Ketevan Chincharadze (‘19): ‘My Time at AUBG was Truly Transformative’

May 02, 2024 Dimana Doneva
Ketevan Chincharadze (‘19): ‘My Time at AUBG was Truly Transformative’

Originally from Georgia, alumna Ketevan Chincharadze (‘19) is currently based in Washington, where she serves as a Policy Advisor at the Aspen Institute, offering counsel to Members of Congress on critical foreign policy issues. Prior to this, she served as Acting Public Diplomacy Officer at NATO in Georgia and interned at the Administration of the President of Georgia. Ketevan holds an MA degree in International Security from the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies.

During her time at AUBG, she studied Political Science and International Relations while also being the first-ever student to complete a major in Psychology. She was actively involved in campus life, founding the psychology club (PsyClub), establishing the first women’s band at the Rock Jamming Club, and participating in the 10th AUBG musical Rock of Ages. Her hard work, dedication and contributions to introducing the Psychology major earned her the Outstanding Achievement in Psychology Award at the 26th Honors Convocation.

In this interview, Ketevan discusses her career in policy and reflects on how her experiences at AUBG influenced her personal and professional journey.

Life After AUBG

Upon graduating from AUBG, you have had diverse experiences working in organizations in Georgia and the U.S. Please, walk us through the highlights of your professional journey and how these experiences have shaped your skills and perspective.

My time at the AUBG was truly transformative. It provided substantial insights into my diverse skills and personal inclinations, which I hadn’t been fully aware of before. With a double major in political science and psychology, I stood at a crossroads upon graduation, uncertain about my next steps. So, I returned to Georgia and pursued high-level internships to gain more experience and narrow down my professional focus.

My journey began at the Administration of the President of Georgia, where I was engaged in the historic opening of the Orbeliani Presidential Palace and the President’s 2020 charity campaign.

This experience ignited my passion for political and diplomatic affairs, leading me to a subsequent internship at the NATO Liaison Office (NLO) in Georgia/South Caucasus, which coincided with the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Nagorno Karabakh.

As my mentor’s diplomatic tenure drew to a close, I assumed the role of an acting public diplomacy officer, a position that both challenged me and helped me delve into NATO’s organizational dynamics and the international security landscape. I also did my inaugural interview on national television in this role.

This experience inspired me to found Georgia’s inaugural Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) Tbilisi International Conference to celebrate the 20th anniversary of UN WPS Resolution 1325.

My tenure at NATO revealed my preference for the policy realm, prompting me to pursue a graduate degree in international security in the United States. Leveraging my AUBG education and internships, I secured admission to prestigious universities worldwide. Eventually, I earned internationally competitive scholarships and fellowships, which paved the way for my current role at the Aspen Institute Congressional Program. 

Career Path

What responsibilities do you hold as a Policy Advisor at the Aspen Institute? How do you see your future career development?

At the Aspen Institute Congressional Program, my role revolves around educating Members of Congress on critical foreign policy issues, such as international security, green energy transition, artificial intelligence, and sustainable development.

I assist in planning and executing educational conferences for Members of the U.S. Congress, as well as weekly Members-only discussions right in the U.S. Capitol.

In doing so, I work hand-in-hand with leading U.S. and international experts. I have the privilege of crafting cutting-edge content, refining scholarly essays, and compiling comprehensive reports on the impact of our projects. 

Through this collaborative effort, I have already organized seven Congressional conferences spanning four continents, resulting in over sixty actionable policy ideas for Congress.

It is a dynamic role that allows me to contribute directly to shaping impactful policies on a global scale.

Masters After AUBG

How has your Bachelor’s degree at AUBG prepared you for graduate studies at the University of Denver?

AUBG has provided me with a robust academic foundation and a diverse set of skills that have seamlessly prepared me for graduate studies at the University of Denver. AUBG’s rigorous curriculum and emphasis on critical thinking have honed my analytical abilities and equipped me with the necessary academic rigor to excel in graduate-level coursework.

At the Korbel School, I realized that AUBG had already helped me develop a strong capacity for independent research, problem-solving, and intellectual curiosity. 

The diversity of the AUBG student body has broadened my worldview, enhanced my cross-cultural communication skills, and deepened my understanding of global issues—an invaluable asset that I have brought with me to the Korbel School. 

I must express my profound gratitude to my professors at AUBG, who have not only imparted knowledge but also served as my mentors and friends.

Their unwavering support and guidance have been instrumental in my growth, providing countless recommendations for various projects and opportunities I have pursued. I owe a significant portion of my academic and professional achievements to them.

The First in Psychology

As the first student at AUBG to graduate with a major in Psychology, how do you find that your knowledge in this area has benefited you, especially as you navigate a career path in politics?

Studying psychology at AUBG has been instrumental in shaping not only my self-awareness but also my approach to navigating a career in politics and international relations.

While my primary professional focus may have been on global security, delving into psychology provided me with invaluable insights into human behavior, cognition, and interpersonal dynamics.

It has equipped me with a deeper understanding of human motivations and decision-making processes, which is crucial when engaging with Members of Congress, colleagues, or other stakeholders. 

Psychology has also empowered me to approach complex political challenges with a nuanced perspective, recognizing the interplay between individual peculiarities and broader theories.

Whether it’s crafting persuasive arguments or understanding the psychology behind policy decisions, my knowledge in psychology enriches my capacity to navigate the multifaceted landscape of politics.

AUBG Highlights

In what ways has studying at AUBG shaped you personally and professionally? Beyond academics, what were some of the highlights of your university years – student clubs, classes, or anything else you’d like to mention?

My initial plan was to major in Economics at AUBG. However, my experience soon revealed that I could not think like an economist. Instead, I discovered a deeper passion for global affairs and human psychology,  thanks to the university’s liberal arts system. 

Beyond academics, AUBG provided me with opportunities for personal growth and exploration. Despite being a music school graduate and choir singer, I had never dared to sing solo until AUBG’s Orientation Week talent show.

My first successful singing experience and the supportive atmosphere on campus encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and join the Rock Jamming Club, where I formed the first-ever women’s band.

I also participated in the 10th AUBG musical “Rock of Ages” and toured Bulgaria with my peers, which was an unforgettable experience that enriched my time at the university.

The PsyClub in 2019

Founding PsyClub at AUBG was a highlight of my student life. Creating an inclusive space where students could engage with psychology without a competitive application process was immensely rewarding. The trust and support of PsyClub’s first members not only set up the club for success but also played a pivotal role in the establishment of the psychology major at AUBG. I am glad that the psychology major keeps growing and PsyClub has a continuous positive impact on enhancing campus life.

Being the first psychology major, the founder of PsyClub, and an Outstanding Achievement Award holder are my proudest moments from my undergraduate studies. These could only happen at a place like AUBG. 

The Alumni Network

What role does the AUBG alumni network play in your life now that you are a graduate?

AUBG follows me everywhere I go. My best friends are AUBGers. We organize regular reunions and friendly gatherings, allowing ourselves to reminisce about our time at the Skaptos, exchange stories, and forge new memories. 

I maintain close ties with AUBG alumni in the United States and beyond, encountering fellow graduates in unexpected places and forming meaningful connections.

For instance, while studying at the Korbel School, I crossed paths with a Mongolian AUBG alum who was pursuing her postdoc. A member of my MA thesis committee happened to be an AUBG alum, who is now an esteemed professor of journalism at the University of Denver. 

More recently, at an alumni gathering hosted by the Bulgarian Embassy in Washington D.C., I had the privilege of meeting Christo Grozev, a distinguished AUBG alum and now an Oscar-winning investigative journalist. This encounter led to a significant collaboration, as I extended an invitation to Christo to address Capitol Hill alongside twenty Members of Congress, shedding light on critical issues like Navalny’s death and [Christo’s] ongoing work. 

Even beyond the confines of campus, the AUBG connection continues to be a significant part of my life. 

Life in Blagoevgrad

As a Georgian, what was your experience studying in Bulgaria and living in Blagoevgrad?

Blagoevgrad is one of the most comfortable places I have ever lived. After AUBG, I have never had the comfort of ordering a giant, affordable pizza at any part of the day and sharing it with my friends in a Skapto while engaging in board games or thought-provoking conversations.

The city offers safety, vibrant nightlife, budget-friendly off-campus dining options, picturesque hiking spots, and the added convenience of grocery stores within arm’s reach of the campus, creating an ideal living environment for undergraduates.

Moreover, I always had friends around to keep me company. 

Ketevan performing on stage in Blagoevgrad

I also took full advantage of the short distance between Blagoevgrad and Sofia and frequently visited Bulgaria’s capital with my friends. Additionally, the city’s proximity to Greece offered further opportunities for exploration and adventure beyond borders.

After my hometown, Tbilisi, Blagoevgrad is where I felt most at ease, and I hope to go back soon to make new memories with old friends. 


Considering the global nature of your education and your exposure to diverse viewpoints, how do you believe your time at AUBG has shaped your understanding of democracy and democratic values?

The AUBG community structure mirrors a thriving democracy, subtly instilling democratic values within students and empowering them to become exemplary citizens during this pivotal stage of personal growth.

Interacting with a diverse student body and faculty at AUBG has taught me that democracy is nuanced and culturally contingent, helping me acquire a deeper appreciation for its universal principles while embracing cultural peculiarities. My involvement in various extracurricular activities has underscored the importance of civic engagement and active participation in democratic processes, instilling in me a sense of responsibility to contribute to my country’s democracy. 

Today I also run a small nonprofit FLOW (Future Leaders for an Open World) that aims to contribute to peace and security and spearhead policy-level discussions concerning the digital space. My ability to contribute to Georgia’s civil society as a nonprofit founder stems from the experience I gained running student clubs and learning about change-making at AUBG.

Piece of Advice

What advice would you give to a current AUBG student?

Be brave to experiment. This is the time for trial and error, which is the most effective way to discover your true passions and aspirations. Identifying what you enjoy and what you don’t and recognizing your strengths and areas for improvement are crucial in finding your professional voice and direction. So, be courageous in exploring different paths and do not feel obliged to heed others, including your family, if their advice conflicts with your vision.