Consultant at Impact, Under Construction (Founder)
UCU: Bachelor of Arts (Political science and History)
After UCU: University of Amsterdam; MSc (International Relations)
Radboud University Nijmegen: Advanced Master in International Development (AMID)

What made you decide to apply for UCU? “During high school I already developed a broad interest and I knew I wanted to follow an education in English. My initial plan was to study Liberal Arts and Sciences in the Unites States. But I decided to also explore Dutch Universities. One day I was on my way to the Utrecht University open day, sitting on the number 12 bus to the Uithof. A few stops before the final destination, quite some people got off the bus. When I asked them where they were going their reply was: ‘There is a liberal arts and sciences college here called University College Utrecht…’ I didn’t hesitate and followed them and I immediately felt I was in the right place. After a tour over the campus and a ’Mock- Class’ taught in English in Locke I knew I wanted to study here. So in a way it was a bit of a coincidence that I came across UCU, but on the other hand it was a logical decision for me to apply for UCU.

How do you look back on your time at UCU? My time at UCU was a unique experience. What I really liked was having the enormous network of people around me and doing lots of activities together. I think it was fairly easy for everyone to find his or her place and to feel at home. It was great to meet people from different cultural backgrounds and different years. Being born in Russia during the Soviet Union era and having moved to the Netherlands when I was 6, for the first time in my life it wasn’t strange to not have just one nationality. The level of education was high and I felt positively challenged to get the best out of myself. Take for instance  the ‘Political Theory’ course during my first semester, taught by Maiolo and Locke. For their class I had to write a 2 pages paper every single week; I don’t recall writing as many papers for a course as I did then.

How did you prepare for ‘life after UCU’?  From my second year onwards I did one or two off campus courses per semester to broaden my horizon a bit. Since I didn’t go on exchange during my studies at UCU, I decided to study abroad after UCU for a year and I enrolled for Middle Eastern Studies and Hebrew at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. This enabled me to take some distance from the Netherlands and to think about my future. It was here that I decided to do a Masters in Political Sciences at the UvA (Amsterdam).

How did you experience studying for your Masters compared to studying at UCU? For me doing my Masters was relatively easy compared to studying at UCU but it enabled me to do research. Besides that I could start working  for Professor Dr. Frans van Waarden  (Social Sciences) as Research Assistant. It was a great being able to combine my own research with learning from Frans.

Could you tell us something about the start of your professional career in International Development? A week before graduating from UCU, I met my husband, Anne Poorta, also a UCU Alumnus. At a certain point Anne went to do his Masters at Columbia University. I decided to move with him to New York and here I got accepted for an internship at United Nations.  After the internship they asked me to stay and I became human rights adviser at the European Union Delegation to the United Nations. At the end of 2010 we returned to the Netherlands.

And how has your career developed since then? We stayed in the Netherlands for four years and during this period of time I worked for two organizations. I was admitted to a program called AMID at Radbout University(Advanced Masters in International Development) which implied studying for one day a week and working at an organization in International Development for four days. I was placed at PSO, an organization that focusses on capacity development in developing countries and I worked there as Program Officer.  My next job in International Development was at NIMD (Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy), where I worked as coordinator Planning,  Monitoring and Evaluation.  A very challenging position in which I was responsible for the planning, monitoring and evaluation of 25 Country-programs. Within NIMD I was the only person that had experience with monitoring and evaluation and I was given the opportunity to also work in the field on a regular basis, evaluating the impact of the programs with local partners. I worked a lot with storytelling and auditive mapping which I really enjoyed.

What do you find really important in your work? I’m passionate about helping organizations with great ideas and visions with defining the most effective road towards making their impact. That’s the reason I founded my venture ‘Impact, under construction’ in August 2014. I support my clients in mapping the resources that they have within their reach and I advise them on how to seek collaborations and partnerships in order to reach their maximum impact. My clients are usually nonprofit organizations but also social entrepreneurs. For instance I helped a startup that provides arts education for underprivileged children, to evaluate, increase and sustain their impact. In two years they grew from one public library to 14 libraries.

What brought you and Anne back to New York? My husband, Anne Poorta, got the offer to work as diplomat at the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations. Since I can do my work anywhere in the world we decided to grasp this opportunity and to move back to New York. Since February I’ve been working as Humanitarian Affairs Coordinator at the Dutch mission to the UN on an interim basis. We really enjoy living in New York and I am currently discovering the many co-working places New York has to offer, and have joined the dynamic Center for Social Innovation.

How would you like to stay connected to UCU? For me it would be really valuable to know who of my fellow Alumni are living here in NY. Of course I could search Facebook or LinkedIn but it would be more practical if UCU would have a tool that could provide us with a complete overview. As for giving back, I’m always available to be a UCU Ambassador at recruitment events here in New York. Furthermore UCU students can liaise with me if they want to know more about working in the field of International Development. I think the trend that Professors invite Alumni over to give a guest lecture is a very positive one. Fundraising amongst Alumni will probably be a challenge within the Dutch culture, but you can also show Alumni that giving their time and sharing their ideas is just as valuable!”