Let’s close out this week with the next Five Year Update from a 2010 graduate. Rebecca is one of the growing number of Fletcher-trained M&E professionals out in the world, and here she describes her trajectory from before Fletcher to her post-Fletcher career.
After graduating in 2005 from Bates College, where I studied political science, studied abroad in Cape Town, and wrote my honors thesis on the gendered nature of HIV/AIDS in South Africa, I knew I wanted to do something international, but I wasn’t sure exactly what. I decided to move to Washington, DC and see what opportunities I could find there. I ended up at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a foreign policy think tank. It was a great introduction to the world of international policy. While at CSIS, I organized high-level membership meetings and special fundraising events. I got to meet Sandra Day O’Connor and travel to China and I was exposed to the field of policy and decision-making. I knew I needed to gain practitioner skills, and graduate school seemed like the logical next step. Fletcher was my first choice — I loved the close-knit community feeling I got when I visited and also that it was outside of the beltway.
At Fletcher, I studied Development Economics and Global Health Policy (a self-designed Field of Study) and graduated with a certificate in Human Security. During my first semester I signed up for a course on Design, Monitoring and Evaluation. I had never heard of M&E before and didn’t realize it would have such an impact on my career. As I went through the course that semester, something clicked. I loved the idea of using my analytical skills to help development practitioners learn from and improve the work they were doing. During the summer, I traveled to Malawi with three other Fletcher students and designed an M&E framework for a girls’ education organization. For my thesis, I worked with a small global health organization to design an M&E strategy for the organization’s programming. I believe that the combination of education and practical skills in M&E I gained at Fletcher enabled me to get my foot in the door at Oxfam America after I graduated.
I started at the headquarters of Oxfam America in Boston as an intern — I tell every Fletcher student who contacts me for career advice that it’s OK to take an internship after graduating. It’s a great way to test out an organization and you get opportunities that you would not have as someone external to the organization. My internship ultimately turned into a consultancy, which turned into a full-time position. I worked for almost four and a half years in Oxfam’s Campaigns Department, where I was introduced to the wonderful world of policy advocacy monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL). I worked with a variety of campaign teams based in the U.S., supporting them on all things MEL, including developing MEL plans, collecting data, facilitating debriefs and writing evaluation reports. In my last year in the department, I provided campaign MEL support to country teams and led trainings in Nepal and Spain.
My experience in policy advocacy MEL, combined with the program M&E skills I acquired at Fletcher, enabled me to transition to Oxfam’s Regional Programs Department, where I am the MEL Project Officer for domestic programs. I provide technical MEL support and make sure the different programs are effectively monitoring, reporting on, and learning from their work. After working in the international field for almost a decade, it has been rewarding to support programming in my home country. I could not have predicted this career when I first set foot in the Hall of Flags in 2008, but my two years at Fletcher had a profound impact on where I am now, and I am all the better for it.