Kate (Norell) Francis

Kate Francis

Year of Graduation: 2001

Major(s): Theater

Current Position: Senior Advisor, GoodWeave International

After graduation, Kate taught English in China through the Maryknoll China Service Project.  Upon returning to the states, Kate served as a field organizer for Target Market (the St. Paul-based teen-led movement to challenge big tobacco) and also interned in Congresswoman Betty McCollum's D.C. office.  While working on the Hill, Kate saw an announcement for an Asia Foundation event.  She researched the organization's women's programs, and met with the Assistant Director of the program for an informational interview.  Because of that interview, she received an internship, which was short lived as the women's program happened to be looking for a program assistant at the time and hired her two weeks into the internship program.  Over the next eight years, Kate continued to work on women's empowerment issues across Asia, eventually serving as the Associate Director of the program and visiting nearly a dozen countries to provide technical assistance on such issues as human trafficking, political participation, gender-based violence, and gender-responsive budgeting.  Kate left The Asia Foundation in 2013 to join GoodWeave International, an organization dedicated to ending child labor in global supply chains.  Kate served as Director of International Partnerships, focusing on elevating the organization's profile and building relationships with policymakers and government supporters.  After the birth of her child, she scaled back her role at the organization in 2015 and is currently serving as Senior Advisor for policy and development.

Graduate School: M.A., International Development, The George Washington University, Washington, DC (2008)


Briefly describe your duties/responsibilities at GoodWeave International.  What is a typical day like?
GoodWeave International is a small but growing organization - it feels like a tech start-up in many ways.  We all wear many hats and everyone pitches in as necessary.  When I served as Director of International Partnerships, a typical day generally consisted of meetings with peer organizations interested in child labor, writing proposals and designing projects, and identifying new avenues for support and visibility.  Now, as Senior Advisor, I work on a project basis, providing proposal development support and managing a research project on child labor in the Afghan carpet sector.

What is most appealing about your job?
I 'm extremely passionate about this issue.  Working on child labor and supply chains makes an amorphous, big idea like "globalization" very concrete and personal.  Conscious consumerism is one way to directly encourage the change I want to see in the world - and I want a world where every child has a real childhood full of books and play, not tools and quotas and exploitation.  Practically speaking, the flexibility of working as an advisor rather than full-time staff means I can balance the needs of my career with those of my family - and still maintain some semblance of personal happiness and fulfillment.

What suggestions would you give to current students interested in working for GoodWeave international or in a similar field?
It's a tough field to break into without direct experience, so that usually means putting in your time as an intern and/or volunteer.  And, as with most fields, it's often who (not what) you know that matters- find the person who has your ideal job, ask for 30 minutes of their time, and find out how they got there.  Importantly, think about what you want out of life holistically.  When I graduated from CSB, I wanted nothing more than to be paid to travel the world.  I loved that life when I was in my 20s, but it has lost its luster now that traveling takes me away from my children.  Traveling is a prerequisite for success in this field, and when you're not willing to spend weeks on the road, it becomes difficult to advance and be effective.  Not knowing that motherhood would influence my priorities so profoundly, I didn't consider that a travel-heavy career may not be desirable in the long-term.  It's definitely something to consider before pursuing a career in international development.

What personal qualities do you deem most important in your career field?
Flexibility, dedication, and a sense of humor.  I think those three qualities would take you far in any career.

How do you balance work/family?
As I mentioned earlier, this is a huge challenge in this field - especially for women, who continue to bear (and in some cases, want) a greater share of family care work.  For my own sanity and family's wellbeing, I've decided to pull back on my career for the moment and accept this period as a professional "plateau" where part-time, meaningful work means more time with my kids.  Someday I'll return to a more demanding, full-time-plus position, but the flexibility and narrow scope of work makes being a Senior Advisor exactly what I need at this point in my life.

What advice would you offer students struggling to find what they would like to do after graduation?
Volunteer if you can.  Go as far away from home as you can and find your way back.  Don't go straight to grad school, whatever you do.  You'll get way more out of your master's if you bring lived experience to the table, and you'll be far more marketable if you have previous experience and a network in addition to the degree.  And, perhaps most importantly, you're more likely to get the right degree if you've already tested the field.

(March 2015)