December 21, 2021

CGA Alumni Spotlight: Stefani McCoy & Dalia Amin


Why did you choose to pursue a graduate program at the CGA?

My time in the Peace Corps was a practical foundation for my passion for international development. I wanted an understanding of the theory component of development to back up my practical knowledge from the Peace Corps. However, I wanted to know the theoretical knowledge that could lead to deeper understanding and aid in acquiring the specific techniques to have the tools to influence change and a greater scale. I wanted the literal language and terminology to complement my practical experiences. I found CGA to be the best fit to balance the theoretical and the practical.

CGA is opened-minded to injustices happening in America and the world, including child labor, human rights, social justice issues, all of which were topics I wanted to further explore in the Global Gender Studies or International Development & Humanitarian Assistance concentrations (though I ultimately ended up choosing International Development). 

Tell us about your experience so far as one of the co-chairs of CGA’s Inclusion, Diversity, Belonging, Equity, and Inclusion (IDBEA) Committee:

After George Floyd, we began talking as alumni about how to gain momentum in moving forward with a new mindset of organizational culture change and ultimately wrote to the CGA to initiate these conversations with the faculty and administration. Organizational culture change is now integral to my own work as the Director of Equity and Inclusion consultant for Burbank Unified school district. My work focuses on how to bring change to the mindset of education, to change the culture within institutions and create frameworks to cultivate that change. In January I will start my doctor of Education in Organizational Change and Leadership at USC Rossier School of Education. The program focuses on leadership within education with regard to equity, diversity, and inclusion, focusing on practical skills to make a meaningful impact within schools. I’ll continue to focus on diversity and inclusion with regard to race, ethnicity, and the LGBTQ community; on how to be inclusive without creating or causing further trauma through the understanding of historical contexts. 

The IDBEA Committee set up a time to both hear and to listen to the experience of students within the CGA community. Going forward, I see the opportunity to have a hand and voice in creating a different narrative, in reevaluating the materials and books presented to students ensuring they are more inclusive of the voices, perspectives, experiences of Black, Indigienous, and other underrepresented communities. We have to continue to keep each other accountable to meeting as a committee and ensuring there is BIPOC representation.

What should students take advantage of in graduate school to better position themselves for the job market?

Know how to research, write, and present both a focused argument and counterargument. Take on leadership positions to focus on public speaking, on expanding the vocabulary necessary to effectively network and communicate with people. 

Build networks with your professors. As I was applying to PhD programs, the professors I had cultivated relationships with faculty who knew me and could speak to my academic performance. They continued to support me as I wrote my admissions essays, helping me to ensure my arguments were impactful and effective. When professors know your niche interests, they keep their eyes open for opportunities. 

With guest speakers and event panelists. I Attended events because hearing from people that inspire you has the potential to make a big impact on you as a student.

CGA and the larger NYU community. It opens doors and creates connections.

What class had the most impact on your time at CGA?

Gender in International Affairs (Sex, Power, and Politics) with Dr. Sylvia Maier changed my life. Dr. Maier’s passion for gender equity is so deep-rooted in who she is as a person and that is truly evident in how she teaches the course. Her class allowed me be my authentic self and really embrace my identity as a Black, queer woman.  

Food Security with Dr. Jens Rudbeck gave language to my lived experience; to the lack of food, lack of grocery stores that had food with nutritional value. I realized that oppression is applied to even food resources, which changed how I buy food, the products I shop for; it totally changed how I see inequality and motivated me to do something about it. 

Finals Words: When I first started at CGA, I really suffered from Imposter Syndrome. I didn't feel like I had the voice, knowledge, language, and it impacted how I showed up in class. I took advantage of the NYU Counseling Center and my sessions helped me to realize that I didn’t feel like I belonged because of my lived experience. My feelings around being a Black woman at a prestigious university were barriers to be broken; to understand that I was accepted was to realize that if I have something to share or to say, that it will add value to the conversation. There is no opinion too small. For all students who might struggle with feeling like you belong, realize that if you’re accepted, that you’ve been invited to the table. Show up and share your thoughts and opinions. 



What is your current position - how did the CGA help prepare you for this role? 

I am the Search for Common Ground country director in Iraq. The CGA helped me prepare for this role through practical experiences, by having dialogue and debate with my colleagues in the classroom, and especially through facilitating field experience. Through the Workshop in Applied Peacebuilding, taught by Dr. Thomas Hill, I had the opportunity to spend three months working at the Center for Peace and Conflict Resolution at the University of Duhok- Iraq, enabling me to tap into both theoretical knowledge and practical experience simultaneously. There are great courses at CGA that give you tools for your toolbox that can be applied to any position, managerial or not. Skills like working with people, how to time-manage, data collection, how to check your sources, and how to build and exhibit confidence to those around you. 

Skills integral to your line of work?

  1. Knowing and understanding the context in which you work and being technically sound through referencing theories and reports - Read up on the news and realize that the learning you’re doing in graduate school is preparing you for the work you’ll be doing. It prepared me to talk to donors and government officials, to work across diverse groups of people, including religious, youth, and gender organizations. 

  2. Honesty and transparency - in grad school you can disagree respectfully and that allows you to communicate openly and honestly, and let your ideas be heard.

  3. Be Innovative - innovation is celebrated at the CGA and because of that, I implement it in my work to cultivate new ideas and target new audiences. 

  4. Inclusivity - At the CGA, I met people from all over the world and was surrounded by so many different opinions and ideas. The inclusion and celebration of diverse perspectives is something I highly value and I have actually chosen not to pursue some professional opportunities when it was apparent that inclusivity was not celebrated or valued by the organization.

A piece of career advice for students about to graduate:

Invest in relationships - relationship-building is like watering a flower, you keep those connections in place so that the relationship will thrive. Keeping those connections has opened many doors for me, both personally and professionally.

Be patient and have realistic expectations - try everything once. In graduate school you are investing financially, emotionally, intellectually, so take advantage of the resources that are available to you.

What class had the most impact on your time at CGA?

Refugees and IDPs with Dr. Jens Rudbeck - at the time, I was debating if I wanted to work in the field or at an organization’s headquarters. The class made me realize that I need to be in the field and that time and energy can be best used there. The issues raised in the class made me angry, but that anger inspired me to act. 

And as I mentioned, the Workshop in Applied Peacebuilding. The course was such a great balance of theory and practical application and I was actually able to apply what I learned directly to a specific context. It left me feeling like this is why I went to grad school.

What is a book/podcast that you’re listening to or reading and recommend

  • Book: Machiavelli for Women: Defend Your Worth, Grow Your Ambition, and Win the Workplace by Stacey Vanek Smith 

Podcasts: Planet Money from NPR and TED Talks Daily

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