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Valeska Rodriguez

Valeska Rodriguez

Degree, Program, and date of graduation: PhD in Planning, Governance, and Globalization, May 2023

Dates of working with the WGD Program: August, 2020 – May, 2021

What work did you do with the WGD program?

“As a Graduate Assistant, I primarily worked with Dr. Maria Elisa Christie, the Director of the Women and Gender in International Development (WGD) Program at Virginia Tech, and Daniel Sumner, the Assistant Director of the WGD Program, to support the organization and implementation of the second Women and Gender in Development Conference 2021: Out of the Theory and Into the Field – A dialogue on gendered approaches to inclusive rural development, that was held as a virtual event on February 23 – 26, 2021. My role was mostly focused on assisting the virtual organization and management of the conference, through the virtual platform Whova; and the preparation of guidelines, programs, and other documents necessary for the successful progress of the conference. I also dedicated part of my assistantship to the preparation of the agenda and minutes of the conference team meetings, the communication strategy of the conference, and the preparation of funding proposals to fund the participation of keynote speakers of the conference. Additionally, I supported the organization of the WGD Discussion Series.”

Most exciting experience, interesting discovery, or connections made:

“Since my research and academic interests are related to climate change, indigenous communities, gender, and development, I feel lucky and privileged to be part of the WGD team and support the organization of international academic events that promote gender equity, women’s empowerment, the advancement of gender research, and connections among researchers with shared interests. I volunteered on the first Women and Gender in Development Conference 2019, organized also by the WGD team at Virginia Tech, and had the opportunity to meet top researchers in the field of gender and other PhD students with whom I share research interests and experiences, which was encouraging and helpful, as I was in the first semester of my PhD program. The lessons, experiences, and work that I learned and discovered from my time with the WGD team will be beneficial for my professional career because the gender component will always be strong in my future research projects.”

After-graduation plans:

“The skills and learning experience gained from working with the WGD team will help me find and open opportunities to discover new pathways for my future academic work. After graduation, I plan on continuing studying aspects of gender, climate change, and environmental justice. For this, I may continue in academia and pursue a postdoctoral position to learn how to conduct and manage my own research projects. In the long term, I plan to teach courses on gender, environmental change, and social justice in Guatemala, my home country. My goal is to support the training of the new generations of professionals and researchers with interest and skills in gender studies.”

How has the WGD program influenced your future?

“During my work with the WGD program, I have advanced and strengthened my theoretical and empirical knowledge in the field of gender and development. In a more practical component, I have improved my organizational and planning skills, broaden my critical lenses and research network of collaborators, and gained experience working in interdisciplinary teams. Moreover, because my role was mostly focused on the organization and logistics of the Women and Gender in Development Conference as part of an organizing team where everyone had important and specific individual tasks, I have learned concrete ways to accomplish the week-by-week tasks and measurable goals assigned to me with the objective of a long-term mission. My passion is working with gender and the environment, and the influence of the WGD Program and the team has been enriching and inspiring.”