The dog days of summer are here at Global Integrity, and we’re happy our intern Hannah Varnell is braving the DC humidity with us. She joins us this summer from Stanford, California, although she originally hails from Virginia. By far the most athletic person in the office, Hannah runs Track and Cross Country for Stanford and – naturally – is beating all of us at Google’s Olympics Doodles.
Carrie Golden (CG): What made you interested in Global Integrity?
Hannah Varnell (HV): Even with my limited experiences in the "development" community, I know how imperative transparency and accountability are to good governance. I found Global Integrity through Stanford in Government — a "nonpartisan student organization dedicated to increasing political awareness…and connecting students with opportunities in public service." Without honest government, most aid programs are simply Band-Aids to a much larger wound. I resonate with Global Integrity's initiative to promote transparency and accountability. I am so thankful to have an opportunity to learn from an organization with a relevant vision for development.
CG: What were you doing prior to joining Global Integrity?
HV: Finals. So many finals. I'm still in school; I will be finishing up my undergrad degree this year with a B.A in economics (permitting I pass). Last summer I partook in a social entrepreneurship program in South Africa. Altogether I am building an arsenal of experiences that I hope allow me to understand recurring development challenges and apply my economic studies to future development research.
CG: What do you hope to gain from your experience here?
HV: Just that, experience. Faddists so determine the appropriation of development attention that no specialty is guaranteed to hold worth over time. Therefore, I do not plan to "specialize" in open data or anti-corruption per se; I prefer to collocate diverse experiences. Foremost, I aim to learn from the variant experiences of GI staff so I may cultivate a broader, better understanding of the core impediments to development. Then, perhaps, I will make an informed decision about a specialty.
CG: Have you ever experienced corruption first hand?
HV: Yes, although my valuation of the experience may be controversial. Last summer, my lifestyle was no different than any other village resident during my two months in South Africa. I fetched water from the church, attended village meetings at the church, sought approval from church pastors for community activities … noticing a pattern? Each Sunday, the church had a competition between members born January to June, and members born June to July to bring the most money forward. None of this money was reinvested in the community; rather, it bought barbed wire fences to surround pastors’ houses, and cars to take them out of the village. Corrupt religious figures frustrate me, to say the least, especially in a society where religion and government are interdependent.
CG: What books have helped shaped your professional path?
HV: Uh oh. I'm afraid I have not read much outside of required class readings; my time is filled with training and studies. I do, however, read The Economist on a regular basis. Does this count? It has doubtlessly shaped my professional path. I gauge my interest in future career fields by seeing which articles leave me asking more questions versus which ones put me to sleep. So far I have narrowed it down to everything but Europe and investment banking.
CG: Are you on Twitter?
HV: No. I think it's silly.
— Hannah Varnell and Carrie Golden