now is we the new cycle that you all are experiencing as college students is vastly different than the news cycle when I was a college student. We didn't have Twitter. We didn't even have Facebook, unless you went to Harvard, right. We had MySpace, and that was it. And so the news cycle is just very different. But I think you just have to look at history, even recent history, last 100 years, to see conflict after conflict after conflict after conflict. So I think that's the very cynical answer is there's always something happening. It's just a matter of which media are we consuming to see it? And which viewpoint are we looking at? Okay, so that's the first part. The second part that's more pragmatic, because when I was I was a freshman in high school when a Hurricane Katrina happened. And that was a huge domestic crisis that we had to deal with, right. And I think it really changed the trajectory of, of disaster management, natural disaster management in the US that that sort of thing. And so I had an opportunity when the earthquake in Haiti happened in 2010, I was in the middle of writing my graduate thesis, I was able to defer a semester and go and do relief work in Haiti. Because I felt, I think, how you're feeling that I had to actually do something, and I wasn't yet desensitized to I think all of the stuff. And so I went, I did, I did relief work in Haiti. And that was a transformative experience I spent several weeks in L�og�ne on which was the nearest major city in the epicenter of Haiti. And like, you know, all my hair fell out, because we had bleach in our water that we were drinking and showering with. The only thing I ate the whole time was boiled goat, dried powdered milk and cornflakes with peanut butter, right? Like it was like very. And we did rubble removal, I helped put together a program, there were all these kids at the rubble sites, because they had nowhere to go, because all the schools were closed. So we put together like a safe play program for the kids. And, you know, so I think that if you really are feeling like you need to do something, there are so many amazing nonprofits both domestically that work domestically and work internationally that are doing relief work. Go and see if that's something that you like to do. But there's not a quick answer, because there is always something happening. And that's terrible to say, but there's always is something happening. It's just a matter of if it's getting news coverage or not.

Ted Braun 1:03:40

Do you want to chime in?

Humna Khan 1:03:44

Just one quick thing. So not being on like a policy side, but being on the side that probably makes the weapons that's going that are going down in the world. What what, like, what I kind of thought was in my constitution, that's very much practiced in like both my organizations, is build the world that you want to live in. So as an engineer, like we're physically building the world that we want to live in. But for me, like, I feel the same, like hopelessness sometimes. But you don't have to be there or be even on the international front to be making change. So what I've discovered is talking to one individual, somebody sitting next to you, or, you know, or or doing things that are local, too. So yeah, I spent a lot of time calling Congress and whatnot. So I'll be there keeping that phoneline busy, too. But if we change the people around us, because we can't be somewhere internationally and you can't do this for relief work or whatnot, then I think that is a catalyst for greater change. So that this, you know, taking a snowball turning it into an avalanche.

Ted Braun 1:04:56

I would piggyback on what she said. In, in your education, as an IR student, you've been exposed to different views about how to solve the problems of the world. And somewhere in there, I would imagine, there's an idea or an institution or an individual that's lit you up. You may not know everything about it, but it's like, maybe that's where change could happen. And I would move in that direction. Find a way to move there. And, you know, attach yourself to those people or that institution. And if it's not welcoming, make it yourself in whatever space you have, that you is your own. You know, what happened to me when I started working on that Darfur film was that my conscience was troubled. I was deeper into my life than you are now. And I had acquired the skills of a filmmaker, but I had never done that kind of a thing. So it was a combination of listening, finding an area to move, and taking a big chance, and testing myself, you know, in a way that I hadn't been. And that changed the course of my life, and has been deeply, deeply rewarding, not wildly, financially successful, but deeply rewarding. And that, I think that's, anyway.

Alexandra Lieben 1:06:23

I think what Ted was saying is like something lights you up, follow that. And if it doesn't turn out to be really the right thing, then pivot, fine. But it sort of helps you narrow down the direction where you want to go.

Ted Braun 1:06:34

And you're, you're building yourself when you're doing that, because you're you're you're following there's something natural inside of you. That's, there's a beacon there. And you're always going to meet resistance. But if behind that is passion, and some impulse you can organize your life and your efforts in a way that that's very powerful.

Ashley Fumiko Dominguez 1:06:57

It's just one more thing I want to add. There's former Speaker Tip O'Neill, who said "All politics is local." And so piggybacking off on others points, I think, the other thing to consider is that if you're feeling hopeless about what's happening on the international stage, you can just look as close as your community to see what to get get involved with a neighborhood association, big sister, big brother program, you know, volunteering your local community. I think those can can help with that. But don't think it solves all of it. But that if you really are feeling like it's keeping you up at night, and you know, you can't sleep because the world is shit, you can try to make your little piece of the world a little better. And you may meet the right people there.

Ted Braun 1:07:50

One of the subjects of Darfur now was UCLA, undergrad, who, you know, had, had organized, basically beer trips to Tijuana, right. And he was troubled by what was happening in Darfur. He had studied about, you know, the history of genocide in Rwanda. He was an African Studies major; white guy from the South Bay. And he decided to start a movement to get UCLA to divest of its holdings, in in countries that were doing business with Sudan. And, and that eventually attracted a lot of other people that felt similarly. Who put enough pressure on the Chancellor that all of the UCs decided they would do this. And I caught him coming off of that, which was in the middle of his senior year. And he was trying to get legislation passed on the state level to get all of the state's pension funds, which are vast pension and retirement funds, to divest. And to do that, he had to learn a lot about effective divestment. And he was successful. The bill passed. It was signed into the law by then Governor Schwarzenegger. And then it became a model for national legislation. And he ended up, after this was done, moving to DC and starting a little mini think tank, advising people on responsible investment. And now he is the director of thing up at Cal. Use, MBA, JD kind of thing in entrepreneurship. And he was just an undergrad who had organized beer trips to. So, but he was where can I move? And, so.

Alexandra Lieben 1:09:47

Next question.

Audience Question 3 1:09:52

I think I had I just feel like a lot of some of my classes. I'm an international development studies major. So I I feel like a lot of it's very theoretical or like just a lot of information. And sometimes when I look at internships or like, jobs that are posted, I feel like it's hard for me to see skills that I have acquired or put the information that I have that I've learned from my classes into actual like, skills or like opportunities for jobs or internships.

Ashley Fumiko Dominguez 1:10:22

Okay, so how do you how do you compute how does it compute, right? Yeah, I actually meant to talk about this, what do you do with an IR degree? So it took me, so, out of all of the kids that I went to undergrad and grad school with there, which was undergrad, there were probably 150 of us. Grad school, small program, there were 15 of us. Out of all of those kids, there was one that's at USAID, and there was one that's at the International Labor Organization. Those are the only two that are doing IR work, right? The rest of us are doing everything from, you know, government, like I'm doing to someone owns a restaurant. And so it took me a long time to figure out like, was grad school a waste of time? Should I have not studied IR? Like what was like, I'm not working in IR like what like, I don't understand how this is applicable at all. And then I took a step back, and I thought, okay, IR is about what? It's about relationships: international organizations, and other international organizations, countries and countries, non state actors, like terrorist organizations, or whatnot, and in countries. And all of it is how they interact: with corporations, how they interact with with one another. And I realized, oh, yeah, I'm actually an expert at relationships. I'm able to identify them, I'm able to strengthen them, I'm able to weaken them. And so I think when you think about that, that helps. The other skills that you're gonna get, as an IR student, are you have great reading comprehension. You probably have great writing skills, they're really long papers, and you probably have some decent public speaking skills. All of those things: you're going to need relationships, public speaking skills, writing skills, you're going to need and communication skills, you're going to need that in any internship or job you have forever to be successful. And so don't get so stuck on how is this theory by this person on constructivism going to help me in that internship in so and so's office? But think about the broader, what are the broader lessons in constructivism? What are the broader lessons in realism and liberalism? What are the broader lessons in your national political economy, right? Don't think about it. So, so narrowly try to think a little broader. And that's where your practical application is. It's not like engineering where you need to learn how this doohickey works in that thingamabob, right. It's not like nursing, where you need to learn how to take someone's blood or whatever. IR is a very amorphous kind of degree. And you really can do whatever you want with it, which is overwhelming and scary. But once you let that go, it's also very freeing, you're not stuck, you can pivot in any way. And that's kind of. It helps you make sense of the world. Yes.

Alexandra Lieben 1:13:15

So that's pretty useful. Next question.

Audience Question 4 1:13:20

Yeah. I have a question for all the panelists. You know, we're currently under the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is global digitalization. We went from the steam engine to the Ford industry line to the internet to now digitalization. My question is, how do you see International Relations developing with AI and technology? You can think about it before you.

Ashley Fumiko Dominguez 1:13:49

I can dive in, I'm not going to talk about how IR is has anything to do with AI. But I can talk about government because that's my job now. And the government is very interested in IR or in AI. And what's happening, you know, at every level of government, there's potential legislation. Our member of Congress, Congressman Lieu is the chair of the AI subcommittee now examining what rules and regulations need to be there to protect people. My husband just gave this fascinating talk at South by Southwest about the role of AI in post production. So I think that, you know, there are I'm on the Student Conduct Committee, and we're constantly getting cases now about students using AI to do their term papers, right. So in terms of it's definitely going to have implications implications for government and for universities. I just don't think we quite know what those are yet. But I think folks are working like they did with the internet working to figure out what what guardrails need to be in place to keep people and jobs safe.

Humna Khan 1:14:55

So that is what keeps me up at night, in a good way. Because if you catch me at any moment and really push my buttons, I'll say everything we live in is a simulation and everybody's fake. And we're just some sort of microcosm that are by AI.

Ted Braun 1:15:08

Did you watch the Matrix?

Humna Khan 1:15:09

I am the Matrix.

Ted Braun 1:15:10

You are the Matrix. I wasn't sure.

Humna Khan 1:15:14

Everything is ones and zeros. We're making everything it too complicated. So I'm very into that world. But I'll tell you this one of the...

Ted Braun 1:15:22

You're also in this world.

Humna Khan 1:15:26

From what you know, and dimensions you understand, but there's way more dimensions and space time in this continuum. So what I was one of the greatest influences that, you know, I came across was a recent trip to the Gulf. I met in Dubai, there's the Minister of AI. And it's a big government position, being the Minister of AI, who's also part of the royal family is in that lineage. And I was like, why is it so important to have a Minister of AI? But, you know, sitting with some of those people from the royal family, and understanding what that the path that they kind of said is, we are constantly thinking about the world, obviously, the world that we want to live in five years from now, 10 years from now, 20 years from now. What's AI going to do a decade, you know, or three decade. But he's like, what we're thinking about, and what our Minister of AI does is think about what's going to happen 200 years from now. So a lot of times in our world right now. And from what I understand with IR students, I don't get it my life is numbers, I don't understand how words work. So. So is that, like, you're constantly trying to see what to do with the present, or in your lifetime, what change you can make. The path that I'm kind of on is like, I don't know, probably can't do anything right now. But I want to make a change 200 years from now. 'm not going to see it. But I know that I'm leaving something here, that's going to affect generations to come. And I'm definitely not going to see in my lifetime, or the next lifetime or maybe the next one. But it getting in that thinking space: AI, VR, AR all that stuff is really good for like understanding that trend and trying to build in that in seeing beyond what we just see right now.

Ted Braun 1:17:15

I think there are huge possibilities right now to reimagine how the worlds organized. When you were answering the question about how IR is of value as a degree, you sort of casually moved past nation states to corporations, and all of these other transnational entities. And figuring out how to manage the world in a way that acknowledges there are limits to governing by nation states, and a reality that we have these global problems that needs to be addressed, is a huge, huge pressing challenge. She's already thinking about being on Mars, and I still have hope about being here and making it all work. And I think, you know, as with any leap, the one that we're in the middle of will ultimately serve us best when we marry the human with the AI and with whatever this new fourth revolution is that you're that we're in the middle of. Because we're definitely in the middle of a revolution. There's no question we are of all sorts of dimensions. But I think, I think and I may some antique and naive, but I still think there is some something fundamentally human that's profound. I'm, I'm not yet fully in the matrix. And, and I don't think it's just a capacity for computation, and imagination. I do think there's something that each of us bring as individuals, a perspective and an ability to synthesize that's really unique, and I think is going to provide a way out. I teach cinema, and I make films. I hope they'll be around for 200 years. When I talk to the students that I work with, I say, what's the goal? To produce emotional and unforgettable work. Something that will move people and stand the test of time. And we have this very big complex over at USC. And you look around and what's it really devoted to? The belief that there's an individual imagination that can bring a story into the world that's going to be of meaning. And to do that, in the future, both for society and for an individual actor, you're going to have to work technologically, you're going to have to work within these new and evolving means.

Humna Khan 1:20:17

I think also, like humans are evolving. So humans are very fragile, but so powerful, right? So can you use these digital digitalization this this wave and use it to stop doing the busy hard work for humans and do the more substantial work? So I mean, I, I, I teach, I teach my AI to do the thing that usually takes up most of my day. And now I could do something more substantial. So how can we use these tools to human better? Like to actually, you know, tap into that wonder, instead of just being busy?

Ted Braun 1:20:56

Yeah, I'll give you a funny example. When the first AI panic happened just was a year ago, practically. The panic it was going. I had some colleagues who sort of fed assignments for our graduate students into a chat GPT to see what would come out. And I teach ethics and I teach screenwriting. Guess which came back with a better response, which assignment?

Speaker 1 1:21:23


Ted Braun 1:21:25

Yeah, the AI ethics response was was pretty good. The screenwriting was terrible, really boring. So we all laugh and said the artists are okay, it's the decision makers that are going to be threatened by this. But this goes back to what Humna was just saying about there's something you know, about what we do as humans, that's, that's really unique. And if we can allow that to evolve and grow while our other tools are taking care of things that are more menial In summary, I think we're better off.

Alexandra Lieben 1:22:07

Harnessing what's useful and what's good. Building guardrails. It's a good question. One last question, everybody. Oh Rita, okay, you get one, too.

Audience Question 5 1:22:21

Hello. My name is Nathan. Thank you for sharing all your insight thus far. I think one of the things as a graduating senior, figuring out my moral framework. Just life like we talked about financial, like, are we doing this for the money. Like responsibility in dealing with some of these larger issues. And I was wondering how you would, how you would handle the concept of regret? I think that's one of the things I struggle with, right? Like why didn't I take that opportunity? Why didn't I do that sooner? Or why am I still doing this? So if you could give me some insight.

Ashley Fumiko Dominguez 1:22:55

Yeah. So I'm a former, I played sports.

Ted Braun 1:23:00

What'd you play?

Ashley Fumiko Dominguez 1:23:01

Basketball and volleyball, and I ran track hurdles, and I was terrible at it. But team sports, there's this concept you either win or you learn. Right? So I really try not to do regret. I try. Did it go the way I wanted? If not, how do I make sure it goes better next time? So that's the first part of it, you win or you learn period, hard stop. If it doesn't go the way you want. You deconstruct it. Where did you mess up? Where did you miss practice? Where did you need to refine? Where were you not prepared? And how do you make sure that doesn't happen again? Other part of it is.

Ted Braun 1:23:38

Sorry. Do you know who actually first said that?

Ashley Fumiko Dominguez 1:23:40


Ted Braun 1:23:41

Nelson Mandela.

Ashley Fumiko Dominguez 1:23:42

There we go.

Ted Braun 1:23:44

He said, I never lose, either win or learn.

Ashley Fumiko Dominguez 1:23:47

Something my basketball coach said. So he must have stolen it from them. So I've been acrediting it to Larry Helwig.

Ted Braun 1:23:52

Or maybe, maybe Nelson Mandela got it from...

Ashley Fumiko Dominguez 1:23:55

Got it from Larry Helwig? My freshman year basketball coach. But yeah, so that's the first thing. I think the second thing, is something I'm actually trying to unlearn right now in this season in my career, is that I was so afraid of not embracing an opportunity, I took too much onto my plate. So I said yes to everything. I think a little bit of it was imposter syndrome. Trying to prove that I was good enough that I belonged at the table and so that I could do the work that I had good work ethic. So I just said yes to all of it. And at some point my plate just got too full. And so I've been having to be more strategic about what do I say yes to what is better for somebody else? What is it's cool, it's just not going to work right now. So I think it's a balance. But that's something I'm I wouldn't say do out all of it because you don't have the ability to do all of it. But when you're younger, you have more ability to do more of it. So.

Humna Khan 1:24:51

Kind of cliche for a scientist, but I really tap into that spiritual realm is like that wasn't meant for me. You know? So the you know, regret being beat down with it, you know, dropping the ego, and looking past just what's tangible and real for us is like, you know, if you kind of tap into self a little bit, it's like, spiritually, I feel like, I can't regret it was lesson. So something was was the universe was like, you know, worked in such a way to not give that to me or to give it to me. So it kind of helps me cope too thinking of it that way.

Ted Braun 1:25:30

Yeah, I, I would reframe, I would make one distinction and one reframing. One is a distinction and you sort of bunched them together. But there's regret for something that you did and messed up. And there's regret for something you didn't do. That didn't do is always open to you. I mean, most of the time, every once in a while, the ship really does sailed never to return. But if there's something you want to do and you haven't done: do it. Do it! And for the thing you wished you hadn't messed up? Learn from it. Learn from it. And this is the reframing thing. And this is a it was a super hard one. Because if you're ambitious, and you know there's a big part of our educational structure, especially the one that you've just gone through, which is about getting things right. 100% Correct. Getting to the next level, and it doesn't really serve you well. I mean, it hasn't a certain way, but long term. Doing things differently, messing up, and recovering from it is that is really a value. So I would take that regret and turn it into a learning thing. Like, what, like, as she was saying. And on that, I learn more when I fail at something.

Ashley Fumiko Dominguez 1:26:11

Way more. And I do pottery and there's this part of the pottery process where you are taking, you've thrown the bowl, it's dried, and now you're trimming it. So you're trying to get off the excess clay. And there's this mentality that if you're not trimming through your bowl every so often, which is you failing and you ruining the bowl, then you're not trimming enough, right? Every so often you got to you got to push it past the brink of when it's going to survive, or you're not. And that's when you learn. So I mean, I really, you know, I'm interchanging regret with failure, but I really do learn, like when my boss gives me an atta girl, like great, it feels good. When she's like, yey, you really messed this up? And it's like, oh, okay. All right. I didn't see that I messed that up. Okay, thank you for that. And then I take some time after I've licked my wounds about not being perfect. And I'm like, okay, how do I not mess that up again?

Ted Braun 1:26:11

Oh, way more. I have two anecdotes to share with you. This, this really got us going here. So one is a story. I heard from a woman who was the senior person that USC. She had grown up in New Jersey. And as a girl, she had big ambitions for being an ice skater. And so, you know, she was out there at the rink, and I think she was eight or nine, maybe 10. And her dad was leaning on the boards of the rink, and the coach was over there. And he said to the coach, he said, so what do you think? So what do I think about what? He says, will she make it? He's like, will she make what? He says well you know? No I don't know, will she make what? And he says what, you know, the Olympics? He goes no. He says, what do you mean no? He says your daughter won't make the Olympics. And he says she's the best one out there, what do you mean, she won't make the Olympics? He said she will never make the Olympics because she never falls. And this dad who was all upset, you know, pissed at the coach. He talked with his daughter that night at dinner about what he'd heard and she said oh, yeah, Dad, I don't like hitting the ice, it hurts. If you really want something, you're gonna have to mess up. And you have to be willing to hit the ice and, you know, it's part of really going for something that matters to you. So that's one thing. The other anecdote is from a guy who who is a Bradley Whitford. He's an actor. You see Get Out?

Speaker 1 1:29:39


Ted Braun 1:29:39

He's the dad in Get Out. The evil surgeon. For those of you who ever saw West Wing, he was on the West Wing. Wonderful actor. He was talking about his process and how when he gets a note from a director he goes through the same three steps. Which is his first thought is fuck you and then it's I suck. And then finally, what was that note? And it's what Ashley's saying you have to reframe something that is a shock. It's like hitting the ice. It's like it hurts. And first of all, you're like, pissed at that. And then you're like, wait a second, something just happened. What can I do here? Yeah, he had a funny story. He said when he was working on The Post with Steven Spielberg, he told him about this process. And Spielberg had given him a note and he looked at him and said, you're still stuck on fuck you aren't? So that's one thing. The other anecdote is from a guy who is a Bradley Whitford. He's an actor. You see, Get Out? He's the dad in Get Out. The evil surgeon. For those of you who ever saw West Wing, he was on West Wing, wonderful actor. He was talking about his process and how when he gets a note from a director, he goes through the same three steps, which is his first thought is, thank you. And then it's, I suck. And then finally, what was that note? And what he�s actually saying is you have to reframe something that is a shock. It's like hitting the ice. It's like it hurts and first of all, you're like pissed at that. And then you're like, wait a second, something just happened. What can I do here? Yeah, he had a funny story. He said when he was working on The Post with Steven Spielberg, he told him about this process. And Spielberg had given him a note and he looked at him and says, you're still stuck on fuck you, aren't you?

Humna Khan

Humans are fragile. Humans are powerful. Validate yourself, you're going to be really hard on yourself. Think beyond international, think galactic, like we just � I think we take things too seriously sometimes.

Alexandra Lieben

Yeah, that's very true. And if there's collateral damage along with that regret, other people got hurt in the process, don't hesitate to apologize.

Ted Braun

Yes, yeah. That�s a good one. If it�s others, that's really good.

Ashley Fumiko Dominguez

That�s probably the most important part?

Alexandra Lieben

Yeah. All right. Rita last question. Okay. All right. Let's call it a day.

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