Nina Sretenović, ’25, stands in the chamber of the United Nations Security Council

Nina Sretenović, ’25, standing in the United Nations Security Council Chamber

Aspiring diplomat interns at United Nations

October 24, 2023

Nina Sretenović, ’25, listened intently from inside the United Nations Security Council Chamber in New York on Sept. 20 as President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine made an impassioned appeal for a reform that would revoke Russia’s veto power in the council. His speech became the most talked-about event of the 2023 United Nations high-level week, an annual meeting that convenes world leaders to debate global challenges and possible solutions. For Sretenović, it was the crowning moment of a fascinating internship with the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Serbia to the United Nations.  

A native of Serbia, Sretenović has pursued her interest in diplomacy and international relations through her majors in leadership studies and philosophy, politics, economics, and law. This summer, with funding support from the Richmond Guarantee, she gained firsthand experience in international diplomacy during her internship with Serbia’s permanent mission, which serves as the Southeastern European country’s delegation to the U.N. 

“I attended a lot of Security Council meetings and then drafted reports to share with our Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” she said. “I also helped represent Serbia in negotiating U.N. resolutions concerning the Declaration on Future Generations, universal health coverage, and pandemic prevention.” 

Particularly rewarding, the Presidential Scholar said, was her work on the International Decade of Sciences for Sustainable Development, a U.N. resolution jointly proposed by Serbia and seven other nations. 

“I helped draft and later edit the resolution, which established rules for how countries should use science to achieve their sustainability goals in the next ten years,” Sretenović said. “I felt very honored to work on this resolution, which the U.N. adopted in August. Serbia is a small country, so it was important to show that we can have some influence.” 

Another high point of her internship was a brief encounter with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, she said. She met him in August when he led a Security Council debate on global food security, in which he emphasized how Russia’s war on Ukraine impacts worldwide grain distribution. 

Although her internship officially ended in August, the Jepson School of Leadership Studies awarded her a grant to return to New York Sept. 19-23 to attend the U.N. high-level week when leaders of each U.N. member state address the General Assembly. She worked with Serbia’s permanent mission to welcome the Serbian delegations of President Aleksandar Vučić and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Dačić. And she heard Zelensky address the Security Council. 

Now back on campus, Sretenović is taking the leadership studies class How Populist Narratives Threaten Regional Stability, taught by Anthony Godfrey, former U.S. ambassador to Serbia. 

“The class brings my U.N. experience full circle,” the junior said. “We are learning about the tensions between Serbia and Kosovo. Although I don’t always agree with Ambassador Godfrey, I value hearing the U.S. perspective from a U.S. diplomat.” 

The class, like her internship, supports her future plans to pursue a career in international diplomacy focused on peace and security issues, she said. 

“My internship was a dream come true—especially because I want to be a diplomat for Serbia one day. It was a great honor to represent my country at the United Nations.”