Alumni Feature: Marion Abboud, GHD'17

What does GHD Mean to You?

Marion Abboud, GHD'17, shares how the Global Human Development Program challenged her to think practically about development solutions.

I joined the Iraq country program of Catholic Relief Services last year as an Emergency Fellow and became Program Manager five months later. I live in Erbil and I currently manage programs in Kirkuk and Baghdad. In Kirkuk, I am managing the implementation of our current education program that focuses on the physical rehabilitation of schools and fostering positive socio-emotional learning environments for students. I am also working with the team to develop an education response for re-taken areas where displaced communities are slowly returning. In Baghdad, I am supporting CRS’s local partner in the design and launch of its first-ever livelihoods program which will support households below the poverty line to launch and grow their own small enterprises, and ultimately in achieve year-round livelihood security.

Marion Abboud in Northern Iraq

I often have flashbacks to GHD ‘moments’ in my day to day work – when designing a new program, writing a proposal under a tight deadline, and even in my daily management duties in finance and HR. From the beginning, GHD’s approach stood out in the way it highly values practical, on-the-ground experience as a key form of learning – the summer internship abroad along with the capstone are perfect examples of this. I am certain that it is for this very reason that moving from the ‘academic’ world of international development into the ‘practical’ world of managing development programs did not feel like such a shock. I felt prepared for the challenge. GHD very deliberately follows a certain school of development thought where humans remain at the center of everything– hence the name Global Human Development. It is also housed within a Jesuit University, which means that values like pursuing justice, concern for the poor and the marginalized, and promoting critical thought and responsible action on moral and ethical issues are key. As a result, GHD made room for very important discussions and reflection around development. We had a chance to tackle ethical questions of the development sector, and were also challenged to think not only about how to provide the vulnerable with basic necessities, but how to also ensure their well-being and dignity. I have found all of these same values at CRS - evidenced by its programming, partner relations, and the fantastic teams I work with every day - and realize that it is thanks to GHD that CRS felt like such a natural fit from the start.

When I think of GHD, a whole slew of memories come rushing back. Part of going through two years of grad school with a relatively small cohort is that you become family, going through all the ups and downs together. As a result of the countless opportunities we had to get to know each other inside and outside of the classroom, we felt comfortable sharing our thoughts and ideas around sometimes difficult subjects. I felt that was especially evident was during our Ethics Retreat, which took place in a beautiful and serene location surrounded by trees and hills – a perfect spot for reflection. Over the course of two days, GHD professors facilitated a series of discussions surrounding the ethics of development work. and made sure to create a very safe and open space for dialogue. I remember leaving that trip feeling truly inspired by our discussions and my classmates. Through our conversations, I came to know each person so much better – what mattered to them, the different journeys they took to find themselves in the development sector, and some of the big questions and dilemmas they faced from their experiences. I remember leaving that trip thinking to myself “What an incredible group of classmates. How lucky am I to be among them for the next two years!”

To current and future GHD students I would say: make sure to get out of your comfort zone. The GHD masters is a unique opportunity to challenge yourself, take risks, and try new things in the development space, without the various constraints and consequences you may face once you are a development practitioner in the field. Make the most of it!