Ricel Valdes Caldwell's collegiate and professional work have taken her all over the United States and beyond, but make no mistake: She doesn't overlook her time in Charleston when reflecting on the high points of a career path leading to her current responsibilities with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Washington, D.C.
"My graduate experience with the political science department at EIU was not only helpful to my professional career path, but also for my academic fulfillment," said Caldwell, who earned her master's degree in May 2009. "The personalized attention and ability to narrowly focus on my preferred topics of research allowed me to develop the interest of my current career path."
Caldwell arrived at Eastern after completing undergrad studies at St. Thomas University in Miami. After finishing up here, she made her way to our nation's capital and now works for Abt Associates, which has a major government contract with USAID.
As far as what she does for Abt and USAID, it's best to let Caldwell explain the job title of "Finance and Contract Analyst" herself.
"What that basically means is I do a little bit of everything," begins Caldwell. "I work on direct U.S. Government-funded projects. When I first started my role, it was a bit challenging understanding these different bureaucratic organizational breakdown structures — so bear with me as I explain where I fall in this structure.
"In 2005, President Bush funded and launched what is known as the 'President's Malaria Initiative', which is the U.S. Government goal to reduce malaria in Africa; this was placed with USAID and is run by them. Within PMI, there are different projects that combat Malaria, one of them being 'Indoor Residual Spraying', which is one of their largest programs with PMI.
"I work on IRS. I directly support Mozambique, Senegal, Kenya, and Benin on all matters relating to contractual operations and government financing/funding."
Caldwell takes the lead on handling human resource issues and deals with securing government and USAID approval on project requests, ensuring government money isn't being fraudulently misused. She also travels to Liberia, meeting with various Liberian government officials to work on planning in the IRS project, which she further explains is one of USAID's most complicated and highly scrutinized endeavors.
"I had the opportunity to do this because with RTI (a former employer) I had worked with Liberia and traveled there before," explained Caldwell. "So Abt saw this as an advantage; I already had working knowledge of the country and its government counterparts."
In a similar fashion, an international internship in New Zealand completed during her time at Eastern aided Caldwell in securing her current job. During that internship, she worked for parliament member Nicky Wagner, completing a number of tasks including coordinating her Web presence, organizing and attending community events, drafting speeches and presentations, and even working alongside the country's prime minister and his staff.
"When I was initially interviewed and narrowed down as a final candidate for this position (with USAID), it was made clear to me that my overseas experience during my graduate program was one of the top important factors in my candidacy," said Caldwell.
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