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Enhanced Learning Opportunities and Valuable Connections

Aspasea McKenna
International Development
MA ’20

In pursuing graduate school, Aspasea knew she wanted to gain a strong quantitative toolkit through which to understand the impact of international development. Johns Hopkins SAIS was the obvious choice for its strong quantitative emphasis. Additionally, she was impressed by the International Development department’s practically-oriented course offerings, like Principles of Evaluation for Development Projects, Practical Research Methods, and the International Development Practicum which allows her to apply these skills to a real-world client.

Aspasea’s background has focused on development in Southeast Asia. Prior to her graduate studies, she worked at Asylum Access, a refugee legal empowerment organization, where she managed grants for their work in Thailand and Malaysia. Before that, she worked in Indonesia, first as a Fulbright English teaching assistant and later at a local community development NGO. It was in these roles that her interests formed around monitoring, evaluation, and learning processes.

During her first year at Johns Hopkins SAIS, Aspasea and several classmates started the Humanitarian Mappers club to advance training opportunities in geospatial information systems (GIS), and to increase channels through which the school’s students can apply these skills. There is an increasing demand for GIS skills in a multitude of sectors and club members hope to stir up interest in its application across campus.

Aspasea has found the school’s network to be very valuable. She has applied to a mentorship program with an alumnus who works at the intersection of data and migration response at the International Organization of Migration. They meet quarterly to discuss different aspects of this field, and the alumnus has been supportive by providing professional guidance and introducing Aspasea to people in her network.

Post-graduation, Aspasea looks forward to working in a role where she can continue to learn about impactful interventions in the foreign aid and humanitarian space.