Rachel’s Story

I was born and raised in the Detroit, Michigan, metropolitan area. After a couple different career iterations as a make-up artist and a supervisor for Starbucks Coffee Company, I decided to formally study some of my passions: world politics and religion. So, I enrolled at Oakland Community College in May 2003, took classes while working full time, and completed an associate of arts degree in liberal arts in June 2005.

In August 2005, I enrolled at Michigan State University (MSU)‘s prestigious James Madison College, then a top-five program, to study international relations. I graduated from MSU in August 2007 with a bachelor of arts degree in international relations with a specialization (minor) in Muslim studies

From May to August 2006, I interned at the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) in Geneva, Switzerland. I researched and drafted the Middle East and North Africa section of the Migration Mapping and News project. I also took the opportunity to travel to beautiful Krakow, Poland, to tour Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp, a particularly memorable moment considering that my paternal grandmother, Aliza, and her sister, Eva (z”l), are survivors of the camp. 

In 2008, I took a huge leap and moved to Washington, DC, to start a new life and career. After some temporary work, I found a longer-term temporary position with the Food and Nutrition Technical Assistance Project (FANTA), a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded cooperative agreement first housed at AED then acquired by FHI 360 in 2011. As my former supervisor told me, FANTA communications and technical staff quickly discovered my talent for editing, keen eye for detail, and hard-working and dedicated nature. My talent for editing was a bit of a surprise for me, but I embraced it. As the project continued to grow, FANTA offered me a position as a full-time communications associate, later promoted to senior communications associate.

My skills as an editor and overall communication maven grew during my 4 years with FANTA. In 2009, I enrolled in editing and proofreading courses at Graduate School USA to receive more formal editorial training. After working on a number of program planning tools, guidelines, reports, and training materials, I was given the opportunity to produce an e-learning course. As a result of the success of this course, I was asked to advise the USAID Bureau for Food Security on its possible development of new e-learning courses.

While at AED, I was selected for the competitive STAR Program, which provided headquarters-based entry-level staff with opportunities to build experience working for AED projects overseas. For 6 weeks I supported the Expanded and Sustained Access to Financial Services (ESAF) Program in Ramallah, West Bank, Palestinian Territories, as a communications associate. One of the highlights of this TDY was traveling around the West Bank with monitoring and evaluation staff to interview program grantees to draft success stories. These success stories resulted in my first publication, Palestinian Investment Partners: Promoting Investment for Economic Growth, a collaborative effort with other ESAF Program staff.

After 4 years with FANTA, I decided to embark on a PhD—a life-long dream—and enrolled at the University of Maryland in August 2012. I majored in communication, specifically intercultural and intergroup communication. As part of my education, I conducted original human subjects research using qualitative methods and completed coursework in survey questionnaire design, qualitative research methods, global public relations, intergroup communication, and international Jewish communities. I also independently instructed COMM 107: Oral Communication: Principles and Practices and was a teaching assistant for COMM 402: Communication Theory and Process. In the summer of 2013, I was asked to help launch the new Graduate Studies in Interpreting and Translation Program, an innovative and needed training program created through a partnership between the University of Maryland and the U.S. Department of State.

By the end of my first year of grad school, I realized my heart was not in academia and missed editing full-time. So, in June 2014, I graduated from the University of Maryland with a master of arts degree in communication. As part of program requirements, I researched and wrote two conference-quality papers, entitled Toward Secularization: An Investigation of the Evolving Modern Jewish Identity and Narratives Draw on Collective Memory to Construct Intangible Heritage: Group Identity Formation and Implications for Communication.

During grad school and since, I have consulted for a number of international development organizations. I substantively and copy edited training materials, quick guides, and handbooks, and formatted them in MS Word. Through this freelance editing work, I formed invaluable partnerships with my clients and strengthened my editing and formatting/layout skills.

In November 2014 upon referral of one of my freelance clients, I joined The TOPS Program as the Communication and Documentation Specialist. Housed at Save the Children and supported by consortium partners CORE Group, Food for the Hungry, Mercy Core, and TANGO International, TOPS is the USAID/Food for Peace-funded learning and knowledge management initiative.

In late 2015, I became aware of an exciting opportunity with Pact. As part of its quality initiative, Pact created the new position of lead editor for the entire organization, focusing primarily on proposals and donor documents/reports. It seemed like an amazing opportunity with a highly respected organization and felt like a perfect fit for my skill set and interests. Pact thought so, too, and I began my (hopefully long) tenure with Pact in December 2015.