| by Ariana Sawyer MAIPD '19

Profile image of Ariana Sawyer, alumna of the MA in International Policy and Development, works at Human Rights Watch

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 Ariana Sawyer and I graduated from the Middlebury Institute in 2019 with an MA in International Policy and Development (IPD) and a specialization in migration. My language of study was Spanish.


U.S. Border Researcher, Human Rights Watch, Los Angeles, California

Road to Human Rights Watch

I’ve conducted research in the field of U.S.-Mexico immigration policy for several years, and my contacts recommended me for internships at a number of great organizations, including Human Rights Watch. I was originally hired as an intern as part of the Middlebury Institute’s International Professional Service Semester (IPSS) and was subsequently promoted to a full-time assistant researcher position.

Critical Combination

I think that the aspects of my Middlebury Institute education that are critical to my work today are the language courses and immigration classes. I now regularly draft policy memos, and to do so I must frequently refer to and understand international human rights law and interview Spanish speakers.

Immersive Learning

In addition to IPSS, I also completed an independent summer practicum of my own design where I spent a few months in Mexico City and California with U.S.-Mexico couples. I used their stories to talk about how binational relationships build connections among groups on either side of the border, subverting ideas of “us vs. the other” and providing an alternative narrative on the hyper-securitized discourse on migration.

A Piece of Advice

Best advice for a MIIS student today? Don’t be passive. Work with professors to design your own immersive learning projects, apply for funding, and get published. If you’re up for it, it’s a great way to do some hands-on learning that is a little more real world than perhaps a structured program.