#WeAreElliott: Liz Keller

#WeAreElliott: Liz Keller

Liz Keller, M.A. International Economic Policy, 2025, #WeAreElliott
Liz Keller is an international development professional experienced in economic growth and trade, gender equality and social inclusion, business development, operations, and project management. She is currently a senior specialist of economic growth and trade at Chemonics International and has previously supported economic growth programs funded by USAID across Europe and Eurasia, as well as worked at a small business development center in Virginia. Liz Keller is a graduate of the University of Virginia with a B.A. in Economics and Sociology and is pursuing an M.A. in International Economic Policy (MIEP) and a Graduate Certificate in Global Gender Policy at George Washington University’s Elliott School.

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

After completing my undergraduate studies in economics and sociology, I moved to D.C. to pursue a career in international development, with a focus on economic growth and trade. As I’ve progressed in my career, I realized I wanted to increase my expertise in international economics at a graduate level, particularly in the areas of trade facilitation and investment. The M.A. in International Economic Policy (MIEP) at the Elliott School presented an opportunity to explore this specialization, as the program of study aligned with my technical interests and desire to increase my level of analytical and specialized skills. In addition to offering evening classes, the program also interested me due to its offering of courses emphasizing applied economics, knowledge and skills that would be directly applicable to my everyday work.

The Elliott School was doubly appealing given its program for a Graduate Certificate in Global Gender Policy. In my roles in international development, I’ve worked on gender equality and social inclusion initiatives and was excited to see the school offered this certificate option alongside the M.A. I’m particularly passionate about women’s economic empowerment and was therefore excited about the courses such as gender advisor and gender-responsive budgeting offered under the program, skills courses that will support me to better advise on integrating Gender Equity and Social Inclusion (GESI) principles into activities and budgeting across a multitude of economic and cultural contexts.

What has been your most challenging academic experience at the Elliott School and how did you overcome it?

My most challenging academic experience so far has been the re-adjustment to school after being out of the educational environment for almost six years. I started part-time with two classes in order to continue working at a job I enjoy and fits with my current career goals. While it was only two classes, reorienting myself to four hours of class a week; commuting time to school; several hours of reading, problem sets, exam preparation, and presentation development each week definitely took a minute to adjust. What I found most helpful was committing a weekend day, usually a Sunday, (plus certain weekday nights depending on that week’s workload) to be devoted to assignments and class preparation each week. It definitely wasn’t a perfect science each week (sometimes you’re away all weekend and so need to prepare ahead of time), but by printing out my syllabi I was able to look ahead to estimate the level of work each week and plan accordingly.

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

I currently work as a senior specialist in economic growth and trade at an international development consulting firm. My role is well aligned with my career goals in international economics, and as I learn more through my specialized coursework in the MIEP and graduate certificate programs, I am working to further deepen and expand my expertise in the areas of trade and regulatory reform as well as entrepreneurship and enterprise development.

Now that you’re a graduate student, what do you wish you knew during the graduate application process?

Not so much a “wish I knew,” but something I would definitely encourage new applicants to consider is the timing for starting your program. I started in the spring semester as I was ready to begin my program of study then and given my part-time status, it’s worked well for me thus far. However, the MIEP is a smaller program, so if you’re considering full-time study, would recommend considering a fall start, as the cohort takes all the same classes together for the first year.

Another thing I would recommend to anyone who may be coming back to economics after a while out of school or exploring it for the first time would be to take the Institute for International Economic Policy’s online Intermediate Theory Programs as a refresher before starting!

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

My most valuable experience while studying at the Elliott School so far has been the level to which I’ve already been able to apply knowledge I’ve learned from my course readings and discussions to my everyday work. Last semester I took two courses – one on global gender policy and one on economic development. Both classes had discussions that touched on new relevant topics each week (including women’s economic empowerment!) and supported me to see development work from a different perspective, in terms of how priorities are determined at the policy level. I appreciated how the courses both provided me with a historical background, in terms of the development of diverse economic models and how global gender policy has evolved over time, as well as numerous innovative indexes to measure developments in economics and gender.

What is your favorite place to visit in D.C. and why?

My favorite place to visit in D.C. has always been the Smithsonian National Zoo. My family used to visit the zoo when I was younger and after I moved to the city by myself, I loved to get up on a weekend morning, walk down and through the zoo (start your loop at the sloth bears, go all the way down, and wrap back up by the otters) with some coffee and music on my headphones.

If you’re not into zoos, I can also recommend checking out Second Story Books in Dupont Circle if you’re also a fan of spending an hour searching through used books to fill your already overflowing bookshelf at home.

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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.