Global Poverty & Practice Alumni

Students who minor in Global Poverty & Practice go on to pursue a wide range of professional paths. The below alumni profiles highlight a diversity of ways through which our graduates continue to engage issues of poverty and inequality through both career and graduate study choices. We love to hear your stories as a GPP graduate; please email us at: ude.y1501187722elekr1501187722eb@in1501187722mula-1501187722ppg1501187722.

Yutika Vora

Yutika Vora

GPP Class of 2008
LinkedIn Profile

Shortly after graduating from Cal, Yutika pursued a dual Master’s degree in International Affairs and Public Policy in a program connected with both the National University of Singapore and Columbia University’s School of International Public Affairs.  With advanced degrees in hand, Yutika returned to her home country, India, to begin consulting with the World Bank. Her work within the “Social Protection” unit focuses on the social impact of government poverty reduction policies in urban communities.  “I try to take on projects that seek to improve opportunities for access to services for the most vulnerable communities,” Yutika says, noting that, “The limitations of options that poor people face is a gross violation of social justice. In India, for example, people need government documents such as birth certificates and death certificates to get access to many government services. Yet for the poor, the process to obtain these documents is very burdensome and time consuming. If a woman has lost her husband, but she doesn’t have the death certificate, she is completely unable to receive widow’s pension. Government processes need to better meet such people’s needs.” Outside of her World Bank work, Yutika does pro-bono consulting work for a number of smaller NGOs across India.

Josh Steinmetz

Josh Steinmetz

GPP Spring 2008
LinkedIn Profile

Josh Steinmetz recently returned to the U.S. after two years of running his own business in Guadalajara, Mexico. The business provided English classes, consulting services, community and educational placement services for people in foreign language programs from other countries, as well as Eco Travel services within the Mexico.

After graduating from GPP in 2008, a wide range of experiences prepared him for this most recent endeavor in Mexico. Josh’s first job after Cal was as a teacher and program coordinator at San Francisco’s June Jordon School for Equity. The school has a focus on students from low-income communities of color in SF. From 2008-2010, Josh served the school in many capacities: Inclusion Specialist in the Special Education Program, Family liaison/Spanish translator, and also as the Coordinator for After School Education Program. In 2010, Josh returned to school to pursue his Masters in Social Work at San Francisco State University. During his first year, he interned at Larkin Street Youth Services, respected nationally for its model of serving youth 12 – 23. During his second year of graduate school, Josh worked at the Boys and Girls Club in the Mission as Behavioral Health Specialist and Family Liaison and provided translation support services for the Director of Behavioral Health’s interactions with beneficiary Spanish speaking families.

Immediately after finishing his Masters, Josh moved to Guadalajara, Mexico. There he completed a program in “Spanish for HealthCare Professionals” and got certified as an English as a Second Language (ESL) instructor. Utilizing this certification, he opened up his own business.

Greg Rulifson

Greg Rufilson

GPP Spring 2009
LinkedIn Profile

Greg is an Engineering Education researcher and doctoral candidate interested in the connections students make between engineering, social justice and civic responsibility. After graduating from Cal, Greg pursued a Masters at Stanford in EarthQuake Engineering. While at Stanford, he taught a class expressive of his evolving career interests: “Engineers for a Sustainable World.” The course focused on the role that engineering can play in development initiatives. Upon earning his Masters, he worked for year and a half for a private structural engineering firm.

Based on these experiences, Greg was accepted to a PhD program in Technical and Civil Engineering at the University of Colorado, Boulder. On target to complete this degree in May 2015, his research is organized around three main questions about education for engineering and trends in dynamic industry of engineering. 1) How do engineering student’s ideas of social responsibility change over time based on their programs? 2) How social responsibility is manifesting itself as a valued skill in the engineering workplace? 3) The value do employers place on the technical and professional learning that students accrue through service.

Greg attributes his interest in this intersection of social responsibility and engineering to his experience within the GPP Minor. “Taking GPP 115 first exposed me to injustices that had not previously been a part of my life experience. That exposure ultimately changed the trajectory of how I would live my life.”

Ullrich.Stephanie.Photo medium

Stepahnie Ullrich

GPP Spring 2013
LinkedIn ProfileUNDP GEF Website

As a 2013 graduate of the Global Poverty and Practice Minor, Stephanie was looking for a way to get more hands-on practical development experience. Based on her “practice experience” in Uganda as well as additional volunteering experiences in India and Ghana, she knew that these practical experiences would be invaluable for building a career in international development. With the help of the GPP faculty and staff, she applied and was accepted to the John Gardner Public Service Fellowship. The John Gardner Public Service Fellowship is an annual fellowship awarded to students who demonstrate leadership capacity and a commitment to service. For her 2013-14 Fellowship, Stephanie choose to work with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

Upon completing the Fellowship in May 2014, Stephanie was hired to continue to work with UNDP-Global Environment Facility (GEF) as an International Evaluation Consultant. UNDP-GEF is a global financing mechanism that focuses on helping underdeveloped countries access resources and finance to implement environmentally sustainable initiatives. Stephanie states, “My work at UNDP-GEF is essentially an extension of my Gardner Fellowship and builds on my GPP Minor experience. I get to use my multi-disciplinary background to help monitor and articulate the social benefits of the environmental work that UNDP-GEF is supporting.” Stephanie believes that her Peace and Conflict degree in conjunction with the training she received through the GPP Minor made her stand out as someone who could support the technical environmental experts in monitoring and evaluating development impacts.

Stephanie’s day-to-day work focuses on supporting results-based management for UNDP-GEF related to energy, climate change adaptation, international waters, biodiversity conservation, and economic development. She notes, “I really enjoy the impact-oriented approach emphasis in my work, and I think this aligns with the tools, concepts, and values I learned in the GPP Minor. Exercising transparency and accountability over these large amounts of development money allows us to assess if the money being spent is actually tied to positive impacts at the community, national, and global levels. The potential to create positive impact and change is what first got me interested in international development through the Minor.”

We helped organize a group of youth to interview and survey families in the community in order to gather information that would help us decide what types of development projects would be useful. We are standing in front of the future plans for the community center (internet center, library and salon for capacity building workshops).

Nicole helped organize a group of youth to interview and survey families in the community in order to gather information that would help them decide what types of development projects would be useful. She is standing in front of the future plans for the community center (internet center, library and salon for capacity building workshops).

Nicole Walter

Major: Architecture

Year of Graduation: 2009

Location and date of Field Experience: Salvador, Brazil (July – August 2008)

Organization: Axis Mundi Design

Project: A participatory design/build project for a marginalized settlement on the outskirts of Salvador

Hometown: Laguna Nigel, CA

Quote: To this day, I feel like I’ve been given so many opportunities because of the minor. I love the fact that everyone has their own academic and professional goals and then finds a way to integrate development work within that framework.

Tell us a story from your practice experience.
I worked with a small group to design and build a public outdoor seating area using a participatory design process. We wanted to involve the community members in every phase of the project — choosing the location, creating the design and constructing the actual project — through this process we really wanted to understand how the project could improve their living environment. After spending time with the community, we saw everyone gravitating towards a beautiful space with a view of the ocean — the kids played games, the women conversed while hanging their laundry, others played music or just enjoyed the view. We noticed that everyone sat on the ground or random pots or boxes. After drawing sketches with community members about project ideas for this location, we decided to build a concrete table with a system of overlapping benches.

Music is huge in Brazil. People are always drumming on things. We decided to build the table and benches with a built-in drum so that the kids could make music when they played on them. We put an old pot inside a concrete bench and the kids all signed their names on it. We also designed the structure to have poles with hooks so it could be integrated into the laundry system that the women already used the space for. They could hang their sheets and clothes to dry and shade themselves simultaneously.

The best part was seeing everyone help with various parts of the project; from mixing concrete, carrying gravel or helping us make the formwork for the benches, we were constantly engaging with and learning from one another. Once the project was complete, the community members threw a party with music and food. Everyone seemed so excited and welcoming. I will never forget the next day when we woke up to see kids playing on and around the structure and using the table to draw and write. Throughout the day we saw women hanging their laundry as we had hoped and various community members congregated there to play music, talk or just enjoy the day. The project really felt like a success and I will never forget the experiences I had there.

What’s something that the Global Poverty and Practice minor taught you that has influenced the work you hope to do?
To this day, I feel like I’ve been given so many opportunities because of the minor. I love the fact that everyone has their own academic and professional goals and then finds a way to integrate development work within that framework. The GPP minor is a great starting place to learn about and develop critical analytical skills to target pressing issues worldwide. Students from the GPP minor are innovators, paving the way for their self-defined careers and futures. Once I got involved in it, all of these opportunities kept coming my way and the Blum Center always provided their support. And it was with the support of professors like Ananya Roy that I received a Fulbright grant to do research in Guatemala.

Tell us about your Fulbright project.
We used a participatory analysis process to coordinate community development projects in a rural Guatemalan community. After my project in Brazil, I knew I wanted to understand how to better engage communities in the development of their environment. We went through an intensive process of community meetings, surveys, semi-structured interviews, and community mobilizing in order to really understand the needs and strengths of the community. We mutually decided on developing three project scopes, each of which would address specific needs expressed throughout this participatory appraisal process.

The small scale project is to revamp an old building into an information center with computers, a library and an area to give workshops. We wanted it to be a place where the community could connect with the rest of Guatemala and access information and communication resources. For example, we suggested that local coffee farmers could use the Internet to network directly with their buyers and cut out the middle man.

The medium scale project is to help organize a women’s cooperative to start a bakery. During our meetings, women had emphasized their interest in making money for themselves as well as learning new recipes. We agreed that a bread cooperative would be beneficial for them, seeing as they currently buy bread from another community. But again, a project like this one is complex — more than we could have ever initially thought. We had to think about how to grow or buy wheat, what the altitude might permit, the soil, an oven, the skills that each woman could bring to the business as well as trainings for them to learn how to keep finances or sign their names… again, so many details.

The largest and by far the most difficult undertaking is constructing water infrastructure. The nearest water source is two hours away by foot, making it difficult for engineers to map the route, think about a pump system and electricity, where water stations will be placed, drainage, the cost of water and even politics! The minor opens your eyes to the intricacy and massiveness of every project. Nothing is black and white and there are a lot of complex pieces to this work.

What is your dream job?
I don’t know if I have a dream job in mind yet. I want to be someplace where I can expand and improve development programs and interventions. I’d love to apply for an internship at UNDP or USAID. I feel like so many already established programs are not effective and that resources are lost between these institutions and the community or non-profit they are intending to serve. I’d like to find somewhere in between where I could help resources be more well delivered.

What are you doing now?
I applied to graduate school for urban planning with a focus on International Development and will be going to UCLA (on a full-ride scholarship!) starting this fall. This summer, I participated in the Global Health and Women’s Empowerment institute at UCLA. It was one of the most stimulating classes I have every taken and I can’t wait to get more involved in such work. I’ve also been working to develop a student organization called Amazon Medical Program to bring UCLA students to the Brazilian Amazon to work with a nonprofit there who delivers health services to isolated communities along the Amazon River.

Lisa playing the "germ king" in a production of Hath Mein Sehat's health and hygiene education program at a primary school performance in Hubli, Karnataka.

Lisa playing the “germ king” in a production of Hath Mein Sehat’s health and hygiene education program at a primary school performance in Hubli, Karnataka.

Lisa Veliz

Major: Civil and Environmental Engineering

Year of Graduation: 2010

Location and date of Field Experience: India, Summer 2010

Organization: Hath Mein Sehat

Project: in-house water quality observations and NGO development

Hometown: Oak Park, CA

Current Location: Penrin– small suburb of sacramento– moving to Los Altos soon to start a job as an environmental educator!

Quote: The minor got me to feel comfortable with being uncomfortable. It’s why I’m challenging myself in ways I wouldn’t have been able to before.

Tell us about your practice experience.
The first summer I went to India was in 2010 and I went to Mumbai. We did in-house water quality observations to understand how water is contaminated in a slum. It was a combined research project: ethnographic, but also biological. We got to work closely with so many families– to break language barriers with student speakers and go into a lot of places that we wouldn’t have been able to go otherwise. Having the “GPP badge” gave us the opportunity to inhabit so many different places and be incredibly mobile.

The second summer I went (2011), we were in a very different place. We went to Hubli in the south and were doing a lot of NGO development. We hired a new staff member, developed our program further and worked to increase the organization’s legitimacy. This coming summer, our NGO will be three years old. It’s so exciting to see this infant organization operating and growing out of our hands, especially when we were so closely holding its hand just a year ago.

Who was the most interesting or inspirational person you met during your practice experience? What did they teach you?
We went to this very modern cafe in rural India (which was totally weird and entirely different than everything else in the town). We started theorizing and coming up with strategies about how to go about our project (as cafe-dwelling Berkeley students often do). Suddenly we thought to ourselves, “Who owns this place?” It was so different from what we had seen and it felt almost out of place, and yet it was incredibly popular with the young, hip local crowd.

We actually ended up becoming close friends with the owner, who was the same age as me. “I just love coffee and I love cafes,” he said to us. He was native Hubli born, had his Master’s Degree and decided at age 23 that he wanted to start his own cafe. His approach to it all was incredible. He was down to earth, but was very well versed in business practices. His whole plan was well thought out and organized, and he obviously had a lot of passion for this venture–I really admire him.

How has the Global Poverty and Practice minor affected your goals and what you hope to accomplish?
The minor got me to feel comfortable with being uncomfortable. That’s the essence of what you get after doing your practice. That’s what made me want to come out here and apply for the Fulbright. It’s why I’m challenging myself in ways I wouldn’t have been able to before. The minor has opened a lot of doors for me. It’s a little selfish because I get to go work abroad and take classes that criticize development, but now I see so much potential for international collaboration if you have international experience. The minor gave me a lot of great perspective for that. I feel incredibly lucky to have been given a chance to take advantage of it.

It has also shown me just how important it is to be passionate. After leaving the minor, I’ve started to realize that a lot of the systems I’ve put into place for myself just aren’t paralleled by a lot of people. It’s hard to get people to talk about things they care about– there’s no passion. Especially coming from an engineering background. Engineering curriculum is so dry and a little ridiculous in my opinion. There’s just no social training or exposure. Engineering majors need to take these (GPP) classes. I think we all need to learn a lot more before we go out into the world and think we can solve problems with an equation.

What are you doing now?
I’m currently living and working on a farm. I rise and sleep with the sun, and have the luxury of being distraction-free, in which I spend my time cooking, writing, reading, reflecting, and playing music. So many people spend hours of precious daylight just commuting to and from work, but if you live where you work and grow your own food, it’s hard to find a reason to leave the land.

What is your dream job?
To be a salsa singer/farmer/teacher– being outdoors with music and young people.

The rain-water harvesting system on top of the latrines we built were used to make a hand-washing station.

Farrah helped to build a rain-water harvesting system on top of the latrines that was then used to make a hand-washing station.

Farrah Moos

Major: Political Economy

Year of Graduation: Spring 2012

Location and date of Field Experience: Tanzania, Summer 2011

Organization: African Immigrant Social and Cultural Services

Project Description: Initiate the planning, preparation, and implementation of a bread oven in the region.

Hometown: New Delhi, India and Anahiem Hills, CA

Current Location: Berkeley, CA

Quote: I knew that I wanted to work on global poverty issues for my whole life, so when I heard about the minor, I thought, “Cool, this is an opportunity to get some academic training in this area I’m passionate about!”

Could you describe your practice experience?
I went to Tanzania specifically to work on a bread oven project, but things totally changed when I got there. We ended up working on large rainwater harvesting tins, latrines, we built a chicken coop and made a children’s gymnastics dome-type structure… That was one of the most important things I learned: what you sign up for isn’t necessarily what you’re going to get. I think that’s probably something really common in global development– it’s not really something you can teach, you more so have to experience it.

What was one significant challenge you faced?
I’d say that my “narrow vision” was a problem I frequently had to deal with. Even having grown up partly in a developing country, there were still a lot of things that I forgot and took for granted. My eyes were opened… I was shocked when I had a side conversation with a woman who asked me about contraception. She was a mother of 10 and didn’t want to have any more children. Before that conversation, I had known she was a mother of 10 but hadn’t really thought much about it. In that moment I realized, “Oh my God, if she had any control over the situation, she would probably not have 10 children…” There are so many intertwining issues that I had never thought about– so many things that were daily life challenges that I had to be beaten over the head with before I really understood.

Describe one interesting and/or inspirational person you encountered.
The founder of the organization, Christine Chacha, was a Swahili professor born and raised in the village area we were working in. She actually passed away a few months ago from cancer, but she was the reason I was attracted to the organization. She understood both foreign and local cultures and could bridge the gap between the two by using what both sides had to offer. She was so full of life and so amazing in her ability to work with and get cooperation from people of all types in the village. She would shame lazy workers, but then hug any small child around. She would sing and dance around the house. Even though she was sick, she was such a force of life. It was an honor to be around her and I am so grateful to have had that time with her.

How has the GPP minor influenced your plans for the future?
I am now forced to question the structure within which I’m working– especially now that I’m working from a grant-giving side. I’ll be critical of the criteria we’re using to evaluate things: Is this the most efficient way to accomplish something? How was it conceived and organized?

Becoming really critical has become my greatest gift from the minor and I hope that stays with me forever. It has changed me so much in terms of how I think about how the world got to be the way it is, which I think is really important to be conscious of if you want to be a part of changing the world into something else.

Benjamin Hans speaks with village leaders to a community about chlorine dispensers in Iganga, Uganda.

Benjamin Hans speaks with village leaders to a community about chlorine dispensers in Iganga, Uganda.

Benjamin Hans

Major: Industrial Engineering and Operations Research

Location and date of Field Experience: Uganda, Summer 2009

Organization: Engineers for a Sustainable World

Project Description: Improving water quality and reducing disease

Hometown: Redlands, CA

Current Location: Rwanda

Quote: I am driven to bridge the gap between people and their dreams.

What did you do for your practice experience?
There were two projects:

Project #1: We launched a safe water pots program. The village was storing their drinking water in ceramic pots, which helped to keep it cool, but when they went to scoop water out of the pots with a cup, if they touched the water, it was very possible it would be contaminated. We designed a pot with a spigot to limit that contamination.
Project #2: We installed chlorine dispensers next to the wells where the villagers pumped their water. The dispensers dropped 1 ml of chlorine into a bucket of water to kill of any bacteria in it. I thought this project was more interesting than the first one because we got the opportunity to work with the entire village. We had to find a way to communicate that this was a project that would require everyone to pitch in with and learn how to use.
It’s been really amazing to see this project ramp up. We started off installing 5 dispensers in Uganda and currently, the same organization is working on a project to instal 1,000 dispensers in Kenya.

Describe an inspiring person you met during your practice experience.
Our translator Edward became very close to our team. I remember one night, it was a beautiful night in Uganda and you could see all the stars– but he was telling me about his dream to start a primary school. He had gone to the university, gotten his education and had all of these ideas about how he could make a great school to educate the youth in the area. He was trying to get the money to do it and had applied to the government to get the seed money to start this school, but was having no luck.

Here I was, standing next to this man with a great education, a great heart and a passion for wanting to help people, but he couldn’t get his idea off of the ground because there was just no legitimate opportunity for him to access the capital to get it off the ground. That had a huge impact on me– he was someone with so much potential to do great things, but he was entirely limited by his environment and access to opportunity. It got me thinking about how so many people that I meet have dreams and the drive to accomplish them, but because of external factors, they may never be able to get there. We talk a lot about gaps we’re trying to bridge, but Edward made me realize that I am driven to try to bridge that gap– the one between people and their dreams.

If you had one piece of advice for current Global Poverty and Practice minors, what would it be?
I don’t remember all of the facts or the numbers about how many people in India don’t have access to clean water… But the two things I value and will remember most from the minor are:

  1. The importance of educating yourself– the first step to make change is to understand what the problem is and to help other people understand that issue as well. I think I was really naive as a college student. I thought, “I’ve got a great engineering education, maybe I can help make a difference for poor people in the world,” but after working on my project for two months and getting a feel for how things work, I realized that empowering and helping people get out of poverty is incredibly difficult. It takes a lot of time and a lot of work. Change is not easy. Progress is not easy.
  2. The other people in the minor– the GPP minor is filled with like-minded people who are all incredibly passionate about trying to understand a certain bubble of the world. I enjoyed how my perspective on the problems of the world changed. I loved being around passionate, driven people who wanted to genuinely enact change.

One thing college grads should understand is that its difficult to break into the development field and actually apply what you’re studying, but at the end of the day it’s possible if you stick to what you’re interested in.

Updated March 3, 2015