Catching up with Cassie Marshall

Hi all,

Cassandra Marshall, at her new position at Mercy Corps.

Cassandra Marshall, at her new position at Mercy Corps.

We heard that Cassie Marshall, one of our recent graduates (2013), had just taken on a new job in Portland that was making use of some of the skills she developed in the SOAN department. We asked her for an update, and here it is!

I recently took on a new internship and I thought SOAN students might be interested in hearing about it, since I am using many of the skills I learned in the Research Methods and other SOAN classes.

About a month ago, I started interning with Mercy Corps, an international humanitarian relief and development organization in their headquarters office in Portland, Oregon. Through my internship I am working on an initiative titled Recruitment for Diversity, in collaboration with Sahar Alnouri, the Global Gender Advisor, and Cathy Rothenberger, the Senior Director of Global Talent Acquisition. As the “Recruitment for Diversity” intern, I am doing research in order to support increased recruitment of female national team members in country offices in over 40 different countries, many of which are considered developing nations. 

For many NGOs finding qualified women who grew up in the countries Mercy Corps operates in, and who are willing to work away from family in remote locations, can be a big challenge. Women in many developing countries have few opportunities for education thus the pool of experienced female applicants is small. Even though these are large challenges, one of the defining characteristics that makes Mercy Corps’ programs successful is the fact that more than 93% of field staff are from the countries where they work. Field teams are already familiar with the customs, language, and needs of local people. Also, the makeup of field teams directly affects the impact of programs; many places have strict cultural lines drawn between women and men, even in times of political or environmental disaster. Having more balanced field teams, whether this be in terms of gender, ethnicity or religion, allows programs to effectively reach more beneficiaries.

As part of this project I am gathering data through desk research, as well as surveying and interviewing of Mercy Corps employees around the world. With these methods, I am seeking to identify the challenges and best practices of increasing female staff. So far, I have distributed surveys to over 40 different persons, and I have interviewed individuals working in Guatemala. Soon I will be talking to staff in Afghanistan. Ultimately, once my interviews are complete I will be synthesizing all of my work into an HR “Recruitment for Diversity” guide which will be available to all Country Offices to use as a handbook.

While I have a little over a month left at my internship, I have already learned so much about international development and the challenges NGOs face in their efforts to make the world a better place. I can truly say that Mercy Corps provides its interns with real world experience and pushes them to learn as much as they can about development and relief work. My experience as a SOAN student prepared me well for the work I am doing here and I highly encourage students to look into opportunities with Mercy Corps and other NGOs in the Pacific Northwest.

It’s great to hear from you Cassie, and thanks so much for the update. We’d love to hear from you again when you’ve finished your research project, and good luck getting your project to the finish line.