ACES hosts USAID Counselor and delegation

Counselor White speaks to students in the ACES Library.

Students from the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) and across campus embraced the opportunity to interact with the highest-ranking career Foreign Service Officer at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) during several meetings arranged by the Office of International Programs.

USAID Counselor Clinton D. White, along with a delegation of five colleagues, visited campus in October to meet with students and faculty and to present the annual ACES Distinguished International Lecture.  

Counselor White leads USAID initiatives on adapting policy to suit country-specific contexts, sets the agenda for mission directors overseas, and is responsible for all civil service and foreign service national employees at USAID. He has more than 20 years of experience in the public sector and is a member of the Senior Foreign Service. Read his full bio here. 

“Our students showed up in large numbers to ask about how to work for USAID and also about U.S. policies in certain countries. Counselor White and his colleagues were extremely forthcoming with information and advice. Connections were made; a meeting like this can change the trajectory of interests and careers,” said Lauren Karplus, assistant director for ACES International. 

The USAID delegation also met with the ACES-based Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Soybean Value Chain Research and ACES faculty who work with USAID and/or international development.

“Counselor White holds a critical position integrating USAID’s local presence through missions and foreign service officers into the larger operations at USAID. As such his office was eager to learn about the Soybean Innovation Lab’s (SIL’s) unique and successful research for development model. USAID is now scaling SIL’s demand-driven model to the larger community of Innovation Labs, so that USAID centrally funded research and land grant university researchers can more directly and efficiently address the needs of missions and the foreign service officers operating on the front lines,” noted Pete Goldsmith, Principal Investigator for the Soybean Innovation Lab and ACES professor in agricultural and consumer economics (ACE).

At the ACES International Distinguished Lecture, Associate Chancellor and Vice Provost for Global Affairs and Strategies Reitumetse Obakeng Mabokela welcomed and introduced Counselor White, and Alex Winter-Nelson, ACES interim associate dean for research, moderated a panel discussion and question-and-answer session.   

Counselor White stressed the important mission of USAID “to promote peace, stability, and poverty reduction by fostering economic growth, supporting environmental and agricultural growth and sustainability, protecting human health, increasing access to high-quality education, and providing emergency humanitarian assistance while promoting democracy. Who we partner with towards these goals is crucial to our success.”

White complimented the impactful work of Illinois-based projects such as the Soybean Innovation Lab “to end global hunger, one of the biggest challenges we face today. It’s important for us to come here [to Illinois] to learn more so we can tell your story in Washington and at missions around the world.”

Many of the students wanted to know how to stand out as a candidate when seeking entry-level employment in foreign service or international development. The panel’s advice included:

  • Learn a foreign language
  • Familiarize yourself with different hiring mechanisms for USAID, including through contactors and implementing partners
  • Be flexible
  • Read the USAID international strategy and understand what the Foreign Service Act entails

Olivia O’Leary, a senior in ACE, and Kierstin Benson, a junior in ACE, were two of the students who took advantage of this special opportunity.

“The representatives from USAID gave a lot of valuable insight into their positions and duties. They were also so kind to personally provide potential opportunities and guidance to those in attendance who were interested in a similar career path,” said O’Leary.

 "The USAID visit provided me the opportunity to connect with individuals who are making lasting impacts on our global community. It also provided me with a lot of insight on the challenges that we face and the resilience that most people have when facing these challenges,” Benson said.

In addition to Counselor White, the USAID delegation included:

  • Paul Edwards, USAID Advisor to the Counselor
  • Hailu Wordofa, USAID, Agricultural Development Officer, Bureau for Resilience and Food Security
  • Daniele Nyirandutiye, USAID Uganda Deputy Mission Director
  • Amy Sink Davies, Director, Feed the Future Office of Policy, Analysis and Engagement, RFS