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Northwestern Buffett Institute for Global Affairs

Atlas Corps Fellows from Kenya and Vietnam strengthen the Buffett Institute's undergraduate programs

On May 30, 2017, the Buffett Institute welcomed its first Atlas Corp Fellow, Catherine Miano. A native of Nairobi, Kenya, Catherine brings a wealth of experience in nonprofit programming and international development.

She has been an asset for the Institute’s Global Engagement office, providing support for its undergraduate programs and bringing a fresh, vital perspective on how to better approach global partnerships and study abroad programming.

Ha and CatherineCatherine’s fellowship allows her to continue at the Buffett Institute until September 2018. Her successor, Ha Nguyen (left), arrived on May 30, 2018, and brings a new set of perspectives and professional strengths to Buffett’s undergraduate programs.

In honor of Ha’s arrival and Catherine’s one-year anniversary at Northwestern, we asked Catherine to reflect on her time here:

“I recall my first day as an Atlas Corps Fellow at the Buffett Institute, sitting in a strategy meeting with the whole team. I remember cozily playing the listening role I thought was mine, until someone asked for my thoughts on a topic. I sat in the discomfort of a situation where my perspective mattered. My previous experience working with children in rural Kenyan schools and with displaced persons in my various previous capacities meant I needed to contribute to a conversation. In that moment, I understood the very foundation of my team’s effectiveness: collaboration and reciprocity. My role was to learn and contribute, equally.

“In the first months of being an Atlas Corps Fellow, I recall sitting in the GESI students’ pre-departure and hearing Patrick Eccles say something that stuck with me: ‘Anything for a community without them is not for them.’ In April, Buffett held the first ever Community Partner Forum. It brought together partners from all over the world to Evanston. The goal was to charter next steps through perspective sharing. I watched as my team took time to actively listen, to ask, to clarify, and to seek feedback from these community experts. It took a lot of courage, openness, and a collaborative mindset to do this, but that is just what the Buffett Institute is: a space that is not afraid to give a seat at the table, an ear, and an open empowering space to community voice.

“As the Buffett Institute welcomes the new fellow Ha Nguyen from Vietnam, I know she is coming into a space that is forging new paths in the higher ed and global service space by prioritizing the voice of the communities they work with. Ha’s perspective and experience working with Student Exchange Vietnam, one of the newest Buffett partners, will contribute to collaboration and mutual exchange. I find myself challenged to ensure that the wealth of my experience, the capacity to reflect, passes on to the children I work with through my own nonprofit, Pitch a Dream, because my dream is to inspire them too to own their space in the globe.”

About Catherine Miano:

Catherine Miano received her LLB from the University of Nairobi in 2015. While pursuing her degree, she founded the nonprofit Pitch a Dream, which works with children across rural Kenya to promote reading and life skills and provide mentorship. After graduation, she participated in the Do School Connection Challenge, Berlin. Following this experience, she worked in Refugee Status Determination (RSD) as well as resettlement units within the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Nairobi. During her spare time, Catherine will be found discovering various new cuisines and attending music concerts within Chicago.

About Ha Nguyen:

Ha Nguyen earned her bachelor’s degree (with honors) in English language education from Vietnam National University (VNU), Hanoi. Before coming to Buffett, Ha worked as a program manager at Student Exchange Vietnam, a current partner of the GESI program, where she spent four years focusing on promoting the internationalization of Vietnam’s higher education and workforce via academic and professional exchanges. Previously, Ha served as an event organizer for the US Embassy in Vietnam’s conference on boosting the number of US students studying abroad in Vietnam. She has also volunteered as an English Instructor for board members of public schools within the province of Thanh Hoa, Vietnam, and to a wide range of VNU’s non-English major students. Ha is passionate about promoting global understanding and cultural diversity through international education. In her free time, she enjoys doing yoga or going on a bike ride. 

About Atlas Corps:

Atlas Corps creates opportunities for qualified foreign nationals to volunteer in the United States and contribute to US organizations working for social change. Atlas Corps Fellows develop leadership skills and build capacity in their host organizations during their 12- to 18-month stay in the US. Upon return to their home country, fellows work in the nonprofit sector for at least one year to share their new skills and best practices and join a network of thousands of global changemakers all over the world.