OID Goes Hiking

Beautiful fall weather calls for a trip to Great Falls!

20 OID students + IDS professor Dr. Fink gathered on the Maryland side of Great Falls for a not-so-short hike through fall foliage and over raging rivers. Much fun was had by all (we think) and we hope to continue this event in the future!

If you have a favorite hike in the DMV area, help us out by sharing it below!

Special thanks to Dr Fink for suggesting our trail and encouraging us lazy grad students to keep on!

Welcome Class of 2018!

The new school year means new faces. So what do grad students do to meet and mingle? A scavenger hunt!

OID hosted a picnic and scavenger hunt to meet the Class of 2018. First years and second years got to know each other as they searched the city for some well-known DC sites. Teams had to decipher riddles and take pictures at the intended location. A little friendly competition is the best way to bond in our opinion.

We had such a fun day and look forward to many more events with the incoming class!





Model Students


The winning team


Thanks for being troopers in the heat!

Congratulations IDS Class of 2016!


OID had such a great time hosting the second year send-off! First years and second years came together to celebrate IDS Class of 2016 and all of their accomplishments. We had so much fun and wish you all the best!


Class of 2016!



2016 and 2017

The big dreamers of 2016!


OID Alumni Networking Event

Last month, OID hosted an event that brought alumni and students together for networking and career advice. Three OID alumni (two of which were past OID board members): Bethel Stevens, Mohammad Hamze, and Emily Brown discussed their current positions and their career paths.

Bethel Stevens is an Investment Funds Associate at the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). She has over 5 years of experience in international development working with both bilateral and multilateral clients including USAID, the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Mohammad Hamze is a research analyst in the advisory function of the Office of the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO) at the World Bank Group (WBG). CAO’s advisory role provides independent advice to the President of the WBG and the management of IFC and MIGA on systematic ways to improve the social and environmental outcomes of WBG projects.

Emily B. Brown has five years’ experience working in international development and project management. She currently supports the FHI 360 Gender Department with its UK DFID-funded Girls’ Education Challenge program, and coordinates FHI 360’s gender integration and business development work.

The students then split into small groups based on their interests and participated in roundtable discussions. We enjoyed being able to engage with the alumni on a more personal level.

Thank you to the alumni and students that came out to the event!



UN ECOSOC Youth Forum

The Executive Board of the Organization for International Development (OID) attended the Fifth Annual United Nations ECOSOC Youth Forum in New York on February 1-2. Designed to brainstorm methods for empowering youth in the implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, the Forum brought together global youth delegates who represented universities, NGOs, government agencies, private sector institutions, and multilateral development organizations.

The Forum was lead by the United Nations Special Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, who in his opening address spoke of the need to recognize that youth are “not just the future, but the present”. A variety of guest speakers and developers spoke at the forum, all seeming to focus on how youth can be encouraged to join in the implementation of the SDGs and how they can contribute their own unique skills to encourage a more innovative, energetic, and inclusive approach to development.

Notable guest speakers throughout the Forum included Guy Ryder, Director-General of the International Labor Organization, who launched the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth at the forum. The keynote address on February 1 was given by Samar Mezghanni, a Tunisian children’s writer and activist, who warned of the dangers of dismissing the valuable contributions children can make to the world around them.

Throughout the Forum, the OID board members were able to participate in various breakout forums concentrating on subject areas of Gender, Youth Unemployment, and the Environment.

2015 Survey Results

To those OIDers who took the 2015 OID Survey, the OID Board would like to say thanks. A total of 46 of you took the survey (incidentally, the same number who took OID’s last survey in 2013).

In the interest of transparency, we would like to share the results with you.

1. During which time frame are you most available for OID events?

Thirty-four respondents said 5 to 8 p.m. on Fridays, 19 said weekdays 5 to 9 p.m., 18 said Saturday evenings, 17 said Saturday mornings and afternoons and 11 said weekdays 9 to midnight. Write-in suggestions also advised diversifying the time frames with which we hosted events.

2. Do you attend the Graduate Student Forum’s Thursday Night Out?

Seventeen respondents said yes, while 29 answered no.

3. What kind of events are you most interested in?

With perhaps the most resounding response, 41 people answered they would like picnics, potlucks and outdoor activities (which OID is planning to host when the weather improves). Twenty-seven answered happy hours and 25 said conferences and round tables and just seven said academic support. People also wrote in suggestions of a unique array of events like bowling, laser tag, mini-golf, etc.

4. What are your expectations for OID?

Twenty-five students said getting to know their classmates, 10 said having fun, seven said networking, two said getting to know D.C. and one said academic support.

5. How do you prefer us to communicate with you?

The vast majority, 29, said email, while 14 answered Facebook. Newsletter and blog each got one vote. To the blog vote: this entry is for you!

6. How would you rate our communication thus far on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the lowest?

Eleven people ranked us at 6, while ten people ranked us at 7 and another ten ranked us at 8. Six people rated us a 5, four a nine, two a ten, two people gave us a one and two respectively. The average ranking is a 6.6 (not that you really average this type of data, but whatever).

7. Did you attend the OID holiday party?

Twenty-nine said yes and 17 said no.

8. Please rate the food at the holiday party on a scale of 1 to 5.

The majority, 17, rated the food a 4, while seven rated it a 3 and six rated it a 5. Eight said they did not attend. “That math doesn’t work out based on the previous question.” We know.

9. Please rate the location of the holiday party on a scale of 1 to 5.

Fifteen said 3, eight said 4, four said 5 and one said 2. Eight people again answered NA/didn’t attend.

10. Write-in suggestions

We got a lot of good feedback, including diversifying events, especially outdoor events and day trips, development role-playing, volunteer work addressing the poverty in DC and bringing back the blog (shout out to you, sir or madam). Keep a lookout for new events and activities.

Thanks for reading all the way through. Here’s a picture of a dog for appreciation.


Welcome to the new OID web page!

Hello folks,

Welcome to the newly revamped OID website. I’ve streamlined the site a bit and hope to relaunch the OID blog page. To do so, I’m looking for your help! The blog can be anything  -interviews with students and professionals in the field, information from the OID board and guest posts from IDS students and other OID members (that can be articles, editorials, reviews, etc.). If you’re interested in contributing or have suggestions on what to write, shoot me (Lane, communications chair) a note at advorak@gwu.edu. I’ll do my best to respond promptly and help make things work.

Additionally, the 2014 survey is now closed. Results will be posted later this week, and the OID board hopes this gives us new things to work on for this semester.

So keep checking back on the site! And don’t forget to check your email (including your spam folder) for updates from the OID board.

IDS Alumna Olga Kravets on Maidan and the Crisis in Ukraine

Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from and what are your interests in development?

IDS Alumna Olga Kravets

IDS Alumna Olga Kravets

I was born and raised in Vinnitsa, Ukraine (home of the largest floating fountain in Europe). At the age of 12, I moved to Rochester, NY where I lived for the majority of my young adulthood years. My greatest interest lies in economic and private sector development. Growing up in post-Soviet Ukraine during a time of economic hardship and moving to a prosperous country at a young age exposed me to a striking contrast in living standards. This left a deep impression on my young mind and induced an interest in business and economics. The idealist in me envisioned a future where I somehow assisted in Ukraine’s transition to a more prosperous and democratic country. This vision began to materialize during my most recent trip to Kyiv with Creative Associates International!

Could you do a quick run-down on what is happening in Ukraine?

Maidan in Kyiv

Maidan in Kyiv

In the aftermath of EuroMaidan and Russia’s annexation of Crimea, a crisis ensued in Eastern Ukraine. Kremlin-backed separatists took over administrative buildings, tele-towers and an airport in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, and held illegal referendums on ‘self-rule’. In the meantime, up to 40,000 Russian troops have been stationed at the border to conduct ‘training exercises’. A slow response from the interim government and an under capacitated Ukrainian army allowed the crisis to escalate to a point where the interim President admitted he had no control over the situation. The oversimplified portrayal of the crisis in the international media as a division between ethnic Ukrainian and Russian speakers in the region masks a heavy Russian influence. The crisis is fueled by an informational war between pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian media, and strong financial and military backing of the separatists by Russia.

The last remnant of Maidan

The last remnant of Maidan

In the midst of this turbulent crisis, Ukraine managed to hold presidential elections on May 25th. Over half of the voters elected Petro Poroshenko (AKA the Chocolate King) as Ukraine’s next president. He immediately promised to hold parliamentary elections to continue the formation of a new government. Once in office, Poroshenko offered the citizens of Donbass (Donetsk and Lugansk) decentralization of power, security assurances, and guarantees that they will be able to freely use the Russian language. The situation in East Ukraine is very fluid, changing on an almost daily basis. Despite their late start and lack of resources, Anti-Terrorist Operations (ATO) are being conductedin Donbass to reclaim what has been taken over by the separatists. Clashes between ATO fighters and separatists have ravaged Donbass and displaced many people from their homes, creating a humanitarian crisis. Meanwhile in Kyiv, the former world heavyweight boxing champion and recently elected mayor, Vitaliy Klitchko, has successfully led the cleanup of Maidan, dismantling the barricades and makeshift tents. On the economic front, Ukraine is also struggling badly right now. A massive bailout package from the IMF, as well as, loan guarantees and aid from the US and Europe will help prop the economy up in the near future, but a painful road to recovery lies ahead. The resolution of simultaneous crises and the healing of a society scarred by violence represent some of the greatest challenges faced by Ukraine’s new leadership. Luckily, they can capitalize on the spirit of change generated by Maidan and leverage the energy and talent of a growing CSO sector in accomplishing these arduous tasks.

What was it like being in the U.S. while all the events (Euromaidan, Crimea, Donetsk People’s Republic) were happening? What were your thoughts and emotions?

Olga with colleagues from Creative Associates in Ukraine.

Olga with colleagues from Creative Associates in Ukraine.

The unpredictability and violent nature of the events that took place was extremely stressful. During Maidan, it was angering to watch Ukrainians (Berkut) shooting other Ukrainians (protesters). Central Kyiv was practically transformed into a war zone, so it was unbelievable to see dead bodies lying on the streets I walked down only months ago. Frequent calls with family members in Kyiv helped diffuse some of my worrying. At the same time, being stuck behind a computer screen, passively watching the events unfold before my eyes was very frustrating because I was infused with the desire to get involved and take action, but felt so far away! Apart from participating in efforts to lobby the American government to take some form of action and donating money, there wasn’t much else I could do to help from DC. Still, going to rallies in support of Maidan made me feel like I was doing my small part and engendered a sense of solidarity with the protesters and other Ukrainians, which was echoed by the diaspora around the world. As saddening as it was to learn about the deaths of the Maidan protesters, I have great admiration for their courage and the courage of those who fought alongside them or repeatedly came out to protest in the bitter cold winter temperatures. They helped topple a corrupt regime, proving the true power of the people.

Edwin Niederberger on Energy, Business and Development

IDS Student Edwin Edwin Niederberger

IDS Student Edwin Niederberger

Hi Edwin, tell us about yourself. Who are you? Where are you from? And what brought you to the Elliott School?  I always have trouble answering these questions concisely, especially where am I from. The short answer is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I was born in the US, but spent a good portion of my childhood growing up in Russia. Even after I moved back to the US, I spent summers in St. Petersburg, Russia at my grandparents’ home. I graduated in 2012 from the University of Pittsburgh with a BA in economics. Following graduation, I did a two week program on energy issues in Baku, Azerbaijan, which sparked my interest in energy as both a geopolitical and a development issue. I decided to pursue a career in development after interning for six months with the UN System Staff College (UNSSC) in Torino, Italy, which is the UN agency responsible for improving the capabilities and skills of UN employees by facilitating workshops and training programs. I worked with the Gender and Cross Cultural Team, which furthered my interested in gender issues in development. Recognizing that I needed to pursue a MA to work in development, I applied to various graduate development programs, but chose the Elliott School because of its global reputation but also its location just blocks away from the IMF, World Bank, Red Cross, and other important development organizations.

Edwin with Chilean President, Michelle Bachelet

Edwin with Chilean President, Michelle Bachelet

What is your area of specialization within the IDS program? My concentration is Energy, Natural Resource Management, and the Environment. On a macro scale, I am interested in how developing countries can use policy and development strategies to best diversify their own energy supply and avoid falling into the resource curse. On a micro scale, I am focusing on energy access and how to enable people that live in rural areas to have sufficient and reliable access to energy (electricity in particular) in order to enable development opportunities.

You have decided to get a joint MA/MBA, why did you choose to go the dual degree route? What are your plans after grad school and how will this help you get there?   I chose the MA/MBA route because I am most interested in the role of the private sector in development. I believe that the GW Business School will help me look at development issues from the private sector’s perspective and understand some of the barriers and constraints that private companies face. For example, as I mentioned earlier, energy access is a major issue in development as 1.3 billion people lack access to reliable electricity. Many of these people are willing to pay high amounts to have access to electricity, but may not be aware of their options or live too far away from the electrical grid. At the same time, there are plenty of companies that are making PV solar panels that would be perfect for the conditions many of these people live in (plenty of daily sunlight). Thus the responsibility of providing electricity access falls upon the private sector. However, there is a major disconnect in the supply chain linking the high supply and high demand for these energy products. One of the issues is economies of scale, where if only a few solar panels are produced, they will cost much more for the producer to make, thus making these panels more expensive for local distributors in the rural areas and finally to the consumer. It is imperative to think of innovative ways to make loans and finance capital for each step in the process to reduce costs for production, holding inventory, and final price.

Edwin nearing the finish line at his first marathon.

Edwin in Venice.

After grad school I want to continue working on energy and environment issues in developing countries. At this point, potential options include working for the Global Environment Facility sector of the World Bank that provides funding for many energy and environment initiatives in developing countries. I also would be interested in working for or starting my own Energy Service Company (ESCO). ESCOs focus on making buildings more energy efficient and reducing energy costs and environmental pollution through mitigating emissions. These include simple solutions like using more efficient light bulbs or smart building design that take advantage of natural light to more complex solutions where buildings can have green roofs or solar panels (or other technologies) to generate their own energy and even be able to sell some back to the grid!


Edwin nearing the finish line at his first marathon.

Both of your parents worked in development. How has that influenced your career path? What made you want to follow in their footsteps? Yes, both my parents worked in development, my mom for IFC and my dad as an environmental consultant. This definitely shaped my world perspective from an early age. As a child, I was fortunate to travel a lot, meet and become friends with people from many different cultures, and understand that not everyone had a lifestyle like I did in the US. When I was very young, I loved the idea that my parents just traveled the world and saw all of these cool places, but as I grew older I began to understand the intricacies and complexities of the actual work they were doing.

A photo from Edwin's time in Nepal.

A photo from Edwin’s time in Nepal.

While in college, I traveled to Nepal to visit my mom and worked as an intern at a micro finance organization as well as volunteering at an educational center for blind or deaf children. I think this experience really cemented my desire to work in development as it was the first time I really understood the difficulties and extreme poverty so many people live in. I think that my parents have also really shaped my interests. My dad focuses on environmental issues and mitigating environmental damage in developing countries, while my mom focuses on development projects that are financed through the private sector. They both have been invaluable resources for my own professional development as I often turn to them if I have any questions or even to have a discussion on contemporary topics.

A Political Scientist in Development: An Interview with Kaan Jittiang


Kaan (right) at graduation with his mentor.

Hi Kaan, tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? What brought you to the Elliott School?


My name is Bhanubhatra Jittiang, but most of my friends call me “Kaan”. In Thailand, where I’m from, almost everyone has both a real name and a nickname. Kaan is a shorter version of my Thai nickname—Kaankaew.

Before coming to the Elliott School, I was living in Thailand. I graduated with a B.A. in Political Science in 2011 from Chulalongkorn University and then spent two years working towards my Ph.D. in Political Science at the same institution, until I completed my coursework and passed the qualified examination. I was also a teaching and a research assistant. I came to DC because I was granted a scholarship from the Royal Thai Government to pursue graduate studies abroad. After finishing both the Master and PhD, I’m required by the scholarship to work as a university lecturer in Thailand.

I chose the IDS program at the Elliott School because I wanted to study development in Washington, DC, a center for international affairs. While I will be working in academia in the future, the IDS program gives me a chance to gain practical knowledge and expertise. I think this is very important because it will allow me to understand the practical limitations to theory. I’ve chosen democracy and governance as my concentration and want to learn about development from a political scientist’s perspective.

 You have decided to write a thesis instead of completing the capstone. Why? Tell us a little about your topic.


Enjoying Washington, D.C. with friends

It was a big decision to opt-out the capstone and choose to write a thesis. I hope to gain a strong research background for my doctoral studies.  More importantly, working on the thesis will allow me to deeply investigate the topic in which I am particularly interested.

I will investigate the No-Dam Movement, an environmental movement in Thailand. I am researching how social media is used to gain supporters, mobilize them offline, and to urge the government to reconsider its plan to construct a dam in a national forest area.

The case study that I will investigate in Thailand is interesting because  social media has never before played such a vital role in mobilizing popular support for an environmental cause, especially to urge the government to reconsider its plans and to halt the construction of a dam. This topic will allow me learn more about social movements, social media, and environmental politics, topics that are not seriously investigated in Thailand. I hope my education in the US will provide me with expertise on these issues so I can contribute more in my home country when I return.


Kaan participates in the Young Leaders Program, The 25th Asia – Pacific Roundtable

How has it been adjusting to life in Washington DC? What are some of the challenges to being an international student? What are the benefits?

Although I previously lived in the US for a year long student exchange from 2005 – 2006, I was still afraid of re-adjusting to life in the US before arriving last year. However, living in Washington, DC has not been difficult for me because it is a very international city. I can easily find foods and other things that I prefer. Moreover, living in DC allows me to meet, talk to, and exchange views with new people who have various backgrounds and come from several countries around the world.

The biggest challenge for me is that I do not like living in a busy city (though I had lived in Bangkok for several years before coming to the US). I have to balance the time that I spend in the city and the time that I go out to the countryside. Luckily, I can easily escape to the forest in DC since there are several huge green spaces located in and around the city.