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The best part of being a Master of International Development Policy (MIDP) fellow is the community, Rachel Ansley shares.

“I have met the most amazing people who have become friends, colleagues, professors, mentors and advisors,” Rachel says. “They have shaped my time at Duke Sanford and helped make it something wonderful. The people I have met are also the reason I have loved my classes as much as I have—classes at Duke have felt less like class and more like time to talk to friends about topics that fascinate us all.”

Rachel in front of the Sanford building
Rachel Ansley MIDP'24

After working for think tanks, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the Peace Corps, Rachel decided to study international development policy to be better prepared to connect policy design and implementation. “I wanted to develop the skills needed to analyze policy, design effective alternatives and work on projects that implement these policies.”

The most compelling reason for her to join the Duke MIDP program was “the mid-career nature of the program.” MIDP fellows have at least five years of professional experience before beginning the program.

“I’ve had the amazing opportunity to learn not only from talented and knowledgeable professors, but also from the lived experiences and professional expertise of my classmates and friends,” Rachel says. “This has brought a unique and invaluable dynamic to every learning space I’ve been privileged to join.”

During her time as an MIDP fellow, Rachel studied the intersection between child development and conflict transformation. Her master’s project examined the provision of mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) for children through humanitarian programs in Yemen.

“I wrote a strategy paper for Save the Children that I hope will catalyze ideas and options to adjusting approaches to aid delivery to enhance and expand the provision of care,” she explains. “Throughout my time at Sanford, I’ve focused on child-centered approaches to conflict transformation and the provision of mental health care in a conflict zone aligns with that focus.”

As a Paul D. Coverdell Peace Corps Fellow, she interned with the local NGO Refugee Community Partnership, working on child-centered programming and data management. She also interned with the International Migration Organization’s Integration and Migrant Training Unit in Geneva, served on the MIDP Student Council and in the Graduate and Professional Student Government, completed research and teaching assistantships, and played intramural soccer.

After graduation, she plans to work for an international NGO and continue exploring the topics that shaped her research at Duke.

Rachel Ansley's Photo Highlights

Q&A with Rachel Ansley

How will your Duke MIDP experience help you make an impact in the world?

In my application essay, I wrote about wanting to learn the tools and skills needed to be a more effective actor in the international development space. This holds true for me at the end of this journey. In many ways what I have learned throughout my MIDP experience is less about what I will do and the impact I will have on the world, but more about the ways I have learned to leverage knowledge, skills, and experience to create opportunities for myself and others to push for meaningful change. My Duke MIDP experience has made me a better member of a changemaking community, and I see the strength of that community as the basis of any impact we make.

What is a course that stood out to you?

This is a difficult question, since I’ve been lucky enough to love nearly every class I’ve taken over the past two years! If I can choose two, I’d have to say “Introduction to Peace and Conflict Resolution,” taught by Maureen Moriarty, and “Challenging the Status Quo,” taught by Kerilyn Schewel. Both of these classes challenged preconceived ideas, created space for discussion and exchange of views and experiences, and provided invaluable insights. Not only did I learn a great deal of information, each week I left these classrooms feeling like my mind was wide open, and these courses have changed the way I think about the work I want to do.

What is your advice for incoming MIDP fellows?

As an MIDP fellow you are here to learn, but more importantly you are here to unlearn: Unlearn ways of knowing, being and doing in order to know, be and do better. All MIDP fellows come to the program with expertise and rich experience—we wouldn’t be here otherwise. This means we all know so much, but I have found the best learning and experiences took place in the moments when I looked past what I know and created space for listening, questioning and engaging with those who know and think of topics differently. This mindset has helped me grow through the program.

The Master of International Development Policy (MIDP) program is a self-designed, interdisciplinary degree that equips mid-career professionals from around the world with the analytical tools and technical expertise necessary to become global leaders in sustainable development efforts. It is administered by the Duke Center for International Development (DCID), which is based in the Sanford School of Public Policy. DCID promotes sustainable development through its research, education and engagement with students, policymakers, practitioners, development partners, civilsociety,and the private sector. 


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