Archive for Stories From the Field

Wednesday, October 4th, 2017

How high quality evaluations are helping to improve the lives of school children in Cambodia

Author: Monique Rao

MIIS graduate, Monique Rao completed her DPMI Plus practicum for UNICEF Cambodia this past August. If you are interested in a Spring internship with UNICEF Cambodia, they want to hear from you! You can find the listing for their current Spring 2018 Evaluation Intern opportunity here.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia, September 2017: In June this year, the UNICEF Office of Evaluation at Head Quarters in New York announced the organization’s 15 Best Evaluations of 2016. Out of 101 evaluations completed globally, UNICEF Cambodia’s Evaluation on Child-Friendly School Policy was selected as one of the top 15 across the entire organization. This recognition shows UNICEF Cambodia’s commitment to transparency, accountability and improvement, and illustrates how the outcomes of high quality evaluations can positively impact the lives of children here and around the world.

Speaking about the role evaluation plays at UNICEF Cambodia, Country Representative, Ms. Debora Comini stated: “UNICEF is keen to continuously promote reflection and engage in seeking evidence to guide our work for children. A well conducted evaluation will always produce lessons that we must transparently debate and apply.”

But what exactly is an evaluation? Why is it so important for UNICEF to invest time and resources in conducting them? And, how does this help make a difference in the lives of children which is UNICEF’s central mission?

Evaluation is a type of research-based activity that UN agencies, governments and non-government organizations (NGOs) carry out. They measure the results of implemented projects, programmes or policies against the intentions of what they set out to achieve.

Let’s say UNICEF wanted to implement a WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) programme in schools so that children have access to proper washing stations and restrooms at school. Initial questions the team might ask are: in which provinces will we implement this programme and why, how many schools will we provide washing stations and restrooms for, how many children will this affect, and by doing so, what will this achieve? Perhaps they intend that by providing a child with safe water, in an area where they otherwise would not have access to it, then this will decrease the occurrences of preventable diseases due to poor sanitation and increase school attendance.

 

In general, evaluations are conducted once the project, or phase of the project, has been completed. The evaluation team will ask the same questions the implementing team asked before beginning the project: How many children were given to access to clean water? How many schools did they build washing stations and restrooms for? Why did they choose to start this programme in this province, and was this a good choice? The Evaluator’s job is to use observation, statistics, interviews and surveys to determine the extent to which the programme has achieved its goals. In the example of a school

©UNICEF Cambodia/2014/Isabelle Lesser

water and sanitation programme, by how much did the amount of preventable diseases caused by these decrease, and did school attendance improve, if at all?

UNICEF then takes the key findings, lessons learned and recommendations from the evaluation to make improvements and adjustments to the programme or future phases of the programme, so the end result has the greatest impact. In the example of the school WASH programme, any improvements would be made to ensure that programme is implemented in the most efficient and effective way in order to improve children’s access to WASH facilities. Ultimately, better health and school attendance, lead to more opportunities later in life for these children.

Let’s look at the Child-Friendly Schools (CFS) policy evaluation that made UNICEF’s top 15 evaluations, as an example of the positive impact that evaluation has on Cambodian children.
The CFS policy aims to have all children enrolled in school and improve access and quality of education nationwide. It seeks to have schools that are practicing student-centered learning in a healthy, safe environment for children to ensure they get the best education possible, and uses six key elements to assess this: 1. Access to Schooling, 2. Effective Teaching and Learning, 3. Security, Health and Safety, 4. Gender Responsiveness, 5. Community Engagement, and 6. Overall School Management and Leadership.

Two types of teams are used to assess whether schools are actually adhering to the six key elements above: District Training and Monitoring Teams (DTMTs) and School Clusters.  Both groups are made up of school directors, teachers, and parents, but work at the district level and local level respectively.

One of the key findings of the evaluation of this policy was that School Clusters were more effective in implementing the CFS policy at the local school level than the DTMTs. Generally, this is because members of School Clusters were from the same commune or community, so they could meet more frequently to discuss their schools’ adherence to the policy, which when done properly, means safer, cleaner, more inclusive and ultimately, more child-friendly spaces for students.

As a result of this finding from the evaluation, there was a sharing in responsibility of the key elements between DTMT or School Clusters. DTMTs were restructured to be responsible for all six elements of the CFS policy and school performance as a whole. The role of School Clusters was also redefined so that they would just be responsible for the second key element, “Effective Teaching and Learning” in the schools.  This change to more clearly defined roles, plus some additional government support, meant that School Clusters would be more effective in helping schools train teachers in more child-centered techniques that will make learning more fun and engaging for their students, ultimately benefitting the children to the largest extent.

As CFS is being implemented across the country, the idea is that by using successful monitoring systems like the School Clusters, Cambodian schools will become safer, more welcoming places for children to learn and grow.

The example of the Child-Friendly School Policy in Cambodia demonstrates why it’s important to conduct evaluations. Without them, we wouldn’t know how successful programmes and projects are, or whether or not they’re actually helping improve the lives of children, which is the overall goal of UNICEF’s mission.

*Monique Rao has interned with UNICEF Cambodia’s evaluation team until August 2017.
*Sarah Cowley, Communication intern, has also contributed to this story.

Monday, October 2nd, 2017

IEM Practicum Spotlight: Dave Malacki

We spoke with the always delightful Dave Malacki about his current IEM practicum experience in Portland, Oregon. Read on to see what he has to say about the pros and cons of staying local vs. working abroad, post-practicum plans, and tips on finding the best practicum fit for you!

How did you find your practicum? What is your job title? How big is your office?

My practicum search first began by identifying liberal arts institutions in California, and after discussing some options with IEM faculty I expanded my geographic search northward into the Pacific Northwest (PNW). I conducted informational interviews with IEM students on practicum and IEM alum in the PNW as well as having a cold email template ready to send to any institution that met my search criteria.

I held multiple conversations with the assistant director in Lewis & Clark College’s Overseas & Off-Campus Programs office and opted to join their team based on the projects I desired working on that aligned with their needs. The Overseas office has three full-time staff members and three student workers. I’m serving as their graduate assistant for the term.

What has been the most surprising/unexpected thing to happen to you at work?

Well, before even having the first conversation with LC I knew their study abroad participation rate was rather high (60-65%), yet did not expect such high interest from newly matriculated students. This was a pleasant surprise and required me adapting my advising strategy away from major-specific advising more towards general education advising as most freshmen have yet to declare majors.

On another note, the first project I worked on was a rather robust redesign of their application portal. Due to it being a large project, it was somewhat daunting and required working with campus stakeholders to identify resources available on campus to reduce the final price point. It was surprisingly challenging, yet very rewarding to see it implemented for all fall applicants.

What are the pros and cons of doing your practicum in the U.S. vs abroad?

Well, doing practicum in the US was a very personal decision between my partner and I. We both would have loved to live overseas, but didn’t really want to go through immigration procedures again if we decided to come back to the US.

A pro of doing practicum anywhere in the US is the ability to network in that location. It’s great to do phone informational interviews, yet doing them face-to-face really helps both parties establish a bit more rapport which could lead to potential job notifications earlier.

Do you have a favorite local Portland spot?

Ohh, I have this awesome tea spot, Tea Chai Té (where I’m ironically writing this), that serves the best milk tea I’ve had outside of China! To jive with the hipster vibe, one of their locations is inside of an old train caboose.

Aside from businesses, the entire Columbia River Gorge and areas around Mt. Hood for hiking and exploring are easily my favorite places to enjoy some time in nature and escape from city life. Unfortunately, the fires in the Gorge have closed a couple of the epic trails I did there. However, for anyone looking to get some awesome exposure, the Cooper Spur trail on the NW flanks of Hood offers views of Rainier, St. Helens, Adams, Jefferson, and on clear days a couple of the Sisters. It tops off around 8,500 feet with nearly 5,000 feet of elevation gain in about five miles. Well worth the constant trudge up!

Which IEM course has helped prepare you the most in your daily work?

It’s difficult to pinpoint one specific course, yet based on the book that I find myself reaching for in the office most days I suppose Education Abroad Management. Advanced Topics in Education Abroad, as well as Design & Assessment, were both highly useful in the work that I’ve done thus far, too. I’m continually referring to the NAFSA Guide to Education Abroad to ensure that my project work is getting rooted in established practice. Both skills developed through D&A, along with topics discussed during Advanced Topics have helped me greatly in drafting reports and informing the designs of projects.

Do you have any plans post-practicum? If so, what are they?

Find a job! Extending beyond that I’m planning on returning to Pittsburgh a bit later in 2018 to see my two best friends get married. As always, I have plenty of concerts I want to attend and the northwest is a great place to ensure that happens! Professionally speaking, I do want to stay connected in the field through conference attendance and establishing connections with organizations like Lessons From Abroad and PDX Abroad.

What has been your favorite cultural experience?

I think most of my classmates know I have a keen interest in live music. Recently, I caught a performance by a solo pianist in an old church that had the most amazing acoustics. It certainly helped that the performer was covering mostly Phish and The Grateful Dead, two of my favorite bands. Initially, I wanted to write going to Powell’s Bookstore for the first time, but that just seemed too generic. However, Powell’s is a great place to get lost on any rainy day!

Final thoughts?

The process of finding a practicum site accompanying with having a full course load was a stressful experience for myself. I had classmates that didn’t find practicum until well after the end of the spring term, and having that patience could prove useful when determining the best fit.

Best of luck in the future Dave!

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

IEM/DPMI Plus Practicum Spotlight: Charlotte Grant

Charlotte Grant is an IEM/MPA student who is currently completing her IEM/DPMI Plus practicum working as an Adolescent Initiative Intern for Save the Children in Laos. We spoke with Charlotte about which classes from MIIS have helped her the most, the pros of taking an unpaid internship, and what life “on the ground” is like in Laos!

How did you come across your internship?

Actually, I was in the process of sending emails to UN offices and IOM offices in Southeast Asia when a friend mentioned that there was one at Save the Children in Laos that she wasn’t going to take. I had a quick Skype session with her contact and it sounded like what I wanted to be doing and was a position where I could learn a lot in a very short amount of time.

Why did you choose Laos?

It sort of chose me I guess. I knew I needed my practicum/DPMI+ to be either paid or cost neutral. I looked for opportunities in Southeast Asia so I could take advantage of the Freeman Foundation monies. Since cost of living in Laos is so low the $5000 grant is going really far. If visas allowed for it I could probably afford to stay longer than 6 months. Unfortunately business visas are pretty highly regulated.

What has been the most unexpected thing to happen to you at work? Outside of work?

I expected to be working on design and evaluation planning components of a new project. But I’ve actually been able to work a lot on the new global Every Last Girl campaign and International Day of the Girl events. I’ve created two videos, one of which will be shown at the event as well as at a regional conference in Bangkok. I was also sent into the field to photograph young mothers in everyday life. Many of my photos will be printed and displayed at a gallery for International Day of the Girl and others will be used for the global campaign. I’ve always loved photography so getting to combine my passion for development AND photography has literally been a dream come true. I spend my days at work creating frameworks for situational analyses and editing photos and videos. If I was getting paid I would probably never leave.

Outside of work I’ve been surprised with how friendly and happy everyone is here. Having previously visited communist countries I half expected the same demeanor. However, Laotians are nothing but friendly, helpful and caring. The people I rent my apartment from lived in France for many years so we actually communicate in French instead of English or Lao. On Wednesday nights I play board games with their son and his friends from France. Learning to play new games in a language I’m still learning has been a challenge but really fun!

What has been your favorite cultural activity in Laos?

Hopefully that will come next week! All of this month has been the boat racing festival. Each village has their own boat races and then there is a national holiday for the Vientiane boat race. I went to one village’s race on the Mekong but supposedly the one next week is huge since everyone has work off and people come from all over.

Much like the American south with churches on every corner, here there are temples on every corner. Many times they are used as landmarks. For example, “the mini mart with good bread is by this temple” kind of thing.

What is one thing you hope to gain from your experience abroad?

I hope I don’t just gain one thing! Overall, I would like to feel confident about going to work in an international development office in the field. I think there a lot of things I need in order for that to happen but so far, I’m gaining all of that and more here in Laos.

Which class or classes have helped you the most so far in your new position?

Language! I know it’s a prerequisite for MIIS, but honestly doing SILP and learning French has been incredible. Not only has it given me a circle of friends here I never would have known previously, it’s also opened work opportunities and allowed me to communicate with locals who speak French.

Data and Policy Analysis- Laos is communist. That’s no secret. But because of that there is very limited data and research done on touchy subjects. Having learned R has actually allowed me to be able to pull UN data and run my own analysis which I’ve then been able to use in reports and even in the video I created.

Not a class, but Human Centered Design has been HUGE for me here. I pitched the idea of running a short workshop with my team to help us design the new program for very young adolescents and my supervisor liked the idea so much she thought of three more ways we could use it. One of which is coming up very soon. I’ll be introducing the idea of HCD through a workshop aimed to build community. Though not confirmed the topic will be “How can we build community on a multi-cultural team.” Save the Children Laos recently hired two Hmong staff members to work on this project because we are targeting Hmong communities. They speak a different language and have many unique cultural traditions. Since they came on board there has been a clear divide in the staff. This workshop will attempt to begin to bridge that gap and then will be followed up by a staff retreat where we can delve deeper into some of the things that came up and where we try to prototype some of the ideas that came out of the workshop.

Favorite new food from Laos?

SO MANY! I’m super into the BBQ right now. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Not US BBQ, Korean, nothing. Super tasty and fun. You BBQ everything at your table and there is sort of like a moat of broth and veggies surrounding the meat that’s over the fire so the veggies cook as the broth heats. I’ll send a photo or video of it.

Do you have any tips for people who are apprehensive about taking an unpaid internship?

JUST DO IT. I cannot say this enough. If you are apprehensive about it, do it in SE Asia so you can apply for the Freeman. The flexibility my office has given me with deliverables is incredible. They’ve been so open and accommodating and are grateful for everything that I produce. They’ve been impressed with what I’ve been able to do after my 3 semesters at MIIS. (hopefully this means they’d be open to someone else taking on my role!)

Yesterday I had dinner with Save the Children Norway and they mentioned jobs they had available. My resume has been pushed into the hands of CRS, Unicef, and USAID chiefs of party and country directors. The connections you make while in the field are incredible. I understand MIIS has deep connections but it pales in comparison to the personal relationships you build while simply being in country (sorry MIIS Mafia) and actually being able to sit by a pool and talk about your career goals over a cold Beerlao (This literally happened. I was sitting by a pool with a USAID Nurture Chief of Party, mentioned CRS, and she mentioned the country director lived right behind her. He now has my CV and is circulating it to see if there are any positions that fit my skill set). This experience has become the cornerstone of my resume and the $3000 it would have cost me on my own was probably worth it. Fortunately, with the Freeman I didn’t have to worry about that.

 

To follow Charlotte on her journey abroad check out her blog: lifeofasaveintern and instagram: chgrantz.

If you would like to learn more about DPMIPlus email Miranda Meyer at dpmiplus@miis.edu

 

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

Immersive Learning Student Portal is Live!

Read about students’ immersive learning projects all around the world including in the United States from 2014-2017.  Click here to visit the student portal. The student portal is a compilation of immersive learning experiences of MIIS students along with their project deliverables.

Immersive learning is the learning that occurs when students are outside of the traditional role of teacher and student. Immersive learning is collaborating with other people, organizations, and governments. It is the critical process of applying critical thinking and is a cornerstone of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS) pedagogical philosophy on helping students develop skills and knowledge for preparing students to build a better world. 

Immersive Learning Programs include internships, DPMI +, IPSS, J-term & Spring Practica, summer opportunities, and directed studies. Through immersive learning programs, students take part in projects where they are outside of the traditional role of teacher and student.

To learn more about Immersive Professional Learning Programs and funding click here

 

Monday, May 1st, 2017

How My DPMI Plus Experience Paid Off More Than I Ever Expected

Sarah Terherst completed DPMI Plus in the Spring of 2017. She is currently working as the Field Program Coordinator for the Resilience and Economic Growth in the Sahel – Accelerated Growth projected based in Niamey, Niger.

I’m one of those weirdos who has known what they wanted to do for a long time. I wanted to work in “development” before I ever knew it was an actual sector. When I was very young I lived in Togo and saw extreme poverty and subsistence farming first hand. Since then I’ve wanted to work in what I used to call “sustainable agriculture” which is now coined as “improved livelihoods” and “resilience.” When I joined MIIS I believed it would be the tipping point of my career, tying together all of my past experiences and launching me into my desired future career: program manager, in the field, somewhere in Africa, working on food security. So, naturally, I jumped at my first opportunity to take DPMI which then propelled me into the DPMI+ program.

 

I strongly believe that one of the best things that MIIS has to offer is the Career and Advising Center (CACS) and my journey here is a testament to that. When applying for my DPMI+, I reached out to my favorite professors as well as Gael and Scott at CACS and applied to over 30 positions. Scott spent a lot of time with me, explaining how food security projects worked overseas and told me about certain organizations who implement USAID-funded projects. He even reached out to some of his contacts on my behalf which led to an interview for the Livestock and Market Development Internship position at Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA). I was offered the internship and headed out to Washington D.C. shortly after the new year. Just three months after I started my internship I became a full time employee for CNFA working on a different project. I am now a Field Program Coordinator for the Resilience and Economic Growth in the Sahel – Accelerated Growth (REGIS-AG) project based in Niamey, Niger.

 

For me, my DPMI+ experience led me exactly toward my career goals. And, I’m incredibly grateful to still have access to resources like Beryl, Scott, and Gael as I start a new role in a new place. As I’m given new tasks or come across challenges within the project, it’s great to have their insight and guidance at my fingertips.

 

I think my biggest advice to students considering DPMI+ would be two-fold. First, if you want to work in development definitely take DPMI. Understanding how development projects work; how they are designed, implemented, scaled, and how impact is measured is ESSENTIAL and gives you a great framework to work from. Second, while you are applying for your DPMI+ assignments only apply to organizations where you want to work. Don’t look at your DPMI+ as just another way to get more experience that you hope someday will matter to a recruiter.  Search for internships and opportunities that are actually in the sector and/or role you want to be working in. Pursue your career through DPMI+. I’m not gonna lie…internships are not glamorous…at my internship in D.C. I emptied and loaded dishwashers daily. But, at the same time and in the same role, I learned how USAID-funded projects operate, I gained a wealth of knowledge about livestock and agricultural projects, and I landed a full time gig.

 

I have in no away arrived. I feel more like I’m starting over. I’m in a new country, working on a new project, and speaking in a different language. I think the picture here is a perfect summary of my time so far in the field. Notice: the other two women beside me are not hysterically laughing. That is because they actually know what’s going on around them…they know exactly which appropriate customs should take place at this baptism and they completely understand the French as well as both local languages being spoken around them. Meanwhile, I’m just cracking up having a good ol’ time while I blunder through my time here. It’s a blast and I’m loving every minute.

Wednesday, April 5th, 2017

Current IPSS intern, Matthew Coomer, blogs about working at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Want to learn more about what it’s really like to be an IPSS intern? Check out this blog from current Marine Debris Program intern Matthew Coomer!

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

DPMI Plus Spotlight: Addy Jimenez Haga

DPMI Plus Spring 2017 is underway and we have the inside scoop from current DPMI Plus participant, Addy Jimenez Haga, IPD. She is currently working in Peru for the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC).
How did you find your practicum position?
During my first semester at MIIS, Scott Webb sent out an internship opportunity with UNLIREC – which happened to be in Peru. I pinned this message and kept it into consideration when choosing an organization for my DPMI Plus practicum. The fact that UNLIREC is in Peru is a added bonus since I spent two years in northern Peru as a Peace Corps Volunteer.
What has been the most challenging work task you have been given in your current position so far and why? 
I have been working on an Operational Forensics and Ballistics Manual; I assisted on mapping the 26 Zonas Veredales in Colombia for logistical strategy in the disarmament process; I have been disaggregating dozens of news articles connecting  private security guards with homicides, suicides, femicides and accidents while using a firearm; and I am in the process of building an M&E tool for the centre… but the most challenging aspect of it all, is the culture shock of being in a rich-feedback and team-oriented environments like what we have at MIIS, to autonomy and independence. I miss having 3-4 rough drafts that have been edited by a faculty member, and all of the brilliant minds working together to produce the best deliverable possible. Nonetheless, this has been an enriching experience and my expectations have been exceeded.
 What skill did MIIS teach you that you have found to be useful in your current work?
Courses that I have applied in the disarmament Centre are  Program Evaluation, Proposal Writing, Finance Functions, Citizen Security in Latin America, Network Analysis, and Organizational Sustainability. The skills include designing effective indicators, observing dynamics within the office and imagining its weighted network (i.e. who is the cutpoint? who is the person connecting everyone?, who has the highest eigenvector? whose brain should I pick to brainstorm career opportunities?), feeling confident when reading a logical framework, finding quantitative data, and how to make M&E sexy/appealing.
How do you see this position helping you in your future career?
I was not sure if working for the UN was something I would enjoy. I love fieldwork and will continue searching for career paths that include it. But I have also been incredibly impressed to witness, live, the relentless hard work and dedication from those at UNLIREC. I am gaining a diplomatic discourse, understanding the uphill battles of working with beneficiaries while gaining patience, and a better understanding of the phases, challenges, and the importance of communication of project cycles.
What advice do you have for someone currently looking for a DPMI Practicum?
Start thinking of regions, organizations, and/or sectors of interest early on. And in my case, I chose an internship that I once found to be somewhat deviating from my passions with the hopes of narrowing my career objective. *Side note: it actually added disarmament to my passions.
What is something you learned you enjoy to do, that you did not previously realize?
I am learning about guns! which I never thought I would be drawn to. Arms trafficking and violence caused by a weapon has broadened my lens to see development from a different angle. Security and violence in Latin America and the Caribbean are increasing, and being part of an organization that believes security to be a human right, is an honor.
What are your plans after practicum is over?
I will start searching for job opportunities next month that hopefully include a niche of international development and monitor and evaluation.
Thank you Addy and we wish you continued success!
To learn more about UNLIREC, check out their website.

Friday, May 6th, 2016

IPSS Fellow Gaelen Hayes Writes About Her IPSS Journey

gaelen_hayes

Gaelen Hayes, IPS, 2015 IPSS Fellow

Andean Alliance for Sustainable Development, Calca, Peru

1. Please describe your experience at MIIS (your program, courses, what motivated you to apply for IPSS, and any other details that you think are relevant).

I was in the IPS (now IPD) program at MIIS. When I first came to MIIS I was having a hard time deciding between IPS and MPA, and I ultimately decided on IPS because it allowed greater freedom to customize my degree. I ended up taking a lot of MPA classes as my electives, so I think I got the best of both worlds.

I applied for IPSS because I had a personal research project that I wanted to pursue, and IPSS allowed me to get credit (and financial aid!) to do it. IPSS seemed like the best fit for my project because of the flexibility it allows in how you complete your service project. I worked with several mentor professors prior to and throughout my IPSS semester, and their help and support was crucial. One of the most valuable things I took away from IPSS was these professional relationships. I still regularly turn to these professors for advice, despite the fact that IPSS is over.

In terms of describing my experience at MIIS, I would say that I learned that these opportunities can be as much or as little as you make them. To get the most out of my time at MIIS, or my IPSS semester, I had to decide to put myself out there and to put in effort to make connections, take on projects, and to participate whenever an opportunity presented itself. Historically I am a fairly passive person, so this was a big lesson for me to learn!

2. What were your career aspirations when you applied for IPSS?  Did these change during or after your immersive learning experience. If so, how?

When I applied to IPSS my career aspirations were still somewhat vague- I knew I wanted to work in community development. The people I worked with during IPSS helped me to realize what I am good at. Identifying these strengths clarified the type of position I should pursue within the development field.

3. Describe your career now.  How did your time at MIIS/during your immersive learning program prepare you for this career or lead you to this career (if applicable)?

Following IPSS I was hired by the organization I did my placement with. My role involves steering our organizational development (putting those DPMI skills to use!), helping to design and implement community research, and growing the experiential learning side of our organization. Because my job description is so broad, it allows to me to use the spectrum of skills I learned at MIIS, from strategic planning to survey creation.

4. What was most valuable about your MIIS experience?  What was most valuable about your IPSS experience?  Is there anything you would have done differently?

I learned many valuable and applicable skills at MIIS, which have led me to the position I am in currently. I guess this would be the most valuable thing I took away, the tangible skills. A close second is the relationships I built in the short time I was there. This network of professionals in my field will be a resource that I take with me wherever I go. From the first day of orientation MIIS stresses the importance of networking, but I never saw myself as someone capable of doing this, so I kind of blew it off. Turns out it is pretty important, and not as hard as it sounds.

The most valuable thing I took away from my IPSS experience, besides the professional contacts, was a clearer understanding of my own capabilities. By having the opportunity to take the skills I had learned and run on a project of my own design, I realized how much I had actually internalized from my classes at MIIS. I also learned what I am not so good at, and this helped me to understand the best way for me to add value to the organizations where I applied to work.

5. What advice or thoughts do you have for MIIS students exploring similar opportunities?

Take advantage of opportunities like IPSS, DPMI+, and other internship type situations. It is a great way to take the training wheels off in a situation that is still safe and supportive. Through MIIS and the community there are many chances to practice what you learn in class; take advantage of as many as you can!

Friday, April 22nd, 2016

IPSS Fellow Shen Li’s Interview with the WTO

Shen Li

2016 IPSS Fellow Shen Li is currently interning in the Market Access Division of the World Trade Organization.  The WTO recently interviewed Shen for its newsletter – you can read the interview below.

Where are you from, and what did you study before joining the WTO?

I am from Beijing.  I did my Bachelor’s degree in China where I studied French.  Then I went to the US to do a Master’s degree in International Policy Studies – Trade, Investment and Development – at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.

One of the reasons I am here as an intern is to earn academic credits for my school project.  I applied for an internship at the WTO because I am studying trade.  Also as I have studied French, Geneva is the perfect place to practise it.

When did you apply for the internship?

I have been planning the internship for a long time.  I would say that the WTO has fascinated me ever since I started to study trade two years ago.  I have always wondered what it would be like to work here.  At university, we had an international trade negotiation class where we simulated negotiations in the Doha Round, imitating the way WTO negotiations take place.  Whenever we wanted to raise some points or ask questions, we would raise a nameplate to speak.  It is amazing to find it is exactly the same here.

I submitted my application last October and I was really surprised when I received the internship offer in December.  This is my very first experience of professional life so it is a great starting point.  I am really excited and grateful to have this opportunity to learn about trade issues, the needs of developing countries and the challenges facing international trade.

You have been working in the Market Access Division since 1 February.  What kind of work have you been doing?

I am mostly working on the Trade Facilitation Agreement with Sheri Rosenow.  Last week we organized a donor event, where donor countries and international organizations introduced their programmes for helping developing countries implement the Agreement.  Once the Agreement is implemented, the international trade is going to flow much more smoothly.  So I feel like I am making a real contribution to world trade.  It’s so exciting.

In March, we had a workshop to help participants gain a better understanding of the Agreement so that their governments can ratify it sooner rather than later.  I helped to prepare the presentation and facilitated the workshop with other members of the Trade Facilitation Agreement Facility team.

How have you found life at the WTO so far?

I really like the atmosphere here because people are very open to other cultures.  Everyone in the Market Access Division is really nice.  I am also so pleased that we have a Volleyball Club at the WTO because I really love playing volleyball.  It is quite relaxing to play a game after work.  I haven’t met all the interns yet but we do have lunch together and sometimes we meet in the atrium for a coffee break and to have a chat.  It is a really nice opportunity to get to know people.

Is it your first time in Switzerland?

No, this is my second time.  As I studied French for my Bachelor’s degree, I undertook an exchange programme in Paris.  As an exchange student, I had quite a lot of holiday so I took the opportunity to travel, including to Switzerland.  I used to think that everywhere in Switzerland would be very peaceful, like it is by the lake, but after moving here I realize it is much busier than I thought.

What have you done for fun in Geneva?

I have tried a relaxing picnic by the lake with some friends.  I’ve also been to the chocolate festival, which was very interesting.  We tasted all kinds of chocolates and bought many different varieties.  It was a good way to spend the weekend.  I like Geneva because it feels very familiar here, having already lived in France for a year.  So there are not too many culture shocks and that has helped me adjust more quickly than I did in the US.

Last question: what are your plans for the future?

I think after this I will go to the US to finish my school project and graduate.  After that, I haven’t given it a lot of thought but I would welcome any opportunities involving international trade.  An international organization would be perfect but the private sector could also be interesting.

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

DPMI+ Fellow Jeanine Willig on her experience at Social Impact

Jeanine Willig (far left), DPMI+ Fellow & IPS 2016 student

Organization:  Social Impact

Title: Performance Evaluation Intern

Location: Washington, D.C.

Social Impact contracts with lots of different organizations, mainly for performance and impact evaluation and capacity building.  As a Performance Evaluation Intern, Jeanine’s been working to support the impact evaluation team on Social Impact contracts with USAID.  Last month, Jeanine helped conduct a literature review for FHI360’s Rural Teacher Retention Program in Ghana.  She also worked on an impact evaluation of a WASHPlus project in three districts of Bangladesh that are highly impacted by climate change and experience constant flooding.  Jeanine loves the variety of projects she gets to work on at Social Impact and says she never gets bored.  “I have days where I look up and I haven’t noticed the time go by,” Jeanine says.  “It’s been a HUGE learning curve.  I can’t believe it’s been a month already.”

Jeanine has recently signed up to assist with the evaluation of a Millennium Challenge Corporation anti-corruption project in Honduras.  The goal of the project was to help the Honduran government meet anti-corruption standards in order to be eligible for funding for development.  The evaluation with which Jeanine will assist involves quantitative and qualitative methods to measure impact and entails a comprehensive 23 evaluation questions (typically impact evaluation involves three to six evaluation questions).

How did MIIS prepare you to succeed as a Performance Evaluation Intern at Social Impact?

Jeanine credits Beryl Levinger’s Program Evaluation class with preparing her most directly for her work with Social Impact, which so far involves heavy use of data-evaluation methods, understanding and analyzing qualitative data, and “really getting into the nitty-gritty.”  Another class that was particularly useful was Ed Laurance’s Intro to Human Security & Development.  The “on-time assignments” in this class gave her the skills to be able to research and sort through information rapidly and effectively.  When asked what advice she had for MIIS students interested in similar work, Jeanine recommended that all students take Data Analysis (she wishes that she had).  She also said, “Finance and budgeting is such a NEED in this industry.  People who currently do it are doing it because no one else can and they have just taught themselves.  Skills in finance or budgeting will make your job application stand out.”

Any other advice for current students?

Jeanine wants other MIIS students to keep in mind that “people will care about you and last minute stuff is okay.  When an advisor says that you’ll find a spot, have faith.  Having a good attitude about the job search is important.  You’ve got to keep it in perspective.  Keep your ears open – there are things out there you don’t know about and opportunities you can’t even imagine, so just keep an open mind.  There’s so much out there.”

Find out more…

You can read more about Jeanine’s experiences on her blog.

Friday, March 11th, 2016

IEP student Whitney Berry to present on behalf of the International Union for Conservation of Nature

geneva

This April, International Environmental Policy student and IPSS fellow Whitney Berry will be presenting at a Geneva workshop titled, “The Application of Genomic Tools for Benthic Monitoring of the Marine Environment: From Technology to Legal and Socio-Economical Aspects.”   She will be giving a presentation at the Natural History Museum in Geneva on behalf of the IUCN, the organization she is working with as an IPSS fellow.  The workshop is sponsored by the Swiss National Science Foundation and the University of Geneva.

More About the Workshop

Rapidly increasing impacts of industrial activities on marine biodiversity strongly affects marine ecosystem health and services. Yet, the growing demand for measuring and mitigating these impacts can hardly be satisfied by classical monitoring based on morphological species identification. New genomic tools based on analysis of environmental DNA (eDNA) could potentially overcome these limitations, but their application for biomonitoring is still very limited. The main objective of the workshop is to examine the effectiveness of eDNA method for seabed monitoring from ecological, legal and socio-economic perspectives. The workshop will discuss the need to modify regulatory requirements and legal instruments for incorporating eDNA data into biotic indices. The participants will also learn about the advantages and challenges of using the eDNA to explore biodiversity and valuing ecosystem services. The event will bring together molecular biologists, ecologists, environmental managers and policy makers interested in integrating genomic tools in environmental impact assessment of industrial activities in marine environment.

 

Check out Whitney’s blog for a firsthand account of her experiences as an IPSS fellow at the IUCN.

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016

J-term in Chile, Peru, Rwanda, Nepal, and Spain

For J-term 2016, we had 70 students travel to  Chile, Rwanda, Peru, Nepal, and Spain.

Team ChileConner Anderson, who is on the Chile Practicum on human rights and Chile’s vulnerable populations, sent me the following photo of his cohort (to the left).

In their first three days in Chile, 23 Middlebury Institute student delegates have had the pleasure to meet with several Chilean champions of human rights, including politicians, professors, judges, community activists, everyday citizens, all working to make progress in this time of transition for Chile, but not at the expense of forgetting the injustices of the past.

Conner Anderson wrote the following about his journey so far, “We have been learning about the human rights violations under the dictatorship of Pinochet in Chile. But what has had such impact is that these aren’t just theories and stories, these are the emotions, the actions, and the lives of those that not only were impacted by the injustices, but are also those fighting to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.”  Conner also wrote about one of the most impactful interactions the students have had so far was with Gabriella Zuñiga, a wife of a Disappeared, who told the student delegates, “To remember is to pass it again through your heart.”

Rwanda

Melissa Hewitt, who is currently attending the cultural immersion portion of Design, Partnering, Managing, and Innovation(DPMI) training at Partners in Health Rwanda, wrote, “Our trip to Rwanda has been inspirational and an incredible learning experience. We have been able to see and experience the transformation the country is currently undergoing. I feel that the lessons I am learning will stay with me and influence me for years to come.”  Ayako Yamada, also participating in DPMI Rwanda, wrote, “Before coming to Rwanda, even with the pre-assigned readings, I was blown away with how little I knew about Rwanda. All I knew was about the genocide and I’ve learned that Rwanda has been a successful country in slowing down the spread of HIV and managing it.  But I didn’t know as much about ICT and gender equality.  It has shown me how little I was paying attention to Africa.”

Stay tuned for more comments from Nepal, Peru, and Spain!

 

 

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

MIIS Students in London for UN’s International Maritime Organization Meeting

imoLast week a group of 7 students, led by Professor Patrick Cotter, went to London to attend the London Convention and London Protocol on ocean dumping of wastes and other matter at the UN’s International Maritime Organization(IMO) in London. Before leaving for the London Meeting students were asked prepare a position paper on the topics that were going to be discussed by the delegates. The topics for the papers were front-line environmental issues being considered at the meeting, including, marine geoengineering, carbon dioxide capture and storage, compliance with the treaties, technical cooperation and assistance, ship recycling, disposal of mine tailings, marine litter, environmental effects of chemical munitions disposal, and 25-year review of radioactive waste disposal in the ocean. The students were able to then listen to the discussions and debate on issues during the meeting.

During breaks for tea or lunch, they had the opportunity to interact with delegates who expressed their positions during the plenary session, including delegates from the Canada, Panama, Turkey, the US, GreenPeace and the London Convention/London Protocol Secretariat. In total there were 49 Contracting Parties (nations) at the meeting, 2 associate members, 11 observer nations, 5 NGO observers, 3 UN agencies, and MIIS student observers at the meeting.  The meeting was chaired by Nigeria with support from the London Convention/London Protocol Secretariat.

The MIIS Digital Learning Center setup a chat for the group using “SlackBot”.  During the meeting, Professor Cotter was able to comment instantly on points that were being made to allow the students to understand the importance or implications of an intervention by a national representative.

Thursday, October 1st, 2015

Immersive Learning in Mindanao

Theiline Cramer in the field in Mindanao. Photographed by Maritza Munzon

Theiline McMahon Cramer in the field in Mindanao (Photographed by Maritza Munzón)

Theiline McMahon Cramer (Talie), duel degree candidate in TESOL and IEM, participated in last January’s Center for Conflict Studies field course entitled, Challenges to Peacebuliding in Mindanao led by Dr. Puspha Iyer.

Talie’s blogs speak to the immersive learning experience at MIIS, “I’m basking in the opportunity to reflect on my own experience as I learn a mile-a-minute.  It’s day one and my mind is full of preconceptions and is ready to be filled and sculpted and filled with the knowledge of the people that live in this very foreign world. ”  Her stories from Mindanao are very introspective and humble, “the longer we are here, the more I learn – and more and more I realize I know nothing at all.”

Tylie’s blog posts also highlight profound learning moments, “Going from meeting to meeting, community to community, I’ve begun to zoom in on the details of an individual’s experience, what the meaning behind a certain man or woman’s answer to a question about their experience with peace education may mean on a broader scale.  This trip is so rich with knowledge and experience that, honestly, I had started to focus in on the details – the details that lead you to the broader picture that these international organizations maintain.”

Read more about Tylie’s and her cohorts experiences in Mindanao on the field course blog Challenges to Peacebuilding in Mindanao>>>.

Thursday, September 24th, 2015

Immersive learning in Japan and China

Merideth Bush touring the Japanese Diet in Tokyo.

The Dean of the Graduate School of International Policy and Management, Dr. Kent Glenzer, describes immersive learning as, “flying in a plane while you build it.”  Merideth Bush, duel degree candidate in IPD and MBA, participated in last Spring Break’s East Asia Practicum course, on foreign policy, trade, and security led by Dr. Tsuneo Akaha and Dr. Wei Liang.  During the seminar, Merideth “flew her plane” with a great deal of openness, awareness, and humor.

Thinking back on her experience, Merideth wrote, “I think of a region where I was impacted by the blend of the ancient with the modern, something that for me, as an American and and therefore a citizen of a very young country, was new and fascinating.  –I remember standing in the middle of Tiananmen square trying to imagine the immense plaza 26 years earlier, packed with passionate university students like myself, many of whom would meet tragic deaths in the very place where I stood.”

She also remembers, “a hilarious tutorial on how to eat noodles with chopsticks and a memorable first-experience with a high tech toilet fully equipped with a heat seat, sound effects, and frankly a rather over zealous bidet.”

Merideth concluded, “the political education I received in Tokyo and Beijing was invaluable, but it is the cultural experiences that will stay with me for years to come.”  Read more about Immersive Learning experiences available this January-term 2016 and Spring Break 2016>>>.

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

IEM Practicum-DPMI Plus fellow collaborates with progressive language school in Mexico

Luz Vasquez

Prior to studying at the Institute, Luz served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in El Salvador in the Community Organization and Economic Development Program.

Luz Vazquez-Ramos, candidate for a dual graduate degree in Public Administration and International Education Management, is currently working as a Special Projects Manager for the CETLALIC Institute in Cuernavaca, Mexico for her IEM Practicum and DPMI Plus fellowship.  CETLALIC, self-described as the most politically and socially progressive Spanish language school in Mexico, was founded in 1987 by Salvadorian and Nicaraguan refugees.  Every language course is taught following Paulo Friere methodology, an approach designed to teach Spanish, Mexican culture, and generate a sense of solidarity with Latin America.  The program also offers students an opportunity to participate in a variety of social justice programs.   In a recent exchange with the GSIPM office, Luz wrote, “As a former student of CETLALIC, I have learned about current and past social justice movements through CETLALIC, however I never understood the intentional and direct connection to El Salvador and to Nicaragua.  I am beyond touched and humbled by the work CETLALIC has done.”  This summer and into the fall semester, Luz will be developing a new study abroad program specifically created for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students.

Through her background and work at CETLALIC, Luz has become inspired to develop greater solidarity among undocumented immigrant youth in the United States and the academic community in Mexico.

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

DPMI alumnus puts training to work in food security efforts in Ethiopia

IMG_1772Sitting down with Care Deputy Chief of Party and January 2015 Monterey DPMI Alumnus, Girma Hailu

During a 3-day trip to Addis Ababa after the DPMI Kenya training, I was able to meet-up with January 2015 DPMI Monterey alumnus, Girma Hailu in his hometown of Addis, Ababa, Ethiopia.

Girma has been serving as Deputy Chief of Party, Food Security for Farmers (FSF) for CARE in Ethiopia since last fall.

The CARE Food Sufficiency for Farmers project (FSFP) is a 5 year project funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and executed by CARE Canada through CARE Ethiopia. The project aims at ensuring sustainable food security of chronically food insecure women, men, girls and boys in selected districts of the Oromiya and Amhara regions. The project works in collaboration and builds on the Ethiopian government National Food Security Programs and targets over 34,000 households; among which 13 percent are female-headed. The project will be implemented through 3 main components: i) improving the enabling environment for food security; ii) diversifying economic activities for food insecure households and iii) improving resilience to climate risks.

Click here to read more

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

MIIS Center for the Blue Economy fellow gets surprise visit from MIIS staff at Nairobi UNEP Headquarters

IMG_1707On the day of my departure from Nairobi, I ventured to the Gigiri neighborhood of Nairobi to visit the 140 acre United Nations Office in Nairobi (UNON). The complex houses over 20 UN offices including the headquarters for the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat). Both UNEP and UN-Habitat headquarters were established in Nairobi in the late 1970s.

After you pass through UNON security you are greeted by a beautiful winding walking path lined with international flags ending at life-size bronze elephants and 10 meter high “KaribuUN” letters. The compound offers the chance of observing local wildlife such as red duikers, squirrels, marsh mongoose, vervet monkeys and olive baboons.

As I toured the conference center, I made my way to the new UNEP offices to visit our unsuspecting Center for the Blue Economy Fellow, Emma Tonge, currently serving as an intern on the Marine Litter Project. Emma follows in the footsteps of 2015 CBE fellow, Kelsey Richardson (IEP ’05) whose summer 2014 UNEP Marine Litter Project research is now being used in two published UNEP reports including: “Valuing Plastics: The Business Case for Measuring, Managing and Disclosing Plastic Use in the Consumer Goods Industry” and a second report on the use of microplastics in personal care and cosmetics products. Kelsey is now serving as a MIIS International Professional Service Semester (IPSS) fellow at the Secretariat of Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) in Apia, Samoa.

Click here to read more

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

MIIS IPSS alumnus tracks illicit weapons trading around the world

Jonah_Leff_UN_Weapons_Inspector
Information provides governments and policymakers with arms data previously never available.

It was my first year working at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS) at Monterey when I met MIIS IPS ’06 alumnus Jonah Leff. He was studying the effects of conventional and small arms violence under the tutelage of MIIS professor Edward Laurance, a pioneer in the field of small arms and light weapons trade treaties and research. Jonah was also a fellow serving an internship at the United Nations Office for Disarmament Research (UNODA) through the MIIS International Professional Service Semester (IPSS) program. The IPSS program is designed to help students jump-start their careers through junior-level internships in their field during their final semester of graduate schoo.

Jonah currently serves as Director of Operations at Conflict Armament Research and is based out of Nairobi, Kenya (where we recently met). It’s been wonderful reconnecting with Jonah over the years and to see the MIIS and Middlebury College students he has supported in entering the important field of preventing armed violence.

Click here to read more

Monday, June 8th, 2015

DPMI Kenya Course Focuses on Designing Solution Strategies for Local Systems

IMG_0017 IMG_0004 IMG_0014  IMG_0015

Group includes 13 wonderfully diverse participants from seven countries

Update from Nairobi, Kenya: We are halfway through our 8-day certificate training jointly offered by the Locus Network and the Program on Design, Partnering, Management and Innovation (DPMI) at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS).

Participant Profiles

The group includes 13 participants from seven countries (Kenya, Nigeria, Niger, South Africa, the Philippines, Venezuela, and the United States). Participants include Locus Network members from Pact, MIIS graduate students, and other international development practitioners. One Locus participant commented, “I’ve enjoyed meeting others in the group, and it has been a tremendous opportunity to learn from Dr. Beryl Levinger given her decades of experience in international development and teaching.”

Click here to read more