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Briana Apgar

Degree, Program, and date of graduation: Master of Public Health, May 2016

Dates of working with the WGD Program: August 2015 – August 2016

What work did you do with the WGD program?

"As the graduate assistant for the WGD program, I had a variety of tasks! I loved attending the WGD Discussion Series and assisting with the undergraduate course, Gender, Environment, and International Development. My role also allowed me to obtain practical experience with reading proposals for development projects, conducting literature searches, and creating reference lists. My most difficult task was data cleaning for the IPM Trichoderma project in Bangladesh. This work was tedious and stressful, but it became the project that I most appreciated! I gained research experience and had the opportunity to touch on a USAID funded project. This work was very rewarding as the participants’ interviews revealed just how important Trichoderma was to their livelihoods!"

Most exciting experience, interesting discovery, or connections made:

"When conducting a literature review for a project in West Africa, I came upon several pieces detailing the important role of women in Senegal. One study explained the authority of grandmother networks and another detailed the importance of household women in determining child nutrition. These were very exciting discoveries for me because often, the development research I see is bleak or describes existing problems. In contrast, these pieces empowered Senegalese women and celebrated the impact they have on their communities!

"Additionally, I was very touched by the aforementioned interviews that I reviewed from women and men in Bangladesh. This particular region has a very high rate of domestic violence, but the labor required to cultivate the Trichoderma compost forces husbands and wives to come together as a team. Some women reported that they felt more respected by their husbands, and some men responded that they were more appreciative of their wives. Furthermore, Trichoderma alleviated the financial strain for some families, reducing stress and allowing for opportunities such as education and family investments. I loved these discoveries, and they made the work so worthwhile. Stories such as these are the spaces of hope that I find to be so inspiring in the difficult world of development! "

Where did you go after graduating?:

"Currently, I am working as Community Health Assessment Planner serving the Roanoke-Allegheny District for the Virginia Department of Health. My role is to assess the health capacity and leverage what we have within this district in order to best identify the community needs. It is a job that allows me to reflect on all of my work here at OIRED as a graduate assistant! I collect data from existing records and sources, but also must gather qualitative data through community discussions and everyday interactions.

"While I am currently working on an issue regarding domestic development, I am still interested in the international sector as well. My passions are the social and political determinants which affect one’s overall health- a recurring theme in development work. Specifically, I would like my life’s work to be focused on these issues surrounding women and children, whom are often the most vulnerable. I hope to obtain my doctorate degree in a field such as public policy, gender studies, or sustainable development. "

How has the WGD program influenced your future?

"Prior to working with the WGD program, I knew that I had an interest in development but I do not know if I would have been able to articulate this interest with common themes or terminology. After being hired, I was inspired to pursue the Graduate Certificate in Global Planning and International Development Studies, and I also learned a great deal in the office on the job. Being familiar with the processes surrounding academic research and grantsmanship was impressive to my current employer when I interviewed! I am no longer intimidated by difficult tasks or strenuous research. I experienced so much as the graduate assistant that I have learned how to break down a seemingly impossible project into manageable pieces. These practical experiences were invaluable, but the WGD program truly solidified my interest in gender and development through all of the opportunities to meet different actors in the field and hear their stories. The Discussion Series and academic guests brought projects from all over the world to the forefront of my mind. I met such varied and accomplished experts who gave wonderful advice and inspired me to set out on my own path in development!"