LYLA BASHAN ’98 DISTINGUISHED ALUMNI SERVICE AWARD HONOREE Director of the USAID Sustainable Development Office, Armenia Learn more about Lyla below.
Becoming Engaged with the World
It’s hard for me to believe I graduated from Catlin Gabel almost 20 years ago! Alas, I’m not sure if I’ll make it to the reunion, because it would mean flying halfway around the world. That’s because I live in Armenia, a small country sandwiched between Iran, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. But I’d love to make it back because the foundation of my international career can be traced back to my time at Catlin Gabel.
When I was young I wanted to save the environment. But it was Catlin Gabel’s academic rigor, high expectations, and commitment to excellence that taught me to direct my passion in specific, practical ways. While at Catlin Gabel, I learned about the field of peace and conflict resolution and later, in college, I learned about humanitarian development. I realized that people wouldn’t and couldn’t care about the environment if they couldn’t provide food, shelter, and safety for themselves and their families. That is why I’ve committed my career to conflict resolution and humanitarian development. Ultimately, it’s a way of helping individual people, the environment, and the world.
I’ve spent my entire professional life working on, travelling, and living throughout this big, beautiful world of ours. And let me tell you, it never gets boring! But my international career started in our very own, beloved Portland. After my sophomore year at Lewis and Clark College, I began interning at Mercy Corps, an international humanitarian relief and development NGO. After going to grad school in Washington D.C. and interning and working for a few other awesome NGOs, I became a diplomat working for the State Department. My favorite job at the State Department was as a conflict prevention officer for Sub-Saharan Africa. I loved it because I got to travel throughout that region working on a wide range of conflict prevention activities. I met so many interesting people who had to respond to myriad challenges, but ultimately were all trying to just live their lives.
I loved living in Washington, D.C., and travelling all over the world, but I always wanted to live abroad more permanently. So, after a few years, I left the State Department civil service to join the foreign service of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Being a diplomat of any stripe is interesting work, but I thought USAID would be a better fit for me because I could focus more on humanitarian development. USAID is the U.S. Government’s lead development agency and works in developing countries around the world to help alleviate poverty and suffering, promote good governance and human rights, support economic growth and food security, and improve health care and education.
My first tour with USAID was in Guatemala, which is still recovering from its decades-long civil war and facing the crippling effects of the drug trade. My next tour was in Tajikistan, which is a fascinating, isolated country in Central Asia, to the north of Afghanistan. And now, after a few years back in D.C., here I am in Armenia where I serve as Director of the Office of Sustainable Development. My office manages all of USAID’s programs in Armenia.
I do this work because I believe that development is the most effective way to create global stability and prosperity. Now more than ever, global issues affect all of us. Issues that once seemed far away—health epidemics, financial crisis, conflict—are now intertwined with our everyday lives. Because of America’s political, military, and financial power, it is important for Americans to be engaged with the world. Whether through a career in international affairs or not, it’s important to have a basic understanding of what is going on in the world in order to create positive change. Today, everyone’s voice counts. Catlin Gabel helped me learn more about the world and the role my voice could play in it.
We can all work to make the world a better place. Whether it’s volunteering in your community, calling your congressional representative, or donating money to an NGO—all of this is helping. You don’t have to fly off to a Bangladeshi refugee camp, but you do need to care. That’s what Catlin Gabel taught me, to direct my care in real ways. Sure, you’re not going to alleviate global poverty and suffering by volunteering at a local homeless shelter, but you are going to make a difference in someone’s life. And that matters. The ripple effects of positive change can be immense.
That’s why I wrote Global: An Extraordinary Guide for Ordinary Heroes. I want to give people a way to easily understand the complexities of the issues and systems that comprise what we call “global affairs.” And it has good career advice! Global is the book I wish someone had written 20 years ago when I was starting my career in international affairs. My only goal is to get others involved!
|Global: An Extraordinary Guide for Ordinary Heroes|
By LYLA BASHAN
Rather than chronicling her world travels and accomplishments, Lyla wrote Global as a way to help others understand how the international system works, and inspire them to get involved. A portion of proceeds from the book are donated to social justice causes.
What most inspires you? Is it working on preventing human trafficking, getting more girls in school, improving sweatshop labor conditions, increasing food security, reducing female genital mutilation, building climate change resiliency, and on and on? All of these issues and more are just waiting for ordinary heroes to focus on them. Domestically and globally there are tons of great organizations out there doing amazing work.
The opportunities are endless. All you need to do is take the first step.
Lyla Bashan ’98 serves in the diplomatic corps for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and is the author of Global: An Ex¬traordinary Guide for Ordinary Heroes (Red Press, 2017). Over the course of her nearly two-decade career in international affairs she has crisscrossed the globe, living in Armenia, Tajikistan, and Guatemala and working throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Working for USAID, the Department of State, and non-governmental organizations, she has committed her career to being an ordinary hero and strives to help others to do so too. The views expressed are the author’s own and do not reflect the position of the U.S. Government.
Follow him on Twitter @TimBazemore.
Diversity & InclusionFabulous February
February is always a fabulous month coming off of the activities of January where our Lower School gathered for a wonderful social justice celebration. The students chose different people who inspire them and have inspired the world. They play music and read poetry and this year, the entire 5th grade class recited Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech.” As someone who has seen this speech performed many times in the last few decades, I have to tell you this rendition read in unison by our 5th graders gave me goose bumps! I do believe King’s dream is being realized at Catlin Gabel School, where students of all backgrounds and genders and race and ethnicities can go to school together and learn from each other. We don’t have all of this perfect yet, and we don’t pretend to, but we are not a school that shies away from the conversations that can be uncomfortable. Not even with our youngest students. We face our differences head on and celebrate the intersections of identities that are so alive.
One way we look at these intersections in our Upper School and Middle School is through our upcoming annual student-led Diversity Conference. This year the theme is Intersectionality.
Intersectionality is one of those words that some people know and some do not. It has been around since the late 1980s but is used in different contexts. Currently in the world of inclusion, intersectionality refers to the complex and cumulative way that the effects of different forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, and intersect. Here is the current definition of the word: https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/inte...
Feel free to join us at our Diversity Conference on February 21st in Cabell Center Theater at 8 am if you would like to see some of our students in action. We invite guests from other schools so it can be packed. Please RSVP to Jasmine Love, Director of Inclusion and Outreach, if you would like to attend.
From Your Admission TeamAdmission outcomes: What to expect
If you have submitted your application for admission, congratulations! Regardless of the outcome, the fact that you went through the application process demonstrates the commitment you have towards your child’s education. The time is over for working on applications, tracking down school records, and meeting various deadlines, and now you await decisions. March 9 is Catlin Gabel’s decision day, the day when applicant families receive admission decisions via email. For each of your children in the applicant pool, one of three scenarios will play out on that day: you could receive an offer of admission, receive an invitation to our wait pool, or be denied admission. Below are a few things to consider as your family prepares for decision day:
Offer of admission
What would your response be if your child were admitted to Catlin Gabel? Would you enroll your child on the spot or need additional information to make a decision? How would you seek answers to your additional questions? Would it be helpful to have a conversation with a current Catlin Gabel family or another review of the school’s curriculum? What is your order of school choice, and does it match with your child’s? What other factors are in play, such as affordability and financial aid? Catlin Gabel, as well as other schools, often hosts events for admitted students and/or parents who want one last look before making a final decision. If you are offered admission, the turnaround time to accept the offer is often just a couple of weeks, so be sure to have your questions and thoughts organized so you can make an informed decision.
Invitation to the wait pool
Students who meet the admission standards but are not offered admission due to space limitations are invited to join our wait pool. Students in our wait pool aren't ranked: if an opening becomes available, we look to the wait pool and select an applicant who has the best potential to fill the needs of the class. Openings can occur any time between our initial offers of admission in March and shortly before school starts. We do not admit students after the start of the school year or keep our wait pool lists from year to year. Our best advice to families placed in the wait pool is to “hang in there,” as every year we admit a number of students later in the spring and into the summer, but certainly have a back-up plan in case a spot does not become available for your child. If your child is placed in the wait pool, please know that we thoroughly review the wait pool before any openings are filled, so you will not be forgotten.
To be denied admission is very difficult news to deliver and for families to receive. It may be the first time your child has been through an evaluation process and faced what feels like rejection. As you manage your response to this news, keep in mind that you will be modeling resiliency for your child. We encourage you to remain positive about the experience of having gone through the application process, which is quite an accomplishment. At the appropriate time you may also want to discuss as a family the prospect of reapplying in the future. The application process starts again every September; because children grow and change a tremendous amount in a year, we ask all families to complete the full application process and resubmit new admission materials each year. We encourage families to take a few months in the fall to assess how their school year is going before making the decision to reapply to Catlin Gabel. The admission office staff is more than happy to discuss the decision to reapply at that time.
Begin to prepare for each possible scenario and make sure you have multiple options for school next year in case your first choice does not materialize. Regardless of the admission decision you receive on March 9, celebrate your children as they are all terrific!