EmpowHER Alumnae Spotlight: Priscilla McCelvey

BA Women's Alliance


May 29, 2018

Priscilla McCelvey was a Graduate Public Service Scholar in 2017 when she interned with the U.S. Department of State's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, International Programs.

Where are you from?
Brookeville, MD

Where did you go to school? What did you study?
I earned a master's degree in law and diplomacy at the Fletcher School at Tufts University, where I focused on human security, international conflict resolution, and gender analysis in international studies. I earned a bachelor's in psychology from Colby College in Waterville, Maine.

What was the best part of your internship?
It was a fascinating time to be at the State Department given the political climate. What was most valuable, though, was being able to take my background in working with NGOs and studying international affairs and put it into practice at the policy-program nexus. Seeing the process of how programs receive funding from the State Department and the evaluation process was incredibly informative. In addition, learning the working culture of the Department and understanding the bureaucracy has been critical in deepening my understanding of the role of governments in international development - it taught me to be more pragmatic in what is often considered a more idealistic field.

What lessons did you learn that you would like to pass on to future interns?
 I was really eager to do work on projects beyond my scope and experience because I was excited to be in the space, but it’s also important to learn the operations of a bureaucracy, too. I wish that, from the onset, I had been more patient with myself in trying to learn the more microscopic aspects that keep it running. It’s also wonderful to learn that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to a career and engaging with my colleagues to hear their stories was a really meaningful learning experience.

What are you doing now?
I finished up my master’s at the Fletcher School in December - it was a very intense semester in finishing up my thesis and planning a Conference on Gender in International Affairs, which also included a panel that was supported by the B.A. Rudolph Foundation! I started a job as an operations associate for the executive division at Chemonics International in March. I’m really excited to be back in D.C. and start my career. I’m keen to learn about the role of the private sector and its engagement with the government in its programming for international development and being in the Executive Office puts me right in the center of the action. It’s already proving to be an amazing opportunity to learn about the company, programming, and also leadership.

What do you hope to be doing in 10 years?
It’s hard to answer that question because if you asked me that five years ago, I would have never guessed that, as a psychology major graduating from college, that I’d have my master’s in international affairs and be working for a firm, and my disbelief would be even more stark if you told that to sixteen-year-old me. That being said, I know I’m passionate about international development, community empowerment, and fighting human trafficking, and I’m interested in the policy-programming space -- I think that that feedback loop is fascinating. So, in short, I don’t know; I’m open to seeing where life takes me now that I’m more certain about to which causes I am most dedicated.

What is your favorite book and what are you reading now?
I just finished Unfinished Business by Anne-Marie Slaughter, which I had read portions of it for a class on leadership in graduate school. I really like her practical applications of feminism, and she frames the conversation well, in my opinion. Otherwise, I’m a huge fan of poetry - C.D. Wright, Louise Gluck, and Adrian Blevins (whom I took classes from in undergrad) are some of my favorites.

Tell us a fun fact!
When I moved to Korea, I didn’t know any Korean, and I ended up learning to read Korean from my first-grade class who gave me hand-drawn color-by-letter sheets of animals. It was a great, fun way to learn while de-stressing.

BA Women's Alliance

The BA Women’s Alliance is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization which supports the educational, personal, and professional development of women who seek to make a difference in the world.

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