July 10, 2012 - 12:00am
“Growing up in rural southern Idaho, I wasn’t imbued with any sort of desire to work internationally,” says Richard Crothers (MPA ’97), who would be lured abroad to play basketball in South America and Switzerland. “I gradually began to see the world differently,” and the Monterey Institute was a great springboard for an internationally-focused career. With his new degree, he went back to Europe to participate in the establishment of the European Voluntary Service for the European Union.
After a total of ten years in Europe, Richard decided to move back to his “beloved Monterey,” to help guide California State University Monterey Bay through its early years. With his love of California still strong, Richard nonetheless felt the tug to go abroad again, and accepted a position with the Harvard School of Public Health in 2005 to lead finance and administration for a large new HIV-AIDS care and treatment project in Tanzania.
A year and half later, Richard had moved on to the International Rescue Committee (IRC) where he began overseeing refugee field operations and four Burundian camps in the northwestern part of the country. He is now country director for the IRC in Burundi and Rwanda, with a base in Bujumbura. The IRC is the largest nongovernmental organization in Burundi with over 400 staff members, overseeing programs in three Congolese refugee camps and a broad spectrum of post-conflict sectors in some of the more volatile parts of the country.
“When I was a student at MIIS, I was far more idealistic than I am today,” Richard confesses, “I think it is a normal progression to feel an increase in cynicism, particularly if you live and work in sub-Saharan Africa for any length of time.” But he is quick to add that he feels lucky to have had professors at MIIS who had real-world experience and were candid about the challenges ahead. “It’s important to keep a balanced perspective and stay focused on the big picture of why you do what you do.”
For this and other stories of MIIS alumni, see the online edition of our newsletter, Communiqué.