I was raised in El Salvador during the civil war of the '80s and early '90s; my earliest memories of understanding what my parents did came from watching them participate in rebuilding efforts following the '86 earthquake that struck San Salvador. The experience profoundly shaped my conceptions of social justice, economic & racial inequality, and geopolitics long before I had the language to discuss them in those terms.1
As an undergraduate at Alma College, I earned Bachelor's degrees in Exercise & Health Sciences (under Drs. John Davis, Karen Ball, Maurie Luetkemeier, and Robyn Anderson) and French (under Dr. Julie Arnold); I also minored in Chemistry, sang in the Alma Choir,2 played on the varsity tennis team, served as an editor for the school newsweekly, and developed a love of rock climbing. Along the way I had opportunities to study abroad in Francis (twice: one month in Paris as a freshman, three months in Nice as a senior), spend two weeks traveling around Scotland (Alma Choir Tour '02), spend three weeks touring China (to learn about traditional chinese medicine), complete a public health internship in Nicaragua (at PROVADENIC and Managua Baptist Hospital, funded by an Eli P. Lilly Foundation Discovering Vocation grant), and do research on the human body's adaptation to altitude (the EHS department's Altitude Physiology spring term course).
After graduating from Alma, I spent a year as a Fulbright student grantee in Benin learning about community-based public health outreach practices in urban and peri-urban contexts. Upon returning to the U.S., my wife and I moved to St. Louis, MO so she could complete the Master's degree in Occupational Therapy at Washington University in St. Louis from which she'd taken leave to join me in Benin. I spent the year on the Education Team of AmeriCorps-St. Louis, providing one-on-one tutoring to struggling readers at Adams Elementary and helping support the after-school enrichment programs for K through 2nd grades.
We then moved to North Carolina, where I taught Spanish & French at St. David's School before completing a Master's degree in International Studies at NC State University. I began studying Arabic at NCSU, receiving a Boren Fellowship to underwrite an accelerated summer program at BYU, my second year of Arabic coursework at NCSU, and a three month internship/language study program in Cairo at Al Ashanek Ya Balady and the Kalimat Language Institute.
Back in the U.S., I spent nearly three years leading cultural orientation and education programming for the Refugee Services Department of Catholic Charities in the Diocese of San Diego, working primarily with Iraqi, Burmese, & East African refugees and Haitian & Cuban asylum seekers.
I took a role with RTI International in 2012 as a project manager on the Teaching & Learning team (within the International Education Division, itself part of the International Development Group). I spent almost three years supporting various projects (including reading interventions in Liberia and Malawi, a policy reform program in Peru, impact evaluations in DRC, and presentation of desk research in Morocco among others) before transitioning to Malawi to serve as the Deputy Chief of Party (DCOP) overseeing teacher training, materials development, and monitoring & evaluation for USAID's Malawi Early Grade Reading Activity. At the conclusion of the Malawi EGRA program, I moved to Kenya to serve as DCOP-Operations for the Tusome Early Grade Reading Activity, where I oversee the finance, admin/logistics, human resources, IT, communications, procurement, and grants teams, while advising the ICT and M&E teams on issues of data cleaning, processing, analysis, and reporting. While in Malawi and Kenya, I completed the UMass Center for International Education's Graduate Certificate in Early Grade Reading, graduating with the first cohort of the new program.
I have had the great good fortune of working with amazing, world-class colleagues who take mentorship very seriously (esp. Michael Costello, Medina Korda Poole, Amber Gove, Peggy Dubeck, Joe DeStefano, and Simon King) and have been generous with their time, attention, and expertise. I have thus learned a great deal on the job about designing, implementing, and reporting on research of practical importance to the international development sector.
Personality-wise, I'm an Enneagram Type 3 somewhere in the healthy range; shift between being a Myers-Briggs ENFP and ENTP; and am definitely a fox in Nate Silver's/Antilochus' formulation.3 My Top 5 Strengthsfinder Themes in 2016 were, in order:
- Restorative, and
...having evolved from 2011, when they were
- Woo, and
I have joined the MIDS community because I want to bring greater analytical rigor to my work, and I believe the structure of a formal program of study will best meet that need at this time. I expect that a deeper quantitative knowledge base and a more expansive toolkit will enable me to do more, and more lasting, good in the world.4
I am supported by an incredibly gifted, loving, creative, and humorous spouse and our two three children.
1 I first encountered the basic concept of tikkun olam in graduate school; while the phrase has encompassed many shades of meaning throughout its history, I have found the concept of "mending the world" through social justice and activism (one of its contemporary interpretations) to be deeply resonant.
2 I second everything the students in the video say about Doc Nichols. He's an incredible, brilliant conductor...and his inviting me to join the Alma Choir was a truly life-changing experience. If you know any young people looking for a fantastic vocal music program, have them ring him up.
3 The FiveThirtyEight article in turn links to an excerpt from Isaiah Berlin's "The Hedgehog and the Fox". The Wikipedia article on the essay provides a little more context.
4 The Jewish text Pirkei Avot attributes to Rabbi Tarfon (2:21) the saying "It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to desist from it." That is pretty much as close to a motto as I've got.