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Winter 2010

LeAnna Marr, Ed.M.'03, is perpetually jet lagged.

leanna_marr.jpgLeAnna Marr, Ed.M.'03, knew where she was headed long before she got there. "In my statement of purpose for my HGSE application," she remembers, "I noted that I applied to HGSE because of the International Education Program's focus on policy and reform, and that I hoped to pursue a career with an organization such as the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)."

And, that's exactly what she did. In fact, before she even graduated, she had applied to USAID's foreign service and was offered a position as an education officer.

Today she focuses on national policy and educational reform in countries where the U.S. government provides foreign assistance. In particular, she works closely with foreign service nationals -- the local staff hired to provide in-depth knowledge of their countries, cultures, and education systems.

"In many ways, my job is to figure out how to wed U.S. foreign policy priorities with educational needs in a country," she explains. "I can't think of a more rewarding job than helping children worldwide gain access to quality education."

Marr has worked for USAID in Sudan, Egypt, Morocco, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, but the country that affected her most was Guinea in West Africa, where, coincidentally, she had lived years before while associate director in the Peace Corps. "It's an extremely challenging country to live in, and one of the poorest places I have been," she says. "But in general, Guineans love Americans and love working with the Peace Corps and USAID."

While in Guinea, Marr led the design and implementation of a project to combat corruption and poor governance in the health, education, and agriculture sectors, problems that USAID theorized were constraining development in the country.

"It was a very challenging program to get off the ground," Marr says. "In part because corruption can be such a politically sensitive topic, but also because it was very different from typical USAID programming. I feel that simply launching this program and opening a national dialogue on corruption in Guinea -- something Guineans would rarely discuss in public prior to this activity -- was a huge step in the right direction."

Currently, Marr is on a two-year rotation in Washington, D.C., as the education team leader for Asia and the Middle East, for which she provides technical assistance for the educational programs in 23 countries including two of USAID's largest, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Working in Washington gives Marr the opportunity to examine USAID's work from a regional perspective, rather than country-specific, as well as engage government agencies, committees, and education panels -- even Congress.

Still, she's eager for her next placement. "While I'm learning a lot here in Washington," she says, "I'm very much looking forward to getting back overseas."

Photo: Jill Anderson