In response to what some view as the systematic weakening of the School of Foreign Service’s International Development certificate over the past year, Zara Khan (SFS ’07) is resigning from her role as program coordinator.
Khan said in an email to students pursuing the certificate, that although she was promised a position through the official Human Resources process, she has worked as an hourly, temporary employee for the past 18 months and as a volunteer for five weeks at the beginning of this semester.
In the email, Khan said that increased budget cuts were a factor in her resignation.
“The budget has been cut more than any other certificate. It was cut by more than 50 percent despite a doubling in student enrollment,” Khan said.
She added that the International Development certificate is currently the most popular certificate program in the School of Foreign Service with more than 80 students expected to graduate with it this year.
Rebecca English (SFS ’11) said she has a sincere interest in international development and hopes to pursue a career in the field after graduation this spring.
“The fact that the SFS offered the certificate was one of the key choices leading me to switch from [Georgetown] College after freshman year, because I felt that the opportunities [for] academic and career growth that the certificate offered were really impressive and would provide me with a good background to get involved in the development field,” English said.
The certificate is so popular, English said, because of the wide range of academic subjects it allows students to pursue.
“With my certificate, I chose to focus significantly on the impact of development on women, [and] so many of my classes were related to that,” English said. “I know other people who are in the certificate whose interests in international health, human security, the environment, democracy promotion and the like led them to focus heavily on those classes.”
Michael Lopesciolo (SFS ’13) said he feels that the certificate allows students to explore different options within the field.
“It’s a really well-rounded program, with a strong core balancing out a lot of flexibility on the part of the student,” Lopesciolo said. “It doesn’t `lock’ you into a single geographic area like the regional certificates, which can be intimidating. As a Catholic university . with a very heavy international focus, I think the disparities between the first and third worlds are something that a lot of Georgetown students really care about.”
Khan encouraged students to continue expressing their concerns about the weakening of the certificate, which she attributed to the removal of requirements and mandatory internships.
“Time and again, current students and alumni assert that the certificate was crucial to their careers in international development,” Khan said. “Current students and alumni should seek explanations as to why the certificate has been weakened, and they should ask for guidance from faculty and administrators as to how to strengthen the certificate.I
Khan said that she will continue supporting the certificate as an alumna and has decided to pursue other career options in international development.
“My current plans are to work with a [nongovernmental organization] that aims to increase food security by helping entrepreneurial men and women in Rwanda build businesses that create income, opportunity and economic growth for their families, their communities and their country,” Khan said.
Lopesciolo added that Khan’s reputation and the quality of the programming and resources preceded itself.
“[Khan] was incredibly friendly and easy to talk to,” Lopesciolo said. “I was really looking forward to getting to know her more in the upcoming years.”