Like she does with so many things, Professor Beryl Levinger took the word “sabbatical” and turned it on its head. While formally on sabbatical from the Monterey Institute during the last academic year, she did almost everything but observe the term’s original meaning, i.e. take a break from work. In this case, “everything” includes working on 14 different projects consulting for organizations such as the World Bank, UNHCR, Save the Children, the Packard Foundation, and the International Red Cross in 11 different countries including Morocco, Colombia, Israel, and Switzerland.
All the while, Beryl was forming new relationships, strengthening old ones, and taking a critical look at the instruction offered in the Master of Public Administration (MPA) program she has helped shape over the course of her 20 years at MIIS. “In each of my assignments, I asked myself ‘What is the balance between process, skills, and content?’” she says, describing her conscious effort to evaluate to what degree those professional demands are echoed back into the classroom. “The good news is that I am able to validate, or re-validate, that what we teach our students is very relevant to their prospective careers.”
She is particularly excited about working in cooperation with the new International Policy and Development degree under the umbrella of Development Practice and Policy. Everywhere she went, she talked about the Institute and continued to explore opportunities for students, including both jobs and internships, and at every stop “people knew the Institute and have very positive views of our graduates.”
Beryl also had many opportunities to work with her former students, an experience she describes as “exhilarating.” As she says, there is “nothing more satisfying than seeing a former student as a colleague, and working shoulder to shoulder with them, and hearing people high up in organizations talk glowingly about our alumni and how prepared they are for the job.”
Balancing an academic career with her role as an active development professional has worked well for both Beryl and her students, who benefit from her insights, experience, and connections. “Being a professor is phenomenally meaningful to me,” she shares, noting the ripples of influence a good quality education can have.