Tricia Vanderkooy '99
Describe your path since graduation.
I worked with CRWRC in Haiti for three years (1999-2002), the first two years as an intern and the last year as a program consultant. In 2002, I started graduate studies at the University of Guelph in Ontario. My degree from Guelph is in Sociology and IDS, and as part of my thesis research, I returned to Haiti to answer some of my lingering questions about underlying assumptions between development and democracy.
In 2004 I moved to Miami, Florida to begin doctoral studies at Florida International University. My doctoral research focuses on how integration is gendered among Haitian migrants in South Florida (i.e. What does immigrant integration look like for men? And for women?). For the past four years, I’ve also worked as a consultant for a national evaluation project of immigrant advocacy organizations. This applied research brought me to the front-lines of an advocacy movement pushing for comprehensive immigration reform – an exciting place to be during the past few years! I’ve also served as an expert witness on Haitian assimilation by the U.S. Department of Justice and led legal teams conducting investigative research in Haiti.
What are your current activities?
I’ve wrapped up my consulting projects to focus exclusively on finishing my dissertation. I recently relocated from Miami to the Canadian Rockies, so that on my days off, I can hit the ski slopes! My Haitian-Creole skills are very useful as I do telephone-interpretation, a surprisingly interesting and lucrative venture for these final months of graduate studies.
What's your official position where you are working now?
I am currently finishing my dissertation. I will graduate in 2010 and am exploring a variety of positions, including in university teaching, program evaluation, and government.
How does your faith influence your work?
My work and studies in IDS profoundly changed how I view God, faith, and religion. It’s inspiring to see transformational changes in communities and people which are attributed to God. On the other hand, I’ve often been discouraged by how institutions (including religious ones) reinforce existing discrimination.
What is your favorite aspect of Calvin and what do you wish you would have done differently while attending Calvin?
The student-faculty relationships and small class ratios at Calvin are truly a distinctive feature. I recall meeting one of my biology professors on the bus on the way to campus, and end-of-semester parties at other professors’ homes. Interacting this way with professors is almost unheard of at larger institutions.
As far as doing anything differently, my only regret is that I finished my studies in just three years – a choice prompted by rising tuition and a dwindling Canadian dollar. I often wish I’d had another year at Calvin to learn and experience even more!
What is your best advice for current IDS students?
Here’s my best advice: “Listen, and learn.” Whether in a community organizing meeting, running a program, or visiting a far-away country, listening will get you further than speaking. Often North American visitors are given the spotlight, when the real development experts are the people who are transforming their communities day after day. The longer I spend working in development, the more I value listening more and speaking less.
Words of Hope and Wisdom for IDS graduates.
Hope: the world is bigger than you can imagine right now. Opportunities and paths will open up that you can’t foresee right now. I’ve learned how many meaningful careers are out there, other than working for a development organization in another country. That’s a great option for some people. But there are many other exciting, meaningful and transformational opportunities as well!
Wisdom: Diversify your options for post-graduation by exploring multiple opportunities. Check out the Peace Corps. (Many of my friends in Miami are former Peace Corps volunteers.) Also consider working domestically for a progressive cause, such as a labor union, advocacy group, or a social service organization. Graduate school is a great option, although in my experience, graduate studies in IDS are the most beneficial for those who have acquired some real-world experience after their undergraduate degree.