Building Public-Private Partnerships

Lindsay Michiels ’10 believes in smart advocacy. “It’s much better than finger-pointing, which never helps anyone,” she says. She works in corporate engagement at the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Geneva, joining with the private sector on humanitarian issues for the benefit of all, especially in response to natural disasters.Mg74LinkedIn Photo

“We build partnerships with the private sector, which funds projects we implement,” she says. Corporations gain visibility for their good deeds, and IOM provides essential aid. After the typhoon in the Philippines, IOM worked in five different rural areas, providing tents and management in relief camps and delivering non-food items such as toiletries and basic household goods. Cisco donated telecommunications equipment like routers, and UPS provided free transportation of goods to the Philippines.

Lindsay majored in Spanish and economics and business. “The turning point in college was my semester abroad in Seville,” she says. “I acclimated well. When I got off the plane, my parents barely recognized me as my clothes, look and mannerisms had all changed.” Intent on returning to Europe that summer, she found an internship in Berlin with a think tank, the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy, where she managed a forum on Latin America. “Berlin is such a political place, and I was exposed to people who were studying politics more than I was to business people.”

After graduating, Lindsay worked for a year and then received a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship to complete a master’s degree in international relations at the Geneva School of Diplomacy. An internship at the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs led to her position at IOM.

“Having a Westmont education was particularly advantageous because it gave me a broad exposure,” she says. “Being able to orchestrate and maneuver across different industries and cultures has been helpful. Networking with international organizations is essential; all the ones doing humanitarian-related work have headquarters in Geneva. Unless you are working in Africa or Asia or responding to emergencies in the field, Geneva is the best place to be. It’s very international. I can see myself staying here.”

When she started working in Switzerland, Lindsay looked up other Westmont alumni in the country and connected with Allison White Zurfluh ’93 (see page 26). “She randomly contacted me and said we need a native English speaker and writer to contribute to the magazine, what do you think? I said, ‘Of course.’ I have a passion for sustainability, so I’ve written about environmental, governmental and social issues in different industries. I find it interesting because I can engage in issues I normally don’t address.”

Lindsay broadens her experiences in other ways, such as volunteering for a UK-based, Rotary-affiliated NGO that provides shelter to people in disasters. “The UN is such a competitive place,” she says. “I’m always networking, always reaching beyond where everyone else is.”

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