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Global Changemaker Isis Ossebi ’12 Steps into the Spotlight with Inaugural NYC Commission Role

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For Congo-born, Paris-raised Isis Ossebi ’12, working at the United Nations was a dream: “Coming from the Congo, where I had experienced civil war and other political turmoil, I felt a strong drive toward being part of the change. I built my education around that goal, and around identifying ways I could either be part of the decision-making process or have my voice heard.”

In just over a decade since graduating from AUP, Ossebi has realized that dream, in two ways: first as a consultant with the Office of the Ambassador at the UN, and now, in her new position as the Director of Communications at the NYC Commission on Racial Equity (CORE). 

In this inaugural position within the newly established commission, Ossebi plays a vital role in giving voice to those who have been historically excluded, and fostering racial equity and social justice throughout NYC. Voted on in November 2022 and established in October 2023, the mission of CORE is to “advance racial equity in government operations and to increase community voice in government decision making,” with a focus on evaluating and tracking the city’s Racial Equity Plans and processes. 

Ossebi is all too familiar with the reverberations of institutionalized racism. As a young woman in Paris, she found herself denied pathways to higher education, internships and jobs. Yet experiencing early setbacks in France only solidified her resolve to be a changemaker who influences governments for the better.  

In response to these systemic challenges, Ossebi and her family chose AUP for her undergraduate degree in Comparative Politics. She was able to enjoy the comfort of being in the city in which she grew up, while taking classes in English and engaging with international peers. Stepping out of the French education system and into the American university system helped her gain an American cultural perspective – which would soon prove beneficial for her transition from France to the United States for graduate school.

Ossebi went on to earn a master’s degree in global affairs, with a concentration in peacebuilding, and in public relations, with a focus on communication messaging for corporations and international organizations from New York University. 

Ossebi would indeed make it to the UN, first as an intern in the Office of Disarmament Affairs, with a focus on the African continent and Sub-Saharan region, an internship that would reinforce her desire to work within an international setting where she could be surrounded by policy makers and impact communities in a visceral way. After graduate school, she joined renowned PR agency Sunshine Sachs, where she partnered with nonprofits, global companies and talent, including Leonardo DiCaprio’s foundation and Robert F. Kennedy’s human rights foundation. But she would yet again return to the UN as a consultant with the Office of the Ambassador of the Republic of the Congo to the United Nations in 2023. Focusing on leadership and environmental advocacy initiatives in the Congo Basin, Ossebi identified potential partnerships across the UN agency and with other countries, increased visibility of the work being done within the region, and put together the landmark Three Basins Summit for the Amazon, Congo, and Borneo-Mekong region in October of 2023.

After becoming a mother and therefore seeking a position with less international travel, in April 2024 she joined CORE. Bringing her experience in PR agencies and her background in international politics to the commission, her role is to increase community voice and scout for talent and stakeholders who have been marginalized by the U.S. government in NYC. She will also establish the communications infrastructure, from branding to social media management to website administration, creating a legacy that will be passed on to future directors. 

Sharing her story, volunteering her time, and serving in the AUP mentoring program are some of the ways Ossebi gives back to the communities that have inspired her along the way. Ossebi is determined to not take her hard-earned success for granted. “I did not get here by myself,” she says, “I want to be an advocate for folks to get to where they want, too.”