As part of our “Americans in the UN” project to share the stories of Americans who work for the United Nations, we talked to Nancy Groves, the head of social media for the UN’s Department of Public Information. Groves was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, grew up in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and is based at UN Headquarters in New York, New York.
From your experience, what is an example of how the UN has made a difference in someone’s life?
Nancy Groves: Every day we are making information available to people about life-saving issues – whether it’s producing a poster about land mine awareness that may save a child from losing a leg, or producing a radio program about how to protect yourself from an infectious disease. These kinds of examples are endless. These activities don’t get a lot of attention, but even saving the life of one person is rewarding.
What is your message to Americans about the importance of the UN?
NG: As a communicator, the big challenge is making sure that everyone understands that rather complex working is going on all the time, even when it doesn’t make the news. We can’t always prove that war didn’t break out because of negotiations that take place at the UN, but it’s important that the UN is a neutral place where people can come together to talk about issues of all kinds.
What motivates you to work for the UN?
NG: I firmly believe that international cooperation is key to peace, safety, security, and equality for all, so it’s so rewarding to see that work happening at UN Headquarters. Whether it’s on issues big or small, every day you see people working to make critical decisions on things that affect the lives of everyone.
How did you first learn about the UN?
NG: I don’t remember not knowing that the UN existed, but the first time I thought about it as a career opportunity was when I was on a school trip in high school and our class visited the UN offices in Geneva. I knew then that it was a career opportunity for people who spoke French, and I think in some way that influenced my decision to be a French major in college.
What is the favorite part of your job?
NG: I don’t get to travel a lot, but when I do, it’s rewarding to see how people respond to the UN. In New York, sometimes people almost seem annoyed when I say that I work at the UN – we cause traffic gridlock every September. Outside of the U.S., people are very excited to meet someone who works at the UN. For example, last year I traveled to Turkey, a country that is dealing with a massive influx of refugees. For them, the UN’s work on finding solutions to issues facing refugees is not abstract. It’s very real and much appreciated.
I also like the fact that sometimes you bump into famous people in the hallways. Because we feature special events for our social media platforms, I’ve had the chance to meet a lot of world leaders, activists, and celebrities who support issues on the UN agenda.
I also like that the UN itself is comprised of staff from all over the world.