Washington D.C. with GPA Part III

By Samuel Stalls, MPP ’19

The most exciting part of graduate school, for me, has been the opportunity to meet and hear from numerous bright people doing fascinating work to impact the world. One of the scariest parts of graduate school is worrying about the best path to take for my career and what employment options exist in different pathways (if any!). So, in order to meet interesting people and explore career opportunities, I, along with a few other Luskin students, flew to D.C. over spring break with Global Public Affairs (GPA) to meet with professionals working on international issues, some of whom are Luskin alumni.

My interest in international development came from my work prior to attending UCLA, where I closely with families and men in the field in Asia, exposing me to the challenges faced on the ground by everyday people. However, this understanding of micro level realities did little to help me grasp the macro policy challenges affecting communities. So, I went to graduate school to expand my own understanding and equip myself. But, having only worked in the field, I lacked a network only the policy side of international development and so, over the course of my first year, I have been cultivating many contacts. When I heard about the Global Public Affairs trip and the opportunity to meet more professionals, I jumped at the chance. On the trip, we met with so many men and women it felt like my head was spinning; when I processed it all afterwards, I appreciated the extensive notes I took. Meetings included professionals working in the United States government, the World Bank, non-profits, and think tanks, among other places. We also attended a reception for Luskin alumni in the D.C. area, and mingled with alumni.

At the World Bank, we met with people working in all sorts of fields, from communication to youth to urban resilience. Those working in the government, with USAID and PEPFAR, were discouraged by Trump’s new budget but were also hopeful moving forward. We also visited several non-profit networks, giving us a glimpse of how non-profits pool their resources to more effectively lobby the United States government for their cause. Based on my own experience with non-profits who isolated themselves from others, I found this to be very encouraging to see. Those at think tanks shared how they innovate to make change and improve policy.

Everyone provided different perspectives and stories in how to further a career. I appreciated all the advice and encouragement I received from everyone, who shared their stories of how they entered their fields. The stories are diverse, but they were unanimous in encouraging us to meet people and cultivate even more contacts. It also set me up with a better understanding of how to look for an international development job post-graduation, especially if I decide to work in or around D.C.

This trip represented an opportunity not found in Los Angeles, where work is more local. Having met so many people in such a short time, the trip greatly expanded my sense of the people doing international development policy work and for any UCLA Luskin student interested in working internationally. It was one more step in helping me direct my career.