#WeAreElliott: Kelsey Rasband

#WeAreElliott: Kelsey Rasband

Kelsey Rasband, M.A. International Affairs, 2023, #WeAreElliott

Kelsey Rasband is a second-year graduate student studying International Affairs with a concentration in global gender policy. She received her bachelor’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies/Arabic with a minor in International Development at Brigham Young University. She is interested in gender issues, particularly gender-based violence and gender and security, especially in Middle Eastern and Latin American countries. She has held many different intern and full-time positions, but currently works full-time at the Pan American Development Foundation as a Program Coordinator for their Peace, Justice, and Security team. She has experience working and living abroad in Argentina, Bolivia, and Jordan. I enjoy discussing current social-political issues, dancing, playing sports, and traveling.

What path led you to apply to graduate school? Why did you choose the Elliott School?

I was unhappy with my job in social work at a local non-profit organization. I wanted to gain the skills and experience necessary to get a job doing international work and I wanted to return to one of my original passions—gender issues. I chose the Elliot School because it was the perfect fit for me. The International Affairs program had a gender concentration with great options for classes. I loved the skills courses component of the program to help me gain tangible skills to use on-the-job. I was motivated and intrigued by doing a capstone project instead of a thesis; and, I was eager to go to a school with great connections in Washington DC. This seemed like the perfect place to get me to where I want to go long-term in my career.

Where do you currently work and how does it fit in with your career goals?

I currently work full-time at the Pan American Development Foundation as a Program Coordinator on their Peace, Justice, and Security team. I oversee the teams’ portfolio of development programs in Latin American and Caribbean countries. This aligns very well with my career goals. I get to work on international development programs in a topic that interests me. I get to work on a variety of tasks and proposals that keeps every day dynamic and interesting. The only thing that does not align with my long-term career goals, is my position does not focus on gender issues. I hope to do monitoring, evaluation, and learning on gender projects for an international non-profit organization as a long-term career. However, my current position is perfect for getting me to that ultimate goal.

What tools or strategies have proved most helpful in making the most of your time at the Elliott School?

I have tried to utilize several tools during my time here at the Elliott School. I met several times with a career coach toward the beginning of my program to help me narrow down and focus on where I wanted to be. I also have tried to attend various events, lectures, and social mixers that the Elliott school puts together. I think the best strategy I have used is getting to know my professors. They have expansive and amazing experience doing various kinds of work. It has been key to helping me network, gain a better understanding of important international topics, and narrow down my career focus.

What advice do you have for students for staying motivated at work or in class?

Graduate school can get tough—especially for students like me that are working full-time. It is a lot to balance, and it can be hard to stay motivated. For me, I try to remember why I came to graduate school and where I want to be. This motivates me to stay engaged, do my best, and truly grasp the concepts being taught. I would also advise students to follow their passion and take classes that align with it. Taking classes on gender issues and topics has kept me motivated throughout my degree. I am passionate about these topics, and it empowers me to learn more, stay engaged, and do my work to my fullest ability. My last advice would be—don’t forget to have fun! This is a dynamic city, we are still young, and life is too short to waste. It is easy to get bogged down by stress, but always find time to do the things you enjoy with the people you love! This is will help you get through!

What has been your most memorable experience while studying at the Elliott School?

One of the most memorable experiences I had was during this past spring semester. The D.C. Student Consortium on Women, Peace, and Security held an event on International Women’s Day that featured Professor Muqaddesa Yourish from Afghanistan. She spoke about her experience living in Afghanistan and being forced to leave after the United States pulled out. She spoke bluntly and honestly, and it struck me hard. She was not afraid to say the hard things and call people out for their mistakes. It was truly eye-opening and heart wrenching to hear her story. It was an amazing event and an experience that will stay with me for a lifetime.

What is one book you think everyone should read and why?

Sex and World Peace by Valerie Hudson, Chad Emmett, Mary Caprioli, and Bonnie Ballif-Spanvill. This book captures some crucial gender topics and issues that everyone should know. This book opened my eyes and changed my world view on how women are treated around the world and the consequences of treating women unequally. I think this is the kind of book that can change minds and create and impetus for change, if people are willing and open to learning and changing their mindsets, and social narratives and constructs.

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The #WeAreElliott profile series is managed by the Elliott School Office of Graduate Admissions and highlights current students to answer common questions posed by prospective, incoming, and current students. For more information on this series or to submit questions, e-mail the Office of Graduate Admissions at esiagrad@gwu.edu.

The views expressed by students profiled do not necessarily represent those of organizations they work for, are affiliated with, or the Elliott School of International Affairs.