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Alumni Spotlight: Caroline Fowler Allen

Posted by: andrewst | November 11, 2020 | No Comment |

Caroline Fowler Allen graduated in 2008 with minors in African studies and geography.  In her first year at CofC, Caroline took a class with Dr. Chris Day, which inspired her to become a political science major.  The topic of the Rwandan genocide grabbed her interest that year and held her focus as she completed her undergraduate degree and went on to receive her master’s. While finishing her master’s in International Development from Tulane University, Caroline accepted an internship with the U.S. Department of State, in the Bureau of African Affairs.  Shortly after, she began interning with EcoVentures International, a Washington, DC-based non-profit that focuses on economic development.  Within six months, Caroline was hired, and several short months later was off on her first trip to Kenya to support an ongoing project.

Caroline is now the International Program Director for EcoVentures and lives in Mexico.  She attributes her growth in the company to the fact that it is a small organization where, “with fewer people to do the work, you have to get your hands dirty” and take on tasks where you may not feel initially comfortable.  This environment forced this self-described “shy” young woman to stretch in ways she could not have previously imagined, particularly when tasked with facilitating large group trainings – an element of the job she has grown to love.  Caroline loves the variety of her position and finds it “hard to get bored!”

Caroline’s work sounds fascinating and rewarding.  EcoVentures supports local project teams for a number of donor-funded projects globally, mostly within agriculture. They apply “systems thinking lenses” to international development challenges, aiming to avoid “quick fixes,” but rather supporting the “development and sustainability of local market systems.” The one negative of the job is when “politics gets involved” – when a decision is made just to meet reporting requirements or to please the donors, but overall she is very happy in her work.

Despite being quite busy with her career, Caroline still makes times to volunteer as a mentor in our department’s mentorship program.  As an alum who has navigated her own path toward a rewarding career, she has much to share with our juniors and seniors who may be struggling to find their niche or just need a little support or guidance as graduation draws near.  Her number one piece of advice for students is “don’t undervalue your full range of experience and skills.”  She explains: “In today’s world, experience outside of the classroom is important, including extracurricular activities and even hospitality jobs (which show that you can multitask and stay calm under pressure!).” Equally important is experience with online software and tools: “when the world shut down due to COVID-19, we had to quickly adapt to taking all of our usually in-person activities to an online space, so these kinds of skills are highly valued.”

Additional advice from Caroline, especially geared toward freshmen and sophomores:

  • Take some classes with Dr. Mark Long and Dr. John Creed, two of her favorite professors!
  • Fine-tune a foreign language – “it would have been more useful, in hindsight, to be fluent (or close to fluent) in one language, rather than dabbling in many”
  • And “remain open to whatever opportunities come your way”
under: Mentorship Program

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