Libby Spader ’76

In a highly caffeinated moment, waiting for my next flight at London City Airport, I responded to my class secretary’s request for news with this: “My Wesleyan theater degree has been very useful in my career as an international trainer in USAID’s legal regulations for foreign assistance.”

As a program director at InsideNGO—a member association of 330 international development/relief work non-governmental organizations—I work primarily with NGO project implementers, “translating” U.S. government legalese into real life situations. I serve as an advocate for the NGOs (offering the “NGO implementer perspective” on international development to government organizations) and design learning programs on U.S. government funding regulations. The material, which is crucial to maintaining funding, can be dry, so I use my theater background to enliven it.

A key part of turning subject-matter professionals into trainers is to teach them how to engage a room. We deliver highly participatory sessions where our learners puzzle through the problems presented, resulting in skill and confidence development: capacity building with empowerment. It’s always fulfilling to reach an audience with relevant, practical and compelling learning; this trainer “high” is much like a post-performance “glow."

Dean Karl Furstenberg was a key figure in my Wesleyan education, allowing me to shape my own international study program, as well as a summer working backstage at Tanglewood, both granting academic credit through hands-on experience. I was treated as an adult and I learned life skills—it was a period of intense growth.

A third key takeaway from my college years: the freethinking at Wesleyan filled me with the confidence to make interesting choices rather than follow a single set career path. Along the way to becoming an NGO trainer, I’ve enjoyed experiences working in classical music management, as a teacher at a boys’ school (hired for my theater background—an engaging teacher won’t have discipline problems, they figured), in advertising, as “goddess of culture” at a start-up, and as a private contractor, just to name a few.

When I decided I wanted to give back to the greater good by working at a nonprofit, InsideNGO provided me with a position that that drew on multiple segments of my work history. With its motto, “Operational Excellence for Global Impact,” it combines so much that I hold dear.