College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Agricultural & Resource Economics

From College Degree to Successful Career: UMD AREC Hosts International Development Program Professionals

The Global Poverty Student Advisory Board hosted a nonprofit career panel to inform students about the impact nonprofit organizations have on the developing world. The event took place on May 4, 2017, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Tawes Building. There was a capacity crowd of 100 people in the audience.

Carrie Lewey, an AREC senior and a global poverty ambassador, organized the event and worked with the other global poverty minor students to prepare a list of four broad questions to help facilitate the discussion.

“The Global Poverty Ambassadors were looking for a way to spread the word about how fantastic and diverse the minor is,” said Lewey. “We were all also interested in learning how we can impact the world using the minor since many of us would love for it to be our major.”

Speakers at the event included Melanie Sany from the Education Development Center, Geroldine Sicot from Millennium Challenge Corporation, Diether Beuermann from Inter-American Development Bank, Pat Corrigan from Deloitte and Maggie McDonough from Souktel.

The first topic of discussion focused on the skills and experiences that stand out when an applicant is applying for a job with an international development organization.

All of the panelist agreed on the value of pursuing study abroad and experiential learning opportunities, as well as language learning and teaching. Options range from the Peace Corps, to school-based internships and study abroad programs, to gaining experience through organization-based or faith-based international aid programs, or a US domestic aid program such as Habitat for Humanity. According to Geroldine Sicot, “Employers are looking for a solid cross-cultural background, as well as having been in situations where you had to make do with whatever you had available to get through a difficult situation.” Pat Corrigan added, “A volunteer or intern who goes on to a successful career certainly does have a clear purpose and passion for the work, then the person has the added ability to morph and to adapt. Every project has unique challenges.”

The second topic was related to involvement of both non-profit and for-profit organizations in international development projects. The panelist described their experiences with a wide variety of aid groups and projects. Maggie McDonough shared, “Whether it’s a non-profit or for-profit organization, choose to work for a group that has a mission you believe in and an approach that resonates with you.”

The final couple of questions posed to the panel were what Carrie Lewey called “the fun questions.” She asked the panel to talk about their favorite memories, as well as to say a few words about what career they almost chose.

A recurring theme in the stories about their favorite projects was that sometimes smaller projects made more lasting memories. They spoke of sustainable, affordable programs that continue successfully year after year.

An example of a project with a research component that lead to a published scholarly journal article for Diether Beuermann had to do with prenatal health care in Peru; many pregnant women were not going to free doctor’s office appointments, or accepting free nutrition counseling and vitamins. The program helped set-up electronic medical records to streamline the application process, as well as a system of text message reminders. “I was fairly confident that there would be an increase in attendance for the visits to the doctors,” said Beuermann. “I was more pleasantly surprised by the noticeable improvement in the overall health of both the mothers and the infants. It’s a sustainable, affordable program that has had positive results.”

The evening concluded with a Q & A session to get the audience involved. A couple of questions that lead to similar replies were related to how to build an effective staff and how to continue to advance in a career.

The panelists discussed gathering a team with a good mix of “visionaries” and “implementers,” or finding individuals who have a good mixture of different skills. Melanie Sany noted that she originally started on a path to work for an insurance company. Due to her combination of skills, she was offered an assignment to build a social entrepreneurship program. That eventually lead to international development work. Sany advised, “Ask yourself where you think you will be most likely to grow. Look for the organizational culture that suits you. Do your best to keep a mix of managerial and technical skills. Then, opportunities will be available.”

The Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics would like to thank all of the panelists, as well as the students, staff, and faculty who contributed towards making this event a success.

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