Iowa City, Iowa
Bachelor’s degree in economics, Grinnell College, 2014
International development, social policy, and nonprofit management
La Follette School fellowship and scholarship
Expected graduation date
This summer, I am working on a team with Mary Beth Collins, the executive director of UW–Madison’s Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies, and Dorothy Mayne, the assistant director of the African Studies program on campus, on a project to support alumni of UW–Madison’s chapter of the Mandela Washington Fellowship. The Mandela Fellowship brings young leaders from across Africa for six-week exchange programs at universities across the country, including UW–Madison.
UW–Madison’s Mandela alumni told Mary Beth and Dorothy that they would like to stay connected to the University. In response, Mary Beth piloted UW–Madison’s first service-learning course with Mandela alumni this spring, which I participated in along with classmate Muhammad Shayan. Our project is a continuation of what we started during the course.
I would summarize my role this summer as “consulting” for two of our Mandela alumni who lead community-based nonprofit organizations in Nigeria and the Congo DPR, WOCAPSS-Africa and Uwezo Wetu. We are working to develop action plans, identify potential funding sources, build websites and social media, write proposals, and strengthen goal-setting and project evaluation.
This opportunity has been a perfect fit for me because I’ve been interested in supporting community-based organizations in Africa since I served in the Peace Corps in Cameroon from 2014 to 2016. In research for my MIPA coursework this past year, “community ownership” was an emerging consensus within the international development field. There is a growing demand among stakeholders in the developed world to get resources to local organizations like those run by the University’s Mandela alumni. I truly believe in this approach – when local people have ownership over projects – it is more likely the projects will be sustainable because it’s based on a bottom-up, rather than a top-down, process. It also challenges the power dynamics that are often omnipresent in international development.
What have you learned during your internship?
I love working with our Mandela alumni. They are so professional, persistent, and hopeful. I truly believe that they hold the potential to make a difference in their communities. I love talking with them about current events in our respective countries.
With COVID-19, it has been really cool to learn how to use technology to effectively deliver consulting services, even as my partner in the Congo faces challenges with national lockdowns and electricity cuts. I think I have learned to be even more patient and persistent, and to listen more than before.
In the Peace Corps, I was steeped in a context where our global gap of economic and racial inequality could not be more clear. In my community, I was close with many people living in extreme poverty, and it seemed like nobody, whether the Cameroonian government or the international aid complex, was doing much to help. I am really interested in getting more resources effectively invested into underprivileged communities like mine in Cameroon however I can.
Why a MIPA degree?
I am very interested in policy, and it has been fun to learn more about policy and the policymaking process at the La Follette School. Also, a lot of the skills I’m learning (for example, statistics; program evaluation; and graduate-level research, writing, and communication) are transferrable to the nonprofit context. Beyond that, the La Follette School gives me the flexibility to take the courses I find most relevant. French coursework has helped me communicate with my partner in the Congo DPR, while a human resources class at the Wisconsin School of Business gave me an introduction on how to effectively manage an organization’s human capital.
Why the La Follette School?
In addition to my previous answers, I like the School’s close, friendly, and collaborative culture. I also love living in Madison; there is a lot to do, and the nature here is amazing. This summer, I have really enjoyed exploring Madison’s many beautiful bike trails. Plus, my grandparents live here, and I enjoy spending time with them when I can!
Next academic year, I will have a project assistantship with La Follette School Professor Mark Copelovitch. I loved Mark’s course on International Governance, which gave me a broader perspective on international politics, global collective action problems, and the often messy and “realist” politics within international organizations. I am also super interested in his research on international finance and governance and am really looking forward to getting my feet wet.
Advice for prospective La Follette School students?
Take initiative to discover opportunities for yourself. UW–Madison is a big school with a lot to offer. If you take initiative, you can find niches that match your interests. Be assertive in approaching administrators and faculty in different departments, and don’t be afraid to ask them questions!