BY GRACE CRAMER
Grace Cramer is a second-year IDEV student and a senior editor of Perspectives.
In an occasional series, Perspectives is taking a deeper look at the IDEV program and the staff members who have made it and shaped it, keeping content and experiences up-to-date with emerging trends in the field. Before winter break, senior editors Adam Weber and Grace Cramer sat down with SAIS’s own Professor Dornsife to chat about her career, the changes IDEV has undergone, and this year’s theme, inclusive development.
A Bit About Professor Dornsife
Perhaps you knew the professor was fluent in Bahasa Indonesia…but we bet you didn’t know that she also played in a Gamelan, a traditional Indonesian musical ensemble. She played the Jegogan, which we’re told is "in the cello range."
The professor’s interest in Indonesia began during her time at the World Bank, where she worked as a researcher on a book about rural development. Her research covered 25 countries and the one that caught her eye particularly was Indonesia. She has since lived and worked in the country for years and bonded with her husband over their shared love of Indonesian culture.
IDEV’s curriculum has evolved over the years. As Professor Dornsife explains, the constrained economics component is a recent addition. Economics used to be included in Introduction to Development but the course load just became too big! So the economic module was separated and the introductory course became more centered on other important aspects of development, including social and political issues. And while there might be seven now, at one time there were only three professional tracks: social policy, finance and development, and politics and governance. As the number of tracks expanded, a self-designed track was also included. Students who pick this option usually integrate development with agriculture, health, or trade.
Now in its fifth year, the IDEV Practicum is an opportunity for students to work in the field. It turns out there were opportunities for IDEVers to travel even before this, in the form of intercession trips that took place over the January break, led by IDEV professors and assistants. These included trips to places such as Guatemala, Ghana, and of course Professor Dornsife’s personal favorite, Indonesia! However, fewer students were able to take these trips as space was limited and so the Practicum has provided not only more hands-on experience, but also more opportunities for students to participate.
What Inclusive Development Means
For Professor Dornsife, inclusive development is in everything she has done. She points out that some of her former employers, including the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, have focused above all on ending poverty; “If that’s not inclusive development, I don’t know what is!” Inclusiveness is also in everything she teaches, from her class on financial institutions, which focuses on the tradeoffs involved in social and environmental protection, to the social entrepreneurship course where students address inclusion head-on in their business models. She describes how one former student set up an enterprise to tackle energy poverty. The company sold D.Light lanterns (inexpensive, solar-powered products designed for people without access to electricity) to female entrepreneurs working in refugee camps on a lease-to-own model. In this way, a profitable project managed to address both energy poverty and female empowerment.
Gratitude to Donors
One of the biggest takeaways from our conversation with Professor Dornsife is how critical fundraising is to supporting the IDEV program. The professor herself plays an important role in this process, which makes sense given her extensive background with fundraising and donor advocacy at the Asia Development Bank and the Asia Foundation. Everyone in IDEV is grateful to donors who have supported the Practicum, internships, and other opportunities for students. There was a time, Professor Dornsife recalls, when IDEVers raised funds themselves, through bake sales and, perhaps most memorably, a calendar entitled “The men of IDEV.” Trust us, if you’ve ever wanted to see Francis Fukuyama on a Harley (and you do), the professor has all the best photos!
Perspectives would like to thank Professor Dornsife for her time and thoughts. Check back in for forthcoming interviews with other IDEV faculty.
Below, Professor Dornsife.