Erica Boonstra '08
Erica graduated from Calvin in 2008 with degrees in global development studies and English. She currently works for International Justice Mission in Washington, D.C. as Senior Director of Global Advancement Strategy & Operations.
What sparked your interest in international development?
My parents encouraged me to do volunteer work, ever since I was in elementary school actually. It had an incredible impact on my worldview and really impressed upon me the importance of service. When I was in high school, I volunteered for World Vision's office in Chicago, raising money for their projects in Zambia. As a result, I had the opportunity to go on one of their Vision Trips to Zambia. That was my first exposure to international development work, and I knew immediately it was what I wanted to do.
Describe your path since graduation.
After graduating, I started working at International Justice Mission (IJM) in the Government Relations & Advocacy Department. I'd never had any interest in working in the political realm, nor in living in D.C., but I found a real passion in advocacy work! I spent 7 years designing grassroots campaigns with our teams in the US, Europe, India, Kenya, and Uganda to improve governments' responses to issues like human trafficking. Through that work, I learned that what got me really excited was helping teams clarify their strategy and equipping them to pursue big goals. I did an evening graduate program for a year to get my Master's in Public Administration, focused on international nonprofit management, and I started pursuing more strategy projects wherever I could, both at IJM and through some independent consulting. I now work as IJM's Senior Director of Global Advancement Strategy & Operations.
What are your current activities, and what is your official position where you are working now?
I think I have the longest title at IJM: Senior Director of Global Advancement Strategy & Operations. The Global Advancement Division operates in the US, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, and Australia. I work with the teams in each of those countries to ensure we're all operating under a consistent strategic plan to raise revenue, create policy change, and catalyze prayer for our work. I also oversee our project management team and our constituent systems. My job is to make sure our global advancement team is all moving in the same direction. I love to operate behind the scenes and love being part of a team, so my favorite part about my job is having the opportunity to focus on equipping everyone to do their jobs really well in order to ultimately advance our mission.
What is your most memorable experience in the field?
"The field" for me has been Washington, D.C.! But I think my most memorable experience though was spending YEARS working on an advocacy campaign that would lay the groundwork for a global fund to end slavery, significantly increasing the global investment into addressing the issue. In 2016, that legislation passed. Now there's a real institution funding the fight against slavery because of a small team of people who faithfully advocated for years to make that possible. I was so lucky to be part of that effort. For so long, it felt like our dream might be impossible. But to see real change happen has taught me a lot about being faithful in the fight to bring about change.
What advice would you give to current IDS students?
If you want to go to graduate school in development, take a lot of economics and statistics classes at Calvin. I avoided taking any that weren't required, but then had to catch up in grad school.
I would encourage you to be open to opportunities to serve that look different than the path you might have in mind. Don't worry about getting the exact right job for the path you want to go down. What's truly important is the attitude with which you approach your work. I think God blesses that willingness to serve wherever you're needed in the world. Faithful service to the Kingdom will take you to unexpected and beautiful places.
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