WHEN DR. NANCY MOCK, associate professor in the Department of Global Community Health and Behavioral Sciences, arrived this past summer in Nairobi, Kenya, to work on a project with World Vision International she was pleased and surprised to find she would be working with two public health alumni, Francois Batalingaya (IHL MPH ’93), country director of the World Vision Somalia program, and Jennifer Neelsen (IHL MPH ’09), quality assurance and strategy manager for the program.
“Francois is the leader of the entire Somalia team and leading some of the most innovative resilience programming anywhere. Resilience is the new programming goal for organizations working in fragile social ecological settings,” explains Mock.
Mock was working on a World Vision Somalia project sponsored by USAID. The Department of Global Community Health and Behavioral Sciences has an agreement with World Vision to support monitoring, evaluation, and research related to the program. Her visit occurred at the beginning of a three-year evaluation agreement with World Vision.
“I was delighted to see both of these former students,” says Mock. “They were great students and it was gratifying to see that they were doing great work and that I had, in some way, contributed to their professional development.”
Batalingaya, a native of Rwanda, says he chose Tulane because he knew Tulane alumni and realized he could use the international health and development training available at Tulane. Prior to his work with World Vision, the 49-year-old worked with Médecins Sans Frontières International, taught college-level classes in Rwanda, and the Irish non-governmental organization GOAL Ireland. During his tenure at World Vision, Balingaya has managed health clinics across swaths of Africa and worked on emergency response teams around the world. He and his team are currently working with a consortium of non-governmental organizations to improve conditions for children in Somalia, tackling complicated issues such famine, clean water, civil strife, and infectious diseases.
“Public health training has always been at the center of emergency response,” he observes.
Mock says that the international health training at Tulane’s school of public health prepares students well for work with groups such as World Vision.
“The skills courses in monitoring, evaluation, nutritional assessment, and health and nutritional assessment and program design in emergencies were all skills courses that are helpful to careers in World Vision and similar organizations,” says Mock, adding that students in international health are able to work with advisors and mentors to find course work and practica that build upon their interests.
Neelsen, a 31-year-old native of Little Rock, Calif., says that her current position with World Vision is rooted in an internship practicum she and a mentor arranged while she was at Tulane. She worked with World Vision in Nairobi, and it was those contacts that led to her current work.
She says she values both the technical training of her Tulane degree and the alumni network she has found.
“Every job that I’ve had I’ve known people who are Tulane alums. We are everywhere. You have a built in network of people you can bond with,” she says.
Mock points out that Neelsen and Batalingaya are just two the alumni who continue to reach out to each other and to Tulane.
“I was recently asked by one of my former students working at Save the Children to work with her on a field tool to build the capacity of their staff to address childhood nutritional stunting, a new priority of the World Health Assembly and an indicator in the new Sustainable Development Goals,” she says. “It is so rewarding to work with our great network of wonderful alums.”