An Interview with GRI Research Assistant, Sarah Caldwell
Graduate Research Assistant
What are you studying at Northeastern and when is your expected graduation?
MS in Security and Resilience Studies Graduating May 13th, 2022
Role and length of employment at GRI thus far:
I started with GRI in September 2021.
Please provide a short background about yourself and what you are studying at Northeastern.
I am originally from Melbourne, Australia. I first came to Northeastern in 2019 as part of an exchange program. In 2020 I went back to Melbourne to finish my bachelor’s degree at RMIT University. After graduating with a Bachelor of International Studies, I applied to the MS in Security and Resilience Studies program at Northeastern University which I commenced in 2021.
As well as studying, I also volunteer with the youth development organization, the Australian Navy Cadets. During my bachelor’s degree I also interned with the Australian Campaign to Stop Killer Robots (SafeGround) where I co-produced the Australian report against fully autonomous weapon systems.
What brought you to GRI? What about GRI interests you either personally or professionally?
While I was looking for part time jobs, I stumbled across GRI. Their work in resilience piqued my interest as it wasn’t something I had researched or worked in before. I am predominantly an international security major, and resilience studies is not that big in Australia yet, so I had not been exposed to this way of thinking. Once I investigated their programs and previous projects, I decided it was a field I wanted to learn more about. I ended up emailing one of the contacts on the website, expressed my interest and provided my resume, and after a few months I was offered an interview and then a job. I am glad I took a leap and reached out, as working for GRI changed how I approach issues and has given me another aspect to consider when assessing all kinds of problems.
How has GRI helped you with your professional goals? What have you learned? What skills have you gained?
GRI has helped with my professional development in many ways. Because of how the organization is structured there is not one project that you work on, so you are constantly collaborating and working on different projects to meet the needs of the organization. This position allowed me to grow my communication skills, through multiple collaborations and numerous meetings with stakeholders. It has also strengthened my writing; report writing can sometimes be stock standard. However, because of the projects GRI pursues, you have to learn how to customize the writing to fit certain stakeholders. As well as this, as a Research Assistant I learned how to juggle projects and use multiple databases to generate the required data within time restraints.
Along with the skills that GRI has either instilled or strengthened the network that the organization provides has helped tremendously with my professional goals. I would say that the best thing about GRI is the people that work there. Everyone there has different specialties and experiences and because of this and their openness to talk about their work I found that I was able to make not only professional connections but also get professional advice.
How will your experience at GRI affect your future career?
Being a student and just starting out in my desired field, my experiences at GRI will have a great impact on my future career. GRI has given me professional experience in the field that I study and has grown my analytical skills while facilitating professional development. I also believe that working at GRI has developed how I approach issues and has taught me to always consider how resilience can influence a situation.
What does resilience mean to you? How will you apply the understanding of resilience that you gained at GRI to your future endeavors?
Resilience for me is a having the ability to bounce back effectively and efficiently from disasters and setbacks. Resilience is a process and to be effective it needs to be in place before the issues start. One of my colleagues once said that “Disasters accelerate trends that were already in place.” This stuck with me because it highlights that although we are generally assessing communities’ resilience after disasters, the real resilience needs to be in place beforehand to have a true impact. I have already alluded to this, but in future endeavors I want to consider how a resilient approach could be applied to security issues, because I see resilience as a universal process that should be in place rather than an approach specific to certain communities or disasters.