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.

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Hands On Relief Work: Laurel Jansury on Volunteering in the Philippines

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IDS Student Laurel Jansury

By Laurel Jansury, GWU IDS Student

I could never understand how people could fall completely head over heels in love within a matter of days. I never understood, that is, until I went to the Philippines. Over winter break I had the opportunity to spend two and a half weeks doing earthquake relief on the island of Bohol.

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The main road to our camp. Periodically along they way we would see these signs painted on the road

On October 15th, 2013 at 8:12 am a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit the Visayas region of the Philippines with a majority of the damage being sustained in Bohol. The earthquake caused over 35,000 families to lose their homes. Unfortunately for those affected, Super Typhoon Haiyan hit 23 days later with a ferocity that caused many relief organizations to shift funding and man power to the neighboring island of Leyte. While this lack of aid had a detrimental effect on the population, many volunteers, like myself, came to the program because of their interest in volunteering for Super Typhoon Haiyan relief.  I had previously wanted to work on natural disaster relief but wasn’t able to because of school or other commitments. This time, since school was on break for the winter holidays, I jumped at the opportunity.

The organization I volunteered through, All Hands Volunteers,  focuses on deconstructing unsafe houses, allowing the residents to be able to begin to rebuild. Knowing that a majority of the work would be manual labor I was unsure what the experience would be like and I definitely did not expect it to enjoy it so much. At 7 am every morning we would load up onto the jeepneys, which took us to our work sites for the day, and come home around 4:30 pm, with a break at 11 for lunch. Teams of 5 to 8 people would go to different sites throughout the area surrounding our camp. The deconstruction included pulling tin sheets off roofs, prying apart wooden support beams, sledge hammering concrete columns and moving loads upon loads of rubble. While we were doing the work to help others, they weren’t the only ones benefiting from the work; there is nothing like sledge hammering and some creative visualization to get out a bit of stress!

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The team loading up on the jeepneys to go to work in the morning.

The most rewarding part of our day by far was the ride to and from the sites we were working on. Easily recognizable (mostly because we were the only vehicle on the road with 10 gringos riding on the top), children would come out of their homes to yell hello and wave to us. Seeing their smiles and enthusiasm gave us the strength we needed to continue to do our work day after day.

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Before and after cleanup efforts

While the work was gratifying, my fellow volunteers are what made the experience so much fun. Living in a communal space like our camp, eating, working and spending your free time together helps you to get to know people pretty quickly. Nothing bonds two people together more quickly than commiserating over flooded tents! Though all the volunteers came from such diverse backgrounds, they came together because, for no matter how short the time period, we all wanted to help. By the time I left our project, we had 147 volunteers from 17 countries, who contributed 14160 hours of labor and finished deconstructing 71 houses, 5 chapels, 3 schools, 1 town hall and 1 church.

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The All Hands Project Bohol volunteer group

Though I knew that this experience would give me new insight into doing development work, I never expected that it would actually change my life so completely. Having completely changed my concentration and area of focus, from international education to humanitarian assistance, I am already planning to return to the Philippines for the summer to continue the relief work there.

5 Tips for Landing a Summer Internship Abroad

We talked to a few second year IDS students about their experiences last summer, how they found their internships, and tips they would offer those looking for summer opportunities. Here’s what they said:

  1. Start early and plan ahead. Now is the perfect time to start reaching out! Many organizations have formal internship processes, so make sure you research and make all deadlines. However, Morgan Blackburn, who interned at Karen’s Women Organization in Thailand added, “don’t be discouraged if something comes together at the last minute. Most organizations are so busy they can’t even bother to think about summer plans in the winter.”
  2. Determine what you want to gain from your internship experience. Of course, traveling abroad for a summer with an organization sounds fun and exciting! But you also want to make the most of your experience in order to leverage it for future career opportunities. As Jason James, who interned with Sustainable Bolivia in Cochabamba, Bolivia last summer advises, “Make sure you have an idea of the type of work you want to do and the experience you want to gain and make sure the internship will give you that.”
  3. Don’t forget about small organizations! Yes, many people choose to intern with big name organizations, but you often have more room to explore your interests and learn a variety of things at smaller organizations. Anne Sprinkel, who interned with Mercy Corps in Nigeria, suggests reaching out to small organizations working in your area of interest and pitching what you can offer them. She explains, “it takes more work to contact them, sell them on what you can provide for a few months, and probably find your own housing, but in the end I think they’re a great opportunity for good experience.”
  4. Use your network. Talk to professors and other students about potential organizations to reach out to. Sometimes, professors  have contacts at organizations that can find you an internship even if it’s not officially posted. Kevin Robbins, who interned with iDE Bangladesh explains, “The important step was finding a contact in the country I wanted to visit. Then he introduced me to someone else, and she introduced me to someone else, and that person had a position for me. I had more luck using the relationships of others abroad than internet searches, in large part because so many of the opportunities there never make it online.”
  5. Be persistent! Reach out first by email to let your contact know who you are and what you are looking for. As people and organizations are often extremely busy, it is important to write a couple of follow-up emails and be prepared to call them directly at some point. Simon Boehler, who interned with the German development agency GIZ in Kosovo advises, “Don’t take it personally if people do not respond immediately!”

Special thanks to Anne Sprinkel, Alejandro Guzman, Jason James, Katya Verkhovsky, Simon Boehler, Kevin Robbins and Morgan Blackburn for their input!

Niyara Alakhunova on Going Back to School, DC, and Changing Perspectives

Niyara Alakhunova

Niyara Alakhunova

OID: Tell us a little bit about yourself: Where are you from and what interests you most about development? 

Niyara Alakhunova: I come from Kyrgyzstan – a small post-Soviet country located in the heart of Central Asia that gained independence 22 years ago. It is still overwhelmed by social and economic problems, which affect its development. I graduated from the American University in Central Asia with a BA in Business Administration and frankly never thought that my focus would become so global. In 2007 I started working for a USAID-funded project on agricultural development. In my work I applied my business administration skills in a very different but relevant context, helping farmers to cope with difficulties they face in the undeveloped agricultural sector. I was part of the implementation team working with the local communities with scarce agricultural resources to rehabilitate the irrigation system on dehydrated and stony lands to make it suitable for harvesting. That is how I began to gain first-hand experience in development. Additionally, I was involved in several small-scale humanitarian and charity initiatives which made me realize that I am capable of being helpful even if I can change lives of a few. At that point of my life I understood that I need a deeper knowledge of development and how it operates.

Violent ethnic clashes that happened in June 2010 in the south of my country mostly affected my desire to help people and it came clear to me that working towards development, ensuring social justice and human security should become a great pursuit of mine. I still don’t believe I have the chance to study at a university as prestigious as George Washington, and it’s great to be in DC, where so much of development theory and action takes place–it’s like being in the center of development.

On a visit to a project's livestock farm

On a visit to a project’s livestock farm

Niyara on a trip with Kyrgyz farmers to Russia

Niyara on a trip with Kyrgyz farmers to Russia

OID: You’re halfway through your first semester: has anything about your interests changed or been challenged thus far?

Niyara Alakhunova: Before I came here, I thought I would concentrate on agricultural development and food security. However, as I started learning different sides of development, its’ history and approaches,  talking to professors and groupmates, and participating in Elliott school social events, I was overwhelmed by so many new and interesting things I want to learn! By the time we had to submit our plan of study I made up my mind to concentrate on conflict and development, humanitarian assistance, and human rights. As I look at the list of courses available at GW; I’m always so eager to take more than I am eligible to!

OID: Tell us about your cohort and what aspects you enjoy or find challenging about being a part of it.

Niyara Alakhunova: First of all, I have to admit that IDSers are the best! I am very happy to be a part of such a great team of smart and interesting people. They make me feel motivated to learn more, and to develop further. It was a bit difficult to keep up with them in the early beginning, although they all told they didn’t see it! We have students from Mexico, India, Pakistan, Senegal, and lots of other countries, so it is always fun to talk about different cultures!

OID: As you are from a developing country, do you feel that your insight into class discussions differs from others in your classes?

Niyara Alakhunova: Class discussions are my favorite, particularly our Cornerstone class debates on different aspects of development. As our professors like to say, we have to learn so much from our peers. Yes, I definitely feel that being from a developing country and on top of that representing two ethnic minorities in from that country, my insight into class discussion is different from others’. I like to compare the theoretical knowledge I get from the readings with the reality of living in a developing country versus the experiences of my groupmates from a developed country. I am very grateful to Professor Fink, who encouraged my class participation and always supported my ideas.  Dr. Sean Roberts (our Cornerstone professor and the head of the IDS program) has been working in my country for two years and it has been great to meet a person who has lived in my country and knows a lot about it.

Niyara on a visit to Moscow

Niyara on a visit to Moscow

OID: You worked for several years before going to grad school. How do you feel that helped you, and how has your grad school experience differed from undergrad?

Niyara Alakhunova: I worked for 7 years before going to grad school. It was a hard decision for me because I had gotten used to the work atmosphere, schedule, and way of life you can have being employed full-time, (and the things you can afford being employed!) I feel that this experience has helped me a lot, as I am able to look at development through the lens of my previous work and it definitely enriched my knowledge of how development works in practice. That said, being a student again is very challenging. It took me some time to get used to my new graduate school life. I did my undergrad in Kyrgyzstan, at the American University in Central Asia, and my grad school experience as of now is very different, not only because I’m studying in a different country, but also due to the work load, content of the coursework, greater focus on discussions and analytical thinking. My life has become different here, and it has changed me in a positive way. Feeling the spirit of school again is amazing! Grad school is tough, but it is rewarding too. Dare to dream, and get rid of any fears in accomplishing your goal!

OID: If you could draft the perfect position based on your interests, what would it be, and where would you work?

Niyara Alakhunova: I don’t set any limits in terms of my career interests in development, but I would be very much interested in working with conflict prevention, poverty reduction and human security programs at the UN, USAID, OXFAM or CARE. I have recently read a case about the implementation of a rights-based approach CARE used to increase accountability of development institutions and governments, and I was truly excited about their work and results. Being influenced by Amartya Sen’s book of “Development as Freedom”, I want my future job to be focused on removing “unfreedoms” that make a lot of people around the world suffer from inequalities, poverty and other social ills.

Wherever life takes Niyara, OID expects big things!

Wherever life takes Niyara, OID expects big things!

Thank you from the OID Board of 2013

2013 OID Board

The OID board of 2013, (from left to right): Ani AvetisyanRachel Clement, Alejandro Guzman, Ashley McEvoy, and Morgan Blackburn would like to thank you all for voting for us, supporting and encouraging us, attending our events and reading our blog. We’re moving on, but OID shall live on. Please come to the celebration ceremony and election results party on Thursday, November 21st (RSVP here) and stay involved by submitting your thoughts to oid@gwu.edu and attending the future events, film screenings, and discussions the new board sets up. Thanks again, everyone!

Event Recap: Nairobi Half Life and OID Kudos

Before we get to the event recap, OID would like to recognize two outstanding second year IDS students: Allison DeMaio and Shilpa Modi (found here and here) for their recent professional endeavors.

Shilpa Modi presented at the American Evaluation Association conference. She presented her work on, “The Social Marketing Evidence Base: A Web-Based Resource on Social Marketing Effectiveness in Global Health.” Her abstract is below:

“Population Services International (PSI) is one of the largest social marketing agencies in the world but is challenged to demonstrate the effectiveness of its strategies for achieving health improvements in low- and middle-income countries. In response, PSI created the Social Marketing Evidence Base (SMEB), a web-based database of systematically reviewed literature on the effectiveness of social marketing in HIV/STIs, tuberculosis, reproductive health, malaria, and child survival. Eligible studies, identified via systematic review, were assessed using Social Marketing Benchmark Criteria from the National Social Marketing Centre and a six-point Strength of Evidence framework adapted from the Cochrane Handbook. The SMEB rates the effectiveness of social marketing interventions by the strength of evaluation evidence and highlights key areas where further evaluation is needed. As a publicly available database, it is a resource for implementers, donors, and policymakers seeking to understand the effectiveness of social marketing for achieving health promotion and behavior change.”

Allison DeMaio participated in the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) “Youth Dialogue: Innovation in Job Creation From and For the Youth” on Wednesday at Lisner Auditorium. The panel examined strategies for alleviating youth unemployment in different areas of the world. In her remarks, she said: “One thing that makes me most optimistic is the passion we have as youth. We think we’re invincible and that we can do anything—and if we apply that passion, we really can.”

Keep up the good work! Thanks for showing DC and the world your intelligence and expertise. If you, or someone you know, is an active member of OID and you’d like to recommend them for an interview or accolades, email us at oid@gwu.edu.

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A scene from “Nairobi Half Life”

The even this last Thursday on the film “Nairobi Half Life” had a great turnout–thanks to everyone who came, particularly those who stayed afterwards for the robust discussion on the film and some of the development issues it presented.  Special thank you to OID President Alejandro Guzman for his opening remarks on his own experiences in Kenya this summer. I think everyone agrees that “it’s a choice to look or look away” and being a development professional is all about looking at things most would rather not see.

If you missed the film and want to see it–come to more OID events! Sadly this film is not on Netflix or RedBox, and even if it were you’d miss out on the post-film analysis with development professionals!

Rachel Clement on Gender, Youth, & Urbanization

OID: Rachel, tell us more about yourself and why you chose development?

Rachel Clement

Rachel Clement

Rachel Clement: I’m originally from Colorado (and I miss it terribly especially when it’s hot and muggy here in DC!), but have spent several years working in Austria, Costa Rica, and Ecuador. I majored in Sociology and Spanish in undergrad. Professionally I have spent time working for a small NGO in a rural village in the Andes in Ecuador and as a Bilingual Program Specialist for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado. Both instances helped me to realize that my calling was development.

Rachel and her "little sister" before indoor skydiving in Denver

Rachel and her “little sister” before indoor skydiving in Denver

At BBBS I interviewed volunteers, children and families and matched children ages 7-12 with suitable adult mentors. I mentored a girl for over 5 years, and still consider her my “little sister.” Working with youth domestically who were living in poverty and seeing them rise above so many challenges and obstacles and make their own paths in life really inspired me. While I was in Ecuador I learned a lot about development, and felt frustration at my own lack of knowledge. The organization I worked for was trying to build tourism, invest in human capital by building computer and English-language skills, as well as improve  water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) systems. The water in the village was not potable–you could actually see things floating in it–and there was no formal road in to the village to bring supplies (such as water and medicine) or to transport the children to the next village over for secondary schooling. I attended several community meetings and there were several times when the concerns of the community did not align with those of the NGO. Being an insider/outsider allowed me to see both sides, but not how to resolve the issues that were presented. There were a lot of factors for the NGO to work on, and they tried to work with the community on a lot of them, but I felt that going to graduate school would allow me to see the “big picture” of development and program management so that I could be prepared to tackle the processes involved in a development project.

OID: So, why did you decide to stay in DC this summer and are you happy that you did it?

Rachel Clement: I’m really happy I decided to stay in DC this summer. I was able to attend several lectures that I wouldn’t have had time for with school and interning during the school year.  I heard from top people from the UNDP, Population Council, Oxfam—just recently I saw Rajiv Shah  talk about women in Afghanistan.  It’s amazing to have the opportunity to hear people you read about in class speak and often have the chance to talk to them afterwards and ask questions. It really makes you question what you hear and read in class in an intelligent and critical way. It’s also a great way to explore topics that aren’t  necessarily in your area of concentration, and to hear different points of view.

I’ve been an intern with The Coalition for Adolescent Girls since February and when I was offered the position I knew it would be through December (and that I couldn’t go abroad.) The Coalition is made up of 40+ member organizations who come from all areas of development.  It’s the perfect internship for me because gender and youth are both cross-cutting issues and members of the Coalition address both from all areas—economics, health, advocacy, education, and more. It’s given me a really healthy perspective on what is and what isn’t being done for girls in development as well as which areas I want to specialize in. So, while I was sad to not be in the field I think the experiences I gained are well worth it. It also afforded me the opportunity to take my research methods class over the summer, which means I’m better prepared (and able to go part-time second semester) for the IDS capstone project.

OID: Your concentrations include Youth and Gender. What got you interested in these aspects of development, and how have you found them to be inter-related?

Rachel Clement: I was in a sorority in college and am the kind of girl who loves wearing a dress–I don’t think I’m my mother’s generation of feminist. I didn’t start out identifying myself as a feminist, which would make my poor mother cringe to hear, but in all of my previous professional experiences I realized how much of how we interact with the world around us is impacted by gender. Everything from how you walk to school or work, to what you wear and what you say, to what kinds of jobs you take is impacted by gender. And yet, traditionally a lot of development policies and programs lumped people together as though men and women—and boys and girls—all have the same needs.

A group of GWU students participating in a Day of the Girl advocacy campaign. This year's theme is girls' education.

A group of GWU students participating in a Day of the Girl advocacy campaign for ABC News. This year’s theme is girls’ education.

I’m passionate about girls in development, which is why I am concentrating on youth and gender in urban spaces . I’m a huge proponent of consistent collection of sex and age disaggregated data (and I’m not alone). (If you’re interested in gender but don’t have space for it on your schedule, DevEx made this list of the “top 10” books you should read and it includes everything from value chains to mainstreaming. It’s not comprehensive but might be a good starting place!) I decided to focus on young women because I think often they are the most overlooked part of any population. In most cultures, including my own, we are taught to be quiet and respectful while boys are taught to speak up and dominate classroom discussions, relationships, politics, business, you name it. And I don’t think all men are bad or that all men hit women, but I do think there are a lot of girls and women whose voices aren’t heard, and I want to help amplify them, and give them a place within the world and their own communities.

Urban Quito, Ecuador

Urban Quito, Ecuador

I chose urban spaces based in large part on my own professional experiences with youth in urban and rural Ecuador and urban Denver. The global trend, particularly in the developing world, is towards cities and urbanization. About half of the world lived in cities as of 2000, and it is projected that by 2050, seven out of ten people will live in urban areas. I was born and raised in a city and feel I have a better understanding of urban issues and aspirations, and living in rural Ecuador really helped me to define that I don’t have that same passion for rural areas. One of the big issues we saw there was a rural to urban migration of young people, so I don’t think the two are separate issues, either. I think building good cities that provide economic and educational opportunities for young people can also increase the kinds of migration we see, and help to improve rural areas, keep young people at home to finish their education, and to be more financially stable in general. I’m hopeful that by concentrating on vulnerable populations in an emerging area of need will position me where I can be marketable and of the greatest use.

Rural Pistishi, Ecuador

Rural Pistishi, Ecuador

OID: You have previous work experience working with domestic youth, how has this impacted your view of youth and international development?

Rachel Clement: I think sometimes people forget how big a little thing can be, which was really brought home to me working with youth domestically. I paired children with one-to-one adult mentors. Usually the mentors took their mentees to do fun things like go out to ice cream, to the park to play, or maybe work together on homework. We really discouraged spending money (and encouraged spending time) with the kids. I was fortunate to see several of our “Littles” graduate from high school and move on to pursue tertiary education. Interacting with the kids everyday really brought home to me how having those support systems—whether it’s family, friends, or a role model or mentor—can make all the difference for someone. I didn’t start out with this concentration when I entered GWU, but through the cornerstone and other courses came to firmly believe that interventions made in childhood and adolescence can be the most impactful long-term investment one can make. I often think of the children that I supported at BBBS and about what a big difference simply having one extra person who acts as your cheerleader can make, and how enormous of an impact organizations that promote healthy youth outcomes and supported mentorships can make.

OID: You’ve completed a few internships while in the IDS program. Can you speak to how you found these internships and how they have benefited your studies at the Elliott School?

Rachel Clement: I found my first internship through the Elliott School Career Center job website. I had an interest in gender and a vague interest in youth and Plan International posted two positions related to adolescent girls. The position I applied for was a research internship looking at funding that is either targeted at interventions for or eventually reaches adolescent girls. From this internship I began focusing most of my class papers on adolescent girls and the various interventions that are being used currently. The thing with writing a 20 page paper, and doing it well, is that you have to be interested in what you’re writing about and I found that I always had too much to say and too many pages to write! From this, I began looking at organizations that have programs specifically working with and for adolescent girls. Naturally when the Coalition for Adolescent Girls advertised an internship opening, I applied immediately! I think interning while going to school is the perfect balance. I was in a youth class with a professor who helped to write a major US government youth policy. Actually talking to the person who wrote the policy was a truly memorable experience. That, coupled with people who are working to translate that policy into practice, gave me a really full view of all of the moving pieces that go into changing development policies, priorities, and programs.

OID: What was the best advice you received before your first year? What is your best advice for incoming IDS students?

Rachel Clement: In the fall, about one month into my first semester, one of my friends died. I was still new to DC, and my cohort really came through. I remember the now-President of OID, Alejandro, stopping me outside of Gelman and saying, “we are your family now. You have to deal with this, and we are here for you.” I think that’s what really makes IDS unique: you’re in this cohort of people from such diverse backgrounds and interests, but everyone is really compassionate and caring. We edit each other’s papers during finals, host dinners and study groups, and are just really there for each other as a support system. I don’t know of another program that has that. It doesn’t have to be something as tragic as a friend’s death: being in a new city or a new program can be really stressful and isolating for anyone. Just know that your whole cohort feels some degree of the same thing and that they (and the second years!) are here for you, and can and will make that transition easier. I’d also echo some of the advice given by other second-years: don’t worry too much if you don’t have all the answers right now. Take on internships, even if they are unpaid or part-time. Attend as many events in DC as you can, even if you don’t think they are in your area of interest. You’ll figure it out (and if you stay in DC and want to take a class you couldn’t fit in, GWU has really good alumni rates for auditing classes!)

GWU students listen as World Bank President Jim Yong Kim's new strategy to end global poverty.

GWU students listen as World Bank President Jim Yong Kim’s new strategy to end global poverty.

OID:  What is (are) the best class(es) you’ve taken at GW? Do you have any recommendations on how to find the best schedule?

Rachel Clement: That is a tough question. Best classes: I loved the Gender and Development class with Dr. Fink. I was a little intimidated to take two classes with the co-chair of the department my first semester but I am very happy I did. It was great to see Fink in her element and I think she brought to that class the perfect balance of structure and debate. We had some really eye-opening and thought-provoking discussions that made me decide on gender as a concentration (and that I wanted to look more into youth interventions as well). I still reference the readings in meetings and other classes I’ve had. I think other interviewees have echoed this but Mr. Yetter’s Participatory Planning class was also incredible. I wrote my final paper for that class as a re-imagined second-chance at my experiences in Ecuador, and what that would have looked like using participatory methodology. It was phenomenal to apply a real-world experience in a class like that.

Best schedule: Don’t give up! Search other schools in GWU at the Consortium. This semester I’m actually only taking one Elliott class; the others are in the School of Public Health and one via the Consortium. Taking classes outside of Elliott is an extra step (you have to have your professor, advisor, and the registrar sign an additional form for consortium, and sometimes really justify your class choices for other GWU schools) but for me it’s been worth the hassle! I really appreciate that about GWU: since I have been able to hone down my concentration through my core coursework and the papers I wrote in my first year, I can take classes now to apply that knowledge and further increase my skills as they relate to my concentration. My class with Dr. Ruiz on Adolescent Health is really engaging and it’s interesting to get a non-development perspective from my fellow classmates. I’m taking an urban development class at American University and we are actually doing a service learning project with a community here in DC. I applied to AU and GWU initially, so this is a great way to get the best of both worlds! The class is also really diverse: about half international students and half-Americans, with several students from business and law perspectives.  I’m also taking Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS) course which is out of my comfort zone and fast-paced but I am loving it thus far and  can’t wait to apply it in urban contexts with youth-oriented services. I’m contemplating taking Advanced GIS next; I think the way youth can and cannot move around a city and obtain services like education, transportation, and sexual/reproductive healthcare is intriguing and directly impacts effects of programmatic interventions.  I am confident that having a GIS skill-set can help me provide additional expertise once I enter the workforce.

Event Recap: Apple Picking!

As summer turns to fall (wait, it was 90 degrees, this is fall?) the apples get ready to fall off their branches, and OID was there to catch them. Despite the long drive, first and second year OID students trekked out to Butler’s Orchard to pick apples, raspberries, and even corn! OID has heard that there are some accomplished and intelligent first-years, but now we also know how nice you are. Thanks to everyone who came out, including Dr. Fink and her family.  Here are a few pictures submitted to OID of the event:

The OID apple pickers, 2013

Paola, apple picking with OID 1377185_10100166298313822_1914817795_n

Mariam Adil, apple picking

Thanks, everyone!

What a Week!

We hope everyone enjoyed all of the great events around town this week in DC and at GWU. Did you attend the World Bank event with President Jim Yong Kim’s speech about ending poverty by 2030? (If not, the speech is online, here.) What about the Society for International Development’s Career Fair? George Washington and the Elliott School work hard to bring these events to DC, and our school. We love to see OID faces in the audience!

GWU students attend WB and SID events

GWU students attend WB and SID events

As midterms rapidly approach it can be tempting to move into Gelman, but don’t forget to take a break and attend some of the great events in and around DC. Please support your fellow grad students and consider attending these upcoming events:

Youth Dialogue: Innovation in Job Creation
from and for the Youth

October 9, 4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

George Washington University, Lisner Auditorium

The Youth Dialogue, which has been organized as part of the Annual Meetings for the past 2 years, will provide a platform for youth to share their views on the persistent high unemployment, especially among the Youth. With traditional channels of job creation not working fast enough to deal with joblessness, innovation in self employment and private enterprise may be key.

Twitter: #YouthDialog, and watch onlinehere: http://www.imf.org/external/AM/2013/seminars/youth/index.htm (Allison DeMaio will be a featured panelist for this prestigious event.)

International Day of the Girl Summit

October 11, 10:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. (For a full schedule please click here)

American University

http://dayofthegirldc.wordpress.com/ (Rachel Clement, OID Social Media Chair, will be a featured panelist at this event.)

And please, please, please submit any events (particularly if you are on a panel or find it relevant to your own work and studies) to oid@gwu.edu so we can add it to the calendar of events.

Nikhil Gehani on Career Changes and Development Challenges

Nikhil Gehani

Nikhil Gehani, studying with a friend

OID: Thanks for talking to OID today! Tell us a little bit about yourself: where are you from, what makes you passionate about development, and why did you choose GWU for your Master’s degree in IDS?

Nikhil Gehani: I’m from Michigan and have actually spent my entire life there. So, as surprising as it sounds, this is my first time moving away from home! After graduating with a BA in Marketing from Michigan State University, I spent five years working in Detroit for a couple of advertising agencies (assigned to, of course, two of “The Big 3” accounts). Working in Detroit, I would see the effects of poor policy decisions, corruption and a single-source economy. But I also saw the resurgence of a city rebuilding itself through innovation, entrepreneurship and community involvement.

The Detroit skyline

The Detroit skyline

I wouldn’t say that’s the reason I decided to pursue a degree, but it definitely impacted my thinking and approach. It forced me to think about development each day. I chose to come to GW for a number of obvious reasons (ie location, prestige, curriculum). But what really made the choice clear was a conversation I had with Dr. Roberts in the spring. If I can simplify it, he basically said that the program encouraged students to challenge long-held assumptions, to be critical of the status quo and then to get out in the field and do something about it. That was refreshing to hear, especially from a program director. I accepted the offer later that week.

OID: What specific areas of development are you interested in and why?

Nikhil Gehani: As of now, my focus is on entrepreneurial and enterprise development. I’ve always wanted to build businesses and I enjoy building brands and market strategies. In many parts of the US, entrepreneurs and small- and medium-sized enterprises have a plethora of resources to tap into whether that is financial or knowledge support. But in other parts of the world the soil isn’t as fertile, so to speak. Yet, there are very capable, competent and committed entrepreneurs all around the world who are pulling their communities out of poverty through job creation and market development. I don’t want to dictate how they should build their business. I just want to help in any way I can, whether that is raising capital or crafting their brand strategy.

Lafayette Greens in Detroit

Lafayette Greens, an urban farm in Detroit

OID: You’re making a seemingly big career change—what made you decide to get out of advertising and into development?

Nikhil Gehani: I’m not sure I see the move as a complete departure from advertising into development, at least in terms of what I want to do with my career. I mean, in terms of moving from one industry to another, absolutely it was a big switch (and seemingly random to most people). The ad industry is full of brilliant, creative and dedicated people. It was difficult to leave the agency world and some of the perks that came with it (let’s just say the beer and wine fridges were a nice touch). But there is plenty of overlap between advertising and development (not just the drinking part), especially in entrepreneurial and enterprise development. We built campaign strategies, brands and, ultimately, businesses. Now, using that experience along with what I’m learning at the Elliott School, I want to help build businesses in the areas that need them most.

OID: Tell us your first impressions: How is your cohort so far? How has grad school differed from how you imagined it would be?

Nikhil Gehani: Let’s just say the first week was extremely humbling. I spoke and debated (and, yes, drank) with insanely smart people from all over the world with fascinating backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. In the few short weeks that we’ve been here I’ve expanded my thinking, challenged nearly all of my assumptions, and revised my approach to development (more than a few times). As for grad school expectations, well, I had a very narrow focus on what I wanted to do. But seeing the different perspectives has made me realize there are other aspects I need to consider. Development has many facets and seems to become more complex each week.

Nikhil, demonstrating an important facet of development work

Nikhil, demonstrating an oft-important facet of development work

OID: Where are you currently interning and how did you find this opportunity?

Nikhil Gehani: Right now I’m interning at Encite Capital, a start-up that not only invests financial capital in Haitian-based companies, but also provides consulting and mentoring services. It’s a great organization and the co-founders are really inspiring and talented people who have already taught me an enormous amount about the sector. I stumbled upon them while reading about impact investing and, after poring over their website, it was clear that this was the organization I had been searching for. I spent a week meticulously composing an email (that may or may not have sounded completely desperate) and, after a few email exchanges, phone calls and in-person interviews, I joined them as a part-time intern. I’ve been there for about a month and absolutely love it.