Above: Jane in Halabja, Iraq, photo by Charlene Winfred
Jane* had just committed to the IWP Certificate of Graduate Study program when she had her first conversation with IWP career services. It was a Friday in April. By Sunday, she had submitted an application to a government agency that would lead to interviews and two conditional job offers.
These offers are significant for Jane because they represent the first time she will take on work in the national security field after a focus on art and international development.
Originally from Kansas City, Jane always knew that she wanted to work internationally. “In my area, those networks weren’t always naturally available to me, so I had to intentionally pursue international opportunities,” she said.
During college, she studied art history in Aix-en-Provence, and she later returned to France for her Master of Arts in International Relations. There, she used her art background to research the iconography of the Islamic State’s visual propaganda.
After briefly doing some humanitarian aid work in Morocco, her studies about ISIS came to life when she moved to Sulaymaniyah, Iraq. There, she continued her humanitarian work in a region that really needed it through her work with an NGO. One of the cities in which she worked, Mosul, had been liberated from ISIS one year beforehand. Many people in Iraq had missed out on years of education and employment as a result of all the turmoil in the region. Jane worked with refugees, internally displaced persons, and other vulnerable host community populations to prepare them for long-term employment.
The program with which Jane worked helped people develop basic digital literacy, as well as some more advanced technology skills. The goal was to lead people to sustainable employment. For instance, this program taught digital accounting and QuickBooks. Many people in Iraq had been doing their books by paper – which can easily be lost in a wartime situation. Jane’s program taught everything from signing up for an email address to graphic design, and they ran a microwork program to get people started in the professional world.
Jane and another woman co-managed this program in four cities and managed 60 staffers across these cities. Jane directly managed program reporting, as well as monitoring and evaluation.
After a time, Jane was ready to return to the United States, but she was determined to continue to work on global peacebuilding in some way. “I see humanitarian aid and national security as parallel tracks to the same objective,” said Jane. “It is interesting how the different elements in national security and international development align – from emergency aid, development programs, programs countering violent extremism, and national security programs.”
Given her skillset and background, Jane decided to pursue opportunities in the national security world as her next step. “I had completed research on ISIS propaganda – that was my original interest,” said Jane. “I became interested in terrorism, and that led me to read more about our role in the Middle East. I wanted to seek further education that could help me understand the field and the types of jobs available, and provide additional insight and experience.”
Because she already had a master’s degree, Jane decided to look at graduate certificate programs. “IWP demonstrated a personal interest in me from the beginning,” said Jane. “A few weeks after I returned home, Danielle Shover gave me a tour of the facilities. Soon thereafter, I connected with [IWP career director] Derrick Dortch.”
During her initial conversation with Mr. Dortch, he mentioned an agency that was hiring for several positions with a deadline on Sunday. “I was transitioning from working in humanitarian aid to applying for positions in intelligence,” said Jane. “I needed to rework all of my application products and study the history of the agency, the positions available, etc.”
With Derrick’s advice, Jane enrolled in and completed several training courses to prepare her for these interviews. “He knew that I lacked confidence. His encouragement was very valuable. He walked me through the process step by step,” said Jane. “I talked with him several times that weekend. To my surprise, I received two interviews for two different positions. He continued to support me through that process. He read my interview prep; we did practice interviews. I received two conditional offers. I was really excited to share that news with him.”
This October, Jane is finally starting her first class at IWP, after delays due to Covid-19. “Tim McCranor was so supportive of my needs and personal situation,” said Jane.
While Jane is looking forward to starting work at her new agency, she remains open to working in humanitarian aid and development again in the future. She commented: “I’ve always valued intimate educational experiences, and I’ve been fortunate to receive excellent mentorship throughout my academic career. Before I even enrolled in a class, the IWP administration offered me their time and resources. That’s why I chose IWP. I look forward to IWP’s continued guidance, and the opportunity to contribute to a new angle of peacebuilding.”
*Name changed for security purposes.