Adrienne Bernstein

Junior Health Specialist

Bachelor of Journalism (Hons), 2014

We have to look at a lot of data, do political and economic analyses. It feels like a very easy step from journalism.

Sometimes an undergraduate education leads you to places you dont expect. Thats exactly what happened to Adrienne Bernstein, a former journalist who found her true calling in the international development sector. 

After graduating with her Bachelor of Journalism (Honours) degree from Kings in 2014, Bernstein worked for a year at CBC in Toronto, first as an intern and then as an editorial assistant, writing scripts and helping produce interview segments for the CBC News Network. But something was missing. I got into journalism to effect change in a sustainable way,Bernstein says. Journalism has those opportunities but I wasnt finding them. I thought working more at the grassroots level on social change would fit me better. 

So Bernstein travelled to work with activists and civil society organizations in Israel and then to London, U.K., in search of a role that would allow her to work toward social change in the way shed always envisioned. After stints working in professional writing roles for the non-profit sector, Bernstein completed a Masters degree in Migration, Mobility and Development from SOAS, University of London. After graduating, she was hired as an assistant project manager by Mott MacDonald, an international engineering and development consulting firm with a strong social and environmental focus on their projects. After working for three years on a capacity building programme, she then took up a junior health specialist role within their international health portfolio.  

No two days are the same: one day she might be writing a proposal to help deliver a health systems strengthening program; the next, she could be collaborating with academics and research institutions to develop a fellowship addressing antimicrobial resistance.  

Bernstein says she regularly relies on skills acquired while working on broadcast segments as a journalism student—namely research and project management. 

I loved working behind the scenes and all of the planning elements,she says of the broadcast workshops at Kings. That essentially is project management in a lot of waysWhen you’re working on a live news show, theres all these guests that you need to line up and different people that need to be contributing, and thats so much of our work [at Mott MacDonald], especially working overseas where we have a team on the ground and were bringing resources and support from all these different places. Holding it all together is very much kind of being in a production environment. 

Bernsteins job also requires her to conduct extensive research on the countries where they develop programs. Luckily research was one of her favourite tasks as an undergraduate. We have to look at a lot of data, do political and economic analyses. It feels like a very easy step from journalism.  

These days, Bernstein thinks a lot about the nature of teamwork too, something Kings laid the foundation for. Prior to beginning her degree, she heard horror stories about journalism programs that preached a cutthroat, individualistic approach to journalism; she was relieved to find Kings instead offered a supportive, collegial environment. That ethic of teamwork serves her well today as she collaborates, not just with local colleagues, but with colleagues across the globe, where Mott MacDonalds programs are delivered on the ground. Because Kings is so small and youre with people for four years in a small program, [you] learn how to collaborate with your peers and your colleagues,she says. Not only does that make it more fun when youre in it, but those are such important skills when you leave university.”  

Being able to use these skills to effect social change is a source of pride for Bernstein, after so many years in search of a role that matched both her skill set and her sense of purpose. 

 Im so happy to be working in international development and because its such a wide ranging sector, I feel like Im always learning.