Featured Member: Rebecca Turkington '12

Rebecca Turkington ’12 is the assistant director of the Women in Foreign Policy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations. She is the incoming chair of the D.C. chapter of Wellesley Friends of Art.

How the 2008 campaign led her to Wellesley: As a high school student, I interned for the Hillary Clinton campaign in New Hampshire. She and Madeleine Albright were two of my heroes at the time. A Wellesley for Hillary contingent came to one of the events and I told them that I was thinking of applying. They were so nice: “Oh my gosh, if we can do anything, here’s our emails.” And then Hillary came out on stage. She stopped everything when she saw them and shouted, “I love Wellesley!” I figured that if she was that excited about Wellesley after 40 years, it must be an interesting place.

Why she secretly wants to be a historian. I majored in International Relations – History. Taking Arabic with Rana Abdul-Aziz was hugely influential in switching my focus more towards IR. Professor Lidwein Kapteijns’s class on Changing Gender Constructions in the Modern Middle East gave me a great foundation in thinking about gender in the international relations world. But secretly, I still want to be a historian. I ended up auditing a lot of English and Art History classes just for fun. I really loved Art History in the Gilded Age with Professor Becky Bedell.

How she developed an interest in women in politics. I participated in the Albright Institute at Wellesley. Through that program I got to go to Morocco for the summer and work at their Ministry of Interior for a woman who ran the directorate that trained local elected officials. I helped translate trainings for women with no previous experience working in government and got really excited about the role that women can play. That internship helped me get my first job in D.C., in the Women’s Political Participation program at the National Democratic Institute (NDI).

On building a career that focuses on women in national security. After NDI, I became the first staff hire at the Georgetown University Institute for Women in Peace. The Institute’s research focuses on how women can make a difference in peace and security processes. I travelled to Northern Ireland to meet the women involved in Good Friday talks, to Kenya to meet women who were working after the 2008 electoral violence and writing a new constitution, and to Tunisia to meet women currently designing and implementing a transitional justice process post-Arab Spring. I got to tell stories of amazing women that have traditionally been written out of that narrative. And ended up getting a MA in Security Studies on the side.

Yep, that was her speaking at the U.N. this month. My job now at CFR is basically taking the kind of research that I used to do, and turning it into talking points for op-eds or policy briefs and manageable outreach to policy makers. Earlier this month, I was on a panel at the United Nations about ‘Rehabilitating and Reintegrating Women Formerly Associated with Terrorist Groups.’

How her work-study job nurtured a deep interest in art. I was a security guard at the Davis Museum for all four years at Wellesley. I loved it. It was uninterrupted time to sit and think about art. I read every catalogue. I read all of the wall text. I eavesdropped on every lecture and art history class. Sometimes the artists came through and were happy to talk. It was a whole education in contemporary art. Fortunately, when I moved down to D.C. and needed a second job, I was already qualified as a museum guard. I worked at the Phillips Collection on weekends for three years.

Why she is excited about Friends of Art. Friends of Art is the group that raises funds and for the Davis Museum on campus. The Davis is hands down one of the best college art museums in the country, but it’s more familiar to younger alums because it only opened in 1993. The D.C. chapter of Friends of Art does several events per season, such as a tour of a private collection, a studio visit of great local artist, or organizing a group to see a new show. You can find a Wellesley alumna working at almost all of the cultural institutions around here and often they are happy to give us a behinds-the scenes look. If you want an interesting, intelligent look at what’s going on in the local art scene, come join us!

Where to find her on weekends. I love the book culture in D.C. This city has a fantastic library system and a dozen independent bookstores, with more opening every year. They all have own events and lectures series. Any day of the week you can go see an incredible author speak. I live in the Palisades neighborhood of D.C., which has its own library, plus a lot of green space, coffee shops, and other neighborhood institutions.


The Washington Wellesley Club is excited to introduce you to DC area alums through this new series of online profiles. Each month, a local alum will talk about living and working in DC and share memories of Wellesley. These profiles will illustrate how Wellesley alums stay creative and resilient despite the challenges that inevitably come our way. To view profiles of previously featured members, click here.