Cecilia Esterline, ’18


A global citizen

One decision at a local level can affect hundreds of thousands of lives globally, a ripple effect that Cecilia Esterline, ’18, has seen as an immigration research analyst.

At the Niskanen Center, a think tank in Washington, D.C., Esterline brainstorms “creative solutions to complex policy problems” and then pitches these solutions to congressional and federal offices. She also researches specific topics at the request of congressional members, such as policies on employment-based immigration and their impact on business. Esterline also promotes the importance of international students and advocates for them to have ways to stay in the country.

Before entering the policy space, Esterline worked directly with immigrants. For example, she staffed walk-in clinics at the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center, connecting immigrants with lawyers for legal advice. Despite focusing on the economic impact of immigration, her personal interactions informed her understanding of immigrants’ greater contributions to their communities.

“We can talk about how [immigrants are] productive members of our country, but at the same time, there’s a very human aspect to it,” Esterline said. “They are interwoven into every part of our society, and they enrich it by adding their diversity of food, culture, language, [and] religion.”

The human aspect is where Esterline sees how anyone can contribute to a solution. While federal policy lets immigrants and refugees into the country, the act of welcoming and integration occurs in their communities. And that local level has the power to impact complex international issues.

“International issues require an international response,” she said. “Being a global citizen means you recognize that your role in society and the lives you can impact does not end at the borders of your town, your state, or your country.”