Class Transforms MIIS Student’s Concept of International Development, Opens Up Career Opportunities

Xiao’ou Zhu (MAIPS ’14) in Sri Lanka

Xiao’ou Zhu (MAIPS ’14) in Sri Lanka on her Frontier Market Scouts field assignment.

February 19, 2014 - 12:00am

Xiao’ou Zhu (MAIPS ’14) says she has always been interested in international development work, but that she had a very narrow view of what that meant until she came to the Monterey Institute. Her view before could best be described as a “brick and mortar” view of development involving official development assistance (ODA) and infrastructure support. That all changed when she took Professor Nukhet Kardam’s Development Theory and Practice class; “it opened a window into the possibilities of international development,” says Xiao’ou.

“For me the most interesting lessons were connected to sustainability and the importance of community involvement,” says Xiao’ou, who along with two other students from the Development Practice and Policy program, Sarah White (MAIPS ’13) and Abdul Khabir Mirzakhail (MPA ’14), worked on a proposal for a small-scale irrigation project in Ethiopia for a non-governmental organization. “It was a perfect team,” Xiao’ou says happily, explaining that they each brought different expertise and experience to a project they all believed to be applicable to their future careers.

More recently, when Xiao’ou applied for a very competitive internship at the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture, she included their paper as a sample of her work. “I was thrilled when they contacted me and said they were very impressed with the paper!” She was offered a management role in a World Bank agriculture project in China but could not accept, as it would have meant a six-month commitment and she wanted to complete her studies at MIIS. Instead, she decided to join the Frontier Market Scouts program and work on a summer project in Sri Lanka.

Xiao’ou’s decision to decline the internship surprised officials in the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture, but they continued to be interested in her work and contracted her to work on a research project for them while in Sri Lanka. “So I ended up with two simultaneous internships!” Xiao says, adding that she is working on the deliverables for the ministry as part of a directed study with Professor Wei Liang.