“I was also attracted to IE University’s strong focus on innovation and sustainability, as well as the fact that it allows its students to gain both academic knowledge and practical experience.”
Emma Luu Van Lang
Emma Luu Van Lang, France / US
Social Impact Consultant at FSG (Geneva)
- Program studied
Taking a holistic approach to international development
Emma Luu Van Lang’s introduction to higher education was at Lafayette College, Pennsylvania, where she double majored in Anthropology & Sociology and Economics and minored in Spanish. After university, she moved to Chicago where she worked as a legal assistant for an immigration law firm. It was during this experience that she “fell in love with the immigration field” after learning more about immigration in the US and working on asylum and U visa cases (for immigrants who have been victims of crime).
Then, in February 2018, Emma moved to Senegal as a Peace Corps Health Extension Agent. She lived with a host family and really immersed herself in the local culture, learning Pulaar and working closely with health workers as well as teachers, community leaders, government authorities and other NGOs/GOs in order to improve maternal and child health, as well as health worker capacity in Kedougou, among other impactful projects. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Emma had to leave Senegal earlier than expected. She says, however, that her time there was absolutely life changing, leaving her more certain than ever that she wants to work in international development.
It was through these experiences, combined with volunteering, that Emma discovered her passion for work that she feels has real meaning and can improve the lives of the most vulnerable. Her first volunteering experience was in a small village in Costa Rica, where she went for a month to help build a community kitchen. She says that this was her first real exposure to cultural and linguistic immersion, as she lived with a host family who she’s still in touch with. After that, she volunteered at a home for at-risk teen mothers in Cuzco, Peru.
Emma first lived in Spain while studying in Granada. And that experience was enough to convince her that the country, its language and culture, were very special to her. After her time in Senegal, she moved to Spain again, but this time to study the Master in International Development at IE University. While its location and reputation were a big factor in her decision, she also chose IE University for its diverse student body, as well as its strong focus on innovation and sustainability.
The Master in International Development called out to Emma because she wanted to complement her field experience in Senegal and incredible volunteering experiences with a better understanding of the global trends, efforts, successes and challenges that exist within the development world. She also wanted to better understand the complex UN system and the role that it and other important stakeholders played. What’s more, Emma felt the program focused on partnerships, community empowerment and other critical, more holistic elements that were lacking in similar programs at other universities.
On the practical side, the Master in International Development appealed to Emma thanks to the Capstone Project and its partnership with the United Nations System Staff College (UNSSC) and the UN as a whole. The latter, she says, offers an incredible opportunity to learn from world-class leaders with varying perspectives.
For her Capstone Project, Emma collaborated with the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) on an initiative they developed in response to setbacks in the travel industry caused by the pandemic. Along with one of her classmates, Emma was tasked with creating a development plan for the Online Tourism Academy, a platform that offers online courses for tourism workers.
After extensive research, they decided to focus on the Caribbean region, both because of its islands that are heavily dependent on tourism, and the fact that the sector provides jobs for vulnerable workers including women, youth and migrant workers. The final result included a list of priority areas, as well as a list of courses from universities, companies and organizations that could potentially help the cause. Finally, they devised a detailed implementation strategy that incorporated marketing suggestions and ways in which the UNWTO could create potential local, national and intra-regional partnerships to support the introduction of the Tourism Online Academy in the Caribbean region.
With a world of professional and academic experience under her belt, Emma is about to graduate from the Master in International Development with her next opportunity already lined up. She’ll be moving to Geneva to work as a consultant at the FSG, a social impact consultancy, where she will collaborate with foundations, nonprofits and other organizations to develop strategies to advance their efforts to create a more sustainable and equitable future. What’s more, she’ll be helping businesses design and manage their social impact strategies to become smarter corporate citizens.
Ultimately, her long-term goal is to shape immigration policy or implement large-scale projects that will help improve the lives and integration of vulnerable migrants, particularly refugees. Watch this space!