| by Travis Wells BA/MAIPD ’19


Wells, Travis
Travis Wells BA/MAIPD ’19

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 Travis Wells and I graduated with a BA and an MA in International Policy and Development from the Middlebury Institute in 2019. My language of study was Mandarin (Chinese), and I specialized in conflict resolution and social justice. After graduation, I was hired as a development and communications associate at Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics in Los Angeles, California, and left as a development manager. Now I am board vice president of the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Alliance, vice president of the Guamanian Community Club of Sacramento, and the senior program associate with Elevate Youth California, a program of the Center at Sierra Health Foundation in Sacramento, California.

Elevate Youth California supports community-based organizations and grassroots emerging organizations doing social justice youth development and substance use prevention work with communities disproportionately impacted by the “War on Drugs.” My role there includes strategic planning; coordinating with program partners, grantees, and consultants; developing program materials; planning and coordinating program events and meetings; coordinating the development of contracts and grant agreements; and monitoring and evaluating partner program impact.

While I was enrolled at the Institute, I looked at various job boards for social justice nonprofits and looked at what opportunities existed in my community where I could best leverage my new skills to support the work already being done. The career management course and career counseling staff helped me to focus my search; and the Summer Peacebuilding Program and many critical social justice courses in the International Policy and Development program helped to broaden my perspective and language around decolonization and liberation work, equity, and community organizing, which helps hone my work in the community.

Cultivate a Strong Sense of Identity and Values

My best advice for current students is that if you’re looking to go into a social justice work environment, a strong sense of identity and values is extremely important. Your values are some of the most critical assets you bring to the table after hard skills. The tools learned at MIIS are important, but you should also take time to reflect on how your values can compensate for the frequent lack of diverse tools, and how those tools can boost your viability at an organization.