Views from the field - Valerie Haugen

Reported by Eunice Kua


CIE graduate Valerie Haugen (Ed.D. 1997) spent some time with students and faculty on a Tuesday afternoon following the Montague House ribbon cutting ceremony, sharing from her rich and diverse experience as an educational development consultant who has worked in multiple fields in 35 countries particularly in Asia and Africa.


In a wide-ranging discussion, Valerie shared her thoughts on policy and development questions raised by students, as well as her own career path and advice about different skillsets and areas of study that the next generation of development professionals, whether national ministry staff or external consultants, should find useful.


Growing up in an all-white community in southern Minnesota, Valerie related how she met a person of color for the first time on a camping trip with her parents, and had a non-white classmate for the first time in 11th grade. Nevertheless, she had a deep curiosity about the world: “When I was about 10 years old, I knew I needed to understand the interconnectedness of people and places. That’s always been a driving force in my life, to understand those connections and try in some way to develop and strengthen those connections…”


After college, Valerie began her career by spending 3 years working in a refugee camp in the Philippines, teaching ESL to refugees headed for the US. She then returned to Minnesota and worked as a school district administrator, directing an ESL program which involved similar refugees. It was during this time that she went to a workshop by Paolo Freire and met CIE graduate Mark Lynd, who introduced her to the Center.


Coming to CIE, she said, “I felt like I found my intellectual and spiritual home.”


After finishing her doctorate, she worked in Hanoi for 3 years, right after relations between Vietnam and the West were normalized, then lived in Australia, working as a senior education advisor to AusAID, and has been doing short-term consulting work even since.


“I have long CV because of a lot of different jobs,” she explained. “I love what I do because I like to be continually learning and expanding and seeing the interconnections between them.”


For those interested in a consulting career, Valerie noted that networks are very important for finding work, as the chances of obtaining a job through the application process are not high. She advised students to build their network while still at CIE. “Take every opportunity to enrich your connections as well as the breadth and depth of your knowledge base,” she advised.


She also advocated identifying specific skillsets to acquire, which would be useful in the field: “Do you have the skills to do a gender analysis? Do you have the skills to review and make recommendations for revising policy?” “Do you know how to do different kinds of monitoring and evaluation, from independent to wholly participatory? Do you know the different resource commitments needed [for each one]?”


Valerie also identified a strong grounding in quantitative research methods and statistics as something that would be helpful, as well as skills in organizational development and change management, transactional research, and systems thinking.


For students returning to work in government ministries, she noted that it is important to know how to read a CV and sort the quality from the hype, to know how to use technical assistance well, whether foreign experts or local specialists. Taking a cautionary though optimistic tone throughout, she noted that foreigners have sometimes done great harm by pretending to be experts in areas they do not really know, but that positive change is possible even in difficult situations.