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Experiential learning opportunities lay foundation for double major’s global career plans

Jun 3, 2020

Samantha Johnston

Samantha Johnston’s goal is to work in nonprofit international development, and her four years at University of the Pacific double majoring in applied economics and international relations have laid an excellent foundation for work on the global stage. 

“I would say that the best thing is that it has given me a really great, broad, big-picture perspective — big picture economy, big picture global perspective of how things work,” she said. 

International consulting 

Since arriving at Pacific as a Powell Scholar, a scholarship program designed to develop future leaders, Johnston has interned at an international economic development firm in Washington D.C., studied in Spain, organized a student march to fight climate change, consulted for community nonprofits and honed her negotiation skills in Model United Nations conferences. 

“She truly is a gifted student with a really sharp intellect. That will take her far,” said the director of the School of International Studies, Bill Herrin. 

In the fall, Johnston will go to Columbia University to study for a master’s degree in global thought. 

Johnston first became interested in international development as a member of her high school debate team when they researched foreign aid and how ineffective it often is. Her first exposure to actual international development work came at Pacific when she interned at Nathan Associates in 2018, an opportunity provided by alumnus John Beyer ’62, the former CEO of the company who wanted to make sure economics students could get real experience beyond making copies and fetching coffee.


Johnston worked on development projects that involved trade logistics in the eastern European country of Moldova and trying to improve trade routes and infrastructure in Mozambique. She performed data processing, research and summarized information. She was impressed by how collaborative development work is. 

“It also taught me a lot about how difficult international work is logistically,” Johnston said. “There are a lot of moving parts, communication is very difficult internationally.” 

Community work

She has been able to take what she learned at Nathan Associates and apply it locally working with Pacific’s student-run Integrated Development Group, which performs pro-bono consulting work for nonprofits. 

IDG is currently working with Lodi House, a homeless shelter for women and children to expand its space and increase engagement with donors. 

“We come up with [business] plans for them and ... they implement them as they need,” she said.

Study abroad 

Johnston’s Powell scholarship included money to study abroad. Because Johnston speaks Spanish and because political unrest closed off parts of Latin America, she decided to go to Spain, which also gave her the opportunity to travel through Europe. 

Johnston also traveled internationally as a delegate of Model United Nations, which allows students to role-play as ambassadors and debate current issues. She attended conferences in Montreal and Panama. 

“It was really amazing to go out of the country and to go to a conference with many other international students all interested in the same things you are,” she said.

Johnston has made an impact on Pacific’s Stockton Campus as well. In September 2019, she helped organize Pacific’s participation in the Global Climate Strike to raise awareness about climate change. The group’s aim was to get students and the university’s administration to take climate action now and adjust future policies around it.

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