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Crisis response

Carly Green, ’19, helps aid and development assistance providers worldwide evaluate whether their efforts are working. When Afghanistan fell, her work quickly shifted.

When she was a junior at Richmond, Carly Green, ’19, left for a semester in Sweden to learn about its educational system. She returned with a deep concern for the challenges facing Syrian refugees.

Green’s experience reoriented her academics and her professional trajectory. Today she works at Management Systems International, a Tetra Tech company that provides services for USAID, the World Bank, and other clients in approximately 90 countries. Green and her colleagues work on a variety of issues including monitoring and evaluation, governance, rule of law, education, and gender inclusion.

Green arrived in Sweden as an undergraduate at a time the country had accepted more refugees per capita than any other country in the world. The children of ordinary Syrians who fled their country’s war were receiving services in places that Green visited and studied during her time at Uppsala University.

“That really colored my experience abroad,” she said. “I had a class where I had the opportunity to volunteer at a refugee clinic, and that linked up with work I had been doing in Richmond with a small nonprofit, Voices for Virginia’s Children.”

She returned to UR and became the only junior enrolled in International Studies 101. Over the next two years, she worked closely with Sandra Joireman, Weinstein Chair of International Studies, and did her senior thesis on trauma-informed care. The day after she graduated, she started with MSI. Today, her portfolio is the Middle East.

“The monitoring and eval on my projects focuses a lot of humanitarian assistance, making sure food’s actually going out at camps, infrastructure is being built, that individuals who’ve experienced gender-based violence are getting the mental and physical health care they need,” she said. “We also work in countries that are more stable, like Jordan, where we do higher-level services, consulting on projects that improve the country’s civil society, election processes, and tourism, for instance.” In the late summer and fall of 2021, she experienced the most stressful times of her still-young career when the Taliban quickly swept to power in Afghanistan. As employees of a Western-based organization, MSI’s current and former Afghan staff were at immediate risk but faced unclear options during the West’s chaotic withdrawal.

Back in the U.S., MSI’s staff mobilized to provide emergency support, asking for volunteers to assist with getting as many people out as they could. Green, a program manager with expertise in logistics, had the necessary skills. And it felt personal. Her first boss at MSI was an Afghan national, and she sat next to the Afghan team in pre-pandemic times.

“It was very tough,” she said of the work, which continued into the fall long after the headlines in the West moved on. “There was a lot of chaos in the first few days. We were working 12-hour shifts on and off.”

With the team’s help, some staff successfully boarded evacuation flights, and others emigrated via extralegal routes. While a handful have made it to the U.S., many more are applying for visas from wherever in the world they suddenly found themselves. Some are still in Afghanistan.

The stress was overwhelming, but the job is mostly not like this, she emphasizes. “Ninety percent of the time, the work is unquestionably good. There can’t be anything wrong with building schools and helping people who need shelter.”