Erica Boonstra '08
Erica graduated from Calvin in 2008 with degrees in international development studies and English. She currently works for International Justice Mission in Washington, D.C.
What sparked your interest in international development?
My parents encouraged me to do volunteer work, ever since I was in elementary school actually. It had an incredible impact on my worldview and really impressed upon me the importance of service. When I was in high school, I volunteered for World Vision's office in Chicago, raising money for their projects in Zambia. As a result, I had the opportunity to go on one of their Vision Trips to Zambia. That was my first exposure to international development work, and I knew immediately it was what I wanted to do.
Describe your path since graduation.
After graduating, I took an internship at International Justice Mission, working in the Government Relations & Advocacy Department. I'd never had any interest in working in the political realm, nor in living in D.C., but I found a real passion in advocacy work! I spent a little time working on IJM's Field Operations team and am now IJM's Advocacy Manager, helping design grassroots campaigns to improve the U.S. government's anti-trafficking policy. I also recently started a Master's in Public Administration program at American University, where I'm focusing on international nonprofit management.
What are your current activities, and what is your official position where you are working now?
I'm the Advocacy Manager at International Justice Mission. Our team is working to improve the way the U.S. government addresses human trafficking through its foreign policy. I work with people around the country to call on their members of Congress for support on these policies. I do a lot of campaign design, event planning, writing, and public speaking. I also have had the opportunity to work with IJM's office in India and Kenya in designing advocacy campaigns in those countries as well.
What is your most memorable experience in the field?
"The field" for me has been Washington, D.C.! When I graduated, I wanted to be doing direct hands-on development work in the developing world; that was the only image of the field I had in mind. But you don't need to be overseas to be involved in development. I know I'm having a real impact on the issues I care about, even if it doesn't look the way I thought it would.
What advice or words of hope and wisdom would you give to current IDS students?
If you want to go to graduate school in development, take a lot of economics and statistics classes at Calvin. I avoided taking any that weren't required, but then had to catch up in grad school.