Fletcher Features

Caroline Andresen (F10) Navigates the World of Humanitarian and Relief Assistance with Her Fletcher Degree

Caroline Andresen, The Fletcher School, MALD 10

Kabul, Afghanistan, wasn’t exactly a textbook example of calm, peace and prosperity when Caroline Andresen (MALD ’10) moved there in October 2010 to start a two-year gig. She knew it would be a challenging assignment.

Five days after arriving, still coping with jet lag, she received an email from a friend—another Fletcher alumna—she had met during her previous work in eastern Chad. It was a dinner invitation, and she arrived at the restaurant to find 25 other Fletcher alumni all working in Afghanistan, for governments, NGOs, the private sector, ranging in age from mid-20s to 70.

“On Day Five, even in a place like Kabul, the Fletcher connection was immediate and comforting and also, as always, intellectually stimulating,” she says.

Diplomatic Courier's Top 99 Under 33 Foreign Policy Leaders BadgeCurrently, as evaluation and reporting coordinator for USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, Andresen spends a good amount of time traveling around the world, visiting countries stricken by war, calamity, suffering and disaster, manmade or natural.

A native of Vermont, Andresen graduated from Colby College in Maine in 2005 with a degree in international studies, which had set her on the road for a career in international service. After graduating, she moved to Washington thinking she wanted to work in human rights advocacy. Following internships with the International Crisis Group and the Enough project, focusing on crimes against humanity in Sudan, she joined up with the Crisis Group’s Central Africa project in 2006. For this position, she moved to Nairobi to work on the group’s research and advocacy on Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic.

By mid-2007, she found herself in West Africa working with Oxfam Great Britain as their humanitarian advocacy coordinator to help mitigate the refugee and internally displaced persons crisis in Chad. Over 15 months she researched issues of civilian protection and the quantity and quality of humanitarian assistance – and advocated the importance of civilian protection in the mandate of the European Union’s peacekeeping force in Chad.

Frustrated with local level advocacy, Andresen ended up at Fletcher in 2008, initially thinking she wanted to be a lobbyist for humanitarian organizations. She quickly changed her mind, instead deciding to study the implementation and project management side of humanitarian and relief assistance work.

While at Fletcher she concentrated in the human security and international security fields, a decision she attributes to several professors, including Lecturer in Human Security Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church and Professor of International Politics Richard Shultz.

“I walked into Cheyanne Church’s shopping day for ‘Design, Monitoring and Evaluation for Peacebuilding’ and was amazed. I said to myself, ‘this sounds like what I want to do,’” Andresen recalls. “I wouldn’t have my job without her classes. They changed the course of my career and enable me to do what I do today.”

Professor of International Law Ian Johnstone also was influential, advising Andresen on her thesis, which compared a Congolese rebel group (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) and the Taliban in Afghanistan and each group’s treatment of civilians.

Johnstone’s peacekeeping class “was a fascinating opportunity to study the issues that had been frustrating and confusing while I had been in Eastern Chad,” she says.

After graduating in 2010, through the Fletcher network she landed a position with Development Alternatives Inc., a Maryland-based company that implements development projects for USAID and other clients. She coordinated the monitoring and evaluation strategy for a security sector reform project in West Africa and then moved to Afghanistan to manage the evaluation team on a USAID stabilization project in the eastern part of the country. The security situation at the time was difficult and dangerous—so much of the work had to be done in Kabul in highly secure settings with limited field opportunities, she says.

Jump forward two years, Andresen decided to move back to the United States and joined USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, coordinating the work of the office’s evaluation team. She says she travels about one-third to one-half of her work time, getting to visit countries all around the world.

“One of the things I loved about Fletcher was that I was able to take a completely interdisciplinary approach to my graduate education,” she says. “I came out of Fletcher able to speak about international humanitarian law as well as counterinsurgency. That has been a tremendous asset to me.”

And, for present, past and future Fletcher students, Andresen offers this counsel: don’t be afraid of using the vast Fletcher network. “When I was able to network in the Fletcher community it really paid off, in terms of jobs, and job offers,” she says. “The Fletcher community has really been everywhere I’ve been.”

--Mike Eckel (F13)

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