Stephanie Bickler: IAS taught me how to make a difference
Stephanie Bickler began her undergraduate education knowing that she wanted to “make a difference” in the world. The trouble is that she didn’t know quite what that meant, nor how to go about doing it. Stephanie decided to transfer to UW Bothell from Cascadia Community College because she’d heard that the small class sizes at UW Bothell allowed for greater interaction with the professors. While working towards graduation in two majors and a minor in IAS, Stephanie found her focus and passion, which has led her to Zambia, Ethiopia, Haiti, and a job in international development.
Stephanie graduated in 2012 with a double major in Global Studies and Society Ethics and Human Behavior, and a minor in Human Rights. Stephanie’s curiosity guided this course of study, though she says she worked closely with IAS advisors to choose her courses strategically. Stephanie credits Global Studies with giving her a macro perspective on the types of social and economic development issues that were becoming her focus. Society, Ethics and Human Behavior classes gave her a more localized, micro-level approach to the same issues. And Human Rights provided an ethical lens framing all her activities.
Study abroad in Zambia galvanized Stephanie’s learning and commitments. Encouraged to pursue this opportunity by Leslie Ashbaugh, senior lecturer in IAS, director of the Center for University Studies and Programs, and leader of the 2011 Exploration Seminar in Zambia, Stephanie says that: “I wish I had gone earlier and more often.” Everything became more “real” for her in Zambia, her first trip out of the United States, as she focused her research on the effects of HIV/AIDS on the lives of street children and orphans. As a result of studying in Zambia, Stephanie developed a certainty that she wanted to work in international development, and that her academic work in IAS was essential preparation for this goal.
Sparked by this trip, Stephanie’s passion for active social engagement led her to become an officer in the student Human Rights Club on campus, a volunteer with Stirring the Fire (a global movement to empower women and girls), and a volunteer with the International Leadership Academy of Ethiopia. Stephanie also pursued study abroad again, this time as the co-director of a trip to Ethiopia with IAS instructor Panos Hatziandreas. As this was Hatziandreas’s first time running a study abroad seminar, he relied on Stephanie’s experience for successful logistical planning.
As an IAS graduate, Stephanie now works as the Engagement and Operations Director for the Mona Foundation, which currently supports fourteen educational projects in eight countries, including the United States. Stephanie’s academic achievements, experience abroad, and active commitment to volunteering helped her secure this position. These activities allowed her to connect her course work to her other interests in meaningful ways.
“If I didn’t have IAS, I wouldn’t have any of it. I had support no matter what. They helped me become the person I am. The help and experiences I had in those three years [at UW Bothell] are more than I’ve ever had,” says Stephanie.
Stephanie is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in International Community Development at Northwest University, while working full time at Mona. She plans to keep driving her career in international development, and hopes to get more chances to live and work abroad.
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