Austin Gignilliat stepped onto The Walker School campus as a sixth-grade kid and emerged in 2015 as a graduate with much to offer the world. He attended The University of Georgia and received a Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs and Economics. It’s the minor in French, though, that Austin uses daily in his career.
According to the School of Public Affairs & International Affairs (SPIA) at UGA, it was Austin’s study abroad experience in South Africa that affirmed his interest in international affairs. Currently, Austin works for the National Democratic Institute. His primary role is promoting democracy and human rights in cooperation with local governments in Central Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
As we caught up with Austin on his post-Walker career, he laughed, recalling his first impression of The Walker School. "I remember my excitement over the fact that I wasn't expected to wear a uniform!" Austin claims he gained much more than a uniform-free school experience at Walker, even if it was an appealing aspect for a new sixth-grade boy. He received an excellent education that paved the way for his future.
Playing an active role in The Walker School community, Austin began his extracurricular activities as an athlete. After a sports injury, and with some strong encouragement from our faculty, he decided to audition for an upcoming play and was gratefully surprised by the community he found there. "Nowhere have I felt as welcome, as free to be myself than in the green room of the drama department," Austin claims. Academically, Walker’s faculty brought history to life with both a personal and passionate approach. For Austin, history became “more than dates and facts.” His interest in world-wide affairs piqued.
Following commencement in 2015, Austin attended The University of Georgia where he discovered that he had a definitive advantage. While many of his college peers were figuring out the basics of writing papers, Austin did not struggle to produce the quality of work his professors expected. He found himself grateful for the many hours spent honing the elusive skill of writing early. Time management skills often sink a college student with newfound freedom. Dipping his feet into so many learning opportunities at Walker helped Austin manage time in college successfully.
It's not a surprise to discover Austin's plan to further his education. Walker faculty lead by example, demonstrating the importance of becoming ever-changing, lifelong learners. Over 70 percent of Walker faculty have advanced degrees. Austin plans to pursue further education in a country he adores: France. He will be working towards his Masters of Human Rights and Humanitarian Action at the Paris Institute of Political Studies beginning in August 2021.