Today was a testament to the Wellesley presence in Washington. We met so many amazing alums working in the U.S. Department of State, World Bank, and Oiko Credit, who shared their time and wisdom, and explained how they got from Wellesley to where they are today.
Our first stop for the day was the Department of State, which of course had extremely tight security measures. Mira Patel ’05, Special Advisor to the Secretary’s Policy Planning Staff, led us into a conference room. It was cool to meet such a young alum and to hear about her experiences at Wellesley and working with Secretary Clinton. We met Jake Sullivan, Director of Policy Planning for the Secretary, who spoke to us about how the conduct of foreign policy has been transformed by the rise of new media technologies that have given citizens the power to shape politics. He also talked how gender equality is integrated in everything that the Department of State does.
After our meeting with Jake Sullivan, we were led to Secretary Clinton’s office, where we met Christine Falvo ’99, Senior Advisor to the Administrator of USAID, who shared her experiences traveling across the world, and described how she went from working from Hillary Clinton’s Senate office in New York to the Department of State. Hillary Clinton took some time out of her busy schedule to meet with us, take a photo, and answer some of our questions. It was really neat to walk around the office and see past portraits of Secretary of States, including Madeleine Albright’s. Afterwards, we went back to the conference room and met with Jennifer Klein, Senior Advisor on Global Women’s Issues, Melanne Verveer, U.S. Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues, and Ann Stock, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs. All three of them emphasized how women’s rights are human rights and investing in women is the best development tool for building a better society. Ambassador Verveer stressed that the moral imperative of the 21st century should be that every woman/girl have her dignity protected and her basic human rights such as health care and education respected.
For lunch, we went to the World Bank, which by the way, has a diverse and delicious selection of food options in its cafeteria, and met with a panel of Wellesley alums who work at the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation. It was great to meet so many alums working in different sectors of the World Bank ranging from economics to computer science. All of them gave us very thoughtful responses to our questions and their post-Wellesley experiences really demonstrate how there is no set path in life, and that the best thing to do is to work hard and follow your passions.
After the World Bank, we headed over to Vanguard Communications, where we met Sharlene Brown ’99, National Director of Oikocredit USA, a microlending organization. Sharlene talked to us about the importance of social investment and how it leads to both financial and social returns. After Oikocredit, we headed back to the hotel. A couple of friends and I grabbed dinner at a nearby burger joint called Good Stuff Eatery and watched the New Hampshire primary results.
I can’t believe it is only the second day and we have already met so many amazing people, who’ve been so generous with their time and advice. I can’t wait for all the places we’ll see and people we’ll meet over the next week!