We were greeted by the children of the village with giggles and smiles and the words ‘picha picha,’ translated ‘photo.’ They had recalled the last time I was there, taking photos of them and letting them view each and every one of them. ~Beth Fitzgerald, African Empowerment Project

I have a former colleague named Beth who worked in student activities at her alma mater for about twenty years. She planned ski trips, basketball tournaments, and craft making nights year after year and became friends with hundreds of students in the process. Her professional and personal roots at the school firmly planted, I assumed she would work there forever.

Last year, Beth accompanied a group of students to Tanzania for a service trip. Planning such a trip is no small matter itself, but with her years of experience planning events and activities, she pulled it off. Without much fanfare, Beth and a small group of students traveled to Africa for the service project. Beth never returned—at least not the Beth anyone knew; her experience transformed her worldview and her purpose completely. Within a year she quit her job in student activities and decided to follow her passion, forming The African Empowerment Project, a project that would take her back to Africa several times to work in small communities to address issues of access to health care, food, water, shelter, and education. Reading through her blog (http://africanempowermentproject.blogspot.com/) I can’t even believe this is the same woman whose office I used to hang out in to talk about reality television.

Beth’s story is a wonderful example of the difference one person can make by acting upon a passion to serve. She never formally studied international affairs or had any high level experience creating policy; but she did have a passion for service and an innovative approach to international development that is allowing her to make a difference every day. There are many small-and-large-scale ways Puget Sound students can become involved with international development. In the Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK) Network, there are many alumni who have served in the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, and private sector roles aimed at improving the lives of the impoverished and oppressed. A quick search by the term “peace corps” in the job title field produces four entries of “Peace Corps Volunteer”: one works in Latin America on health care issues, another works in health education, and a third focuses on enterprise development.

On a larger scale, organizations like the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the International Development Bank, and of course the United Nations, offer careers like technical experts, project managers, and researchers. Within each of these three main areas lie hundreds of different roles you could assume in international development. USAID offers careers as Foreign Service Officers, Auditors, Foreign Service Criminal Investigators, and Program Analysts. The United Nations Development Program has openings for International Consultants for the Framework of Food Security Policies in India and Africa. There is also an opportunity for a Gender Specialist in Bangladesh, a Chief Technical Officer in Bolivia, and a National Humanitarian Affairs Officer in Zimbabwe. The possibilities are broad and the work is highly impactful.

Puget Sound students interested in international development can get started right here in Tacoma by working on service projects in the local community and completing internships with nonprofit organizations. Experience studying abroad will provide you with more understanding of other cultures and perhaps advance your skills in a foreign language. Organizations like USAID, the United Nations Development Program, the Peace Corps, and the Foundation for Sustainable Development offer internships and fellowships for university students. Finally, you could be like Beth and follow your passion to develop your own unique approach to international development.  Here are some additional resources to help you get started.

Career Cruising on Cascade provides profiles for careers related to international development.

The Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK) Network on Cascade lists alumni who work in various capacities who are eager to hear from Puget Sound students to help you learn more about your career development.

Books Available for Checkout in the CES Career Resource Library (Howarth 101)

Careers in International Affairs, 7th ed. School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University

Jobs and Careers Abroad, Guy Hobbs

Work Worldwide: International Career Strategies for the Adventurous Job Seeker, Nancy Mueller

Web Resources

African Empowerment Project

Speak Up (Created by a Puget Sound Alum!)

DevEx-News and jobs listings related to international development

Foundation for Sustainable Development

United Nations Development Program

United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

© 2010 Career and Employment Services, University of Puget Sound
Photo: Jessica Bruce