Cody Saleh is the research and social media coordinator for the Center for Middle East Development at the UCLA International Institute. A UCLA alumna — she graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in communication studies three years ago — Saleh will become a student again this fall, but in London. Peggy McInerny, communications director for the International Institute, recently sat her down for an interview.
Life in L.A.
Saleh hails from Del Mar, California, just outside San Diego. ”It’s beautiful, relaxing and there’s hardly ever traffic … which I only came to appreciate after living in L.A. for seven years,” she said. “For me, life in L.A. is vastly improved when I don’t have to drive anywhere.” When trying something new requires getting behind the wheel, “I typically pick a neighborhood or an event like a street fair and stay there all day,” she said. “My favorite [thing] is going for a hike in the Palisades/Malibu, picking up Mexican food and heading to the beach.”
Hooked on politics
While completing her major, she decided to minor in political science, but delayed finishing it for three years. “I hated the thought of taking class in some basement in Bunche Hall," she said. In her senior year, she got hooked on courses on the Middle East and spent hours in her T.A.’s office discussing Middle East politics (and “The Game of Thrones,” she added). Just one day after her graduation in 2012, she got a call from political science professor Steven Spiegel, director of the Center for Middle East Development (CMED). Her T.A., it turned out, had recommended her to Spiegel for a job.
Although Saleh was hired as research assistant, her work has taken her beyond her original job description. “No one at CMED does just one job for long because we have such a small staff,” she said. “It feels like a startup.” Among other things, she manages the Middle Easterner blog as well as the center’s multiple social media outlets and its student interns. She also dabbles in graphic design and tests new computer software applications. “I joke because I’m always trying to force my poor colleagues to adopt new technology," she said. "But then I have to fix it when it doesn’t work!”
She also plays a major role in programming the center’s international conferences, working with professor Spiegel and roughly 30 other experts worldwide. And she follows up with policy reports in what she calls “marathon post-conference sessions.” And she takes advantage of all that the UCLA International Institute — of which the center is one part — has to offer. “The sheer breadth and depth of the topics covered by all the different centers amazes me,” she said.
Saleh will depart in August for the London School of Economics, where she will pursue a master’s degree in international political economy. She hopes “to work in economic diplomacy in any sector, while also fulfilling my dream of being a jet-set travel and food blogger." Meanwhile, she's already feeling a bit nostalgic about leaving. “The nature, the weather and good Mexican food are three things I’m going to miss when I leave L.A.,” Saleh said. “[It] makes me sad to think about … and hungry.”