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AU Alumna Thinks Globally and Acts Locally

Most freshly-minted graduates take time off after commencement, but Rebekah “Becka” McKnight, SIS/BA ’08, hit the ground running.

While the ink on her diploma was still drying, McKnight traveled to New York City to take part in the United Nations’ Commission on Sustainable Development. A graduate of the School of International Service’s International Studies program (specializing in international development and Latin America), McKnight participated in the youth caucus, learning about organizations’ ideals and articulating the concerns of young people.

“We as a caucus also met with some country delegations who wished to get a sense of the youth perspective on various issues,” McKnight explains. “An important part of the caucus activity this year was pushing issues facing youth onto the agenda for next year's meetings, which will actually create UN policies.”

Her time in the Big Apple may have ended, but McKnight is still effecting change as a member of the operations team at the Grassroots Business Fund (GBF), which finances small businesses in developing countries and strengthens the surrounding culture.

“GBF has given me the opportunity to learn firsthand how international financing and capacity building occurs and [to] learn how to operate within the business mindset. So far it has been a great learning experience,” she notes.

Both the UN Commission and GBF experiences have inspired her to look to her future internationally: “I love the idea of sustainable tourism … [it’s] a great way to not only help the potential owners, but also help create jobs in their communities, and increase regional economic activity. The key for me is the sustainability aspect,” says McKnight.

Good work isn’t relegated to the GBF staff alone. “As an organization, we promote bottom-up approaches to poverty alleviation. This can be done locally, as well. In DC, students and faculty can simply shop at locally-owned small businesses. There are many ways laypeople can be involved in activities which follow GBF's values,” she says.

Satisfying your shopping cravings and helping others at the same time? That’s a good deal.