MPS, Global Development
- Hometown: Santa Cruz, California
- Colleges attended and degree earned: BA Sociology, San Jose State
What are the big challenges you want to tackle in the world?
I am passionate about decolonizing white savior and western dependence approaches to international development. This means confronting and rewriting the white supremist narrative that is the groundwork of the United States. I want to address the exploitative nature of America’s influence and power in global business affairs and humanitarian assistance programs.
What were you doing before the MPS program?
My Peace Corps service in Uganda was interrupted due to COVID-19. There, I was a literacy specialist for 4th and 5th graders. Our focus was on encouraging a reading culture, supporting in facilitating a library program, and phonics instruction. I also was able to support youth health programs such as DREAMS and Grassroots Soccer which both target HIV/AIDS education for primary and secondary school children.
Tell us a fun fact about you.
I attended a week-long silent meditation retreat in Chiang Mai, Thailand and could only last 3 days!
What does global development mean to you?
I strongly believe that development is subjective, and each initiative should be sensitive to the unique makeup of a developing community. I think any project should be locally led and sustainable for the community at hand. Working in development means amplifying the voices of vulnerable populations and supporting those communities in optimal utilization of local resources before depending on international aid. Developing communities should not have to conform to white or western standards to become “developed.” Development programs should foster local leaders to demonstrate their own culture and heritage. I also think there is a pressing need to change the narrative that developing nations are “poor” and “helpless” and a pure reflection of their GDP. Lastly, I believe in the power of collaboration between sectors, i.e., blending education, health, agriculture, business, etc., for ultimate effectiveness of development.
What has been the most memorable or impactful experience of your career so far?
Traveling, learning local dances, languages, food, and seeing new landscapes! I am so grateful for my Peace Corps service and prior travel experiences. They have challenged me to constantly evolve and reframe my approach to life seeing different ways people live across the world. I strive to be as hospitable and loving as the families who have taken me in. Working in youth and development has been exceptionally impactful as children have always been the best and most honest teachers!
How do you envision your MPS degree contributing to your career?
I see the MPS degree supporting my career in several ways. I want to link Cornell to universities abroad to strengthen capacity building to enhance Cornell’s name as an innovative research institute. I am hoping to extend my knowledge on curriculum development and emerging markets to address the growing global youth populations. Specifically, I want to go into sectors of social enterprise and entrepreneurship for women empowerment as well as health and nutrition. I am also inspired regarding ethics in global supply chains and holding corporations accountable for human rights issues within fast fashion, international agriculture and trade policy.
Connect with Rylee:
- rls522 [at] cornell.edu
- Connect with Rylee on LinkedIn