A UNICEF internship helped start a career in research

Molly Pileggi

Molly Pileggi

International Educational Development Program M.S.Ed., 2013

Before Penn GSE: Engineer & middle school science teacher

After Penn GSE: Senior Research Associate, Research for Action

"The International Educational Development program prepared me to work in any context because it gave me to the tools to perform quality research."

I came to Penn GSE after working as both an engineer and a teacher. I knew I wanted to focus my career on education and equity, and the International Education Development program gave me a path to use my analytical skills serving children and families.

My cohort brought together students from across the world, who had experience learning and working in a variety of contexts. Seemingly every class session, someone raised a perspective I hadn’t previously considered, or brought up an approach for addressing a problem I hadn’t imagined. Our discussions were thoughtful and lively, and even fun, and they often stretched after classes ended. The program is intense, but this collective spirit carried me through.

Because my cohort was small, the program directors Daniel Wagner and Ameena Ghaffar-Kucher were able to get to know me and my interests very well. When it came time to figure out my international internship — a major draw of Penn GSE for me — they found the right match. I was fortunate to work for UNICEF in South Africa, on a project that used mobile phones to connect schools, teachers, and students.

My internship, doing research with Dr. Wagner, and courses on data computation and analysis gave me a foundation for what research evaluation and monitoring programs should look like. In my current job, I’m focused on education in Philadelphia. But IEDP prepared me to work in any context because it gave me to the tools to perform quality research.