Janey Blackwell-Orr '19
I was originally drawn to Hobart and William Smith Colleges for their rich liberal arts values. I appreciated that I was able to take classes across the multitude of academic disciplines HWS offers. Coming into college, I knew I wanted to dig deep into other cultures, languages, political, and economic institutions. More broadly, I wanted to know how the world operated outside of the United States and begin to unpack my subconscious biases regarding international systems. I knew that the International Relations program was a great avenue for this. My IR major allowed me to take classes in economics, anthropology, political science, religious studies, and history while also learning both French and Arabic languages. During my junior year, I was able to study abroad in Amman, Jordan - an experience I’ll never forget. My semester abroad really enabled me to take what I had learned in the classroom and explore how it all manifests in real life. The rest of my time at HWS was filled with deeper learning, observation, and an enhanced appreciation for the International Relations curriculum.
Following HWS, I knew I wanted to be in Washington, D.C. and moved there within two weeks of graduating. I am currently working as a Program Assistant at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), under the Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA). In BHA, I work in the Office of Middle East, North Africa, and Europe (MENAE). At BHA, I support the MENAE office with response readiness, ensuring that both our systems and staff are ready to respond to a humanitarian disaster the second it strikes. As an undergrad who specialized in international development, I had always wanted to work at USAID so it has been surreal to work with the Agency so soon after graduating. Every day, I am able to communicate with staff across the world and assist with USAID’s responses to the protracted crises in Syria and Yemen. Prior to joining USAID, I had worked at a small NGO called the SEEP Network, which allowed me to interact with global development and financial inclusion organizations on a daily basis. Having worked in both a small international NGO and also a bureaucratic government agency has given me a unique perspective on how global development and humanitarian assistance actors interact with one another.
I will be forever grateful to my mentors and professors at HWS for their endless support and guidance. From the classroom to the Centennial Center and CCESL, I was constantly inspired by my teachers who gave me the courage to take risks and keep reaching towards my goals. I truly believe that the professors, staff, and education at HWS will set you up for success if you take advantage of all they have to offer. In the future, I hope to continue to explore the international development and humanitarian assistance world, whether that be at USAID on a response, at another global organization, or back in the classroom to get my Masters in International Studies.