January 25, 2010
Kate Balzer (MPA '09) discovers her path to a career in community development:
I worked for non-profit dance and theater companies after college, even though my degree focused on international studies. After a few years, I wanted to do something else - even if I didn't know what.
Traveling to Argentina with a three-week volunteer program, I had the opportunity to explore my options. I was raised with a sense that volunteerism, giving back to the community, is part of being a good citizen or human being. I mean, if more people thought that way, maybe the world would be a better place. Quickly realizing how much I loved this experience, I asked myself: how do I turn this into an international career?
As a first step, I came to the Monterey Institute to pursue a Public Administration degree. I had the buzzwords community development in my head, but didn't really understand what that meant. It wasn't until we spent a week focusing on facilitation techniques and participatory development concepts in the Development Project Management Institute (DPMI) course that I better understood the direction I wanted to take.
Last summer, I interned with community health programs in the rural villages of southern Bolivia and experienced firsthand the successes and shortcomings of current community engagement strategies. Participatory development should be about people doing it themselves with support and training necessary to get them started. And sustainability of impact occurs when community members are empowered to identify, design, and implement their own solutions.
After graduation, Kate hopes to cultivate an atmosphere of connectivity, collaboration, and empowerment in the community development field. You'll most likely find her talking about non-profit fundraising or digital media as a tool for change.