Olivia Nesbit is a GHD ’18 alumna who has been working with USAID’s Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance since graduation. Read more about her current role, experience at GHD, and her advice to GHD students.
Tell us about your current role: I work as an Information Officer with USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA). In this role, I provide information and data management support to USAID/OFDA and its partner organizations that provide emergency assistance around the world. I work with my colleagues to monitor and report on humanitarian conditions and response activities in West and Southern Africa by collecting and synthesizing information from the media, interagency partners, and the OFDA field teams to create information products for public and government audiences that highlight the U.S. Government’s humanitarian and development programming worldwide. I will also travel to the field to serve as an Information Officer in countries where USAID/OFDA is responding to humanitarian crises.
How did your experience at GHD prepare you for this work? GHD prepared me for my work at OFDA in several ways. First, my education at Georgetown enabled me to learn how to gather, organize, and analyze large amounts of data quickly and accurately. As an Information Officer, I synthesize different types of information from various sources on a daily basis. Second, GHD provided me with a foundation of knowledge about humanitarian assistance, and especially how humanitarian and development actors can and should work together in difficult environments. Finally, my time at GHD helped to grow my ability to work with different types of people to achieve a common goal. Through many group projects and my capstone consulting experience, I further advanced my teamwork and collaboration skills, which is a principal part of my current job at OFDA, as I work with various humanitarian actors both within and outside of USAID.
How did your experience as a PCV prepare you for GHD? Serving as an Education and Gender Equality Peace Corps Volunteer in Togo allowed me to experience first-hand how gender equality, education, and many other aspects of development interact with and impact people’s lives. This field experience gave me an initial understanding of the challenges and problems that people face in developing countries as well as how complex and multi-faceted the solutions must be. In turn, GHD provided me with valuable theoretical insight into my Peace Corps field experience, allowing me to develop concrete skills to analyze the Togolese context.
What was your most memorable moment while a GHD student? My most memorable moment while a GHD student was probably at the Ethics Retreat (a faculty-led weekend off-campus to discuss personal motivations for working in development and ethical dilemmas occurring in the field). It was one of the first times I gathered with my fellow classmates to discuss what brought us to development work, and the issues we’ve encountered along the way. GHD placed an emphasis not only academic and theoretical learning, but the moral and ethical concerns implicit in international development and humanitarian assistance. The faculty guided students in thinking about these dilemmas in a constructive and thoughtful way.
What advice would give to current or future GHD students? My advice for current or future GHD students is to take advantage of everything Georgetown and D.C. have to offer! You are fortunate enough to have some of the most brilliant minds in development at your disposal, learn as much as you can. But, also spend time learning from your fellow classmates. They each have unique, valuable experiences that will challenge and expand your perspective as it relates to international development. Finally, don’t be afraid to “fail.” School is for learning… challenge and push yourself outside of your comfort zone!