Bernice, UVA CLAS ’16, shares about GDS at UVA, getting internships, and then a job in Impact Investing. For those interested in the latter she provides links to apply for internships/jobs at her company.
How did you end up majoring in Global Development Studies?
I first heard about the Global Development Studies major my first semester at UVA, when I joined Global Development Organization and met GDS majors who were always raving about the curriculum and faculty. Having gone on multiple service and mission trips growing up, I have always been drawn to work that involves an element of service or social change, but finding out about the GDS major was when I realized I could pursue this interest academically. My second semester, I took ‘Politics of Development Areas’ – the introductory class to development studies – to figure out if GDS was right for me. I ended up loving the class and decided then that I would apply to the major.
Tapping on a variety of perspectives, the GDS major fundamentally challenges students to be constructively critical of both development projects and the concept of ‘development’ itself. By exploring the relationship between local cultures and global economic and political trends, we consider the social, political, economic and ethical implications of development endeavors. The major is highly interdisciplinary and flexible in nature: the 4 core classes combine theory, methods, case studies and experiential research projects, while the remaining 6 electives can come from any relevant department at UVA. Just as there is no ‘one’ conception of development, there is also no ‘one’ ideal GDS student: GDS classes typically consist of a diverse group of students, spanning backgrounds, interests and strengths. I am so fortunate to have been a part of the major. It has been such a privilege to study what I love under professors I respect, alongside extremely passionate and driven peers.
Can you talk about your job search? How did you find the job you have? IIX looks to be the kind of thing that could not have existed a decade ago. Can you describe briefly what you do and how people might be able to help your mission?
I first heard about IIX from another Singaporean UVA alum that was working for the company at that time. I was contacted about an interview shortly after sending in my resume. It was really refreshing to discover IIX, since I had been exploring the non-profit and social space in Singapore for a while, and there aren’t many Singapore-based organizations working towards systemic social change in the broader Asian region. I’m part of the Business Development & Advisory team, which primarily works to grow the impact investing ecosystem by engaging stakeholders apart from investors and entrepreneurs .
IIX’s mission is to create capital markets for social good. It was founded in 2007 by Professor Durreen Shahnaz, a former investment banker and entrepreneur from Bangladesh. When she was running her first company, oneNest, a global e-commerce company for local artisanal products to empower micro-entrepreneurs with access to the global market, Professor Shahnaz experienced first-hand the difficulty of raising capital for a mission-driven business to scale. The experience inspired her to establish IIX, bridging her career experiences in finance and development. IIX aims to democratize capital markets by facilitating investments in Impact Enterprises (businesses providing development solutions), working closely with entrepreneurs and investors. To catalyze the impact investing ecosystem in a holistic way, IIX also offers comprehensive advisory services to corporations, foundations, international organizations and governments, equipping these varied stakeholders with the tools to navigate the impact investing space. IIX also has a non-profit sister entity, Impact Investment Shujog (Shujog), which conducts research on the key sectors, players and financing mechanisms in the impact investing space in Asia, and conducts Impact Assessments for Impact Enterprises to monitor, measure and magnify their impact.
For students or individuals interested in getting involved: we accept interns – known as ‘apprentices’ at IIX & Shujog – throughout the year, and have a couple of job vacancies listed on our website here: http://www.asiaiix.com/careers/
For people who might be interested in following your path to where you are now what advice do you have?
I’ll start off by sharing some of the best advice I had given to me, when I was a little nervous about post-college plans: Don’t be afraid of others misunderstanding you and your pursuit of what you love. Your goals are valid as long as you’re doing your research, heeding advice from trustworthy mentors, and staying true to your values.
At a more specific level, I pursued a second major in Statistics because I’ve always had strong quantitative skills, and knew that it would differentiate me from the crowd during the job search. In general, I would recommend that students identify their strengths and interests – for me it was evaluation – and pursue classes (if not a second major) or projects that help hone relevant skills. My interviewers also often asked me to talk about my research projects, as they were interested in both my technical and project management skills. Because there are so many paths one can take in the field of international development, the most helpful thing an undergraduate can do is to pursue things that tap on your interests and strengths, so that they give you relevant skills and experiences that set you apart in both the post-college job search and your career in general.
For those interested in reading the whole interview with Bernice they can read it here:
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