Journey to Now

Having grown up on a farm in Northern Ontario (Canada), most of my life has been spent learning about the world that was a mystery to my younger self. Knowing that I wanted to better understand the world beyond my small town, I entered the University of Toronto to study international relations and history. I quickly found myself disappointed in the Eurocentricity of IR and enrolled in courses on African studies and immigration. I was so engulfed in the post-colonial and critical ideas and perspectives from these courses that I ended up graduating with a major in IR, a major in Diaspora and Transnational Studies, and a minor in African Studies. In retrospect, this academic swerve illuminates a common trend in my life of adapting and forging new paths to better meet a goal.


Throughout university, I had worked with institutions to find innovative ways to serve their communities better. This experience includes utilizing cross-sectoral partnerships with the Ontario government to find more holistic supports for underserved youth populations and helping Canada’s largest university reimagine its policies to improve support systems for student mental health.


These professional and academic experiences led me to recognize that I wanted to dive into the world of international development and see how they too could transform beyond tradition and find new, better ways of supporting people. Having begun specializing in African studies, I knew that focus would continue to interest me and somehow be part of my career. But to avoid the errors of a history of white men trying to solve problems without engaging with local culture or perspectives, I was set on travelling to Western Africa after graduating to ideally work for local not-for-profits. Unfortunately, the rapid proliferation of COVID-19 threw a wrench in this plan.


Facing an uncertain next step, I reached out to friends and mentors. These discussions helped me determine that I should take a detour on my initial long-term goals and continue my education to acquire quantitative skills. Knowing that this world and the international development field was becoming increasingly reliant on evidence, my chance at having a positive impact in my work could be enhanced if I had more ways to back up my proposals. With this mindset, I was quickly drawn to UChicago, the global leader in teaching quantitative methods, and their Harris School of Public Policy. With great privilege and luck, I applied and was accepted into the MPP program.


At Harris, I am rapidly learning new skills and perspectives on recognizing and evaluating issues and their impact. Through coursework and my involvement with Harris’ International Policy Development Association, I began to see a unique intersection of international relations and development that I was unconsciously entering. This intersectional space is where we can recognize the traditional power dynamics between countries and how that transferred into developmental practices. However, as an exciting opportunity, it is also in a space where we can use an awareness of global inequalities and hierarchies to question, and most critically, reimagine who designs and implements international development. I have begun to enter this intersectional space (through my localization research with USAID and while working for a data science firm specializing in data ethics and equity). Still, I am eager for my future to explore it more explicitly and deeply.