| by Monique Rao MAIPD ’17


Rao, Monique
Monique Rao MAIPD ’17 during her internship with UNICEF Cambodia.

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 Monique Rao and I graduated with an MA in International Policy and Development from the Middlebury Institute in 2017. My language of study was Spanish and I specialized in program and policy research and evaluation. I interned with UNICEF Cambodia, and I’m currently a grants specialist in the finance program at the ClimateWorks Foundation in the San Francisco Bay Area.

When I began looking for an internship, Director of Immersive Professional Learning Carolyn Meyer and I found a contact list with every UN agency present in every country the UN works in. Unfortunately, the list is no longer available, but I just started cold emailing the contacts listed for the agencies I wanted to work for, and UNICEF Cambodia happened to be interested! I had no idea who I was emailing, but it ended up being UNICEF Cambodia’s country representative, and she thought I had a good CV and passed it along to the right section chiefs. I got super lucky! My first day at work, when I met my supervisor in person, she said she was really impressed with that first email and my cover letter.

There was definitely no way I could have gotten this internship if I wasn’t at MIIS. In terms of career guidance, Center for Advising and Career Services Director Gael Meraud helped me fine-tune my résumé and Career Advisor Scott Webb was able to squeeze me into his schedule for last minute interview prep. He even brought up the idea of mentioning the campaigns that UNICEF used to run in the U.S. to have kids collect money door-to-door on Halloween, which I actually did in when I was in seventh grade. It was a great touch!

There was definitely no way I could have gotten this internship if I wasn’t at MIIS. 
— Monique Rao MAIPD ’17

In addition to finding that UN contact list, Carolyn Meyer also encouraged me to do the Professional Service Semester in the first place. I also wouldn’t have thought to apply for internships in Southeast Asia if it wasn’t for Dr. Tsuneo Akaha, who encouraged me to apply for internships in the region so that I’d be eligible for the Freeman Foundation award, which I ended up getting.

Then of course there’s the actual academic background that the Institute gave me. Competencies like program evaluation, leading capacity development, proposal writing for international development, women’s human rights, social sector needs assessment, and social asset mapping prepared me for my work at UNICEF Cambodia as an evaluation intern. I used elements from all of these courses during my internship, and much more! My supervisor and the upper management at UNICEF Cambodia were so pleased with my solid background in research and evaluation that they pursued a formal relationship with the Middlebury Institute to continue recruiting interns from them. They felt that my performance and knowledge was a good indicator of the high-quality training and academic coursework MIIS had provided.

Don’t Give Up, and Keep Applying

My best advice for current students is don’t give up, and just be patient. I started searching for my Professional Service Semester placements late in the game. I had another offer, but the timing wasn’t going to work out, so I kept applying to different places until I finally got something. But there was a lot of waiting, I was in Monterey until April, when most people usually start their placements in January or February. And secondly, use the resources that MIIS provides! Make sure you’re meeting with Carolyn, Gael, and Scott! Carolyn is great; I had so many brainstorming sessions with her where we sat down, thought of the areas I was interested in, and then she would either reach out to contacts she had on my behalf or help me find email addresses by looking up people on LinkedIn!