Dwaine Lee

Dwaine Lee first learned about CIE while serving in Uganda with the Peace Corps from 1995-1997.  CIE was working on a USAID education program strengthening the Ugandan primary education sector and Dwaine was assigned as a teacher trainer in the same schools and teachers’ colleges where CIE was engaged.  Through that work, he met CIE’s Renuka Pillay, who was working for CIE in Uganda.


Dwaine said, “That was really a life-changing moment for me. Before meeting Renuka I didn’t know about academic degrees in the field of international education and knew little about the work of USAID and other organizations around the world.  Conversations with Renuka really opened up my eyes about how I could apply my passion for education globally.  At her recommendation, I applied to CIE and was fortunately accepted. My six years in Amherst, first for a Master’s and then a doctorate, shaped me into the educator and professional I am today.”


While at CIE, Dwaine studied the effects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on the education sector in Malawi, a topic he first became interested in as Peace Corps Volunteer, witnessing first-hand the crippling effects of the disease on the communities where he worked.  He was able to do field research in Malawi while serving as CIE’s program manager for the USAID/Malawi-funded Advanced Degree Activity.


After leaving Amherst, Dwaine joined the Academy for Educational Development, where he oversaw monitoring, evaluation, and research for the U.S. Department of Labor’s then-largest child labor and education program, stretching across Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Rwanda.  In 2005 he was hired by USAID as a Foreign Service education officer (and fellow CIE graduate Vachel Miller replaced him in Uganda).


Dwaine has since served with USAID in Macedonia, Kenya, Afghanistan, South Africa, Ethiopia, and Washington, D.C.  In his first tour in Macedonia, he led both the education, and the democracy and governance programs, at a time that was critical to inter-ethnic integration amongst the mostly-Muslim Albanians and Orthodox Macedonians in the years following the war in neighboring Kosovo. His relationships with senior officials, including the Minister of Education, helped to pave the way for inter-ethnic education programs, as well as initiatives to modernize Macedonia, including supporting its effort to become the First Wireless Country in the World.


In Kenya, Dwaine served as the Director of USAID’s Office of Education and Youth at a time when USAID was shifting its strategy to focus on early grade reading. USAID/Kenya was at the forefront of the new policy and conducted some of the earliest and most successful early grade reading pilot programs. As a result of their success, Dwaine negotiated with the government for a nationwide expansion of the program, to cover over 23,000 primary schools and seven million children. The program, Tusome (Let’s Read in Kiswahili), is today one of USAID’s most successful examples of a national scale-up and has produced notable gains in literacy nationwide. 


Concurrently, Dwaine oversaw USAID’s largest youth program in the world, Yes Youth Can, which the U.S. Ambassador in Kenya said was “quite possibly the most important thing the U.S. government is doing in Kenya.”  The program engaged over one million youth across Kenya to empower them with greater voice and economic opportunity.  


The design of Yes Youth Can was initially led by fellow CIE graduate, Mark Meassick, utilizing research carried out by a team led by CIE faculty member, Ash Hartwell.  The “youth-owned, youth-led, youth-managed” initiative was crucial to garnering the support of presidential candidates to espouse peaceful elections and helped to prevent a repeat of the 2008 post-election violence in Kenya during the 2013 elections.


In 2013-14, Dwaine oversaw USAID/Afghanistan’s education and health programs, including CIE’s higher education program.  He then served with USAID’s Power Africa program in Pretoria. Most recently he was the Director for West African Affairs in Washington, D.C., where he oversaw approximately $2 billion in USAID assistance to 21 countries in the region and represented USAID with the National Security Council and Congress.  In 2019 he moved to Ethiopia, where he joined USAID’s health team.


Dwaine is married to Sonila Hysi, a fellow foreign service officer he met in Afghanistan. Together they have two children, Aleksander and Christopher. Dwaine has three children from a prior marriage, Connor, Erik, and Anna Kate.


Dwaine reflected, “For the past 15 years I have had the chance to shape some of USAID’s largest programs and have engaged with numerous government officials. I really credit my education at CIE, and the attention given to me by professors like David Evans, Gretchen Rossman, Ash Hartwell, and others, with the confidence I have to lead these types of programs. CIE really did change my life, and I hope I am using that experience and knowledge to improve other lives around the world.” [10-19]


Email: dlee@usaid.gov


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