Alumni: where are they now? ’09 Grad discusses life after Mac
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Alumni: where are they now? ’09 Grad discusses life after Mac

Photo courtesy of Majra Mucić
Photo courtesy of Majra Mucić

Majra Mucić ‘11 is an international studies major with a focus in economics and minors in sociology and political science, who is originally from Bosnia. Mucić is currently a program specialist for Land O’Lakes International Development, a division of the famed butter company that generates economic growth in over 80 nations across the world. She’s a former Macalester Female Athlete of the Year, speaks five languages, and is now telling us all about her life after Mac.

Can you tell me about your path from Mac to Land O’Lakes?
After graduation, I started interning with the American Refugee Committee, which is an international nonprofit based in Minneapolis. After six months of interning there without pay, I was hired on as a program assistant in the program management department. I was working most closely with our international projects in Sudan and South Sudan. I ended up staying there for about two and a half years and then decided to find a similar role that would allow for more growth and more venturing into international development. I was interested in finding some sustainable responses to this humanitarian need overseas. That is how I ended up at Land O’Lakes. I’m doing similar work, but it’s more focused on agriculture and private-public partnerships and enterprise recovery. It’s very much in line with what I studied at Mac.

What does a day in your life entail?
I usually have phone calls with my teams in Malawi, Zimbabwe and Yemen. And Egypt and Lebanon every once in a while, too. My role, as a program operations specialist, is to essentially backstop those projects, or be their eyes and ears at headquarters. I do a lot of heavy lifting with program start-ups, program close-downs any baseline, midterm or final evaluations, and any large procurement. If there’s a finance problem, if there is a technical implementation problem, the teams on the ground always come to us in program operations first. It is pretty interesting, because you touch on every single aspect of project management and project implementation that not everyone gets.

What’s an unexpected benefit of your job?
The best part is always traveling to the field, because we provide a lot of in-country support as well. I’ve been to Darfur, I’ve been to South Sudan, Uganda, Malawi, you name it. You get to connect with people who live such different lives than we’re used to, which is humbling. But it’s also really rewarding because you recognize all the work you do here and you see the impact of it elsewhere.

Any unexpected hurdles?
Right now, I work for an agriculture-dominated company, so for me, since I joined Land O’Lakes, it’s been a lot of technical knowledge-gathering on how co-ops work, how different farming irrigation systems work [and] learning a lot about soil. But that’s also the good part about this job: you’re constantly learning.

If you could go back and talk to your college self, what advice would you give her?
Network, network, network. Being in my position now, I realize that all of my colleagues that are being hired are those whose names were put forward by other employees. You might not necessarily know the person that you’re recommending, but if you push through a resumé, that gets you really far. I would definitely just tell myself to reach out to as many alumni as I can and just see what they’re doing. The more people you talk to and the more you find out about an alum’s day-to-day work…it kind of gives you a sense of direction.

What values did you learn from Mac that you use everyday?
Question everything. If there’s one thing that I took away from Mac, it was not to take anything for face value. That’s probably now my biggest strength in the work that I do, and that came directly from Mac.

When have you felt most satisfied in your life?
I’ve never felt as successful as when I set foot in a refugee camp in South Darfur. It was my first trip to Africa, first trip for work, I was fresh out of college and this huge international organization had put a lot of faith in me and sent me to Darfur to handle management issues for one of our biggest projects. That felt pretty damn good: coming from a war country myself and then being in Darfur in a refugee camp, paying all of that back.

What do you most want to do in the future that you haven’t done yet?
I would like to take what I’ve been doing so far with the American Refugee Committee and Land O’Lakes and become a field-based international development worker. So rather than being at headquarters in the U.S., I would definitely be somewhere, probably in Southern Africa. Or East Africa.

Any final advice to students who are about to enter life after Mac?
I think a lot of people who graduate college have a very specific idea in mind of what they want to do and how they want to do it, but they skip a lot of steps in between. There is a lot of value in taking the unpaid internships and proving yourself. It’s a sacrifice to make in the beginning, to work for free and supplement your income with side jobs. But if you are passionate about what you do and you do your best, that doesn’t go unrecognized.

March 13, 2015

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