by Scott Webb

Team of DPMI participants around a table discussing a project

Watch the video below for an in-depth discussion on how to launch your career in international development.

I am the career and academic advisor for the Middlebury Institute’s MA in International Policy and Development, MPA, and MA in International Trade and Economic Diplomacy.

Before working at MIIS, I was at Catholic Relief Services (CRS), where I was a Technical Adviser for Emergency Human Resources with the Humanitarian Response Department. Previously, I was a Senior Program Officer for East Africa at Relief International where I managed their Sudan and South Sudan portfolio. I also spent five years at International Relief and Development (IRD) in a variety of roles.

Careers in International Development

- Hello, and welcome to the Careers International Development online discussion. My name is Coleen Bremner, enrollment advisor for international policy and development, public administration, and international trade and economic diplomacy, and I will be your host for today. Thank you for joining us live, we’re so glad to have you. I’d also like to thank those of you who are watching the recording of this session later on. I’d also like to thank you for your patience with us, as you may know, we are all working from home in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. So, if you happen to hear a dog barking, a baby crying, or if our Internet is a little choppy, please bear with us. Okay, let’s go ahead and get started I’d like to introduce Scott Webb, career and academic advisor here at the Middlebury Institute. Scott.

 

- Hi everyone. How’s the going Coleen?

 

- Hi, would you mind just introducing yourself and telling us a little bit about yourself, a little bit about your background and then we can get started on some of the more interview type questions.

 

- Sure, yeah, thanks. It’s great to be here, it’s great to see so many people on the call, and hello to everyone who’s going to be see this in the recording. So, yeah, my name is Scott Webb, I am a career and academic advisor here at the Middlebury Institute in Monterey. I’ve been with MIIS exactly five years now, this week I think marks my five-year anniversary. Prior to coming to MIIS, I spent about seven and a half years working in international development. I’m a MIIS alumni, I got my MPA in 2007. Prior to that, I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Niger in West Africa. So, I was a Peace Corps volunteer at the end of the 90s, in Niger, that got me interested in international development. When I came back from Peace Corps, I moved to San Francisco, more of a family and personal decision than really a career decision. But it was a good time. I got a master’s in international relations from San Francisco State that I did part-time while working full-time as a Peace Corps recruiter. So, when I was a Peace Corps recruiter, I recruited about 390 volunteers that got posted around the world during that time period. And, so I got to visit MIIS, I got to talk to a lot of students and the faculty down, you know, at the Monterey Institute at the time. And in 2006 I decided to enroll for my MPA. So, when I got my MPA at MIIS, it covered all the things that I had really wanted in a master’s degree, the very hands-on technical skills-based type classes that really helped me to achieve my dream, which was to become a program manager in an international development organization. So, after I graduated from MIIS, my first job, because I had almost four years of recruiting experience as a Peace Corps recruiter, most of the jobs I was being considered for were recruiter jobs. So, I got a job as a recruiter at what then was the third biggest USAID implementing partner as a nonprofit, it was an organization called IRD, International Relief and Development, the most uncreative name of an NGO ever. They’ve since rebranded as Blumont, but at the time they were the third biggest USAID implementing partner. I’ll talk about that in a little bit, what that means. But they had over a billion dollars in programming around the world and Afghanistan and Iraq in particular, this was like at the end of the Bush administration, and the civilian surge in sort of post 9/11 countries. So, I recruited about 50 different people in my first year, so I got to learn a lot about the recruitment process, the application process and things like that. And then I got to liaise with a lot of different program managers from different sectors within my NGO at the time. So, it was a good experience, I learned a lot during that year. After about a year, I talked my way into a program officer position, which is what my original goal was. I was very honest with them about that, I didn’t want to recruit forever. So, I was a recruiter for one year, and then I was a program officer for four more years at IRD, where I was on the food security team, the humanitarian response team and a community stabilization at different times. So, I was always based in the D.C. area and traveling a lot. They sent me to Iraq, Chad, Burkina, Niger, Kenya, and Ethiopia. I got to be acting country director in Niger for several weeks in 2012, interesting experience. And then 2013 and 14 I moved to an NGO, a smaller NGO called Relief International, my former boss had become the VP there, and so I said, “Take me with you.” So the networking worked. So, I was a senior program officer for East Africa, supporting programs in Sudan and South Sudan, primarily funded by USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and the State Department Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration. So, we’re mostly supporting refugees and internally displaced people in Sudan and South Sudan. So, I got to go to both those places and our regional office in Kenya between 13 and 14. Got evacuated out of South Sudan on a U.S. military C-130 plane when the civil war started in December of 13, that was exciting. 2014 and 15, I worked for Catholic Relief Services, I was a technical advisor for Emergency Human Resources. So, I got to be a recruiter again, I was on the humanitarian response team and also on the recruitment team. So, I recruited another, a lot of people. I don’t even remember how many, because there was a mix of both field and headquarters job requisitions. So, I traveled a lot, I had to travel on a moment’s notice during that 15 months that I worked for CRS, I went to Turkey, Iraq, Central African Republic, Sierra Leone, at the height of Ebola, and Nepal after the earthquake. And it was a crazy time, because I had to travel on a moment’s notice. So, like the Nepal earthquake happens on a Saturday, and by Tuesday I’m on a plane and I’m gone for four weeks, that was very typical. So, and I got to hire a lot of local and international staff for surge, humanitarian response positions as well as like long-term technical advising positions on the humanitarian response department. So, by the end of 2015, I was pretty tired of travel. And I already lived here in Pacific Grove, California near Monterey, near the Monterey Institute, or the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, and I got talked into taking this job that I have now. So, I come to this job basically, not so much as a professional career and academic advisor, but as a former recruiter and international development professional, trying to advise international development focused students. So, if you’re interested in coming to MIIS to study international development, international development project management, that’s definitely in my wheelhouse. I also advise the trade and economic diplomacy students, which I’ve been doing for five years now, so I have a good handle on that network, so if any of you are interested in that, I can speak to that eventually as well. But this meeting is obviously about international development, so we’ll focus on that. Coleen.

 

- Great, thank you so much, Scott, it’s always great getting to hear about your background. I often forget how well-versed in the international field you are. So, the first question I’d like to ask you today is, just how has COVID affected the career search process? And what can you tell students who are looking now?

 

- Yeah, thanks for the question. So, initially I think, you know, the shock that hit everyone, hit the international development industry the same way it hit everyone else. I mean, everything kind of got put on hold for several weeks and maybe a couple of months. But the fact is that the world keeps turning, international development is focused on helping vulnerable people around the world, and at a time like this, there’s only more vulnerable people around the world. So, work still has to get done and technical specialists and professionals are in need around the world for various projects. The U.S. government funds most international development that you could think of. In the United States, there are obviously private foundations and smaller sort of independent grassroots nonprofits, I’d say the big NGOs that are funded by the U.S. government, for the most part, their funding has been set. USAID allocates funding, they appropriate their funding and their in our annual budget. And whether that’s extended through continuing resolutions or a new budget, there’s a consistent bipartisan support for international foreign assistance, and so all that money has to be spent, and so work continues. So, I think many of the NGOs where MIIS students go to work or intern, are for the most part still highly used to using young professionals in internship or sort of junior rotational type positions. They still need their own pipeline of junior professionals coming in. So, far so good, I haven’t seen too many students have, you know, a horrible extended period of unemployment or just too long of an unknown, it doesn’t seem too much different from a normal situation when it takes students a couple of months to find something and then they land.

 

- Great, thank you for answering that. And just a quick followup question, have students been talking to you about what their interview processes have looked like during COVID?

 

- Oh, yeah, I mean, that’s something we’re working on a lot, I think. International development is highly dispersed anyway, and so even when I was working for Catholic Relief Services or even in 2008 when I was recruiting for IRD, I was still interviewing people over the phone and remotely via Skype or Skype video, and so it’s already common in international development to interview remotely. So, that wasn’t like a huge change, although the networking part is a lot different. I mean, you can’t just like make a gamble of it and fly to Washington, D.C. and expect that you’re going to be be able to take 10 or 15 people out to coffee over like a several day period, where you’re getting amped up on coffee where you’re meeting with international development professionals trying to drum up a job for yourself. So, you have to be creative about how you network, you have to reach out, you have to expect a lot of, you have to be very flexible on the logistics of how you schedule meetings, because you know you. One really cool thing about this though, is like, you can network from anywhere. I mean, this has leveled the playing field in a way that I haven’t seen or perceived in my time working from MIIS or just in my professional life. Networking is equal now, everyone’s the same, whether you’re living in Maine or Southeast Asia, I mean, it’s the same, you’re just as available as anyone else. I mean, yes, there’s time zone issues. But we’ve had virtual career fairs where if we’d had an in-person career fair, students that aren’t around or don’t have the logistics, the time to come in, have a suit, spend the time and the hours wandering around a career fair or flying out to Washington DC to go to some third-party hosted career fair. Now you can just do that virtually from anywhere, you don’t have to travel. So, I mean, that’s one benefit that I’ve seen.

 

- Yeah, that’s great. So, kind of another to that, and just, you know, chatting about implications of various things like COVID, what are the implications on the development sector in relation to the upcoming election?

 

- That’s a good question. Well, I mean, as I was saying before, there’s traditionally been a bipartisan constituency in Congress and the Senate in favor of foreign assistance. The form that that foreign assistance takes tends to evolve based on the administration, whether it’s a Democrat or Republican administration. We got incredibly lucky during the Trump administration for the first maybe three years. The person that they appointed, his name is escaping me right now, the person who had been appointed the director of USAID was actually like a decent respected international development professional. I think he got the nod because he was in charge of the International Republican Institute, which is, you know, that and the National Democratic Institute are like sister NGOs that focused on civil society. And I think because he was in charge of the Republican Institute, it was like, “Oh, look at him.” But he was actually a very experienced international development professional who’d lived abroad for many years, and he was very sympathetic and professional, and not the kind of person who was appointed to maybe devolve the agency or sabotage international development in the way that maybe Betsy DeVos is doing her thing at the Department of Education or at the EPA and those kinds of things. So, and the same thing with Peace Corps. The Peace Corps director that was appointed was great, she was a former deputy director of Peace Corps in the early 2000s, when I was a Peace Corps recruiter, she was the deputy director, so we got lucky there. However, so, in the event of a Trump win, I think, international development will be a little bit more driven by American priorities in a way that maybe they haven’t been in a long time. I think they’re going to be much more focused on economic outcomes and favorable trade, and also in particular security and stemming migration. I think, you could see a movement towards anything that helps slow the flow of migration or displacement around the world. Which, you know, there’s ways of talking positively about that, I suppose, if it helps vulnerable people around the world. You know, in the event. The big thing, that’s a big difference in international development between Democrat and Republican administrations, and this has been the case since the Reagan administration, there’s this thing called a Global Gag Rule. It was originally called the Mexico City Protocol. It’s basically where, when there’s a Republican administration, any international development health projects that are focused on family planning or talking about abortion in any way are not funded by the U.S., and they’re discouraged, and you can’t do it with U.S. funding at all. You know, when I got hired at IRD, one of the project agreements that I saw, one of the contracts that’s like basically the contract from the U.S. government to do a project, had all of these stipulations in there about supporting family planning and things like that. And then it was interesting as soon as Obama became president, and I saw those new agreements, all those stipulations and amendments went away. So, but I mean, I’m optimistic, I think the U.S. government, the funding and the appropriations in international development, it is very much an aircraft carrier and not a speed boat. So, it’s hard to change the industry. There’ll be fluctuations here or there, but there there’s such a big industry that it would be like way too disruptive to just like, say, “Nope, no more foreign aid,” you know?

 

- Yeah, thank you for that. So, moving along to kind of the interview process. What are the key skills that employers are looking for?

 

- Sure, that’s a great question too. So, I talk about this a lot with my students, generally, there’s been a lot of surveys the last few years by this international development focused organization called Devex, maybe, Coleen you could throw that into the chat, Devex.com. Devex is like the global portal for international development. They do all the jobs, job postings, they have a team of journalists focused on international development all over the world, it’s a great portal. I got my first job for MIIS. After I graduated from MIIS, the first job I got was because I had an account on Devex. A Devex recruiter sourced me as a recruiter at IRD. So, like IRD contracted with Devex to get a shortlist of candidates, and they put me on the short list, and that’s why I got the job, so I’m a big fan of Devex. Devex has done surveys the last couple of years about the future of global development, and what skills are needed. And surprisingly, what they’re really looking for are very highly adaptable generalists. So, what that means is, if you’re very interested in something very specific, like public health, nutrition, agriculture, engineering like structural engineering and structures and water sanitation systems and things like that, you can get a degree in those things and be a very highly technically specialized person who’s going to be only focus on those things. And that’s fine, you can have a perfectly interesting and fulfilling international development career as a highly trained specialist. However, the vast majority of international development jobs really are for generalists. So, what does it mean to be a generalist? It’s basically, you know about budgeting, you know about project design, you know about program evaluation, you know about monitoring and evaluation, you know, like I said, you know about budget, you know about managing people, you know a little bit about operations. So, you know a little bit about everything that goes into managing a project, that would be consistently generally the same, whether it’s a water and sanitation project or a nutrition project, or an infrastructure project. You know, as I was mentioning before, the vast a majority of international development work, especially, you know, in and around the D.C. area is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. So, what they do is, they’ve got so many billions of dollars that they have appropriated to them to achieve various objectives that their regional offices have set around the world. Every one of the objectives that they have that they’ve set, has appropriations behind it, and USA then puts out requests for applications or requests for proposals to for-profit and nonprofit organizations, whether it be, you know an international development company like Chemonics, or a Tetra Tech or John Snow International, or like even like Bechtel and those kinds of places, they call them the beltway bandits, right? So those are contractors, and they’ll do contracts with the U.S. Agency for International Development. There’s also nonprofits that will do grants and cooperative agreements, those are other kinds of mechanisms for doing international development projects. So, the for-profit international development contractors, they do have a profit motive, but the profits are really, really thin. Yeah, they make money, like Tetra Tech is a multi-billion dollar publicly traded corporation, and what they’ve done is they have a massive international development arm where they’ve acquired a bunch of what were a nonprofit NGOs, many of them are like a hybrid, there’s nonprofits that will also do contracts. Anyway, it’s an interesting system. But when you’re working in an organization like that, whether you’ve worked for Tetra Tech, a multibillion dollar for-profit, or you’ve worked for Save the Children, a nonprofit that’s still pretty big, working with US government money is basically the same. There’s slight differences in a contract versus a grant, but that’s pretty easy to figure out, but the budgeting, all of the indicators for monitoring and evaluation, all of the reporting, it’s all the same. So, once you’ve done it for one organization working in that context with those kinds of templates and those kinds of regulations, working for another NGO that works in that same ecosystem is pretty straightforward. So, if you want it to build yourself a career, you could work for NGO for a while, and as soon as you’re tired of it or you want to be change or you get a better offer, you can go to another NGO, that’s very similar doing the same kinds of projects, maybe with a slightly different mission, because this is very mission driven industry. But I mean, the skills are very transferable, but that’s really what it means to be like a generalist.

 

- So, Scott, you were mentioning those skills, how do we teach those skills at Middlebury?

 

- Yeah, a good question. So, yeah, the international policy and development in the master of public administration programs in their current form, offer a lot of different skills-based and theoretical classes focused on international development. For example, in the master of public administration you’ll take a class in program evaluation as one of the required classes, and it’s very much focused on social change organizations. It’s kind of a catch all term that we use to describe any kind of nonprofit or for-profit endeavor where you’re improving the human condition in some way. Anything that’s based on objectives and meeting those objectives through various activities that you’re designing. And so, the program evaluation class is very much focused on when you’ve designed a project what are the indicators you want to be use? What are the strategic objectives? What are the intermediate results? You know, all these different things, outputs versus outcomes, all kinds of technical knowledge about that. When you’re in program evaluation, you do a client-based project. I’m sure Coleen could talk about that; she took that class a couple of years ago. But there’s a client-based project in that class, where you’re working with a real live international development NGO. Another class we have, so finance function is a very useful class, it’s a class that’s part of the MPA, it’s the finance and administration class. You learn all about budgeting, operations, finance, all those things that I was saying are key elements to being a generalist in international development. We have a management leadership class called leadership and organizational innovation, which teaches you how to be a leader in a nonprofit mission-driven organization, and how to do sort of capacity building and motivating people in a mission driven context. Otherwise we have a lot of other skills, hands-on classes like Professor Kent Glenzer who’s back from sabbatical, he spent a year working with Oxfam and doing a lot of consulting last academic year. You know, he’s come back with a renewed focus. He’s got sort of an entity that he’s developed called the Community Action Lab, where he’s working regionally here in the Monterey area with the city of Gonzales, with Cal State Monterey Bay, with Monterey college of law, and I think maybe even the Monterey Peninsula College. They’re working on a lot of social development, social change organizations like local stuff, like working with the city of Gonzales to help migrant farming families in the communities down there, that may be either affected by poverty or literacy issues, or now even COVID. So, this spring it’ll be an interesting class, that’ll be teaching called advocacy and action, where he’ll get to work on some of those projects. But most of our classes have immersive learning components to them. So, like we have a organizational sustainability class, where you do an organizational sustainability assessment with a nonprofit client. So, there’s lots of classes like that. I mean, everything to the extent possible is focused on learning and doing, learning and doing learning and doing. We do have some theory classes which we think are highly necessary, like development economics or development theory and practice, and we have some seminars where you can learn more about US-Mexico relations or trade development and diplomacy with China. So, there are things where you can focus on a region, the economics, the socioeconomics, and you can gain some general understanding which is highly necessary for an international development professional, but you also need to be able to apply it and to be operational. And so that’s really our focus as a professional graduate school.

 

- Great, thank you. So, what’s kind of the first thing that you work on with a new student who’s maybe interested in an international career?

 

- So, you know, I’m a career and academic advisor, it’s kind of a unique thing. I know this is a question we had lined up maybe a little bit later, but I mean, part of my role, and it’s funny, cause I’ve never, like I said, I haven’t been a career and academic advisor before, this is my only time doing this job, so I kind of can’t imagine it any different. But I am the career and academic advisor, so I am in charge of the degree map that you guys will all follow when you come to MIIS. I meet with faculty whenever they have faculty meetings, and I’m involved in the development of the schedule and the curriculum to some extent, in terms of what’s going to be be offered in when, and the faculty frequently ask for my feedback on what does the international development community demand right now? What do our students need to know to be effective development professionals? So, we have a good feedback loop for that. So, I take that information and I apply it to all of you by basically talking to you about what do you want to do. Like, why are you coming to the Middlebury Institute? Like, what are you hoping to accomplish through getting this master’s degree? And then we just go from there, everyone’s got slightly different things that they want to do. Whether it’s, you want to be based in the United States and maybe travel sometimes, or you want to be based in the field, or you want an operations job or you want a recruitment job, or you want a program management job or you want to work in conflict resolution or trade in development. So, the more that we can refine what it is that you’re interested in doing, the easier it is for me to leverage my network in the Middlebury Institute alumni network to help you build your own luck. That’s really a key thing for me with my advising is that I want to help you make your own luck, we’ve got a really extensive network of Middlebury Institute alumni that are out there. We affectionately call it the MIIS Mafia, but it’s been incredibly helpful. Just yesterday, I had an information session for Catholic relief services where I used to work. And it was basically, I had been running these meetings for the last five years since I’ve done at MIIS. But yesterday I just had three of my alumni students run it, and they’re all working at CRS now, we’ve been getting someone we’ve been getting people into their fellows program for, you know, 25 years, since its existence has been around, and so it was great to have them running it and giving these great tips. I just kind of stood back and watched, it was really cool, I was so proud. So, yeah, that’s how I approach it. I mean I can get more technical about resumes and things like that in a minute if you want.

 

- Oh, that’s great. So, something we’ve been chatting about a little bit more is personal brand, and how important is a student’s personal brand? And how do you build it?

 

- That’s a good question. So, at MIIS in the beginning of your orientation and early on in our career management course, we cover personal branding and networking. We’ve given 100% of MIIS students for the last like probably four years, we call it CliftonStrengths Gallup, in terms of like as Gallup polls, you guys may have heard of that with the election going on. But Gallup has been doing this thing for students and other professionals called StrengthsQuest or StrengthsFinder. And so, we give everyone this test at the beginning, and it’s just it highlights five of your key talents or strengths, there’s 34 that they’ve identified over the years. I mean, and I mean, like years, like 50 years, they’ve got data to develop these talents. And so there’s tests like that and Myers-Briggs, and other things that we can give you, where it can help you get a better idea of how you like to work, how you have been most successful, what are the situations where you feel like you’ve been most productive, and that you’re most sort of like highly effective states in your professional academic life. And that’s how you, you really build from there, you try and build from your strengths, like, you know, I’m an adaptable professional. And what this does is this goes into, you know, your resume, like maybe like the top half above the fold, if you will, you know where you’re saying, “I’m an international development professional, highly adaptable with five years of experience, and this, I speak French, and I know about evaluation data and analytics and program design.” Boom, you’ve just defined yourself, and everything you say about yourself in your networking, in your cover letters and interviewing, informational interviews can kind of come from the same place where you know who you are, and you can transmit that effectively, so that when someone just says, “Well, tell me a little bit about yourself.” You’re not like you don’t becomes verklempt and freeze up. We want to be help you be able to speak fluently about yourself, it’s kind of like learning a language in a way.

 

- Great, thank you. So, we’re taking a little bit of a shift here, and that I know that you and I are both returned Peace Corps volunteers, and you have worked with Peace Corps in the past. If we have our PCVs in the audience or returned Peace Corps volunteers in the audience, who have had their services interrupted due to COVID-19 or other unforeseen circumstances, is grad school a good option for them?

 

- Yes, definitely, I can say. I mean, I found that when I was in Peace Corps, in my close-of-service conference. I hope a lot of you had the chance to do some kind of close-of-service conference, I mean, any of you that were evacuated, excuse me, I don’t know if they really did that in the same way that they did for us, you know, those of us who were able to complete two years or more. But in my close-of-service conference, we had this career management session where they showed us all of these job descriptions. And all the job descriptions for the most dream jobs I could think of were things like, you know, you must have two to three years international experience in specific countries, okay? Boom, got that from Peace Corps. Fluency in this language. Boom, got that from Peace Corps. And then it would say, master’s in international development and public administration or equivalent. I’d be like, “Oh, I don’t have a master’s yet.” And so when you’re finishing peace Corps and you don’t have a master’s, and the jobs that you’re all attracted to, that maybe you were even doing as a Peace Corps volunteer, maybe you were effected to an NGO in country, and you were exposed to these really interesting roles that exist in NGOs in the field, and you want to be do those jobs, and you’re this close to being qualified. You know you could do it, but you can’t be considered for those jobs unless you have a master’s degree or significant experience, like, like 15 years experience. So, a master’s degree allows you to leap frog into the kinds of jobs that you would really want to have coming out of the Peace Corps, whether if it was four months or 19 months or 24 months if you were lucky enough to get that far. So, I think, and it’s better to just do it sooner rather than later. I mean, the economy is not so good right now. You know, like I said, there are international development jobs to be had, but you’re going to be more competitive if you have a master’s degree, and why not write out the economy right now and go to go to grad school, and then be ready in like a year and a half when things start picking up, and you’ve written out the dirty economy by being in grad school. And right now where it’s more flexible than ever with us with our spring being online.

 

- I think to just to add to that economy point is that student loan rate right now for interest rates is incredibly low, so that’s something to mention as well.

 

- Lock that in.

 

- We didn’t know how long that will last, so it’s a good opportunity to take advantage of those low interest rates if you’re planning on taking out any student loans. So, one of the questions I get pretty frequently from incoming students who are interested in attending with us is, what the ecosystem looks like in the international development world. Are all opportunities government run or are there private companies that specialize in international development?

 

- Yeah, I was kind of talking about this a little bit before, but yeah, there’s a pretty vast ecosystem, I’d say international development jobs, the ecosystem is pretty wide, there’s a vast UN funded world, the United nations and various UN agencies, there’s a ton of consultancies working for UN agencies. Many of my students have worked with UN Women or UNICEF or a UNDP, the UN Development Program, UNHCR, the High Commission for Refugees, and many others. Like I’ve had trade students work with some trade focused UN agencies. So,me of my students have worked for the International Organization for Migration. So, yeah, so there’s a lot of jobs in that world, and that’s all funded by multilateral organizations like the UN, and also, you know, there’s others like the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the Inter-American development Bank. So, there are positions in places like that. The bank jobs are a little bit more competitive, they often recruit PhDs, but occasionally there are internships to be found in those kinds of places. Then there are foundation jobs, there are a variety of privately funded foundations that are out there, focused on aspects of international development and social change just generally. So, those tend to be esoteric based on the mission of the billionaire that founded them. For example, there’s a really interesting. Well, it’s actually, I don’t know what you call it, maybe it’s like a B Corp or something like that, but it’s called the Emerson Collective, it’s funded by Laurene Powell Jobs, Steve Jobs’ his widow, the founder of Apple, you know, with her billions leftover from the Steve Jobs’ Apple stock and all that, she started the Emerson Collective. So, it has a lot of interesting positions focused on like migration and community development and education, much more focused in the United States. But then of course you’ve got the Gates Foundation, which is a multibillion dollar foundation with tons and tons of work around the world. There are other foundations like the Asia Foundation. The Asia Foundation is interesting, it’s a foundation, but it also does work for USAID because it’s very operational. So, there’s foundations that will do both operational stuff, or they will do their own thing, and then they’ll also grant to small grassroots organizations. So, yeah, there are grassroots organizations around the world, those tend to be very localized and hiring local people, which kind of is how it should be, don’t you think? You know, when you’re hiring local people to provide their own solutions, and you’re empowering them and connecting them to resources that are coming from here, that’s oftentimes, you know, one of the most ideal situations, but for better or worse, the USAID, US Agency for International Development highly prefers partnering with US-based nonprofits, and for-profit companies that will then implement these projects with local partners, but also highly overseen by the US-based and field-based expatriate and local staff. But that’s really the vast industry is those organizations funded by USAID. And it’s many organizations like I said, I mean, like Save the Children, there there’s faith-based and secular as well, that’s another thing to keep in mind, you have faith-based NGOs, like World Vision, Samaritan’s Purse, Catholic Relief Services, Lutheran World Relief, Islamic Relief, The American Jewish World Service, every religion has their own, Latter Day Saints Charities, obviously it’s a huge one. So, all of the major religions have, and parts of the religions have international development arms, where their constituency of their followers donate for international humanitarian assistance. So, that can be a great way to break in if you feel really strongly about your faith. And then in the secular world, there there’s many, you know, obviously lots of NGOs doing that, like, FHI 360 is one of the biggest nonprofits in America right now doing USAID work, and they’re huge. I mean, they’re just as big as like, you know, some of the biggest for-profit companies like DAI or Creative Associates, sorry.

 

- No, great, that was great. So, I just want to make sure we’re getting to some of our student questions

 

- Yeah, there were some questions in there.

 

- Yeah, those of you who haven’t asked questions yet, or have questions, please feel free to pop those into the chat, and we’ll get started with, are there any international internship possibilities given the current situation?

 

- Yeah, definitely. I mean, my students are getting internships, you know, some of them are remote, but I mean, all of them are remote right now basically. You know, we’ve been having, for example, we had International Rescue Committee, they’re based across the United States and internationally they work basically from, they work in the field in like refugee camps with people who are literally just displaced, like they fled their home country, they show up in a refugee camp, and then IRC basically helps them and facilitates them in their entire process until they’re even resettled in the United States. And they manage programs both in the field in refugee centers, as well as here in the United States. So, IRC has offices in Northern California, in Sacramento, Oakland, Turlock and San Jose, it’s their Northern California branch. And they were at our career fair, that we held several weeks ago. And they had like 30 different positions that they’re recruiting for, and they’re trying to have cohorts of interns every semester. So, when you come here, you can try and get into one of those cohorts and you can volunteer or intern with them remotely. You know, and obviously if you come here to the Middlebury Institute in Monterey, and if we can ever start being back to normal, so to speak, where there’s in-person instruction, you could still work on certain days of the week, you could go up to those offices and do your volunteer work or your internship, or even in the summer. So, yeah, there’s opportunities. I mean, we’re posting jobs and internships all the time. Our platform that we use is called Handshake, that’s where we post a lot of jobs, and I mean, dozens of jobs, I’m tagged on dozens of jobs a week in international development. I get alerts from Devex every day, where there’s thousands of jobs. Yeah, there’s a lot of senior jobs. That’s like, I’m getting posted about all jobs, but if you just do a search on Devex for internship right now, there’s going to be be like hundreds of internships.

 

- Great, thank you. So, Helen has asked a couple of great questions, the first being.

 

- She is still logged on.

 

- Well, hopefully, I can follow up with her. Which top organizations funded by the U.S. work on women’s rights issues?

 

- There’s a lot. Women’s rights issues specifically tend to go back and forth between the, I think there’s, so I can’t think of one right this off the top of my head, that’s like a USAID implementing partner working expressly on women’s rights issues. I think empowering women is incorporated oftentimes into a variety of different technical sectors, like economic growth and market systems, nutrition, health, maternal child health, so there’s a lot of projects based on like improving the condition of very highly vulnerable women, in particular nursing and pregnant mothers. So, there’s a lot of nutrition projects and health projects that are focused on that community of women. I’d say, international, like there are projects funded by the state department that are focused on empowering women. That’s definitely the kind of thing that really depends on how progressive the embassy staff are at this point, given the Trump administration and their general goals, and the way they’ve operated around the world. I think there are embassy staff around the world that are still managing projects that are helping, like, for example, young women, with young women’s scholarships and things like that. So, like Fulbright, for example, they’re still sending people around the world for scholarships. And so, like I’ve had young Palestinian, Afghan, and Jordanian women that are our students here at MIIS that are Fulbright scholars that are funded through the state department. So, there’s bits and pieces here and there, but it’s often mainstreamed across many programs, where there’s, you know, especially for the nonprofits that are very highly mission-driven more so than like the for-profits that are a little bit more profit-driven. The mission-driven will mainstream women’s development across all their programs.

 

- Great, I want to make sure we’re trying to get through as many questions as we can, and we’re already up on our time. So, we’ve got a few more minutes to take a couple more questions. So, what MIIS programs, this is Liu Ben, I think has asked this, I’m sorry, if I’m not pronouncing that correctly. What MIIS programs can help someone transition from a generalist to a specialist type slash technical expert role in international development? And I’m thinking about our specializations a little bit in that.

 

- Yeah, now, that’s great. So, we have three official specializations within international policy and development MPA. Right now, we’ve got monitoring. Well, no, it’s called migration and global governance, where you focus on, like I said, migration, human security, global governance, there’s a little bit of trade in there, cause it’s basically the migration professor and the trade professor that have kind of melted their specialization together. So, you’ll take classes in like negotiating international development policy, international finance, U.S.-Mexico relations, international migration security and development, development theory and practice. Then there’s, we have another specialization called conflict resolution and social justice, that’s a very popular specialization. It’s highly operational as well, you learned about mediation and about resolving conflict and peace building in particular. So, we have a strong relationship with a private NGO called Search for Common Ground, they’re a pretty well-respected peace NGO based in D.C., in Brussels. And we actually have a memorandum of understanding with them to provide fellows every semester. So, we have some people serving as fellows right now with them, they got that position because of their skills in conflict resolution and peace building that they’ve gained at MIIS. The other highly operational one that we have is evaluation analytics, that’s probably one of our most world class strongest specializations for people interested in going into international development. Evaluation and analytics plus the MPA in my mind makes the best package that we have for training someone to be a flexible generalist in international development, because you gain all the skills in project design, in evaluation, in analytics, and being able to back up your, you know, you’re able to design a program where you can back it up with data, which is a much stronger proposal, that you’re providing when you can provide like troves of data that you’ve collected in a really intentional clean way. I think that’s probably one of our best options right now.

 

- Great, well, I think we’re up on our time already, so thank you to everyone who has submit questions. If we weren’t able to get to them, please email us at info@miis.edu, which Devin has put in the chat bar. And we want to thank everyone who’s been able to join us today and also our wonderful academic and career advisor, Scott Webb, for being an excellent panelist. And please feel free to reach out to us with any questions, and thank you so much for your time today.

 

- Thanks everyone.

Takeaways

While COVID-19 put everything on hold for several weeks, international development is focused on helping vulnerable people, and at a time like this, there are only more people in need. Technical specialists and development professionals are in need around the world for various projects.

Devex is a global portal for international development and a great resource in your job search. They have job postings and a team of journalists focused on international development.

Devex has conducted a number of surveys about the future of global development and what skills are needed. Highly adaptable generalists are in great demand. Through a combination of hands-on training and theory, our MPA degree and MA in International Policy and Development prepare you to be an adaptable generalist, giving you transferrable skills and opportunities to specialize.

Personal branding and networking are important—you need to be able to speak fluently about yourself, which requires preparation and practice, preferably with a career advisor.

There is a wide range of employers for careers in international development:

  • Government organizations e.g. USAID
  • UN agencies e.g. UN Women, UNICEF, UNDP, UNHCR
  • Intergovernmental organizations e.g. International Organization for Migration
  • Multilateral development banks e.g. World Bank, African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, Inter-American Development Bank
  • Foundations e.g. Emerson Collective, Gates Foundation, Asia Foundation
  • International NGOs e.g. Save the Children, Oxfam, Mercy Corps
  • Faith-based organizations e.g. World Vision, Samaritan’s Purse, Catholic Relief Services, Lutheran World Relief, Islamic Relief, The American Jewish World Service, Latter Day Saints Charities
  • Nonprofits e.g. FHI 360

For More Information

Scott Webb
sdwebb@miis.edu
(831) 647-4624

Careers in Environmental Policy

by Edy Rhodes

Want to work in environmental policy? Join recent graduates, faculty, and our career and academic advisor, for an in-depth discussion on careers in environmental policy.