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Jennifer Beaston Hedrick

International Development Expert, Kigali, Rwanda

Tell us about your current role and responsibility. 

I am the Peace Corps Country Director for Rwanda. I am responsible for the strategy, government relations and well-being of more than 110 Peace Corps volunteers currently serving in Rwanda.

Why did you choose Thunderbird?

I knew I wanted to attend a truly international graduate school. While many schools said they were international, Thunderbird was the only school I found that had a fairly equitable mix of students from all regions of the world. When researching the curriculum, I was impressed that there wasn't just a class or two focused on international issues, but that it was embedded in every class, in every project, in every cohort.  

How has your Thunderbird experience played a role in your career? 

My career hasn't followed a “path” as much as a number of leaps of passion with one common motivator—being international and trying to make a positive contribution to the world. I have worked in investment banking, IT, development and international banking. I have traveled first class going to meetings for Citibank and had to duct tape my hotel (“hotel” used very loosely) door shut while staying in Guinea Bissau just after a coup. I've worked with government leaders, but also sat for hours under a mango tree discussing human rights with rural villagers. I've conducted valuations for large corporations and created an accounting system for a small village shop. I've worked in countries all across Africa, Asia and Europe. Being a T-bird taught me how to feel like I'm truly a citizen of the world—to feel comfortable and at home everywhere. To always be curious, to ask questions from a place of respect, to know there is a human and deeper part to every news story, to learn people are people everywhere. The similarities make us human; the differences make us interesting.  

How has being a T-bird affected your personal life?  

My closest friends to this day, people I consider family, I met at Thunderbird. There is something truly special and unique about the friendships you create at Thunderbird. We are scattered all over the world, but the great thing about T-birds is they don't think twice about hopping on a plane to get together for a weekend in some spot 10,000 miles away that happens to be the half-way point for all who are convening. Also, I'm so impressed by all that my T-bird friends have been accomplishing. It is an amazing network to plug into.  

What does the Thunderbird mystique mean to you?  

It is the bond that binds us despite nationality, religion, economic means or career sectors. It is a core set of values we all hold dear and live by. It is running into someone at an airport and instantly connecting, only an hour into the conversation realizing why: You are both T-birds.

What advice would you give current Thunderbird graduates?  

Follow the opportunities or paths that excite you, that keep you up all night thinking about the job, the project, the move. There is no right career path. As long as you are doing something you love and that you feel passionate about, everything will work out and probably be more extraordinary than you could have dreamed.

What advice would you give to someone considering Thunderbird?  

If you know "international" is who you are and who you will always be, Thunderbird is the school for you. It doesn't matter if you want to be in banking, IT, consulting, manufacturing, development, as long as you know you want to live all over the world.

Being a T-bird taught me how to feel like I'm truly a citizen of the world—to feel comfortable and at home everywhere.

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