Completing semester-long practicums with Cultural Practice, LLC (CP) two SIT Graduate Institute Master’s candidates, Christelle Domerçant and Daniel Morris, accomplished what at first might have seemed like unsurmountable tasks. Working with CP supervisors who steered them along their learning pathways both Domerçant and Morris honed their technical skills in monitoring and evaluation (M&E) and research while strengthening their communication and management skills to meet the demands of real-world international development work. Domerçant and Morris both learned through their experiences at CP that a true “hands-on” learning experience not only requires doing, but raising your hand to ask questions, and getting a hand when you need it.
Domerçant, a former Peace Corps volunteer in Costa Rica, was drawn to intern with CP because of its reputation in gender integration and evaluation. Her internship consisted of M&E tasks, including an indicator analysis for Lutheran World Relief’s Learning for Gender Integration (LGI) Initiative. While Domerçant’s mind was often focused quite literally on the boxes of an indicator table, she also had the opportunity to think “outside the box,” researching unique participatory evaluation methods for the forthcoming evaluation of LGI projects. On days when she was not sure if she was on track she turned to her supervisors Cristina Manfre, Senior Associate and gender advisor for the LGI initiative and Director Debbie Caro to guide her. She stated that she had to learn both patience and flexibility to be able to change her course effectively.
Morris worked on a special study supported by the Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA) to investigate new approaches to increase minority serving institutions’ and organizations’ participation in the USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program. Through previous experiences evaluating health programs in West Africa, Morris was familiar with qualitative methods including conducting interviews and analyzing data, but he dug a little deeper at CP. He learned that quality data collection and analysis requires clearly understanding the purpose of each interview and survey question and using critical thinking skills to interpret the data. Working with his supervisor, Director Deborah Rubin, Morris strengthened his interviewing, data organization and analysis skills, providing input into the recommendations for how F2F implementing partners can better engage minority volunteers and collaborate with minority serving organizations and institutions. The final report will be shared with USAID and the F2F implementing partners.
So, where are they going next?
Domerçant and Morris will complete another semester of coursework with SIT and conduct their capstone projects before graduating in the fall of 2016. For her capstone, Domerçant is designing a project in Haiti to support women farmers to develop their farming businesses. The M&E plan for this project will draw on the knowledge she gained through the LGI indicator analysis. Morris, will rely on his improved data collection skills to conduct interviews with key stakeholders which will inform the design of his capstone. His project topic, to develop minority students’ ability to communicate with adults in Washington, D.C. and Texas, builds on his previous experience as a social worker.