Tell us about yourself...
My name is Selene (pronounced Seh-leh-nay) Rangel. I graduated from Georgetown University last May. I am interested in international development and I am currently working for a non-profit in the international development and education sectors.
I work as a Program Associate for School-to-School International (STS). We are a small mission-driven non-profit organisation based in the Bay Area in California. Most of our work is done in partnership with larger organisations, including Creative Associates International, FHI 360, and Chemonics in Washington, D.C. We provide our partners with technical expertise on educational projects in the areas of curriculum development, monitoring and evaluation, programme design, teacher and administrator training, and strategic planning. While this describes most of our work, I’d say that the Whole Child Model is at the heart of the organisation. This is our proposition to the world of how educational development should work. It is a holistic approach that creates conditions for success for every child by taking into consideration various factors like education, health, and community engagement.
As a Program Associate for STS International, which countries are you focused on?
At the moment, my work focuses on the Reading for Success activity in Morocco and the ACCELERE! project in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Both of these focus on improving early grade reading skills, but the scope of each programme is different – the Morocco activity is relatively short (only 17 months long), while the DRC project is a multi-million dollar project over five years.
Does STS International receive most of their grants from USAID?
STS has mostly sub-contracts with large-scale NGOs holding USAID contacts, which are funded by bilateral agreements. We recently won our first direct contract with USAID for a project in Malawi!
Did you originally consider working for USAID after graduation, as opposed to an International Development firm?
I’m still learning about the field and the different types of paths one can take within international development and the education sector. I looked into working for USAID in my final year of college. However, those positions require a Master’s degree and years of relevant work experience. Since I was eager to begin work right away to gain that professional experience, I’ve put off thinking about working at USAID for a few more years.
How did you apply to your position at STS International?
I found the STS job posting after one of my mentors, an international development professional, sent me a link to Devex. I first learned about STS on this website so as soon as I saw the Program Associate job listing, I submitted my cover letter and CV.
Do you speak any other languages apart from English?
Yes, I grew up speaking Spanish at home. I learned French when I was an exchange student in Belgium and Arabic at Georgetown. Learning Arabic was the first time I received formal language training in an academic setting, and it was a difficult language to learn!
What advice would you give to a young person who wants to study Arabic?
Definitely listen to Fayrouz and Mashrou’ Leila to learn the language through song. I think it was such a great opportunity to learn Arabic at Georgetown University because the programme is one of the best in the United States. It is definitely hard to keep up once you are out of school and you are not taking classes anymore. Luckily I’ve been able to continue practicing Arabic at work, mostly when I’m out in the field in Morocco. I’d say the best way to keep it up is by listening to Arabic music and finding friends to practice with.
What influenced your interest in developing countries and the Middle East in particular?
When I was an exchange student in Belgium from 2009 to 2010, I became friends with many classmates of Algerian and Moroccan descent. I noticed how girls weren’t allowed to do certain things that guys could do, this intrigued me and thus began my interest in their cultures and the societies their families came from. My parents are Mexican, so I started to draw parallels between the gender roles in Mexican culture and in Algerian and Moroccan culture. I was also fortunate enough to travel to Tunisia during this period and saw the same gender differences. My interest in education, and female education in particular, was sparked by my time abroad in Belgium.
Who are your role models?
During my freshman year at Georgetown, I was introduced to Cecilia Kline through a mentorship programme. She is also a Georgetown grad, and has been working in international development for many years. The first time we connected, I think she was working in Timor-Leste while I was studying in DC! Ever since we met, she has been supportive and has helped me with many of my academic decisions, the post-grad job search, and staying focused on my career goals. She is a wonderful role model and such a good person.
What achievements are you most proud of?
Starting a career in international development straight out of college is very competitive - you’re not only competing for the same jobs with other qualified recent grads but also people with Master’s degrees and more professional experience. During my senior year, many of my peers had corporate job offers, and it was really discouraging to think that I would just have to take a job in consulting or something because I wouldn’t be able to get my foot in the international development door without a Master’s degree. A year ago, I couldn’t have had imagined that I would be going back to Morocco multiple times on work trips and be where I am now. I’m proud of my hard work and perseverance thus far because while it was challenging at first I remained true to myself about the type of career I want. I definitely feel very fortunate to be doing such a fulfilling job and to have the opportunity to gain first-hand exposure to international development both at our home office and in the field.
What was your Senior Thesis about?
My thesis was titled: Moroccans in the United States: Reflections on the Moroccan Public School System and its Role in the Immigrant Experience. I looked into how individuals perceive the English language in Morocco, and English language policy implementation in public schools. Additionally, I looked at the contributing factors for the new wave of Moroccan immigration to the United States.
Do you listen to any Foreign Policy or International Relations podcasts?
Yes! I listen to Fareed Zakaria GPS
Selene Rangel | Program Associate | School-to-School International
Active for 2 years
CV in brief
Studied Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service, Middle East & North Africa and Latin America Regional and Comparative Studies from Georgetown University | Institute for the International Education of Students (IES Abroad) | Institut d’Etudes politics de Paris
Scholarships and fellowships 1789 Scholar | Honorary Rotarian | E. Joseph McCarthy Endowment Scholar | Paul Harris Fellow
Find Selene online LinkedIn
Career opportunities at STS International
Exclusive Interview with Aisha Babalakin, April 14 2016
STS, Chemonics, and the regional representatives from the Moroccan Ministry of Education after a week-long Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) adaption workshop.
With the help of the regional representatives, STS developed an EGRA, taking into consideration the Moroccan context, to assess first graders’ Modern Standard Arabic reading skills.
This photo was taken during a school visit at a primary school in the outskirts of Rabat, where the EGRA tools were pretested using tablets.
STS team in Rabat during EGRA adaptation workshop.
Inspiring girls and young women to choose a career in foreign policy
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