Romance and family inspired Salimatou Pratt to come all the way to Seattle from Guinea in West Africa. “It was love at first sight,” she says, eyes sparkling, of the relationship and marriage that brought her to Seattle in 2005. These days it’s a different passion — one for service in health and women’s issues — that inspires her learning at the University of Washington. “I always wanted to be in the humanities,” she says. “I’m good at advocacy and outreach.”
When she started looking for graduate programs to guide her to the next stage of her career, she found the Master of Arts in Applied International Studies (MAAIS) program to fit those interests. “I’m learning a bit of everything,” Sali says.
Reading her resume, you’d think Sali has been involved in everything: Broadly, she’s a generalist, interested in topics ranging from economic empowerment to environmental issues to civil rights and social action. Since coming to Washington and earning a liberal arts degree from Evergreen State College in 2013, Sali has assisted in Seattle and King County’s social work and public health initiatives as an aid and patient representative. She’s worked as a program coordinator at UW Medicine. She’s volunteered at the EPA as a public engagement specialist, at health departments as a prevention specialist, at a domestic violence women’s network as a victim advocate, and at the YMCA as a program assistant working on child care programs.
Her specific interest, though, is in women’s issues and helping women to find their voices in government and policy development. “I want to be in the civil sector, working at the nonprofit level in women’s rights,” she says, adding that she hopes to be involved in development initiatives undertaking feet-on-the-ground field research. “I would like to be in a position where I can visit with and talk to people and really understand what they need, instead of just starting a program I feel they need.”
While enrolled in the MAAIS program, Sali has enjoyed a broad look at the ways government policy and civil sectors interact and the ways social values impact development.
The mother of three says it doesn’t matter to her where, exactly, she ends up. She has neither a specific city nor a specific women’s advocacy organization in mind. Instead, she plans to focus her job search on organizational goals and values. “We all have issues,” she says. “Every women in the world has disparities between where she wants to be and where she is. That’s why I want to see more women in government and the civil sector.”
This post is part of a series profiling members of the 2016–17 MAAIS cohort. For more information about the MAAIS program, its curriculum and its students, visit the MAAIS website.