She left her rural hometown in the Pocono Mountain region of eastern Pennsylvania telling her dad she would work in international relations. So certain was she of her direction, she tried to declare her major her first year at R-MWC.
“My Women in Politics course with Professor Jennifer Abbassi whet my appetite for further international study, and international development in particular,” remembers Kirsten Haines McKinney ’98 .
She spent her junior year at the University of Reading which helped develop self-reliance and broadened her world view. She rounded out her undergraduate education with a minor in economics.
From there her options for graduate school were wide open, and she entered The George Washington University and earned her masters in International Development in 2001.
Kirsten refined her focus to international education programs through a paid internship during her second year of graduate school with the non-profit agency ACDI/VOCA (Agricultural Cooperative Development International and Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance ).
“There is definitely a link between education and community development. I helped set up US-based training programs for agriculturalists or other professionals in emerging democracies and developing countries.”
For her next employer, World Learning, an international non-governmental organization, she administered civil society and democracy strengthening programs in a number of countries, including Armenia and Albania where she traveled and worked with local organizations and communities.
A new opportunity with the British Council in Washington, DC was presented in 2004. Working primarily in education marketing, she recruited US students and worked with educational advisors on both sides of the Atlantic in pursuit of educational collaboration and policy exchanges with the United Kingdom.
Kirsten recently married and moved to Roanoke, Virginia, to serve as the Director of International Programs at Hollins University. “Now I use my international training and Reading experience to work with US and international students to expand educational opportunities for them,” she explains. “True understanding comes from looking beyond your hometown and beyond the Red Brick Wall with confidence to try new things. International Development and Education is a growing field and is making measureable impact in the world right now."