Every summer, School of Foreign Service graduate students intern in locations and organizations ranging from the Millennium Challenge Corporation in Cape Verde, to INTERPOL in Singapore and the U.S. Commercial Service in Paris, France. This summer, two students from the Global Human Development Master’s Program spent the summer in Liberia.
Seamus Regan (GHD ’15) interned for the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in the Department of Planning, Research, and Human Planning in the Liberian government. During his internship, Seamus worked on “resource mapping” for the Ministry of Health. He explained, “Resource mapping concerns gathering data on how resources from different organizations and government agencies allocate funds for health projects throughout the country. This information is then used to ensure that health funds are distributed more equitably across geographic regions and reflect the variation in disease burden.”
Mary Dominic (GHD ’15) spent the summer working for the U.N. Women (United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women) country office in Liberia. Mary worked on an economic empowerment portfolio including “business skills training, literacy classes and Savings and Loans Associations training for rural Liberian women.” Mary’s favorite part of her summer was “the experience of meeting women who have been real leaders and change makers in their communities.”
Ebola was present in Liberia before Mary and Seamus arrived, but it did not become widespread until the end of their time there. “During those last few weeks, it became apparent that the official number of confirmed and suspected cases of Ebola were being vastly underreported and the government began to implement emergency measures to stem the virus’s spread,” Seamus said. Mary’s work took her out into the rural communities and she interacted with women and local community leadership about Ebola. “I was surprised by the lack of understanding and gross miscommunication about the disease, which has resulted in the worsening of the crisis,” Mary said.
While a major disease epidemic was not in the original plan for the students’ summer and actually forced an early departure for Seamus, the experience taught him about development in the wake of an unforeseen crisis. “When you study low-income countries and the various challenges they face in achieving sustainable economic growth and improving different indicators of well-being,” Seamus said. “It is often easy to simply think of countries as only needing a specific set of policies to lift them out of poverty. In reality however, there are some challenges that can’t be adequately addressed by good policies in the short-term. There are some situations such as violent conflict and disease outbreaks that can be extremely detrimental to even the best laid development plans. To achieve success in the sometimes fragile and volatile environments, one needs to be able to endure the unanticipated setbacks and frustrations that appear.”
Mary reflected on the importance of resilience in crises, “While it was disheartening to see the country falter under the weight of this crisis, the resilience of the Liberian people shines through and that is a strong lesson for development practitioners.”
Internships are a key part of career preparedness for many of the SFS graduate programs. To learn more about other internships that SFS graduate students have completed, please visit the SFS in the World section of the SFS website.