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Meet 2017 Forward Under 40 Award Recipient Neha Lugo ’06

Meet 2017 Forward under 40 Award recipient Neha Lugo ’06.

March 01, 2017
Neha Lugo ’06

UW Majors: Political Science, French, and International Studies with Certificates in European Studies and Global Cultures
Age: 33 | Washington, DC
Attorney Adviser for the Office of the Legal Adviser, U.S. Department of State

Neha Sheth Lugo decided early on that a UW degree would take her places.

Lugo, a Madison native, created her own world-class ticket with a major in international studies and a wealth of globetrotting as part of her UW degree. Today, she’s touched down as an attorney in the U.S. Department of State, where she provides legal advice regarding policies that affect people and places all across the planet. “All I knew was that my career would have some global perspective through which I could experience the world,” Lugo says.

“I love my job, which allows me every day to take part in decisions that advance U.S. foreign policy and, I believe, the common good.”

As an undergraduate researcher, she wrote an award-winning thesis on French foreign policy during the Rwandan civil war and genocide. She earned L&S honors and packed her UW studies with international experiences — courses in French, Spanish, and Hindi; study abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France; and Oaxaca, Mexico; and an internship in the United Kingdom’s Parliament.

She went on to earn her law degree at Harvard Law School, completing field work in Nepal and serving as editor-in-chief of the Harvard Human Rights Journal. She is an adjunct professor at Washington, DC’s Georgetown University Law Center.

Lugo says she’s found her “dream job in public service” at the U.S. State Department, where she has been since 2010. In her second position there, with the Office of Human Rights and Refugees, she provided legal advice regarding women’s rights and refugee admissions, and served as a U.S. representative to the UN General Assembly and the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

Today, Lugo is an attorney for the Legal Adviser’s Office of Oceans, International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. She works on U.S. conservation efforts, including multilateral treaties that protect the marine environment, prevent wildlife trafficking, and promote biological diversity and global food security.

“I love my job, which allows me every day to take part in decisions that advance U.S. foreign policy and, I believe, the common good,” Lugo says.

Q&A with Neha Lugo

What are you reading now?

So many books! Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, Midnight in Peking by Paul French, The Shipping News by Annie Proulx and The English and Their History by Robert Tombs

What is the one thing every UW student must do?

Study abroad

What advice would you offer to graduating seniors?

Don’t worry too much about starting your career, or figuring out where you will be in ten years. Figure out what you want to do now, and go for it!

What is your guilty pleasure?

I’m not sure it’s a guilty pleasure, but I love baking and own far too many baking pans, gadgets and cookbooks. I enjoy trying new recipes and sharing baked goods with family, friends, and colleagues.

What occupies your free time?

My family and friends.

What is your favorite quote?

“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance” — Oscar Wilde

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