What do you do?
I graduated from Ursinus College as an IR and French double major in 2006 with plans to join the Peace Corps in Benin, West Africa two months later. Following my two years of service in the Peace Corps, I went on to get a Master’s degree in International Development, specializing in gender equity.
Upon graduation, I worked for an international women’s empowerment organization called, Women’s Campaign International (WCI), which promotes women in leadership positions around the world. As a Program Manager at WCI, I led programming in Afghanistan and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
As an international humanitarian aid and development specialist, I’ve been working for Catholic Relief Services (CRS) since 2013 serving in Burkina Faso, Senegal (covering Senegal, The Gambia, Mauritania, and Guinea Bissau) and most recently Benin, as the Head of Programming.
How do you see the connection between the time you spent as a Politics/IR major and what you’ve been able to do since?
My time as an IR major at Ursinus College built the foundation from which I have cultivated an exciting and rewarding career in international humanitarian aid and development. From facilitating training workshops for Afghan women interested in running for public office and then returning to support those recently elected women Members of Parliament form a women’s caucus in Kabul in 2011, to conducting a gender analysis of an innovative sustainable economic and livelihoods project aimed at fostering social cohesion in post-conflict Angola in 2012, and most recently leading dynamic programming teams to implement large scale malaria, school feeding, microfinance, and community based infectious disease surveillance programming in Senegal, Guinea Bissau, The Gambia and now Benin since 2015, so many aspects of what I do on a daily basis are directly linked to skills I learned while at Ursinus College.
Courses like Islam and Democracy, Human Rights in Africa, International Politics, and U.S. Foreign Policy, developed the critical thinking and cross-cultural awareness skills required to become a conscientious global citizen and effective leader in my field.
What advice do you have for students currently majoring in, or considering to major in IR?
My recommendation to current IR students and those considering majoring in IR would be to
- travel (spend a semester in a new country);
- get involved in local politics, civil society, social justice and human rights work;
- participate in clubs, associations and other campus activities that allow you to engage in dialogue with others and practically apply what you are learning in the classroom; and
- take advantage of internships and other learning/ networking opportunities.
Take full advantage of the wonderful professors, courses, on campus lectures, activities, clubs and events to develop self-awareness about who you are and what a meaningful career path would be to you.