Voices from DC: Interview with Hilary Hartley

OID: Greetings Hilary and thank you for talking to OID today. Please start out by telling us a something about yourself: where are you from, what makes you passionate about development, and why did you decide to pursue a Master’s in International Development at GWU?

Hilary Hartley

Hilary Hartley

Hilary Hartley: I am originally from the Bay Area in California, but grew up in San Diego. I’ve lived in Washington DC for the last four years working for a non-profit that focuses on university level exchanges. I’ve always been very interested in international relations, and after studying abroad in Montevideo, Uruguay as an undergrad, I wanted to learn more about international education and development education policy.

OID: Tell us more about why you think education is such an important aspect in development.

Hilary Hartley: In my opinion, education is a universal right and lays an important foundation for all aspects of development work. Basic skills such as literacy and numeracy are critical to everything from agricultural development to micro-finance. Every human being deserves an educational foundation that will allow them to lead dignified lives in which they are empowered to make decisions.

OID: Where are you this summer and how did you get this position?

Hilary Hartley: I’m in beautiful Rosslyn, Virginia (just a stone’s throw from DC). Okay, Rosslyn is not as amazing as some of the other places where my fellow cohort members are, but I am very fortunate to have a job that I thoroughly enjoy. I am the Program Officer for Spain, Portugal, Malta, Mexico, Italy, Nicaragua and Turkey at the International Student Exchange Programs (ISEP). I’ve worked here for four years, and actually made the decision to start school while employed full time (more on that later).

OID: How was working full time and going to grad school last year? Any recommendations for those looking to start that balancing act this upcoming school year?

Hilary Hartley: Well, it wasn’t easy, and if I have any advice, I would say sleep now (just kidding! Well, sort of…) and if at all possible, read some of your capstone books over the summer (I think I got through three or four, I especially recommend reading Escobar and Pieterse early if you can) and it was a big help.

You can manage to do both, but you will need four things: 1) a schedule, and the ability to maximize your time: I read at lunch, I read on the metro (you’d be surprised how much you can read on an escalator too!). Importantly, I scheduled me time too. I always cooked for the week every Saturday and scheduled time to see friends.   2) A tablet: I bought a tablet about halfway through second semester and wished I’d done it sooner. For some reason, I read faster on it, and take better notes. It also makes searching for something for a paper a breeze! 3) An agreement with your workplace: My boss and I worked out a schedule so I could be on-time for class every time.  4) caffeine: because being at work at 8amand finishing class at 10pm means you will not be sleeping a solid 8 hours a day.

All that said, if you are organized, you can do it.

Hilary Hartley in the Alhambra, in Spain

Hilary Hartley in the Alhambra, in Spain

OID: It seems like a lot of the IDS students are abroad this summer. Obviously we are all jealous of them, so staying in DC must have been a tough choice! How did you make that decision and how do you feel that your work experience will help you once you graduate?

Hilary Hartley: I do think that work experience will be helpful when I graduate, and I also wanted to take a summer class, which made my decision a little easier. I’m taking Quantitative Research Methods in the School of Education, which has proven interesting, and I’m happy to be able to take a break from the school/work balancing act!

OID: The first years are about the start their first year of grad school. What do you wish someone had told you when you started grad school?

Hilary Hartley: Be ruthless with your class choices (and don’t be afraid to ask alumni/second years for recommendations)! Pick classes based on the skills you think will be marketable when you graduate, even if they don’t sound that great. A SPSS class may not sound awesome now, but will look awesome on a resume. Take the time to go to happy hour/events/talks etc. with your cohort, even if you’ve worked 8 hours and gone to class for 3, GO! That’s not to say I stayed particularly long, but I recommend going. These people are going to be with you for two years, through thick and thin, and are going to be some of the only people that will understand your triumphs and trials, so get to know them!

OID: Any class recommendations or favorite study spots that you want to share with the group?

Hilary Hartley: Anyone who has met me knows that I am a total nerd and LOVE the library stacks. I also recommend the rooms that you can reserve for group projects as a great place to meet.

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