On April 16th, Global Public Affairs (GPA) at UCLA Luskin hosted a virtual informational interview with Stacy Edgar, a UCLA alum and current international development practitioner. The Zoom call consisted of a small group of Luskin students with Stacy, and took the form of an interesting discussion about career paths, lifestyle choices, and taking advantage of the resources available at UCLA.
The Zoom call began with a short monologue from Stacy in which she detailed her path in detail. She studied at UCLA as an undergraduate and took courses on international politics and development with the likes of Dr. Stephen Commins. From UCLA, Stacy matriculated straight into a master’s program at the London School of Economics, reading for a degree in Global Politics. Like many young professionals in the 21st century, Stacy recounted the plethora of disparate professional experiences she had before landing at Chemonics where she worked for ten years. Stacy enjoyed stints doing everything from teaching English in China to policy research for MSF and the UNDP, to even working in congress for a short period of time.
These experiences ultimately led her to Chemonics where Stacy had connected with a Luskin MPP alumnus, ultimately securing an interview. Chemonics serves as USAID’s largest contractor in fulfilling international development contracts across the global south. Stacy spent most of her decade at Chemonics focusing on programming in southern Asia, in countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan. To that end, Stacy lived in Kabul for 6 months while working to implement an economic opportunity to Afghan women and other vulnerable groups.
Beyond the sheer logistics of getting on the ground floor of a high quality career in international practice, much of the conversation revolved around the lifestyle and tough choices of a practitioner.
Some of the key takeaways:
- 90% of the development career field is based in Washington DC. It’s not unreasonable for students to consider moving to DC to get one foot-in-the-door and building one’s rolodex.
- Life as an international development practitioner can be terribly taxing for individuals pursuing a serious romantic (or even with family & friends) relationships. Global travel is constant and sometimes in war torn countries.
- The work can be unbelievably rewarding. Stacy recounted multiple projects in which her work had a real impact on the lives of others.
- There are so many niches with international development as an industry. For example, working for the U.S. government (typically World Bank or USAID) is drastically different from working from NGO firms. Furthermore, within NGOs, there are a plethora of unique aspects about working for a for-profit contractor versus the nonprofit NGO sector. All types can lead to fulfilling, meaningful work. They often differ, however, in terms of work environment and the like.
- Leverage the UCLA Luskin & GPA networks. We have alums working in incredible organizations.