Madeleine Smith

Middlebury Institute graduates discuss where they are working today, how the Institute helped them get there, and what advice they’d give to current and future MIIS students.

My name is Madeleine Smith and I graduated with a bachelor’s in international policy and a Master of Public Administration (MPA) from the Middlebury Institute in 2022. My language of study was Spanish, and I specialized in monitoring, evaluation, and program design.

Since graduating, I’ve been working for Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA) in San Francisco. MEDA provides free services to low- and moderate-income families to ensure Latino prosperity and keep families in San Francisco’s Mission District from getting displaced. I assist all departments in researching their work, planning their approach, collecting and analyzing data, and utilizing those findings to grow and improve their program implementation. I also assist the director of evaluation in organizational planning and capacity building to remain accountable to our community. 

Perhaps the most helpful experience in my time at the Middlebury Institute was being Student Council president. That role helped me rise above my individual goals and work in service of others. It humbled me and taught me about workplace politics. It taught me how to clarify what I need, how to frame my big asks, and the amount of preparation it takes to communicate and create change. It also taught me patience—my work during my time as Student Council president did not bear fruit until a year or so later after I had left the Institute. 

Though your experience may not be in Student Council, getting deeply involved in community and professional development opportunities during your time at the Institute will help you immensely in your professional life. I found it incredibly valuable to work in tandem with the administration, faculty, community leaders, and staff instead of just listening to them.

Live your professional life with your head AND your heart.

MIIS offered many options to help me connect with alumni as well as potential employers. The individual career advice from professors and peers—deep conversations about the nuance of job experiences from application to departure—is invaluable. Take advantage of your professors’ office hours. The one-on-one help is worth it.

Head and Heart

My advice is to aim high and believe in yourself, be persistent and courageous. But most importantly, live your professional life with your head AND your heart. Working with faculty and staff helped me internalize these qualities. When I found my current job, it was posted as a senior evaluation analyst position. I was horribly underqualified, but I loved the mission of the organization. I applied anyway and got an interview. What got me my job was my passion for the work and my tenacity—my boss saw that and removed the “senior” part of the title so she could hire me and help me grow.