Career Moves: Mary Thibodeau ’22 credits SPDC with helping her pursue post-graduate plans of humanitarian assistance

Thibodeau ’22, an international & global studies and political science major from Wake Forest, N.C., will be witnessing humanitarian assistance and advocacy in action post-Elon and gives credit to the Student Professional Development Center.

As a participant in Elon’s Post-Genocide Restoration and Peacebuilding program in Rwanda, Mary Thibodeau ’22 connected with the local community through research. The experiential learning opportunity left Thibodeau with profound enthusiasm toward global education and human rights.

Determined to get into the School of International Training’s (SIT) Global Master of Arts in Humanitarian Assistance & Conflict Management program, Thibodeau made appointments with the Student Professional Development Center career advisors to ensure every word in her personal statement was purposeful and effective. Thibodeau finalized her graduate school application a few meetings later, sent it off and was accepted into SIT.

During SIT’s master’s degree program, Thibodeau will travel across continents for hands-on graduate-level training in humanitarian assistance and crisis management and experience human rights issues working and interacting with aid workers, NGOs and refugees.

Thibodeau recently answered some questions from the SPDC about her experience.

How did your interest in attending the SIT Graduate Institute develop?

While studying abroad in the fall of 2020 in Elon’s Rwanda, Kigali: Post-Genocide Restoration and Peacebuilding program, I fell in love with the country. I conducted research during the program, allowing me to gain hands-on experience working with people. I knew that this program would adequately prepare me for a career in humanitarian assistance with these learning pillars. I was inspired to apply for SIT’s Global Master of Arts Humanitarian assistance and crisis management program, where I will continue this style of experiential learning while working with people in Jordan and Uganda.

When you met with the Student Professional Development Center staff, what were you trying to accomplish?

I wanted my graduate school application materials to stand out, so I met with staff in the SPDC multiple times to develop and enhance my resumes and graduate school personal statements for the various universities I applied to.

Who did you work with, and what specific help did you receive from the Student Professional Development Center?

I met consistently with Laurie Judge, who gave me specific and detailed feedback on my personal statements. We would spend an hour together each appointment, going word-for-word through my statements to ensure they were written to perfection. I walked away with personal statements that showcase my abilities in a limited word count and include the perfect vocabulary to describe my international experience.

Over the years, I’ve also worked with Rhonda Kosusko, René Jackson, Rachael Rysz, Alison Doherty, and others eager to help me achieve my professional goals.

What was it like getting accepted into the School for International Training Graduate Institute?

I knew that this program was the one for me from the start! Every time I would describe the program, my face would light up. None of my friends or family was surprised when I announced my decision to attend the program.

What did you learn about the people, the culture and the work you will perform that made you want to pursue an advanced degree with the SIT Graduate Institute?

The SIT program is built around experiential learning in the regions, and I am very excited to return to gain further experience working with NGOs and studying human rights issues. This country-based approach to an international master’s degree motivated me to pursue this program through the SIT Graduate Institute.

What career goals do you hope to realize after your graduate experience?

After my graduate experience, I hope to remain in Uganda or Rwanda, working with non-governmental or human rights organizations to promote peace and reconciliation programs. One day I hope to be working for organizations such as the Human Rights Watch or the United Nations.

Were there other faculty members that you worked with to prepare? Who were they, and what help did you receive?

Over the past three years, Dr. Damion Blake has been my research advisor and has been a tremendous help in preparing me for life abroad post-Elon. He has guided me throughout my time at Elon as an advisor and friend, constantly lifting me and motivating me to push myself to present at professional research conferences as an undergraduate.

What recommendations would you share with other students about the Student Professional Development Center?

Get into the Student Professional Development Center as soon as you can! I have been working with the staff over the past four years, and they have greatly helped develop my professional skills in ways that could not have been possible without their assistance and guidance.