09 May 2018

Elizabeth Teare, International Relations and Rhetoric senior and Brumley Scholar, chatted with us about her extensive work with UT Austin's Innovations for Peace and Development and in Dar Es Salaam at Ubongo International, as well as her plans after graduation:

Strauss: As a research affiliate for IPD, could you go into detail on your work on both the Strauss Center's Complex Emergencies and Political Stability in Asia program and CDF teams?

Elizabeth: "I’ve been involved with Innovations for Peace and Development for three years. I’ve worked on several teams, including the Conflict and Development Team, the CEPSA team, and the CDF team. IPD has been one of the most important things I’ve been involved in during my studies, I value the research and technical skills, mentorship, and professional opportunities that I’ve gained as a research affiliate and team leader.

Last spring on the CEPSA team, I worked mostly on aid and data transparency issues and contributed to the team’s work by coding the availability of project documents on donor websites and the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). IPD is a great place for students to learn coding methodologies and how to research information that is sometimes not readily available to the public.

This year, I lead the CDF team as IPD’s only undergraduate task team leader, managing a group of 10 undergraduate students. The CDF team tracks news related to Chinese development finance from around the world, in over seven languages. Each week, the team writes summaries on their track media and I collate the summaries to create the weekly digest, directly applying some of the marketing and editing skills I’ve gained over the years as a rhetoric major and a marketing intern. In this role, I’ve learned a great deal about team leadership and project management, and I’ve particularly enjoyed the chance to mentor others on their research and writing."

How has your rhetoric and writing degree affected your studies focused on international relations?

"These two degrees complement each other well. I think anyone interested in a career in international development would benefit from a rhetoric course. While at UT I’ve taken rhetoric courses focused on peacemaking rhetoric, writing for magazines and for entrepreneurs, and even a course exploring the relationship between democracy and the media.

As a rhetoric major, I’ve learned about how to critically deconstruct arguments in their many forms and almost more importantly, I’ve learned how to create a rhetorically strong argument in my own writing, whether it is my thesis, research papers, blog-posts, op-eds, emails, or grant applications."

Tell us about your experiences in Dar Es Salaam at Ubongo International: how does the enterprise tracks its success, and what methods do you think work the best for their mission?

"This past summer, I was a marketing intern with Ubongo, an edutainment non-profit that creates educational content for children living in East Africa. I gained skills in online and social media marketing, content creation, and grant writing. I even designed a live beta-test to prototype an educational app that Ubongo was programming. My favorite part about this experience was learning how a non-profit should market its success and needs to several different stakeholders, including the target customers (children and their caregivers), foundation and government funders, and potential partners.

Ubongo tracks success by impact, so they have to ask important questions like: How many children are we reaching with our content, and how can we reach more children across Africa? Are we making an educational impact on children, and how can we make our material more educational yet entertaining? I think this question oriented mindset comes from their production and research model, which is based in human-centered design. This helps Ubongo remain aware of the needs of their target audience and means that they are always looking to improve their content. In a blog post I wrote for the Strauss Center during my internship, I talk more about how I think that human-centered design is a good model for designing international development projects."

How do you think your time as a Brumley Scholar has helped your marketing skills?

"In the fall, we took a research and professional development course with Dr. Weaver. She emphasized improving our writing and essentially taught us how to market ourselves online and in applications. The course required us to complete an application for the Truman Fellowship. The personal statement and policy proposal helped my marketing skills in a different way as I learned how to be even more succinct with my writing and how to better utilize my words and evidence to appeal to my audience. Similarly, I was able to practice my content creation skills as we were required to write four blog posts for our class, two of which covered Strauss Center events."

Any thoughts to the kinds of roles you’ll be pursuing after graduation?

"I’m hoping to find a role that allows me to combine my research interests in international development and peacebuilding with my professional experiences in marketing and communications. I would also like to spend more time living abroad in a Francophone country. After I work for a few years, I aspire to return to school to get a doctorates degree in international development and global policy or political communications."

Thank you Elizabeth!