South Africa Connection
Former Humphrey Fellow Dee Moskoff offers internships in far-off Cape Town.
Dee Moskoff first entered Maxwell in 2013 as part of the U.S. State Department’s Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program, through which midcareer professionals from developing nations and emerging democracies
spend an academic year in America, gaining career skills and cultural immersion. While in the program, Moskoff, who directs a South African nonprofit working on behalf of vulnerable women and children, also completed four graduate courses; she
eventually returned to Maxwell to earn an EMPA. With her new and enhanced skills, she has led her nonprofit, Connect Network, through an organizational review, a search for investors, and new endeavors in public policy advocacy.
At the same time, she stays in touch with Maxwell, Skyping into career programs and offering internships. A handful of student interns have traveled to South Africa in response. She credits them with helping Connect Network pursue its recent innovations.
Two students assisted with longitudinal studies of the 90 NGOs attached to Connect Network. One compiled a resource toolkit for child protection. Another coordinated research on early childhood development assets and developed digital marketing
strategies. Stephanie Spera ’19 MPA/IR researched the sexual health and literacy needs of mothers of young children, which informed a manual and training of facilitators to assist 300 mothers living in marginalized conditions.
“My three months in South Africa were easily the most challenging, but also the most rewarding, of my personal and professional experiences,” she wrote in appreciation.
Moskoff receives many such testimonials. “I can’t stress enough the value of being able to take what I learned at Maxwell and quite literally apply it to the real world,” undergraduate Lydia Feinberg ’14 BA (PSt) wrote. “The work
environment was fast-paced, exciting, dynamic, and challenging, and every day was so much fun,” said Emily Essi ’14 MPA (who followed her South Africa experience with a three-year Peace Corps stint in Ukraine).
Moskoff’s interests in offering internships go both ways. Interns not only contribute staff hours but “teach our local people about their worlds and pass their skills on”—an extension of Maxwell’s educational reach, she says.
At the same time, “I want to pass on as much as I can from my own experience in local NGOs to the next generation,” Moskoff says. It is also important for anyone beginning an NGO career (or similar) to have “on-the-ground experience with people less
privileged than themselves.” The resulting empathy, she says, will inform important decisions for the rest of their lives.