Helping vulnerable populations

Meet SIT alumnus Cody Donahue

MA in Sustainable Development
Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF

I serve as a child protection specialist at UNICEF. My duties include developing and managing programs that stimulate social norms change to end harmful practices, end violence against children, and make space for children to fulfill their potential. The bulk of my day-to-day revolves around program monitoring and evaluation.

I became aware of SIT through my international studies advisor at Oregon State University, who was herself an SIT alumna. SIT pulled me in with three things: The promise of a multi-cultural, internationally focused, intensive learning environment built around teamwork; the promise of refining practical skills that I had begun to develop in my pre-SIT career at the Senegal-based nongovernmental organization Tostan; and the promise of a rigorous peer review and professorial review of my academic work, teamwork, and career plans.

SIT’s curriculum has been at the vanguard of sustainable development thinking. Ideas we discussed eight years ago at SIT are just now starting to percolate into the United Nations.

UNICEF groupSIT provided the learning environment it promised. It gave me a new set of tools to analyze myself and my goals and what I could contribute to a team, to a project, and to broader institutions in the social sector. It also exposed me to new frameworks that critically analyze our ways of conducting business as a social sector and ways we can do better by the world’s most marginalized and vulnerable peoples. SIT’s curriculum has been at the vanguard of sustainable development thinking. Ideas we discussed eight years ago at SIT are just now starting to percolate into the United Nations.

After SIT, I went back to Tostan for four more years and got to work with hundreds of dedicated people across eight countries. Then I decided to seek a new experience, which led me to UNICEF New York. I had to reimagine myself as a technical specialist, a global expert in child protection issues, and an intercultural diplomat. My SIT education gave me the self-awareness and flexibility to wear different hats (evaluator, manager, specialist).

After five years in New York, I will soon be taking up a post in UNICEF Sudan, focusing on ending female genital mutilation/cutting and child marriage. I will be responsible for managing a major nation-wide, multi-sectoral partnership with the government of Sudan, UN agencies, and international donors.

The SIT approach and philosophy are more relevant than ever today. The competencies I developed at SIT are precisely those the UN and NGOs look for in their staff.