❍ Year of graduation: 1987
❍ Field of current or former occupation: NGO
Question: What is your current occupation and where do you live? Please briefly describe your duties and responsibilities. How long have you been at this position?
Elizabeth Andersen: I live in Washington DC, where I serve as the Director of the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative, the ABA’s global development program, working in about 60 countries world-wide to support justice sector actors in their efforts to strengthen laws and legal institutions to promote access to justice, economic opportunity and human rights. My responsibilities include all aspects of oversight of this $40 million program, including strategic planning, fundraising, and management of our 700 staff and volunteers working throughout the world.
Question: Did studying Russian language and culture at Williams help you in your professional and personal development? If yes, then how were Russian Studies were useful to you? What opportunities and challenges did the Russian major open up for you both specific to your current occupation and more generally?
Elizabeth Andersen: Absolutely! I have worked in international human rights advocacy and rule of law development for over 20 years, and my Russian language and Russian studies experience was critical to establishing me in the field. I started my career in this field working at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and while I did not directly use my Russian studies knowledge there, it helped demonstrate my interest in Eastern Europe and international affairs to get me in the door. Thereafter, I spent eight years at Human Rights Watch, in its Europe and Central Asia division, and then three years as Director of the ABA Central European and Eurasian Law Initiative, and in both roles, my Russian studies major was directly relevant and instrumental to my success in important ways.
Question: Please share your advice or recommendation about the Russian department at Williams to a prospective student who is considering taking courses or majoring in our program.
Elizabeth Andersen: My knowledge of the department is quite dated, but I would generally encourage students to take what interests them, and to try to spend time in the region, living, working and studying there, learning the culture and language in a hands-on way.
If you would like to write to Elizabeth Andersen, please contact Baktygul Aliev.