Forming New Ties to Thailand

As an LDS missionary living in Thailand, BYU MPA student Carly McDonald helped make a change in people’s hearts. Next she’ll be returning to help make a change in Thailand’s government.

Thanks to a prestigious Boren Fellowship, McDonald will spend a year in the Asian nation helping nonprofits and the government work together to empower women through gender equality.

Carly McDonald

“There are a lot of organizations in Thailand that are trying to help women become leaders in their different fields, and the government needs to work with those nonprofits,” McDonald says. “If they do that I think they’ll be able to improve their democracy.”

As part of the Boren Fellowship, McDonald will work for the United States government for at least a year after her time in Thailand. This won’t be McDonald’s first time getting involved with Thai politics. In the summer of 2015, McDonald helped lead a research project spent in Thailand on Thai nationalism and identity. McDonald also received a Foreign Language and Area Studies scholarship from BYU last year to further aid her in her Thai language skills, which she plans to use in her future career.

McDonald credits the BYU MPA program with teaching her business skills, which are vital to helping nonprofits.

“One real advantage to being in the MPA here in the Marriott School is learning a lot more about running governments and nonprofits like businesses,” McDonald says. “We need to run our public sphere smart, and this program helps me to learn how to do that.”

McDonald currently interns for the International Rescue Committee in Salt Lake City, helping refugees find jobs. Her MPA coursework has enabled her to improve the IRC’s processes.

“One of my favorite courses that I’ve taken so far is program evaluation, which I’ve used in my internship this summer,” McDonald says. “I’ve been able to help the organization I’m working with see things they are doing well, what the actual goals are, and see what data or mechanisms they can use to see if they are accomplishing those goals.”

McDonald says the lessons she’s learned in the MPA program have inspired her to make working with nonprofits part of her future.

“I’m just a big fan of the underdog,” McDonald says. “I am really energized and excited by the opportunity to help others who can’t help themselves. Anything that is a worthwhile purpose is where I want to be.”