GW students earn contracts for World Bank’s annual land and poverty conference.
By James Irwin
The World Bank’s annual conference on land and poverty began Monday. As they have in the past, a group of George Washington University students will provide logistical support for the five-day event as registration assistants and room monitors. But this year, the students will participate as bank contractors, each the owner of a consulting contract.
It is a big deal, said John Carruthers, director of GW’s sustainable urban planning program and a liaison between the World Bank and the university. In the past, he said, the bank provided funds for GW to hire students for the conference. This year, each consultant will leave the event with a record of employment with the bank and a foothold for doing more work with similar organizations.
“This is an important step in terms of the careers of students who are going to work as consultants,” said Ruby Shamayleh, who completed the Climate Change Management and Policy graduate certificate program in 2013.
Ms. Shamayleh knows that better than most people. Two years ago, she was a student assistant at the land and poverty conference. Today, she works at a civil engineering firm and is in her second year managing the creation and training of the student assistant team as a World Bank consultant.
“Working the conference is a wonderful experience because of the exposure to different people from different walks of life,” she said. “I was exposed to government agencies, people coming from almost every country in the world. It was very rewarding because having that on my resume also opened opportunities for me.”
GW participation in the land and poverty conference has grown from four students in 2012 to 12 in 2014. Between 15 and 17 student consultants will work for the bank this week, Ms. Shamayleh said. They will meet people from a range of countries and disciplines, including academicians, scientific researchers and high-level policy ministers. The theme of the 2015 conference is property rights and land ownership, which encompasses many different research topics, Dr. Carruthers said.
“It’s something we take for granted in the United States—clearly defined property rights—but in a lot of the developing world, property rights are not clearly defined, or the boundaries of land are not well defined,” he said. “A lot of what gets presented at the conference are geospatial technologies for mapping land ownership patterns, legal frameworks for defining those patterns and economic analyses for evaluating the benefits for revising land use policy in the developing world.”
It is the topical diversity that draws a variety of GW students to the conference assistant positions. Dulce Naime, a first-year graduate student in the sustainable urban planning program, signed up looking to meet and network with people interested in city and community planning and poverty reduction. At the first training session, she found herself alongside students from different academic and professional disciplines.
“We had undergraduate students interested in exploring inequity and political management,” said Ms. Naime, who has a background in landscape design and architecture. “That was amazing because we share a common interest with people of different academic backgrounds.”
The GW group is a mix of undergraduate and graduate students with majors ranging from computer science and international affairs to business.
“It’s great to have such diversity because each person adds an element to the group,” Ms. Shamayleh said. “The students are the stars of the whole partnership.”