GDI alumna Pauline on her career at USAID

by | Oct 22, 2021 | Alumni/careers, Geography and Global Development, Postgraduate | 0 comments

Pauline Melvin graduated from International Development: Poverty and Inequality in 2019 and now works as Portfolio Manager for the US Agency of International Development (USAID). Here she shares her highlights studying at the Global Development Institute (GDI) and how her degree aided her career development.

On choosing my course

After seeing the Global Development Institute (GDI) website, I instantly knew the Master of Science in International Development course was for me! I selected this course because I recognised it as an opportunity to develop and refine skills for my aimed career path within the public service sector. From access to the revered GDI faculty members to the fieldwork in Uganda, I knew that the resources at Manchester would not be available within my home country (at a reasonable price).Farmer and student showcasing produce on field

Beyond my scholastic aspirations, I also chose to study at The University of Manchester because of the cultural and social diversity – I thought that not only will my educational horizons be expanded, but the experience would also function as an instrumental pillar towards my personal growth.

On my career prior to starting my course

Before I started my MSc, I was an Emergency Manager with the United States Air Force. My profession incorporated crisis management and chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive (CBRN-E) warfare defence.

Prior to applying to Manchester, I had already envisioned my desired career as a public servant. My course affirmed my passion to serve those in need and offered a more comprehensive understanding of the causes and effects of poverty and inequality inflicted in the Global South.

On my career following graduation 

After departing Manchester in 2018, I interned with a civil society, ACTogether Uganda. In this role, I collaborated with other NGOs, government officials, and international donors to advance participatory development in informal settlements (i.e. “slum upgrading”) and advance inclusive, practical socioeconomic opportunities for the marginalised throughout Uganda.Female graduates in graduation robes standing on grass posing for photograph

In January 2020, I relocated to Nouakchott, Mauritania, where I was initially onboarded as a Project Officer with the World Health Organisation (WHO). I was initially hired to manage a WHO pilot project for the Sahel Region focusing on expanding health services and accessibility in nomadic communities. However, to address the COVID-19 pandemic, resources were re-allocated, ultimately suspending the project. I was then appointed as a Technical Advisor to the Resident Coordinator (Country Director) of the United Nations. I tapped into my military toolkit and applied my knowledge of crisis management and skills of cross-cultural coordination to lead diverse teams for the national response. I advised senior leaders in decision-making to ensure project and programmatic policies, plans, and procedures within the UN COVID-19 disaster management portfolio were strategically aligned.

In May 2021, I relocated to the United States and joined the US Agency for International Aid (USAID) for the position I am currently in. I now work for the US Agency of International Development (USAID) in the Bureau of Conflict Prevention and Stabilization as a civilian-military coordinator. To advance intragovernmental cooperation, I facilitate systematic exchanges between USAID and the Department of Defence (US military) on policies and strategies that affect global development objectives within Africa.

On how my course prepared me for my career path

The course set me up for success! The analytical skills developed in the classroom and the practical skills developed in the field crafted a balance and nuance approach to the multifaceted work I do today.

On my 3 highlights of the programme

  1. Fieldwork in Uganda! After my coursework, I was offered an internship with the NGO Manchester partnered with. If it wasn’t for the Manchester-led research in Jinja, I wouldn’t be where I am today.Group of students on fieldtrip
  2. The development of meaningful, mutually beneficial relationships (basically lifelong friendships!). My programme expanded my professional network. My course officially ended in Sept 2018. Yet, I am still in close contact with several of my course mates and friends I’ve randomly met in the library and university events.
  3. The academic content – my programme set the foundation of the work I do today. I am in a humble position where I can match praxis with theory. It’s empowering to refer to concepts by Immanuel Wallerstein, Walter Rodney and Dambisa Moyo in strategic dialogue with senior leaders. It is a real pleasure re-reading my class notes.

On my advice to prospective applicants

DO IT! Knowledge is power. My course at The University of Manchester has unquestionably empowered me (and others!).

Become comfortable with being uncomfortable. I know this sounds oxymoronic, but the more you leave your “comfort zone”, the more adaptable you become. If you want it, go for it! Don’t doubt your worth. Don’t doubt your ability to succeed.

The master’s programme is only 12 months – and that year will fly by! Trust me. Live in the moment and allow yourself to bask in the greatness before you. From the historical infrastructure, to the revered alumni, to the innovative resources, to the thought-provoking discourse – routinely make time to acknowledge and recognise that you are part of a legacy.