Why did you come to Tufts? Just before I came to Tufts I was working in Darfur for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), doing Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) monitoring and protection. When I was there, I read Helen Young’s Livelihoods Under Siege report. This was the first imprint on my mind about Feinstein; the report was so important for the humanitarian community in Darfur and also showed me that Feinstein is a serious place making an important contribution. When it came time to pursue an MA, Tufts was really my only choice. I loved the reputation of the university and the program and heard from alumni that it was a good place to reflect and build new networks. At the same time, I had to consider the cost of taking time off, so the one-year program made it even more attractive.
What did you gain from the MAHA program? Reflecting back, I think there are three main things I took from the program.
- I learned to think better. Being nose to the grindstone in the field, you get all these disconnected experiences. For example, I had a lot of questions about independence, neutrality, and the general malaise of the humanitarian and development industries. The coursework, professors, and classmates helped me understand my experiences in the field and gave me a higher order perspective on the profession that I had chosen. It laid the table for me to make much better contributions as a professional.
- It upgraded and expanded my knowledge. Not only did the program help me wrestle with questions I already had, it also exposed me to areas in our field of work that I had not really grasped. One course I took, on development and peacemaking, really rung my bell. It was about conflict analysis, and how development actors might (ideally!) play a role in conflict reduction. Complicated stuff. I loved it. This is the field I ended up in.
- It shaped the way I consume information. Having to read and digest so much information and then write about it, particularly for the capstone, forced me to consume information differently. It had a lasting impact on how I digest and work with data and publications for program design and implementation. I don’t think I would be as good at what I do now if I had not gone through those processes.
Where has your career taken you since you graduated in 2010? Right after the program I went back to IOM to run the emergency program in South Sudan. I then transitioned to USAID to work on a conflict mitigation and peace-building program in South Sudan. Later I became a technical advisor to the mediator of a political conflict in South Sudan (this was a rebel movement in one area of the country before the current conflict), working with the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue. Then I worked for the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, still working on that sub-national conflict in South Sudan. I also did some consulting in Somalia and South Sudan for UN Agencies, NGOs, and USAID programs.
Today, I am the coordinator for IOM’s Somalia Recovery and Durable Solutions Unit. Somalia has 2 million IDPs, many of whom cannot return to their previous residences and places of origin. As a result there is a dramatic urbanization in fey towns, which is compounded by drought and conflict with Al Shabaab. We are building capacity of local government to lead the communities themselves to drive durable solutions to long-term displacement. It is amazing to work in such a collaborative way with UN, NGOs, government authorities, IDPs, and host communities to create localized plans towards social cohesion and basic service delivery – inclusive of IDPs and marginal communities. Lots of challenges, but a very interesting and relatively optimistic time to work with Somalis.
What was your education prior to coming Tufts? I have a B.A. in international studies from Trinity Western University in British Columbia, Canada.