| by Stephen Diehl


Daron McDonnaugh
Daron McDonnaugh MAIPD ’22

A hallmark of the Middlebury Institute, immersive experiences are an important way for students to become world ready and work ready. It’s also how they gain an advantage in the job market. The Institute has longstanding partnerships with organizations that give students exceptional opportunities for professional experience not available elsewhere.

Daron McDonnaugh spoke to us from Monrovia, Liberia, where he is completing an International Professional Service Semester with Catholic Relief Services for his International Policy and Development (IPD) master’s degree.

What attracted you to this particular faith-based organization for your practicum?

I previously worked for the Peace Corps, and when you extend your two-year contract, you get the chance to collaborate with another organization. I worked with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) when I served in The Gambia, doing nutrition workshops and monitoring and evaluation, so I had some familiarity with them. I really like what they do—peacebuilding, nutrition programs, emergency COVID relief, so many programs—and I wanted to get more involved.

What does your day-to-day work entail?

Right now I’m working on writing a grant through USAID for a program called Student Feeding Activity (SFA), which would provide school meals to schools that don’t have meal programs. Only a select number of schools are provided with school meals, but research shows that school meal programs help with cognitive abilities and energy throughout the day. I’m also working on emergency COVID response. Around 70 percent of the local population is not vaccinated, so we’re working on efforts to change attitudes toward the vaccine. So, my days are filled with a combination of writing proposals, meetings, field work, and attending events.

Daron McDonnaugh MAIPD ’22, International Professional Service Semester

What led you to this kind of service work?

I’ve always been involved in capacity building, from AmeriCorps to Peace Corps. I started my own organization, when I was an undergrad, called Paying it Forward, in which we took marginalized youth from low-income areas to universities to make connections with current students with a goal of predisposing them to want to attend college. So, it’s always been a passion of mine to try to help out in any way I can. Working with CRS was perfect because they do a lot of the kind of work I’m interested in. I’m especially interested in nutrition, and working with CRS helps me get to the root of why people are malnourished. It feels like a calling—like I’ve been put in this position to use my talents and skills to help other people out. It doesn’t matter where—I’ve helped in America and now I’m helping internationally.

How did you decide on the Institute for your degree?

What drew me to Middlebury were the international networks and relationships they have with a lot of NGOs as well as the Institute alums who I can talk to, who can help me out in my career path. They’re great for helping to navigate through the nonprofit organization world as well. Also, Middlebury is one of the top graduate schools for international development work, and a lot of students end up doing international work. A lot of the professors have a lot of connections—some were students here and went on to work for great organizations. As an Institute student, I’ve never met so many people from all over the world.