By Glenda McCarthy
A curious child by nature, Edward Mishaud always strived to solve problems. Fast forward 35 years and Edward can be found in Geneva, Switzerland doing just that for the United Nations where he is helping to tackle the global problem of HIV/AIDS.
A native of Stephenville, Edward always had specific plans for his future and even in middle school recognized his enjoyment of writing and following current affairs. “My mother would be the first to say I was a curious child, always wanting to get at the root of a problem. I enjoy working with the public, meeting people, and finding new solutions. My interest in journalism sparked quite randomly, to be honest.”
Initially he wanted to pursue a bachelor of arts in political science but after the first semester he realized he needed more hands-on studies. He found what he was looking for at CNA.
“I wanted hands-on study in journalism, paired with practical and tangible coursework. The course had three full-time instructors who brought forward a wealth of experience in their respective fields and an interest in seeing their students excel. Given the small class size I knew I would be able to get much more face time with the instructors versus a larger—and more expensive—school in Nova Scotia or Ontario.”
The two-year program provided a solid foundation and offered a balance in practical coursework and exposure to the day-to-day realities of being a reporter. His part-time work as a reporter at The Georgian newspaper also cemented his love of his chosen career.
“Working in print exposed me to the realities of reporting and gave me added confidence and reassurance, knowing that I was following the right career path.”
With a Journalism diploma under his belt, Edward participated in a seven-month long cultural and language exchange program with the Quebec-based organization, Canada World Youth. The program took him to rural Quebec and as far away as a remote village in Benin, West Africa. That experience, he says, shaped his outlook on the world.
“My time in Benin was eye opening from so many different angles—culturally, socially and economically. The impact of poverty was everywhere, and basic services and infrastructure were either rudimentary or not available. I left Benin with a greater appreciation for living in Canada, but also the realization that we have a responsibility to support developing countries in improving and shaping their future.”
Following his experience with Canada World Youth, Edward took advantage of CNA’s transfer agreement with Cape Breton University where he completed the three-year Community Studies degree in just one year. But he still wasn’t finished – Edward had his sights set on the one-year bachelor of journalism program at the University of King’s College in Halifax.
Edward then turned his attention to an interest in international affairs, and in September 2002 was one of 31 Canadian university graduates accepted for a six-month international placement with the United Nations which saw him move to Bonn, Germany to work with the United Nations Volunteer program.
“My time at UN Volunteers shaped my view on the United Nations and the important role the organization plays in the world. Before that experience, the United Nations seemed remote, almost intangible.” Despite returning to Canada for a six-month stint with the CBC television show Street Cents, his work at the UN had left an impression and in July of 2004 he returned as a communications officer.
After a few years of working in Bonn, Edward decided to return to school, enrolling in the London School of Economics and Political Science. He completed a master of science in politics and communications in 2007, graduating with distinction and a published dissertation. “The program provided me with a 360-degree view on the influence of media and public relations on politics, and vice versa.”
In 2008 Edward joined his current employer, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). He began as a project coordinator for AIDSspace.org, a social network website for the international AIDS Community; and then as communications officer where he managed UNAIDS’ corporate policies and activities for internal communications, brand identity and social media.
“Working for the United Nations does provide a truly global perspective on the key issues of our time. One develops an awareness of the inter-connectivity of nations and cultures and how a decision or action in one part of the world has an impact elsewhere,” Edward explains.
“There is also an important sense of responsibility working for the United Nations, knowing that you are accountable to member states and ultimately communities, citizens. It may be somewhat naive, altruistic, but it does come down to that purpose in the end.”
Until January 2013 his career had focused on communications, but now as an executive officer to a senior director his duties have deviated slightly to focus on overseeing projects, resources and people. Even with a change in duties, there is one part of working in Europe that remains his favourite.
“(It’s) the challenge — and advantage — of working in a multicultural environment where you have colleagues from all countries, ethnicities, cultures, etc. It may sound like a cliché but the United Nations is a mosaic of the world,” he says.
In June 2011 Edward attended a high level meeting on HIV/AIDS at the United Nations headquarters in New York – an eye-opening experience for this small-town guy.
“Sitting in the general assembly, looking at the UN laurel above the dais and, at that moment, I realized how surreal it was to be there and part of a truly global organization, where international leaders come together to uphold the UN Charter and all it represents.”
Reflecting on his career to-date Edward still takes his foundation as a journalist from CNA with him.
“I did see myself working internationally but not necessarily with the United Nations or for an international organization. Journalism, the media, is still within me, and a part of me would like to be working as a reporter covering largely many of the issues that I am involved in today — issues of good governance, health, sustainable development, human rights, and the environment.”
So what’s next for Edward? He admits it’s hard to say.
“After nearly nine years working for the United Nations, across three very different organizations I do think working for a smaller institution, like a ‘start-up’ could be interesting and challenging, for instance a ‘think tank’ or an international public diplomacy institute. On the other hand, returning to journalism could also be a challenging option.”
While Edward’s not sure what part of the world he may venture to next, regardless of where his career takes him, his inquisitive nature will lead him on an adventure.