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International Development Program | SIS

Meet Our Students

The International Development Program has approximately 100 students in residence. They are an exceptionally diverse group, representing all regions of the world and speaking more than 40 languages. Many of our students entered the program with previous experience in International Development, and most engage in practice training during the program through internships and research in Washington DC or overseas.

Luis Vélez Pretelt

MAID 2016

A photo of IDP student Luis A. Velez Pretelt.

Concentration

Governance and Democracy

What led you to the International Development Program at SIS?

Before starting my MA at AU, I had already worked on development cooperation for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of my native Colombia and the Organization of American States (OAS). In addition, for the last three years I've worked as a Consultant at the World Bank in projects related to governance, transparency and citizen participation. I knew that the experience I had gained had to be reinforced with academic and knowledge tools that could help me put everything into perspective. Recognized for its high quality and internationally diverse education, the International Development Program of SIS offered me the perfect space to expand my knowledge and provided me with the best quality tools to give different approaches to the type of work I do at my everyday job.

What have you been doing since coming to AU?

Since coming to AU, I have been splitting my time between classes and my job at the World Bank. Luckily, my job and schoolwork have complemented each other very well. Since AU offers the opportunity to build your own concentration, the classes I've taken have positively affected my work. I have also enjoyed the multiculturalism in campus, and I have taken advantage of the various academic and social activities organized by our ID Program.

Do you have any plans for the upcoming semesters?

I'm planning to participate in one of the AU Summer Programs abroad focused on governance and development, and learn from a different culture and different development challenges. I also plan to continue taking advantage of the rich international contact offered in the ID Program and its prime location, Washington D.C. Both AU and the city are the perfect platform to keep abreast of major political events and gain practical experience of high international caliber.

What do you plan on doing after graduation?

After completing my Master's Degree, my short term goal is to continue working on issues of democracy, governance, and citizen participation, whether from an international organization perspective or working with private sector organizations and civil society groups. In the long term, I wish to go back to Colombia and apply all my knowledge and experience into policies that could positively and effectively transform the development of my country. I trust that I can become an agent of change; one that can effectively transform my country's reality, not only working directly with the community but actively participating in the processes of policy making.

Marcia Espinal Torres

MSDM 2015

Marcia Espinal, MSDM student.

What is your concentration?

My area of concentration is Multicultural Change Brokerage.

What led you to the International Development Program at SIS? 

I wanted to move towards a career that allowed me to combine my experience in management with my passion for wanting to make this world a better place for everyone. I already had firsthand knowledge of the gaps and disconnects between what was expected at the strategic level and the reality of project implementation. A graduate degree will allow me to build a career in development by helping people manage change and pushing change from within the development machinery. 

I applied to AU because of the MSDM program and because I fell in love with DC. DC is the hub of international development and policy work, and it is the place to be to grow connections and networks in the field. Additionally, the prospect of graduating with a Masters in Science from a top ranked university in International Relations was an important motivating factor. The MS emphasizes the quantitative aspects needed to propose and support development initiatives to donor organizations that value numbers.

What have you been doing since coming to AU?

Since coming to AU, I have been exploring DC, cultivating new interests in the development field, and networking. DC is a wonderful place to fall into and chase rabbit holes since organizations offer a variety of events on current interest topics in development. An additional perk to graduate students and knowledge seekers is that these events are usually offered at no charge, and they are a way to network and connect with people who share the same interests. 

Do you have any plans for the upcoming semesters?

As part of my graduation requirements, I will be working on a practicum focused on investigating best practices of NGOs and government agencies in addressing gender-sensitive approaches to climate change adaptation programs in Sub-Saharan Africa.

What do you plan on doing after graduation? 

After graduation I plan on immersing myself in work and projects, investigations and research, and anything else that will allow me to help others manage change for a more positive future.

Ahmad-Bilal Askaryar

MAID 2016

Bilal Askaryar, MAID student.
What is your concentration?

My area of concentration is human rights.

What led you to the International Development Program at SIS? 

Most recently, I was working for a research organization in Kabul. One of the main things we studied was the efficacy of development projects. I also was an election observer for both rounds of the 2014 Afghan presidential elections as well as the UN-supervised audit afterward. My time in Afghanistan taught me that there is more to development than just economics and project-management. And that is why I chose AU versus other schools in the area. I was drawn to SIS' reputation for activism and social consciousness. I had fallen in love with Afghanistan and didn't want to leave to just take classes and get a degree without working on things that were important to me. At SIS, I am surrounded by intelligent people who are also passionate about making the world a more equitable place.  

What have you been doing since coming to AU?  

I started working at the embassy of Afghanistan as the communications and outreach liaison. It's a great way to complement my studies. I get to see DC from both scholarly and diplomatic points of view. 

Do you have any plans for the upcoming semesters?  

While I have experience in the development and diplomatic words now, my passion is human rights. I have seen first-hand what can happen to a society when people have to choose between voice and life. It's a universal struggle that can be applied to any marginalized group whether children and women, religious and ethnic minorities, or the LGBTQ community. So in my next stage as an SIS student, I hope to be involved more directly in efforts that fight for these communities and learn from the incredible people here at SIS and DC. 

What do you plan on doing after graduation?  

One thing I really appreciate about AU is how there are so many options for the future presented to you on a daily basis. Ideally, I'd love to work for a group that is committed to promoting human rights, equity, and sustainable development throughout the world. Most of my work and studies have been in the Middle East and Central Asia, but I am fascinated by Latin America as well. I hope to have a global career that lets me learn as much as I can about the whole word. So whether that means working for an agency like the United Nations or a private foundation, I look forward to it either way.

 

Alana McGinty

MAID 2016

Alana McGinty, IDP Student.

What is your concentration?

My area of concentration is Economic and Social Inequality.

What led you to the International Development Program at SIS?

I was immediately drawn to the International Development (ID) program at the School of International Service (SIS) as I wanted a strong interdisciplinary program that would effectively integrate the complex and competing aspects within ID. I also desired a program that would provide a rigorous academic focus with practical applications. When I learned the primary focus of the program “…the improvement of opportunities for the world's poor and disenfranchised” I knew I had found my dream program as this aligns directly with my own values and future career goals. It was clear that the faculty, staff, and students in the MAID program were pragmatically optimistic – taking on the challenges in this field with creativity and innovation.  

What have you been doing since coming to AU?

I have tried to take advantage of as many opportunities as possible both on campus and off! From attending International Development Program Student Association’s (IDPSA) Friday Forums where outstanding panels of experts in the field speak to the most current and pressing issues in ID to events around D.C. such as the U.S Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy’s quarterly meeting at the Capitol Building. Building community and connections both on campus and off I joined the AU Peace Corps Community, advise the undergraduate chapter of Phi Sigma Sigma, volunteer weekly as a tutor at an after school program, and even played flag football on the National Mall on a intramural team this past fall. D.C. is a fantastic place to be both professionally and personally!

Do you have any plans for the upcoming semesters?

For the upcoming semesters I plan to continue to work as a Graduate Research Assistant for an SIS Faculty member. The skills I have gained from this experience help both with my current academic work, but will also be extremely valuable in the field. I plan to continue to refine my research focus for my Substantial Research Paper and hope to conduct primary research for that project myself internationally.

What do you plan on doing after graduation?

I intend to work at a development agency helping to develop, implement, monitor, and evaluate development programs. I can’t wait to utilize all of the skills and connections that I’ve made and continue to make through the ID program throughout D.C. and internationally to find my dream job!

Guy C. Kamdem Kouam

MAID 2016

Guy Kamdem kouam, MAID student.
What is your concentration?

My area of concentration is Governance and Democracy.

What led you to the International Development Program at SIS?

I chose the ID program at SIS because of its reputation. It is one of the best development programs in the United States and its alumni work everywhere in the world. I needed a program that could combine practice and theory, a program where I could learn current international development theories, and at the same time be equipped with the most sought technical professional skills in the field. The ID program at SIS is a multidisciplinary program that enables students to concentrate in a variety of areas, or even create their own concentration. This flexibility was very important to me, since it meant that I was going to be able to choose my classes and study exactly what I was interested in. I was also attracted by the ID program at SIS because most professors there are scholar practitioners, people teaching and researching development. So far, I have had an excellent first semester there and I am happy to have chosen this program. 

What have you been doing since coming to AU? 

Since coming to AU, I have been studying full-time and working part-time as a Graduate Research Assistant. I have also been attending many events organized by the International Development Program Student Association (IDPSA) and by the Career Center, socializing with other students, and exploring future job and internship opportunities. 

Do you have any plans for the upcoming semesters? 

For the upcoming semesters I am planning to continue to study full- time, work as a Graduate Research Assistant, and do internships in DC-based international nongovernmental organizations. I also plan to attend more events in Washington DC to network with development professionals. Finally, I hope to learn a third foreign language (Spanish or Arabic) and improve my computer skills.

What do you plan on doing after graduation? 

After graduation my goal is to work for a Think Tank, or for an international organization in the field of governance and democracy. I don't have any specific preference about my future work location, so I remain totally open to stay work here in the USA, or go anywhere in the world promote democracy and good governance.

 

Gabrielle Plotkin

MSDM 2016

Gabrielle Plotkin, MSDM Student.

What is your concentration?

My area of concentration is Gender and Monitoring & Evaluation.

What led you to the International Development Program at SIS?

I have been working in development for several years now, but knew I needed a Master's degree to advance my career. I was drawn to SIS because of the emphasis on gaining practical skills and experience, while still maintaining a people-centered approach to development. I've had very positive experiences working with various SIS grads over the last few years, which definitely sold me on the school. It is certainly a testament to the school's valuable network!

What have you been doing since coming to AU?

I was fortunate that my job of several years let me go down to part time status so I could pursue my graduate degree without having to leave the labor force and go into an academic bubble for two years. In addition to working and studying, I work as a Graduate Assistant for a professor at SIS, which is helping me to develop my research skills. This is of particular importance for anyone working in M&E, so it's a great supplement to my course work.

Do you have any plans for the upcoming semesters?

I will be continuing to work and study. I plan to be done with my core courses by the end of this year, so I'll be refining my concentration and doing my practicum in my final semesters. These are the parts of graduate school that I am most excited about, since they'll be directly related to my professional needs and interests.

What do you plan on doing after graduation?

Since I've lived in this area for most of my life, I hope to get a position somewhere outside of DC. I would ideally like to hold a field-based position that will allow me to make use of my foreign language skills, which have been getting rusty over the last few years! I'm working on developing a wide skill set that should be applicable to a wide variety of sectors and contexts.

Lucas Olson

MAID 2016

Lucas Olson, MAID student.

What is your concentration?

My area of concentration is social enterprise.

What led you to the International Development Program at SIS? 

I was lucky enough to work in several different internationally related jobs before applying, the most recent at the World Bank in Washington, DC. I knew by that point that I wanted to stay in DC for grad school and study International Development, so I did my research and chose the most progressive program in the city! 

What have you been doing since coming to AU? 

Ticking off graduation requirements and testing the waters around campus. Having such a flexible program where one can take classes in any school on campus, I am planning build my concentration just right for exactly what I want to do.

Do you have any plans for the upcoming semesters? 

I'm publishing my first book this semester as part of a fundraising campaign to take a film crew to Central America this summer 2015! We are producing a social documentary about how US Millennials reflect when learning about US involvement in the region.

What do you plan on doing after graduation?

The documentary is the first major project of a startup non-profit called Developing America. We plan to continuing producing similar multimedia content and evolve into an advocacy organization to help shape what it means to be a US citizen in the globalized world of the 21st century. Check us out at DevelopngAmerica.org!


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Skills Institutes

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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