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Bachelor student Isak Axelson reflects on his internship with the United Nations

During the summer (2022) Isak Axelson, who is currently in his third year of the BSc in Business & Economics, undertook an internship with the PRME Secretariat, part of the United Nations Global Compact in New York. During this short interview, Isak reflects on the experience, and his biggest takeaways.

The Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) is a United Nations-supported initiative founded in 2007. The platform aims to raise the profile of sustainability in schools around the world, by providing today's business students with the perspectives and skills to deliver change tomorrow. SSE has been a signatory of PRME since 2013, and the initiative is administered through Misum (Mistra Center for Sustainable Markets).


How did you initially find out about this internship?

I was on LinkedIn and googling, just trying to figure out what I could be doing for the summer, looking at various internships, jotting down some ideas what I might be interested in doing. I wanted to do something internationally, preferably in New York or Washington. By chance I came across a former SSE bachelor graduate, and she did an internship with PRME in 2019. So, I looked into it, and they were taking applications at the time. I applied to the UN Global Compact, and selected the teams I was interested in. One of the teams I picked was PRME because I thought that it made sense given that I'm a student at a PRME school and I was curious about the work of PRME, and I thought it seemed meaningful and important and that I maybe could contribute with some student perspectives.

What did a typical day look like?

The days involved a lot of supporting colleagues with research and writing tasks in the various workstreams. I also worked a lot with communications. I took part in a lot of meetings and workshops with stakeholders. I was involved in many PRME projects like ‘I5’, SIP reporting, and PRME Global Students. Sometimes we would have visits from business delegations or universities to the UN Global Compact office, and we would introduce them to the work of the UN Global Compact and the role of PRME. I also got to attend several large UN events and conferences which was very exciting.

Tell us more about PRME’s I5 project

I5 is actually ’the Impactful Five’, and the project’s aim is to educate the educators, so essentially equipping professors with tools to teach their students the skills needed to become sustainability-minded and responsible leaders. In other words, it’s about using novel pedagogical approaches to make sustainable development the norm in business education. The project is still in its early phases, but it is going to be a big initiative going forward.

How was the overall experience?

It was incredible! I learned so much from everyone on the PRME team and they are all truly great. The internship was such a great social experience as well. You would have lunch or a coffee chat with UN Global Compact colleagues and other interns from all across the world every day. The wide span of conversations you have in a single day is pretty incredible. It was great to get a glimpse at other parts of the UN system too, like attending the Transforming Education Summit and the week of the General Assembly.

What was the biggest challenge during the internship?

The biggest challenge was understanding the breadth and depth of PRME. You have just shy of a thousand signatories in 90 plus countries, many different working groups on projects and initiatives, and a lot of stakeholders in the community, both in the UN system and outside of it.

What was your biggest takeaway from the experience?

I learnt that nearly a third of the world’s university graduates every year are business students, and that’s around 67 million graduates, equal to the population of France, and these graduates go out into world and so the potential for impact from a business school perspective is huge. So, I think business schools and universities have a great opportunity, but also an obligation, to be a force for good in shaping and empowering their students to be the responsible employees and leaders of tomorrow.

I think I personally became more passionate about education and aware of how education more widely is so essential in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and I think I want to spend my career working with sustainable development somehow.

What did your peers think of your internship?

When I’ve shared the experience with my peers and told them about living in New York and working at the UN many have said that it sounds very exciting, and that they would like to try something similar. So, I think there is a curiosity amongst SSE students about these types of careers, the difficulty is just knowing where to begin when exploring the options.

Do you have any advice for other students interested in a similar internship/career path?

I had an amazing time at PRME, and I think it is worth emphasizing that there are a lot of great opportunities available out there, you just need to make the effort to make yourself aware of them.


Isak will be joining the PRME team, here at SSE, as a Student Advisor from 2023. We look forward to working together with him.  

If you are interested in learning more about the school’s PRME initiatives, you can find out more here: https://www.hhs.se/en/research/institutes/misum-startpage/about-us/how-sse-does-prme/

And, if you would like to get involved, please contact us!