An Elliott School education has led a recent graduate from Foggy Bottom to Mali for an immersive, global experience. Kelsey Oliver, BA ’19, studied international affairs with concentrations in global public health and security policy. Now, she’s living with a host family just outside Mali’s capital city, Bamako, and working as a communications fellow with an organization called Muso. Muso brings preventative care to Malians by deploying hundreds of community health workers, mostly women, to go door-to-door in search of patients. Among the most important services these health workers provide are family planning, newborn screening and treatment for children with malaria, diarrhea and malnutrition.
Kelsey says the best part of her time in Mali has been the sense of community. Her host mother, Tata, and her many host brothers and sisters have become Kelsey’s second family. In this immersive environment, Kelsey also continues to learn the language and cross-cultural communication skills she needs to be successful in her work with Muso. “Whether you’re interested in public health, medicine, engineering, or international affairs, it’s really important to be able to understand where other people are coming from,” Kelsey said.
Kelsey is using video to document her life in Mali and share a visual story about the impact of Muso’s work. You can watch an episode from her video diary here. To get in touch with Kelsey and hear more about her work, please reach out to her on LinkedIn.
In honor of Women’s History Month, we recently caught up with alumna Kateryna Pyatybratova, ESIA BA ’11, MA/MBA ’16, who has turned her experiences at the Elliott School and GW into a career promoting women’s leadership and public service around the world.
Tell us about what you are doing now and why it matters to you.
I currently serve as the director of marketing and business development at the GW Center for Excellence in Public Leadership. In this role, I am responsible for the Center’s go-to-market strategy and partnership-building efforts with U.S. and international government agencies and executive education partners.
In a place like Washington, if you ask someone to identify the number one reason that makes something succeed or fail, the answer inevitably comes down to “leadership.” Right here at GW, we help leaders achieve personal and professional breakthroughs and make a positive difference in their organizations and in the lives of the people they serve. Seeing the impact that we’re making here in DC, and around the world, is what energizes and inspires me to continue to do more.
March is Women’s History Month. How have you worked to promote women’s leadership and public service?
While at the Elliott School, I’ve been blessed to have a number of amazing mentors and friends (both women and men) who supported me in my own leadership journey. It is important to me personally to do the same for others. I called on my extended GW network time and again when I served as director for the Women’s Information Network Advisory Council, fundraised for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, and when a fellow alumna and I started publishing the Women Inspire Action Magazine, telling authentic stories of women who turned their vision into a reality.
Most recently, my GW colleagues and I launched the Executive Women’s Leadership Program (EWLP)*, designed for high potential leaders who are looking to accelerate their impact, influence and career advancement. Because the program received such rave reviews from women leaders in DC and federal government agencies, we are now working to bring EWLP to international audiences through partnerships with the Elliott School’s Gender Equality Initiative in International Affairs and GW’s Global Women’s Institute. Later in March, we will bring our empowering message to the 6th Annual Power of Collaboration Global Summit at the United Nations.
How did the Elliott School influence your professional choices and successes? Who helped you on your career path?
I wouldn’t be where I am today without my GW family. This university didn’t just give me a world-class education and a fulfilling career, but also life-long friendships and exposure to transformative ideas and experiences.
During my undergraduate years, I had the extraordinary opportunity to do research alongside top foreign policy scholars, such as Dr. Hope Harrison, study abroad at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow and Sciences-Po University in Paris, and volunteer at the Obama White House and AmeriCorps. Thanks to GW’s strategic location in the nation’s capital, by the time I completed my B.A., I had four years of job experience on my resume, having worked at the Peace Corps, the Woodrow Wilson Center, and the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Being a first-generation immigrant, none of this would have been possible for me without the help of a generous alumni scholarship that funded my first two years in college. I will always be grateful for that!
I especially want to recognize fellow alumnus Paul Maeser, MA ’14, who recommended me as a participant to a prestigious seminar in 2018 through the German Marshall Fund, opening a lot of new doors to partnerships in Germany, Brussels, and Ukraine. I also credit my program director, Dr. Peter Rollberg, who heads the Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies, for his wisdom and invaluable support throughout my four years in the joint M.A./M.B.A. program. Under his guidance, I was able to really tailor my graduate school experience to my specific professional goals and undertake hands-on research projects that added tremendously to my professional portfolio. One of the projects I did in Ukraine, which was sponsored by the William & Helen Petrach Grant, even evolved into a business opportunity!
What would you say to current Elliott School students who want to make a positive difference in the world?
I would reiterate a quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the famous 20th-century German theologian and anti-Nazi dissident, whose writings had a profound impact on my own life: “Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.”
*Note: The Executive Women’s Leadership Program is open to alumni, as well as non-GW women active in professional careers. The Spring Cohort will take place April 3-5, and there are still a few spaces available.
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