By Ann Nordby
After graduating from the University of Cairo, Dalila Hussein was recruited to do market analytics for a corporation. Two years into that career path, she was a successful data analyst, but she realized the corporate world was not for her. "I felt a disconnect. Making more millions for a company didn't align with my values."
Hussein decided to apply her considerable skills to monitoring and evaluating nonprofit programs for the greater good. She set a goal to transition her career to the development field. But that transition wasn't guaranteed.
In Egypt, the nonprofit sector job market is very competitive. She needed to differentiate herself from other applicants. A naturally curious person, she also yearned to learn more about the world and its issues.
Hussein applied to several programs, received several offers, and chose the Humphrey School of Public Affairs’ Master of Development Practice (MDP) program.
"The key was the interdisciplinarity of the structure," she said. "The MDP gives you an overview of economics, management and leadership, education, agriculture, and climate. This range of exposures to different fields is what drew me in. I wanted to explore and find a focus."
The Sawiris Scholarship made her study at the Humphrey School possible. This family foundation sponsors three Egyptian students to study at the Humphrey School each year.
As it turned out, her coursework was just the beginning of her learning experience at the Humphrey School. The MDP gives students the chance to do consulting work with companies and nonprofits that apply. Hussein has had several consulting assignments, and they have been perfectly aligned with her coursework.
In her first semester, she took a program evaluation class. In her first consulting assignment, she evaluated the effectiveness of a multilingual journalism teaching program in small-town Willmar, Minnesota.
"I got to use everything I learned in class, and it was one of the highlights of the program so far," she said.
Broadening her mind
In her second consulting assignment with the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment, she reviewed market analytics for a new agricultural technology forecasting tool.
Her third consulting project took her farther afield – to Mongolia. She and three of her classmates spent the summer there. They evaluated a tourism development project in Ulaanbaatar. They scouted project feasibility, talked with stakeholders, held community engagement workshops, and met with tour operators in Ulan Bator.
They analyzed the business plan and did a cost-benefit analysis, including revenue modeling and pricing. They piloted the project by staying with a home host, who cooked them a meal and taught them a local game that uses sheep ankle bones as game pieces.
The MDP has broadened her mind, Hussein said. She had known that she cared about the issues of poverty, education gaps, and health. Through coursework and work experiences, she discovered how much the climate crisis intertwines with those other issues.
In her second year, she traveled to her home country to take part in COP27 as part of the University’s delegation. "Getting to attend sessions, discussions, and negotiations that drive global policy and activism on climate change is both empowering and humbling," she said.
"Opportunities like this are very rewarding and really complement the classroom experience. The great things happening outside the classroom are as important as the ones happening inside the classroom."