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Alumni Spotlight: Colleen Brady ’11

Colleen Brady’s civic journey can be charted from her time as a WashU student involved in the Community Service Office (CSO), to her current role as a Senior Monitoring, Evaluation & Learning Specialist at ZemiTek LLC, working with USAID Her story is one of dedication to community service, commitment to social impact work, and a passion for community-led development. 

The seeds of Brady’s future career were planted during her time at WashU, when she participated in the “Leadership Through Service” pre-orientation program. This early exposure to community engagement left a lasting impression on her, setting her on a path towards the non-profit sector.  

“From my time working on Leadership Through Service and volunteering in the community, I knew I wanted to work in the non-profit space,” Brady said. 

“Colleen was vital to our work in the Community Service Office, and it was students like her who helped us realize the opportunity for deeper community engagement efforts that are now underway at the Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement,” said Stephanie Kurtzman, Executive Director of the Gephardt Institute.  

Brady’s double major in International Studies and French, along with her semester abroad in Paris, broadened her understanding of global issues and cultural diversity, further fueling her passion for international work. After graduation, she made her way to Washington, DC, driven by her desire to make a difference on an international scale. She secured a position with a nonprofit higher education association, but she yearned to work directly with communities.  

A pivotal moment came when she decided to apply to the US Peace Corps, seeking an opportunity to have a more significant, direct impact on the lives of communities abroad. This decision paved the way for her journey into the world of international development.  

“My experience in the Peace Corps underlined the importance of centering communities in the development process,” she said, noting that this realization had its roots in her time at the CSO. 

One particular experience from her WashU days stood out in shaping her current work with USAID. She recalled listening to Prof. Bob Hansman and his son Jovan speak about their work at City Faces, and the “importance of being present, of listening directly to community members, and ensuring your work serves their needs.”  

This lesson became the driving force behind her work at USAID. Her focus is now on advancing locally led development, shifting power away from donor-driven agendas and towards empowering local communities to take the lead and determine priorities in developing solutions. 

Brady encourages WashU students to go beyond the campus borders and explore the richness of St. Louis’s diverse neighborhoods and communities. “Be humble: ask folks how you can support their mission, listen to them, and do what they prioritize,” she said. 

 Today, Brady continues to make a significant impact as a USAID contractor with ZemiTek LLC, supporting the Agency’s efforts to advance locally led development worldwide. With her journey beginning at the Community Service Office at WashU, she serves as an example of how passion, dedication, and a commitment to service can lead to a fulfilling life journey that transforms lives and creates positive change on a global scale.