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Alumni Profiles



Contact:
Candace Gibson
Program Coordinator
(202) 885-1657
IDPSIS@american.edu

The following are profiles of a few of our approximately 1300 distinguished alumni. They come from many distinct and different backgrounds and work in variety of organizations throughout the field of development.


What do you love most about your job? 

WFP encourages people to have diverse experiences in different countries. WFP's mandate is limited to food security, however, it allows development professionals to do a wide range of work such as needs assessment, project implementation monitoring and evaluation, and reporting and fundraising. In addition, WFP has a reputation of getting things done even in the most challenging environments. It does so by encouraging, fostering, and implementing innovative ideas in response to the largest humanitarian and development challenges in the world. I am proud to be a part of this. 

How did your SIS academic experience prepare you for success? 

I gained in-depth knowledge of development and critical thinking ability. This may sound vague and unappealing because the skills I learned and the courses I took are not directly applicable to my daily work. My concentration was governance and democracy and I wrote about the Indian economy and sub-national governance in Afghanistan, but now I work with a food agency! The ID program, however, definitely helped me to identify developmental problems, analyze the causes of the problems, address them properly, and develop/implement/evaluate intervention strategies to solve the problems. 

What advice do you have for current and/or prospective students pursuing careers in development? 

When it comes to your career, be pragmatic and flexible. As long as you know where you are heading you will be fine. Even if your job is not what you exactly wanted, you will still learn many important lessons along the way that will lead you to your next step. For example, I went back to Korea after AU as I could not find the job I wanted in DC or in my field. My experience at the Korean National Parliament led me to WFP. The WFP Liberia Office was looking for someone to work in program oversight, which was similar to what I was doing at Parliament.

Along the same line, be realistic and patient. You are not going to change the world. You are just doing a small part, contributing to positive change while dealing with the same challenges that every worker in the world faces despite whatever organization for which you work. There is not perfect organization. I find that this is the most common frustration that development professionals encounter in the early stages of their careers; I certainly have.  

Lastly, be proud of being at SIS and absorb as much as possible while you are there. People who know American University's education system trust and value SIS. You should have no problem selling the unique skill-sets and "spirit" that you get from SIS.

  1. Paul Colombini

    Paul Colombini

    SIS/MA '09

    International Development - Development Economics

    Foreign Service Officer, U.S. Department of State

What do you love most about your job? 

The variation. Foreign Service Officers typically rotate assignments and countries every two to three years, and no tour (indeed no work day) is exactly the same. As a result, you get to use and develop a wide variety of skills and usually learn several languages over the course of a career. 

How did your SIS academic experience prepare you for success? 

I found that the International Development Program helped in three ways. First, it gave me the vocabulary and the background to talk about economic development and international affairs more generally. Second, through practical courses like econometrics and the summer practicum, I gained experience which helped with marketing myself for jobs after graduation. Finally, the alumni network and the outstanding AU career center helped tremendously in connecting me with my first job at an NGO and later at USAID before I joined the Foreign Service. 

What advice do you have for current and/or prospective students pursuing careers in development? 

Think broadly about how to use your international development degree, but also try to develop specialized skills that you can use to market yourself. Start your job search as soon as you get to campus, and take advantage of the career center and the many internship opportunities in DC during your two years at AU. Try to get experience working abroad during the summer, and become proficient in at least one or two foreign languages. 

  1. Mario González Flores

    Mario González Flores

    SIS MA '07

    International Development - Development Policy and Impact Evaluation

    Evaluation Economist Senior Specialist, Inter-American Development Bank - Office of Strategic Planning and Development Effectiveness

What do you love most about your job? 

There are two things that I love about my job. First, I work with an amazing team that is very professional, highly qualified, and truly cares about promoting development. Second, I love that my responsibilities include a variety of tasks that I am passionate about: 1) assess the evaluability of programs before they are approved and after they have been completed; 2) provide technical support to project leaders at the IDB, and executing units in Latin America, in the design and implementation of their impact evaluations; 3) conduct field work, including enumerator training and piloting of surveys; 4) mentoring young researchers; 5) teaching impact evaluation methods; and 6) conducting and publishing applied research that can improve program design and inform policy.  

How did your SIS academic experience prepare you for success? 

During my second year in the International Development program, I took a class taught by Paul Winters called Project Evaluation in Developing Countries. The class was by far the most challenging and demanding class that I had ever taken, but it turned out to be the most important for my future work in development. Although the class was taught by a professor from the economics department, most of my classmates were SIS students, mainly from he ID program. This class introduced me to impact evaluation techniques that rely on statistical and econometric methods to assess the effectiveness of development interventions. The class combined economic theory, econometrics, and teamwork to carry out impact evaluations with real data from current social programs. The knowledge and skills I acquired in this class helped me get my foot in the door in the field of impact evaluations. With the help of Professor Winters, I found work right after graduation doing evaluations for the Food and Agricultural Organization of the U.N. and the Inter-American Development Bank. 

What advice do you have for current and/or prospective students pursuing careers in development? 

Three simple pieces of advice. First, follow your passion when it comes to deciding on a concentration or a career in development. Second, take as many quantitative (real quantitative) classes as possible or classes that teach "hard skills" that can make you not only more marketable but that will enhance your ability to understand, process, and use information and data. Finally, challenge yourself at every instance. You will get as much out of the program as you put in.

  1. Hala Hanna

    Hala Hanna

    SIS/MA '08

    International Development - Economics

    Director, Solve (an MIT Initiative) 

What do you love most about your job? 

Supporting innovators who have solutions to today's global challenges.

How did your SIS academic experience prepare you for success? 

Deep understanding of development theory, with real applications around the world. 

What advice do you have for current and/or prospective students pursuing careers in development? 

Find a niche in which your involvement will make a difference.

  1. Paul Hanscom

    Paul Hanscom

    SIS/BA '03; SIS/MA '04

    BA in Latin America and Spanish Language Studies

    MA in Policy and Program Administration

    Vice President of Marketing and Business Development, Ewald Consulting

What do you love most about your job? 

The opportunity to learn about people and organizations dedicated to advancing careers and economies locally, nationally, and globally. 

How did your time in the Policy and Program Administration program prepare you for success? 

I learned about the importance of nonprofits in policy work as well as the tactical tools to function well as part of a nonprofit leadership and consulting team.  

What advice do you have for current and/or prospective students pursuing careers in development? 

Try to identify where you want to make a difference – working on topical matters at a policy level or “in the trenches” working directly with the individuals and communities being impacted.

  1. Stephanie Cate Lord

    Stephanie Cate Lord

    SIS/MA '11

    International Development - International Public Health, Education, and Gender Studies 

    Executive Director, The Batonga Foundation

What do you love most about your job? 

At Batonga, I develop customized education programs and financial skills training for the most excluded adolescent girls in sub-Saharan Africa, so that they can gain the skills they need to support themselves and contribute to society. I love visiting our programs and doing fieldwork.

How did your SIS academic experience prepare you for success? 

Obtaining my Master's Degree while working full-time helped prepare me for the fast-paced nature of working for a small, quickly growing NGO. I was able to immediately apply what I was learning to my job and I believe that helped me to retain and build upon the knowledge I gained while at SIS.

What advice do you have for current and/or prospective students pursuing careers in development? 

For current students, be sure to take advantage of the skills institutes! They really help to convert theory into professional expertise.

  1. Monica riding a bike

    Monica Malpezzi Price

    SIS/MS '06

    Development Management - Organizational Development

    Owner of ExperiencePlus! Bicycle Tours (Colorado) and BikesPlus SRL (Italy)

What do you love most about your job?

Inviting people to immerse themselves in new places and cultures and providing the tools and stimulus for them to learn about themselves and the world. By bicycle no less! Bicycling allows you to fully immerse yourself into your surroundings, allows you to travel at your own pace and makes you feel good mentally and physically at the end of the day.

How did your time in the DM program prepare you for success?

Two things: 1) my interest in tourism as a development tool was high throughout my time at AU although there was not a tourism focus available. However, my studies in ID and DM reinforced the fact that the world is so interconnected and that as much as we need to "help over there" we also need to have awareness in the west and not just do charity for the "other". So I see my work in (responsible) tourism as increasing that awareness about the world, the world economy and our actions within that world. 2) my focus on organizational development and management helped me with management issues and training for staff as well as tour development. While a business degree would have done something similar (or better) I think the time in DM greatly helped with improving my management skills.

What advice do you have for current and/or prospective students pursuing careers in development?

1) The purpose of development should be to work yourself out of a job. That would be the ultimate success-keep that in mind. 2) There are many creative tools out there that can help/empower communities, and "traditional" top down development (thankfully not advocated at AU) is not always the best answer (although without the foundation of a solid development education you can't navigate the development world or know what can or cannot work!). Think out of the box as you approach the "developing" world.

  1. Varsha Ramani

    Varsha Ramani

    SIS/MA '11

    International Development - Youth

    Founder/Director (Freelance Writer, Editor, and Communications Consultant), VichaaR (a content creation enterprise)

What do you love most about your job? 

I love weaving thoughts, idea, and raw data into stories and thoughtfully crafted messages to fulfill a content need. Being a freelance communications professional gives me a platform to learn and research about a variety of topics, enriching me in the process. 

How did your SIS academic experience prepare you for success? 

I had been a marketing communications professional before I joined AU. My experience at AU taught me to look at the holistic picture and to take many perspectives into account, which has enriched my writing. 

What advice do you have for current and/or prospective students pursuing careers in development? 

Keep an open with with regard to how you perceive development and how you would like to bring about transformation. In this changing world, the idea and practice of development is also very fluid.

  1. Mansi Shah

    Mansi Shah

    SIS/MA '12

    International Development - Program Evaluation, including Impact Evaluation

    Program Manager (Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning), Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiatives (India) 

What do you love most about your job? 

Finding creative ways to address measurement related challenges and making MEL useful for grass root organizations. 

How did your SIS academic experience prepare you for success? 

The ID program has a very good sense of the needs and trends in the industry. The faculty encouraged me to pursue courses that helped me develop a specific skill set, especially technical skills that are valued in the job market.

What advice do you have for current and/or prospective students pursuing careers in development? 

Take advantage of the specialization courses to develop technical and management skills.  

  1. Lana Shehadeh

    Lana Shehadeh

    SIS/MA '11

    International Development - Development Economics 

    Graduate Assistant, Florida Atlantic University 

    PHD Student in Public Administration and Policy, Florida Atlantic University

What do you love most about your job? 

The best part of my job is my ability to do research and tie the research we do to policy and policy analysis. This is imperative in the world we live in today!

How did your SIS academic experience prepare you for success? 

It prepared me to move on to work in the developing world and gain experience in the areas of Development and Policy. It has also encouraged me to go back to academia to further my education.

What advice do you have for current and/or prospective students pursuing careers in development? 

Get to know your professors and their areas of expertise and try to learn from them. They will give you both great insight as well as great direction regardless of whether you would like to continue in academia or move on to the job market. 

Skills Institutes

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Intensive three-day courses, training students in state-of-the-art international development techniques

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Tinker-Walker Fellowships

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Through the Irene Tinker-Millidge Walker Fellowship, students can receive financial support to offset the costs of including overseas field experience in their research, internship, or practicum.

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