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ICE Graduation

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Shelby Searles

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Shelby Searles

Before joining the ICE/IEPA program, I spent two years living in Mongolia as a Peace Corps volunteer. I worked with the Special Olympics and the local Disabilities Center where I developed projects which increased access to education for marginalized ethnic minorities with disabilities. I knew that after I completed my Peace Corps service, I wanted to establish a career in education access for marginalized populations. While my experiences with the Peace Corps were valuable, I realized that I needed to pursue a master’s degree to develop more specialized skills needed in the international development and education fields. When I was accepted to ICE/IEPA program, I knew it was the perfect fit for my professional aspirations, as it provides rigorous research methods courses, theory-based and practice-based courses, and an MA thesis, all within the framework of a collaborative environment with a phenomenal support system from the GSE faculty.

From the first day of classes, I knew that this program was special. The world-renowned professors are all incredibly helpful and motivated to help each student reach their full potential. After completing my first quarter, I was impressed with how much I had learned in just a few short months. The ICE/IEPA program provides many skill-based courses which are integral to the international development and ICE fields. During the program, I took a wide range of courses including qualitative and quantitative methods, economics of education, a workshop on international education policy, and many theory-based courses related to ID and ICE, all of which have helped to expand my understanding of international education and develop my ability to critically analyze current education policies.

In addition to the amazing courses, I have gained incredible insight and knowledge from the ICE/IEPA cohort. My fellow cohort members came from diverse professional backgrounds from all over the world. Everyone brought a unique perspective to every discussion where I learned just as much from them as I did from the courses. Our cohort also played an integral role in developing my MA thesis. Throughout the year, we spent each week brainstorming areas for improvement and workshopping each step of the thesis development. 

With the unwavering support of our director, professors, and fellow peers, I was able to write my MA thesis on education for Burmese refugees and internally displaced persons. The entire process of constructing the MA thesis is rigorous, but the support system that the ICE/IEPA program provides allows for each MA paper to reach its full potential. Our director of the program put me in contact with several UNICEF staff in Myanmar who helped me acquire the data for my paper and continued to support and advise me throughout the development of my thesis. From these connections, I was able to expand my network in the refugee education field and ultimately find my dream job working in a refugee camp in Thailand. 

Soon, I will be moving to Mae Hong Son, Thailand where I will serve as the program coordinator for a CBO dedicated to refugee education and human rights. I am forever grateful to the ICE/IEPA program for deepening my understanding of international education and providing me with the skills and knowledge that have helped me take the next steps in my career.

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