Reflective Practice Phase

"My practicum [showed] me the incredible complexity of dealing with social injustice even on a small scale."

--Kristan Bakker

Spotlight on Kristan Bakker, MA in Sustainable Development

During her practicum period, Kristan Bakker worked in Bangladesh as a researcher for the Gender Justice and Diversity unit of BRAC, the world’s largest nongovernmental development organization. She had learned about BRAC in her Foundations course at SIT and was impressed with the organization, especially, as she describes it, its “holistic programs in education, social and economic development, microfinance, and health” targeted at women in poverty.

Kristan’s work focused on BRAC’s MEJNIN program, which seeks to promote safety for adolescent girls by educating communities about sexual crime. The program, she explains, “provides strategies to prevent [sexual] assaults, gives access to help if such events occur, and attempts to mobilize the community against sexual harassment.”

Part of her work entailed analyzing similar efforts made by four other NGOs in Bangladesh. From her analysis, Kristan wrote a report that informed the operation of BRAC’s MEJNIN program. In addition, Kristan wrote two reports on involving men in the efforts of the MEJNIN program and integrating boys with girls as targets of MEJNIN’s educational efforts. “In my research, I was able to draw upon my coursework at SIT on the importance of using allies from the dominant group (in this case boys and men) to help fight for social justice for the oppressed.”

This wasn’t the only way her coursework at SIT prepared Kristan for her role in BRAC. In her coursework she learned about intercultural communication, policy advocacy, and the economic pressures faced by developing nations. She also gained an understanding of the management of NGOs and the unique challenges they face. “BRAC was considering how to improve their knowledge management,” she explains, “[and] my study of learning organizations enabled me to contribute to the conversation.”

Kristan stated that her courses emphasized always keeping context in mind when analyzing a situation; her field work allowed her to put this theory into practice. “My practicum reinforced so much of what I learned in the classroom,” she says. “It humbled me by showing me the incredible complexity of dealing with social injustice even on a small scale. And it helped me realize my strengths and weaknesses in working as a team member in an NGO.”

In the future, Kristan hopes to work for a similar development organization that also emphasizes empowering the target group to lead their own change. “My practicum inspired me to continue working in the field of sustainable development. I hope to be an effective change-maker improving the lives of the marginalized.”

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