M.S. Student Andrea Steward
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Andrea Steward: Social work master’s student part of global outreach through Democracy International practicum

“My roots are, and will always remain, in the shadow of Katahdin, in Millinocket,” says Andrea Steward.

And this summer she had the chance to expand on those roots with global outreach through a social work practicum with Democracy International in Bethesda, Maryland before graduating in August with a master’s degree in social work.

Democracy International is an implementer for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) that focuses on projects in four core areas: Politics, Governance, Learning, and Peace and Resilience.

For her practicum, Steward split her time between the Strategy and Outreach team — which develops new project grant proposals that include local partner organizations, the background of the presenting issue, and activities designed to meet USAID goals — and the Programs team, which takes over once a grant is secured and creates a plan to implement and oversee the program framework.

“On any given week I could be speaking with people in Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, the Philippines, Jamaica or Colombia,” says Steward. “I have the opportunity to engage with people all over the world, hear their needs and concerns, as well as witness the innovative and impressive work their local organizations have been doing to address those needs.”

One week, for example, she attended an event at the United States Institute of Peace where leaders of Defendamos la Paz (Let’s Defend Peace), developed through the chat service WhatsApp and grown to a full citizens’ movement just months later, spoke about the movement’s current state, goals and future direction.

The experience with Democracy International reinforced Steward’s passion for the path she has chosen.

“I am honored to be entrusted with the stories of my community. Oftentimes the only thing I can do is bear witness to someone’s story, to their suffering,” says Steward. “Our lives are made up of a series of moments. I may not be able to change a person’s past or keep them from all future suffering, but if I can do one thing at this moment to alleviate some discomfort or share the weight of the burden with them, that is what I want to do, while working with them to address and change the systems which allow and often perpetuate the causes of suffering, marginalization, and oppression every day. It is through the constant reminder of my passion, internal reflection, and incredible friendships which allow me to continue doing the work that fulfills me.”

When not in the classroom or at work, Steward enjoys spending time hiking in forests or mountains, kayaking and swimming in the river, often with her chocolate lab, Tank.

“I find the outdoors to be a therapeutic escape from the world,” says Steward. “I love to travel and explore new places. You will often find me talking about coffee and food while indulging in both.”

Steward also earned a bachelor’s degree in social work from UMaine in 2016.

“UMaine has a way of making you feel like you are home, from the support and welcoming of fellow students to the faculty,” says Steward. “UMaine Social Work is a tight-knit program with an incredibly dedicated faculty who often go above and beyond for their students. Their encouragement and knowledge have helped guide my career.”

Contact: Cleo Barker, 207.581.3729