September 11, 2020 – By Joanna Moley

When I graduated from Georgetown University in 2018, I thought I should strive for a linear career path, one that would end in the all-important dream job. Now, I can admit I don’t even know what my dream job might be. Internship experiences and two years in the workforce have taught me to approach every professional opportunity with intentionality and embrace the skill-building process instead of narrowly focusing on a specific aspirational role.Thus far, I have started each of my jobs with a hypothesis about what I want to learn and where the opportunity might take me in the long term. Just like in school, I have found that it’s ok when your hypothesis is wrong, you simply figure out why and pivot.

During the summer of 2017, I had the privilege of being selected as a Beeck Center GU Impacts fellow working for Yanbal International, a global for-profit company with a social impact mission. I was based in Lima, Peru and despite being nervous about working in Spanish for the first time, I took the position in order to test the hypothesis that my Latin American Studies degree in the School of Foreign Service meant I wanted to work in Latin America. During my 10-week fellowship, I collected valuable information about what I wanted and didn’t want in my post-graduate career. While I loved the social impact focus of my work, I felt unsatisfied within the corporate structure of the enormous company. It was sometimes difficult to adjust to living abroad, but I also found traveling throughout Peru and making new local friends exhilarating. I noticed that the experience of living abroad was enriched by the support and mentorship provided by the Beeck Center back home, which clued me in to the potential structure of international work I might be interested in after graduation. I took note of every aspect of this professional experience and emerged at the end of the summer with more fully formed goals for my upcoming job search.

woman and man talking to group outdoors under a tent
Joanna Moley judges an English-language spelling bee for students served by the organization where she worked during her time in Medellin, Colombia.

During my fellowship, I solidified my desire to work in Latin America and gained the skills and connections to do so. For my first post-graduate job, I tested a new hypothesis that my ideal job would include working abroad at a small, local NGO, and accepted a position on the communications team of an international education organization based in Medellin, Colombia. I quickly realized that communications is not my calling, and positioned myself to earn a promotion to the role of International Volunteer Coordinator. In this role, I hired and managed a group of international volunteers, all older and more experienced than I was in international service. While I was initially intimidated by this dynamic, I reached out to my personal and professional network for support and resources that helped me successfully tackle challenges such as navigating the Colombian visa process and leading volunteer onboarding and trainings.

After working abroad for a year, I felt surer than ever that my career path was centered around Latin America and social impact work. However, the frustrations of a tiny organization led me towards my next hypothesis, that I would be most satisfied working at a large international NGO with a focus on Latin America based in the US. Specifically, I was looking for a position where I could gain grant management and other transferable administrative skills that my previous position in Colombia had not necessitated. This brought me back to DC, where I currently work on the Latin America team at a mid-sized international NGO. When I began this job, I felt intimidated by all the unfamiliar procedures I had to learn just to catch up, but, through hard work, I learned the administrative skills I needed to become a valuable team player. Additionally, my previous experience at a small, local NGO in Colombia gave me unique insight into the operating capacities of our team’s partners in Latin America, which is invaluable to my programmatic work. Coming from such a small organization, I initially felt anonymous on a larger team. However, I soon learned how to advocate for myself in order to earn more responsibility, and how to lean on my team members for support and mentorship.

As ridiculous as it feels to write “looking back on my career so far…” when that career has only spanned two years, I have learned some valuable lessons that would certainly surprise my college self. I now believe that building a career is not a linear exercise, but is an ever-evolving process, and the jobs you end up in at the beginning of the journey are not as important as the skills you build and the connections you add to your network along the way. I am extremely grateful to the people who have mentored and supported me throughout my professional experiences thus far, and I have no regrets about the paths I have taken. In every position, I built the skills and contacts to help me to move on to the next one, each time getting closer to the fulfilling career that I am striving toward. The key has been seeking out professional experiences and mentors who give me room for growth and push me out of my comfort zone. Each new professional opportunity should be a tiny bit terrifying, and it’s normal to feel overwhelmed, because that’s when you’ll find the exciting opportunity to grow.


Thinking about how to navigate your career journey with intentionality? Check out the Beeck Center’s Social Impact Navigator to gain a better sense of self and the mindsets and skills you want to develop in becoming a social impact leader.


Joanna Moley is a 2018 graduate of the Georgetown School of Foreign Service and 2017 GU Impacts fellow. Connect with her at joannamoley[at]gmail[dot]com

August 10, 2020 – By Grace Rector

As a freshman, I thought I knew everything – what job I wanted, what I was interested in, my future path. So when I wasn’t selected for GU Impacts during my freshman year, I was disappointed, but little did I know how this rejection would change my life. As I start my senior year, so much has changed. My interests, expectations, and personal goals are new in part because I didn’t give up on the Beeck Center, and in return, I received the opportunity to discern, reflect, and ask questions.

My sophomore year, I returned to campus determined to be a part of the GU Impacts cohort. I visited the Beeck Center to speak with Matt Fortier, the Director of Student Engagement. I explained how much I wanted to take part in the program, and I asked for feedback on how I could improve my application. He complimented me on my ability to pursue feedback. To my surprise, Matt asked if I had an interest in working for the Beeck Center as a student analyst. This was not part of my linear plan that I envisioned, but I decided to take a risk and say yes.

woman in red dress giving presentation in front of a yellow wall
The author giving a presentation to Women for Women International in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

My first day of work at the Beeck Center was terrifying. I had no idea what to expect. But I took a breath and focused on listening until I better understood how I’d fit in. I met incredible and brilliant individuals that made up the Beeck Center family, and I found my place. Matt came to me for feedback on projects, and even asked me to improve existing programs. He did so because he trusted me. He even encouraged me to create new projects where I saw fit and he gave me the freedom to innovate. I’d never been in a space with so much emphasis on creativity, innovation, and collaboration like the Beeck Center promoted.

After my first semester working for the Beeck Center, I understood the flow of the office, and the team had doubled! I was so excited to help onboard new student analysts and to share this incredible space with them. I hoped that they would learn as much about themselves and their professional interests as I had. At the Center, I learned the importance of having a cohesive team when aiming for innovative work. The closer I felt to my coworkers, the more responsibility I felt to produce excellent work. Upon the arrival of the new student analyst cohort, I made it my goal to make them feel included and part of the family.

With time on the team, I became comfortable giving feedback. I was audacious enough to propose new projects and ideas! With support from Nate Wong and Matt, we created and formed the Discern + Digest program (D+D) as a space for students to engage with their work, ask questions about the social impact space, and explore how their experiences inform their perspectives. Bringing students together deepened our community, and gave me the confidence to reapply to the GU Impacts Program, where I’d soon find another community. My fellowship sent me to Women for Women International (WfWi) in Bosnia and Herzegovina in Summer 2019. I brought values the Beeck Center taught me to this position: the importance of constructive communication, collaboration, humility, and a playful attitude. As a storytelling intern for WfWi in Sarajevo, I embodied these values and worked hard to make a sustainable impact on my partner organization. With every job comes difficulties, and after a few weeks I acknowledged that I wanted more from my role. I wanted to lead a storytelling project for the organization, so I navigated a constructive conversation with my boss. She supported me because I presented my proposal well and, ultimately, I published several interviews with women that the organization served.

student (right) performing video interview with subject
The author (R) interviewing a Bosnian woman during her fellowship in Sarajevo.

The Beeck Center not only provided me with tools to navigate social impact work, but it also affected my professional goals. During my internship, I took a Bosnian language course to support my cultural immersion. This course allowed me to build deep relationships with locals, who taught me more about their country’s history. Exposure to Bosnia’s history pushed me to take a related course in the spring of 2020 and ultimately enabled me to do research for a professor on the role of the arts and culture in post-war reconciliation between Bosnian citizens.

GU Impacts also deepened my passion for education. During the fellowship, I created my own skill-building workshops used during the Democracy Academy for Young Women in Bosnia. Upon my return to Georgetown, I continued this new passion by declaring a minor in Education, Inquiry, and Justice. It also influenced my decision to take part in a comparative education study abroad program in Chile and Argentina in Fall 2019.

Over the last two years, I’ve discerned what I care about and what spaces I should explore to further uncover my interests. This past February, before the outbreak of the coronavirus, my single mother passed away. It was and is a devastating loss. Soon after, I received a package from the Beeck Center containing handwritten cards from every team member. That’s when I knew it was time to go back to work for the Center.

This summer and fall, I am managing Discern + Digest so that it can continue to impact other students the way it has me. The Beeck Center is not just an organization that thinks about ultimate outcomes of its projects, innovates audacious ideas, and then acts on them. It’s a team of extraordinary people who care deeply about their work and the people that they work alongside. Working at the Beeck Center is like being part of a family because the staff challenged me to grow but also supported me 100% of the time, and for that, I can’t thank them enough.

August 6, 2020 – By Ananya Amirthalingam

The following is a diary from a GU Impact fellow, on her experience with a distributed work environment this summer.

March 27, 2020: “All summer academic offerings will use remote delivery platforms and summer study abroad programs have been suspended”

screenshot of email from GU Provost
Screenshot of email from Georgetown University

The message from the Georgetown University Provost was disappointing but understandable. We were (and still are) in the middle of a pandemic the likes of which we haven’t seen in a while, and the University’s decision was a practical one. Weeks earlier, when I officially committed to be a part of the 2020 GU Impacts cohort, I knew there was a slim chance that I’d be actually traveling abroad.

What I didn’t know: if I wasn’t traveling abroad, would I still have a fellowship?

I had been planning on working with the Mann Deshi Foundation, in rural Maharashtra, India, helping the Foundation serve local women entrepreneurs and the community with programming ranging from business school courses to sports education to farmer cooperatives. In my conversations with Prabhat Sinha, one of the Foundation’s heads, Mann Deshi’s region had limited resources and little internet access.

I readied myself for more bad news.

April 9: “We are happy to share that Mann Deshi has committed to working with you over the summer, remotely!”

I was overjoyed! I had a fellowship! This is happening! I am going to be working remotely!

Remotely.

Screenshot of email from GU Impacts
Screenshot of email from GU Impacts

At this point, I had only been in virtual classes for three weeks. Getting to roll out of my bed and into a Zoom call was beginning to lose its charm. A twinge of doubt set in. What would I be able to do remotely? Would I be able to connect with people? I already had to deal with a language barrier, and now I had to tackle time zone differences and spotty internet, not to mention the overall awkwardness of virtual interaction over Zoom and WhatsApp. Would I even be making a difference?

June 2 (at 3:50 AM ET to be exact): “Here are some projects: a report on COVID-19 relief work, a report on our Youth Development Center, a report on our Champions sports program (we are especially trying to get funding for traveling and coaching), a case study on the Mann Deshi Community Radio …” the WhatsApp message proved there was plenty of work to be done.

Screenshot of What'sApp chat
Screenshot of What’sApp chat

As someone with an interest in education, I started on the Youth Development Center (YDC) report. Researching and reading through past reports left me with endless questions, and each question brought a new idea. What resources are available to teachers? Let’s make a resource. My cohort-mates (Danny and Kia) and I can compile suggestions into a Teacher Toolkit for Interactive Lessons. How do Zoom classes or recorded WhatsApp videos differ from regular in-person lectures? Let’s interview the YDC students and teachers, I can include their first hand experiences in my report.

June 12: “Over the lockdown, she’s been getting more info on exams. For fun she plays an interesting game – I’ve never heard of it before. There are certain roles …”

10 days later, Omkar, a Mann Deshi staff member, was translating one of the YDC’s student’s answers to a question I had asked. Things move at rapid-fire speed at Mann Deshi, and a nine and a half hour time difference was no deterrent.

As I listened to him explaining this ‘interesting game’ I began to laugh. It was Mafia – a game I had just learned about. Sure the roles were different (they had kings, queens and soldiers while the game I played had sheriffs, detectives, and gang members) but the general premise was the same: the uninformed majority trying to outsmart the informed minority. Everyone’s faces lit up as I marveled at the similarities aloud.

It was a small thing to be sure. A glimmer of silliness, during our otherwise serious interview about the impact of COVID-19. I remember wishing I could be there in person, but I wasn’t feeling wistful or disheartened of what could have been. Rather, I couldn’t stop beaming thinking about how in spite of the time zones, language barrier, and internet reliability, I was doing it – I was connecting.

July 7: “ I have been a teacher since 1994, and no one has ever done an event like this for teachers. This was amazing!”

Or maybe it was July 8. I had stayed up until 4 AM for two consecutive days; my concept of time was definitely distorted. But this comment, made by a local government school teacher attending our conference – made it all worthwhile.


Read More: GU Impact Interns Organize First of Many Teacher Conferences in Rural India


Two weeks earlier, the Teacher’s Conference had been a spur of the moment suggestion by my teammate Kia, who believed as we all did, that a lockdown didn’t have to stop learning, and that this time could be used to bring innovative methods, resources and support for Mann Deshi and local government school teachers alike. From that idea, in just over a week, we researched, contacted, connected with, and secured Indian experts in child psychology, pedagogy, and technology. While my teammates designed pre-assessment surveys, posters, and schedules, I grappled with Zoom. I familiarized myself with breakout rooms, mute features, and live streaming capabilities as I prepared to be the host of the two-day conference.

But as prepared as I believed myself to be, running the logistics of such an unprecedented event was by no means an easy feat. Suffice to say, I ran into multiple technical problems. Many participants were unfamiliar with Zoom – unsure of how to change their names or rejoin when they got kicked out because of their internet connection.

As I was panicking and trouble-shooting, I remember receiving text messages from Mrunal (another Mann Deshi staff member who had worked with me extensively to help make the conference run smoothly): “You are doing great! The teachers are loving this!” She told me how teachers were sharing things they had never shared before, and how this experience was all at once new and exciting.

I thought it was a cute sentiment meant to make me feel better for what I thought was a profound failure on my part. But when the conference ended and Prabhat shared some of the teachers’ comments I found myself filled with pride.

We had done this: Prabhat, Omkar, Mrunal, Danny, Kia and me. I was making the impact I had dreamed of.

Screenshot of Zoom participants at Mann Deshi Teacher's Conference
The author (upper left) with Youth Development Center students and teachers during a recent interview.

July 18: It’s been nearly two weeks since the conference. Work hasn’t slowed by a bit! I continue churning out reports, and am going to be reinterviewing some of YDC students soon. Working remotely has far exceeded my expectations. I’ll be the first to admit, it hasn’t been easy – what with all the late nights and Zoom fatigue. But it certainly has been worthwhile and definitely impactful (pun intended!)

August 6, 2020 – By Kia Muleta

“I have been a teacher since 1994, and no one has ever done an event like this for teachers. This was amazing!” said one attendee of the Mann Deshi Foundation’s Teacher’s Conference, the first of its kind in Maharashtra state.

screenshot of Zoom participants at Mann Deshi Teacher's Conference

This spring, I proposed the idea of a teacher’s conference to my peer GU Impact fellows as a means of sharing knowledge among teachers, developing a support system for them, and providing lessons on topics like communicating with students, and developmental psychology, areas that most Maharashtra teachers haven’t been trained in. We’d design a conference for government school and Mann Deshi Youth Development Center teachers who are rarely given opportunities for training, especially in identity development, gender equity, the impact of poverty on academic performance, and several more avenues.


Read More: Remote but not Removed: Making an Impact through a Virtual Fellowship


Everyone enthusiastically agreed, and in less than 10 hours of opening registration, 100 people had signed up. Teachers were more than eager to share and improve their teaching strategies.

Due to COVID-19, the event was held virtually, and was a smashing success with 80 teachers, 4 education experts from various fields, a member of Parliament, the State Minister of Human Development (Education), and the District Commissioner in attendance. We were honored to have Brookings Institute Fellow and Study Hall Founder Dr. Urvashi Sahni as our keynote speaker to talk about the application and vitality of Critical Feminist Pedagogy in Indian classrooms.

screenshot of Zoom participants at Mann Deshi Teacher's Conference
Brookings Institute Fellow and Study Hall Founder Dr. Urvashi Sahni addresses the Mann Deshi Teacher’s Conference.

Goals of the Workshop

To help Government and Mann Deshi Youth Development Center, teachers:

  • Implement and create their own innovative and interactive teaching strategies and curriculum
  • Become familiar with digital learning models and technology
  • Close the authority gap between teachers and students
  • Develop closer relationships between teachers and students
  • Become more efficient and effective in educating students to become confident, creative, knowledgeable problem solvers, leaders, and lifelong learners.
  • Create a support group for teachers and offer tangible resources

Teachers and students in rural Maharashtra face a number of challenges to getting an education. Many students struggle to finish school: some families rely on marrying their daughters to men if they need financial support, electricity/internet is unreliable, many students are wage laborers or farmers. Due to major issues in food insecurity, public health, and infrastructure, training for teachers is limited or nonexistent as the government focuses on other regional challenges. As such, training occurs once every 1-2 years and is often organized by the state, which means there are 1,000+ teachers in the state training program. In order to ensure a close knit teacher community and interactive workshops, our conference Zoom breakout rooms had a teacher-to-expert ratio of only 13:1.

Dr. Yajyoti Singh, an expert on developmental educational psychology, led lessons on efficient and emotionally conscious communication between teachers and students. She created a safe space for a research- based workshop that allowed teachers to be vulnerable with their challenges as teachers as well as successes.

screenshot of Zoom participants at Mann Deshi Teacher's Conference
Dr. Yajyoti Singh, an expert on developmental educational psychology speaks to the Mann Deshi Teacher’s Conference

During her workshop, Mrunal, a Mann Deshi staff member, excitedly clapped, smiled and messaged me:

“They shared experiences where they made some mistakes in their classes without considering the student’s perspective and how they felt bad about it later. Many teachers do not usually share such experiences. Now they are sharing some of the best moments in their lives as a teacher…This teacher is sharing how he wasn’t happy with his students as they didn’t study for one of the competitive exams. Later, when the results came out, 5/7 students passed the exams with good grades.”

“Education is not about filling the buckets. It’s about lighting the fire.”

In another session with Sushant Kamble, another educational psychology expert, Mrunal explained, “[Kamble] is explaining how adrenaline generates in our body when we are scared and how it could also happen in a classroom if the teacher communicates in a loud voice or if you yell at students it could affect them for a lifetime.” I watched as teachers took notes, nodded, and raised their hands for further questions. In a region where authority is an important part of culture, Kamble explained how authority can both negatively and positively affect the success of students.

As an aspiring lawyer in international politics and development, engaging teachers, education researchers, government, and an NGO in supporting local schools taught me that education is far more complex than standing at the front of a classroom. Education has a historical legacy, a cultural footprint, is a means of inquiry and validation of one’s identity, and cannot be directed by one person or group but rather requires the consistent and unified cooperation of multiple fronts. And most of all, teachers are incredible and genuinely care about the prosperity of their students.

As Kamble said, “Education is not about filling the buckets. It’s about lighting the fire.”

May 28, 2020 | By Franchesca Rybar

Universities everywhere are wrapping up what turned out to be an unusual spring semester. Virtual classes, virtual graduations, virtual meetings– and yet, there was no other choice, and things worked out for the most part. As teachers breathe a sigh of relief before diving into fall planning, students are starting internships– or are they? 

A survey conducted by Yello revealed 35% of students nationwide had their summer internships cancelled. For many students, summer is a time to take their classroom learnings and put them to the test in the “real world” while also discovering what they still don’t know. Internships are also a huge networking opportunity for students to wow their colleagues and hopefully return to a full-time role with the company after graduation. Other students use the summer to study abroad, volunteer, or gain additional income– all of which have been affected by COVID-19. 

With “Innovation” in the title, our Center grouped up to discuss the implications a remote-shift would have on our summer programs: we had already extended offers to 21 undergraduate students for GU Impacts, a global fellowship program centered around a 10-week social impact project with one of our eight partner organizations. After having individual conversations with each of our partners to understand the effects the coronavirus was having on their organization and community, five committed to supervising their fellows virtually for the summer, foreseeing helpful contributions despite the distance. The Kunde Social Cafe in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan offered a common explanation for continuing to work with us,

With restaurant businesses closing and in-house customer numbers dwindling, we embraced the need to develop online business models at Kunde.

We are confident that GU Impacts students will create great impact for our mission: to help people with mental disabilities to stay employed and included in the society. We will be working on developing online market, adapting our rehabilitation procedures to online formats, and expanding our reach this summer.

Unfortunately, the other partners were facing larger disruptances and could not commit to summer fellows this year, though we look forward to working with them again in the future.

After figuring out what was in our partners’ capacity, we had individual check-ins with each fellow – our sympathy and support in identifying other opportunities was extended to the students whose partners could no longer facilitate a summer project. Of the 13 students who still had an opportunity, all of them re-committed to working with their organization. The commitment each student made to continuing social impact work, despite no longer being able to travel and interact with a new community, was truly inspiring. 

For the past 7 years, the Beeck Center has prioritized holistic experiential learning opportunities for students to engage in social impact. With commitments from students and partners in hand, we’ve worked endlessly to adapt the GU Impacts program to the current situation. Embracing our core value of experimentation, this summer we’re launching the Sustainable Student Impact (SSI) Project Builder. The builder, a guideline for any student to self-guide a research project using human-centered design, was created in an attempt to fill predicted gaps in community-learning the GU Impacts program may face switching to a virtual environment. While this summer will be a true pilot session, the pandemic has forced us out of our comfort zone and potentially created a new, more accessible way for students to learn about and get involved with social impact. The GU Impacts cohort is typically dispersed across 7 different timezones working full-time with their partner organization; however, with fellows following Georgetown policy and staying indoors, we look forward to seeing how our implementation of the program may improve and evolve with the “hands-on” opportunities we have to work with our students this summer. 

We’ve transitioned our onboarding workshops from “health and safety abroad” and visa applications to “equity and privilege” and “navigating your social impact learning.” Our hope is that our students can still provide value and see their contribution to social impact working with our partners, but also feel empowered and confident in leading their own learning journey. We can’t wait to be a helping hand along the way. Congratulations to our 13 GU Impact fellows!

Fellow
GU Impacts PartnerPartner Location
Arnav KumarFederal City CouncilWashington, DC, USA
Jacob VanderZwaagCenter for Civic InnovationAtlanta, GA, USA
Michael XuCenter for Civic InnovationAtlanta, GA, USA
Sophie StewartCenter for Civic InnovationAtlanta, GA, USA
Yingying MeiCenter for Civic InnovationAtlanta, GA, USA
Anika VenkateshŽene za Žene InternationalSarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Claire BeezleyŽene za Žene InternationalSarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
John MucklerKunde Social CafeNur-Sultan, Kazakhstan
Sydney YinKunde Social CafeNur-Sultan, Kazakhstan
Victoria LeiKunde Social CafeNur-Sultan, Kazakhstan
Ananya AmirthalingamMann Deshi FoundationMhaswad, India
Daniel WolfeMann Deshi FoundationMhaswad, India
Kia MuletaMann Deshi FoundationMhaswad, India