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A Global Community of Scholars

Cristina Camacho
MAIR ‘22

Cristina was lucky to know many SAIS alumni at various stages in their careers, who each commended the program and encouraged her to apply. Furthermore, they are at top of their field or organization and are doing fantastic work in development, human rights, and climate change. Cristina was drawn to the world class faculty, interdisciplinary academic opportunities, and the expansive network of alumni working on international development and social justice. She was eager to challenge herself with the international economics coursework, sharing the understanding that it is critical to policymaking and development, and was especially excited to take classes in international development, Latin American studies, and conflict management.
Before attending SAIS, Cristina worked for three years at a private family foundation that works on food security, conflict mitigation, and public safety projects globally. As a program analyst on the team, she supported a portfolio of rural development and peacebuilding grants in her home country, Colombia, as well as in Central America. This experience was instrumental in solidifying her decision to continue working in international development in Latin America, and specifically Colombia.

As a student at SAIS, Cristina’s favorite classes so far have been Global Food Systems and Policy and Practical Research Methods. She took both during her first semester at SAIS and has since referred to her notes and assigned materials frequently for other classes and for work.  Both of her professors were fantastic, and she encourages anyone reading this to take these classes. She also enjoyed the M&E skills course offered last spring. Overall, she has been very happy with the practicality and applicability of the classes and extracurricular opportunities.

Despite the unprecedented challenges of the year, and the disappointment of not getting to meet peers and faculty in person in DC, this online year allowed Cristina to connect with students and faculty both in the DC and Bologna campuses and based all around the word. Professors made online classes dynamic and flexible, and brought fabulous guest speakers from around who would not have been able to attend in person. She was also grateful for her fellow classmates’ initiatives to create online group chats and have virtual hangouts to get to know each other.

After graduating, Cristina hopes to continue to work in international development in Latin America, and specifically Colombia. She is interested in working at the intersection of development and peacebuilding; seizing opportunities to effect lasting change in countries afflicted by endemic violence and the compounding consequences of internal displacement and migration crises, lack of economic opportunity and poverty, intergenerational trauma, and climate change. In Colombia, she wants to support implementation of the 2016 peace agreement, primarily rural land reform and sustainable livelihoods, which she thinks should be top priorities for development and peacebuilding in the country.

Furthermore, Cristina thinks incorporating diversity and intersectionality in all aspects of development is paramount. From project design to implementation and evaluations, and to advocacy for longer-term solutions and reforms to national legislation, it is so critical to use differential lenses that encompass persons of different age, gender, race, education levels, and nationality. To achieve equitable development, policymakers and practitioners must acknowledge the systemic and disproportionate barriers that exist for women and girls, people of color, indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, and the LGBTI community, among others, and include their voices at every level of decision-making. As she continues to learn and grow into her profession this is something that she will try to prioritize throughout, as well as encourage others to step up to leadership roles and careers in development and public policy.

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