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Rachel Kirk

Degree, Program, and date of graduation: BA Political Science, French; May 12th, 2012

Dates of working with the WGD Program: January 2012 - May 2012

What work did you do with the WGD program?

"I have assisted with IPM Innovation Lab data organization and analysis for a project that was done in three villages in Mali in the summer of 2011. This project concerns pesticide and integrated pest management knowledge through the scope of gender. I have also helped with the translation of other documents for SANREM and OIRED in general from French to English and English to French."

Most exciting experience, interesting discovery, or connections made:

"Though these responses seem fairly obvious, two of the most significant things that have been reiterated for me through my work with the WGD program are the importance of both gender and learning another language. Because gender roles across the world are so inherent in a culture, sometimes it can be difficult to understand the profound ripple effect they have on the educational and economic efficiency of an entire community. Through just the analysis of the data that I have interacted with during this semester, I have seen the discrepancy that exists in very basic areas such as literacy and how that affects health, empowerment, and revenues. Though this is something that I had been aware of, it is easy to take it for granted at times. Additionally, the work done through the WGD program and IPM Innovation Lab has allowed me to see this discrepancy in very tangible ways and analyze ways in which to ameliorate it, as opposed to merely reading about. Through this work, I have felt much more personally connected to these problems and solutions. Work with the WGD program has also emphasized the need for learning other languages and the efficiency that comes with being able to communicate with those you are working with across the world. Language and communication are the most basic ways of learning about a culture and this is especially important in international development. By knowing French, I was able to ask questions to those who had worked directly with the data I was dealing with from Mali and understand certain nuances or words that may not exist in English. This was very indispensable and is a basic but important way to advance understanding of the regions that one is working with in order to accomplish larger scale development goals."

After-graduation plans:

"As a recently graduated senior, I will be leaving Blacksburg at the end of May. I will be participating in Teach for America as a corps member, teaching secondary French in New Orleans, Louisiana. After the two year commitment of the program, I hope to do a master’s program in International Relations. I would like to combine my interests in education, policy, Europe, and the Middle East."

How has the WGD program influenced your future?

"My work with the WGD program has given me knowledge on parts of Francophone Africa that I did not have before. It has also further encouraged me to always keep gender on my mind as a very crucial variable for understanding the way a society functions and why. I can definitely see this knowledge shifting my direction for a master’s program and beyond. One potential scope for this could be educational development focusing on women which is something that I have thought about pursuing in the past. While I have a lot of time to figure out what I would like to specialize in, the research experience and ways of thinking about development that I have gained from my work with the WGD program will definitely prove to be very valuable and practical and the amount that I have learned in just one semester has been incredible."