Odette Ponce

In celebration of International Women’s Day and in honor of Women’s History month, we’d like to introduce you to two amazing women currently working within the field of international development: Sarah Thomas and Sarah Young. Learning how people become involved in their current careers is always fascinating; some choose their paths in college, some jump into the unknown hoping for the best, and some find it through their adjacent passions. These incredible women are perfect examples of the latter. Using their passions for culture, history, language and literature, they are improving the field of International development everyday.


Sarah Thomas

Our story begins with Sarah Thomas, the communications specialist at Boston University’s Pardee School of Global Studies. Sarah was born and raised in Scranton, Pa. She attended Alfred University in Alfred, N.Y., where she studied English literature and history. She joins the BU family from a journalism background after having worked as a correspondent for the Boston Globe, editor for the Salem Gazette, and regional content manager for Gatehouse Media. One of her many roles is to show how the people of the Pardee School; current students, alumni and professors, work on the cutting edge of thought in global development.

“We have a saying here at the Pardee School: ‘Peace that lasts, development that works and knowledge that transforms,’” Thomas says. “I write about the way the people who make up the Pardee School use their passion and their intelligence to further that mission. 

We asked Sarah Thomas to tell us about a role model in her life and how that role model shaped her passion for Journalism within International development:

“I would have to say my role model was a woman I met in my very first newspaper job at the Wayne Independent in Wayne County, PA. Her name was Theresa; she was a local environmental and climate activist. She was a black belt in a very specific style of Japanese martial arts, practiced belly dancing, and was always able to give me insight on different cultures. She was from New York City but had a very multicultural family. She was the one that made me believe that there was something more to this than just a job that I had, like most jobs you have within your early to late twenties. She gave me the sense that maybe this journalism thing was it for me.”

About the Pardee School of Global Studies
​The Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies is Boston University’s newest initiative to advance human progress.​The Pardee School is dedicated to improving the human condition through rigorous and creative undergraduate, graduate, and professional education; path-breaking research; and active engagement in innovative initiatives that apply this education and knowledge to make a real-world difference in the critical challenges humanity faces.


Sarah Young

​Our story continues with Sarah Young, the Program Associate at New England International Donors (NEID). Young attended Dickinson College in Pennsylvania and graduated in 2013 with a B.A. in Spanish. While in college, she was fortunate enough to live in Spain and work for a cultural center that strived to archive literature that was lost or destroyed during the Franco dictatorship. The center was able to recover art and literature with the goal of bringing it back to people who had once lost a little piece of their history. In the future, Young hopes to attain more on-the-ground experience in developing countries and complete more fieldwork that requires interacting with people.

“It was a unique experience to have an outsider perspective looking in and getting to work with people,” Young says. “It definitely inspired me to work in an atmosphere where people seek to foster cultural exchange. It is exactly what we do at NEID and TPI; I get to learn about people’s international experiences and learn about their passions.”

Young started at The Philanthropic Initiative (TPI) about a year and a half ago as a Program Assistant and was eventually able to transition into her current position at NEID. The NEID network consists of more than 100 members of individuals and institutions; its purpose is to create a learning environment and a safe space for their members to come together to share their experiences and learn from each other. It is a hub for truly passionate donors with rich experiences in a range of fields from global health, education and youth, to impact investing.

We asked Sarah Young about her most gratifying experience working in International development:

“NEID created a response to the Ebola crisis and hosted a conference call with Raj Panjabi of Last Mile Health. With more than 40 of our donors on the line, he spoke about his experience over in Liberia and what he saw. It was an incredible moment where we got to hear him speak about it and hear our donor’s passions and concerns. We were able to create a Needs Beyond Ebola Fund that raised $50,000 that was matched by Last Mile Health, and has since been sent over to help support the work in Liberia. Being on the call and hearing their stories and knowing that our members were having a direct impact was a pretty incredible moment, and I felt lucky to be involved, even at the periphery, and help facilitate that. It was very gratifying."

About New England International Donors (NEID)
​New England International Donors is a community of individuals, grant-makers, social investors, and advisors who are changing the world from New England. ​Since 2008, NEID has been offering a variety of roundtables, panel discussions, site visits, book discussions and networking events on topics of interest to New England area donors. By helping with giving and impact investing, connecting global donors to issues, experts, effective strategies, and each other, NEID aims to encourage, inform, and enhance funders’ international giving.

​One important lesson to be learned from these two powerful and intelligent women: listening and learning from other’s experiences are pivotal skills when it comes to problem-solving in International development.


We requested that each of our interviewees recommend a book for our readers and members:

“Everyone should read fiction, regardless of career. The way people tell stories is very illuminative of the way they organize the narratives that shape their thinking off the printed pages. One of my favorite authors is a German author named Michael Ende, best known for The Neverending Story. But there is one book of his, which I have given for years as a graduation present to friends, called Momo. It’s a short novel with a timeless message. It is about stepping into another life, stepping into a different perspective of the world, which is not fast and is not efficient, but truly allows you to listen. If there is one thing working at the Pardee School has taught me, is that we could all use more listening when it comes to solving the problems we face.” -Sarah Thomas, Communications Specialist, Pardee School.

Link to Novel:


“A book I read recently was Behind the Beautiful Forevers. It talks about life in Mumbai slums and undercities, and howinternational development is helping and hurting. It was pretty transformative. It challenged a lot of what I knew aboutinternational development and showed me the complications and inefficiencies of the work. It opened my mind and broadened my horizons about what international development is and what it affects. We followed the book reading with a NEID book discussion and had individuals who worked in India share their experiences. Reading the book and revisiting it in this powerful network was inspiring.” -Sarah Young, Program Associate, New England International Donors.

Link to Book: