Rachel Good, MPP 2012, shares her experiences after Batten.
What do you do on a typical day?
I am a Field Operations Manager at Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children (FIMRC), based in Anconcito, Ecuador. FIMRC is an NGO dedicated to improving pediatric and maternal health in the developing world. I oversee all operations on the ground in Ecuador, including managing projects, supervising in-country staff, coordinating logistics for volunteers, and conducting fiscal operations. There are very few “typical” days in rural Ecuador, but most recently I coordinated a series of malnutrition and anemia screening events for children in partnership with the Ecuadorian Ministry of Health and a group of medical students from the U.S. We collected data on 350 children, provided nutritional counseling to families, and arranged treatment for children exhibiting signs of severe malnutrition and/or anemia.
What Batten-taught skill is most applicable to your job?
The most applicable skills I learned at Batten were statistics and data analysis with Professor Michael Moore. I work closely with the local government and the Ecuadorian Ministry of Health, and it’s nearly impossible to convince stakeholders to get behind projects without providing data to support our initiatives. Last year we carried out an extensive community diagnostic to inform our strategic plan for the next three years, and I never would have been able to effectively analyze and use the data to craft convincing project proposals if it weren’t Batten’s quantitative courses.
What advice do you have for Batten students pursuing a career in the same field?
I believe it’s essential to spend time working or volunteering in a developing country to be effective in the international development field. It is extremely important to gain an understanding of the cultural, institutional, socio-economic, and political context of the situation before offering up solutions. Also, you must be willing to get dirty – literally. If insects, extreme weather and natural disasters scare you away, international development is not the right field!
How do you “lead from anywhere?”
In my field of work, I have found that the most effective form of leadership is to empower others to lead. I work in the background, training local staff and volunteers to lead initiatives, fostering partnerships between stakeholders, and identifying resources to strengthen our programs. I have found that leadership doesn’t always mean sitting at the head of the table or taking the lead during presentations. In this context, leadership means empowering and training local actors to play an active role in the development of their own community.
What is the greatest policy challenge in your field?
Ecuador has a public health system, meaning all health services are provided to citizens free of charge. While in theory this is an admirable goal, in practice the system is overburdened and underfunded. For example, we work in a town of 20,000 people in which the only health service available is a clinic with three doctors. Patients must wait months for appointments and resources are extremely limited. My job managing FIMRC in Ecuador is to work with the Ministry of Health to identify ways in which we can close gaps in service in rural areas and better serve priority groups, especially women and children. Working on these policy challenges with the Ecuadorian government is challenging, dynamic, and extremely rewarding.
If you could go back in time, how would change your Batten experience?
I loved my time at Batten, and I constantly wish I could go back. If I were to do it again, I would take more advantage of the vast wealth of knowledge of Batten faculty. It’s easy to develop tunnel vision and focus solely on the coursework, forgetting that the professors leading these classes are true experts at the forefront of their respective fields. I’d love to go back and spend more time learning from their experience and research outside the classroom.
What is the best advice you’ve received in your career?
My current boss, quoting Teddy Roosevelt: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”