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World Mag > WM Winter 2014 edition > Interview with Cheney Wells

Interview with Cheney Wells

Spending time with people who are different from you is such a valuable experience.
Cheney Wells
Cheney Wells

WM: You were at AISB from 1998 – 2002 and completed 9th – 12th grade at AISB, what are your fondest memories?

CW: Some of my best memories from AISB were being at the old campus on Dorobanti. The main building where the high school was is so beautiful, and clearly had so much history. Almost all of my memories were there, since we only moved to the new campus duringmy final semester at AISB. I rememberhaving basketball and volleyball prac- tice in 'the bubble' as we called it – thecovered, inflatable dome in the back ofthe campus where the gym was. After practice, the team would walk down the street together to a local kiosk to buy cokes or sprites (probably not the best post-exercise drink in hindsight).

Another one of my fondest memories of AISB was the opportunity to travel for sports tournaments and Model United Nations. It’s a really wonderful system that brings together the community at AISB, while also allowing the kids to form new bonds with students in peer schools throughout Eastern Europe, and in the case of MUN, all over the world.

I also always appreciated how down to earth and helpful all of the teachers were. I counted them as friends, in addition
to being my teachers. I am still in touch with some of those teachers today.

WM: You completed your university studies at NYU with two exchange programs, one in Berlin and one in Madrid. In what way(s) did your AISB education support your university years and your decision to take part in these exchange programs?

CW: I did do my undergrad at NYU – New York University. I would say that the types of students who participate in study-abroad programs at college have a very similar outlook on life as the kids who have the opportunity to go to international high schools like AISB. The multi-cultural learning and exchanges that those types of programs foster are so incredibly important to the future careers, friendships, and relationships of those students.

Spending time with people who are different from you is such a valuable experience; I wish more politicians, legislators, and business leaders had those kinds of opportunities, because I think one thing that is lacking in so much of high- level decision making is empathy.

If you’ve never spent significant time around people from different economic classes or from different races, it’s going to be difficult to put in place policies that take into consideration those differentperspectives. And of course this goes for more personal-level relationships as well.

WM: What field of work are you in now? Tell us more. 

CW: Currently I work in a field called Impact Evaluation--a fast-growing field ininternational development and econom- ics that basically serves to promote more rigorous evaluations of important policy debates in the international develop-ment field. One example of this would
be trying to figure out what are the most effective methods for increasing primary-school education rates in developing countries. It would be hard to quickly summarize everything that impact evaluations entail, so I’ll just include a link here to some work being done by one of themost prominent figures right now in this field, the economist Esther Duflo:

Right now I’m working for the World Bank, on an impact evaluation of a rural roads project in Nicaragua.

WM: You were a volunteer with the Peace Corps for 2 years – please tell us more about your work in Costa Rica.

CW: Being a Peace Corps volunteer in Costa Rica was a very humbling experi-ence that gave me a first introductioninto the world of international develop- ment. There were times where I felt that my presence as a volunteer was very well-spent and useful to the commu- nity I lived in, and other times where I questioned why I (or anyone) would havebeen sent to work in this specific com- munity where I was based. There has been a lot of good discussions around the role of Peace Corps today, and what the future role of it should be. One of the more critical pieces to come out a few years ago was in the New York Times: opinion/09strauss.html?_r=0


I share some of those concerns with the author, but also came away feeling that for the most part, my time was well- spent in Costa Rica, not just for me, but more importantly, for the town where I lived for two years.


WM: What do you feel is the role of community service in adding value to a holistic education? Can you give us some personal examples? How involved in community service were you while at AISB? Please provide details.


CW: Community service is a really wonderful institution at AISB, and it’s a shame that it’s not a part of more public schools throughout the world. There is a lot of help needed out there, and there are some great organizations and institutions doing important work to provide some of that help, so the extra help coming from the AISB students is surely appreciated.


Of course it’s also important to take a critical look at the work being done by each charity or volunteer organization, because even though almost all of them always have the best intentions, sometimes the work they do in practice ends up being less helpful. In any case, the experience of doing community service is a really important experience that ties into a lot of what I was saying about em- pathy in my response to question 2.

WM: What advice would you offer tocurrent AISB students about life after AISB?


CW: Advice for current AISB students?


Be humble, and just because you may speak four languages already by the age of 17, and have friends from 30 different countries, doesn’t make you any smarter or more important than any of your future classmates in college!

So, enjoy your time at AISB, andhopefully find a way to incorporateeverything you learn there into promoting similar values of multi-cultural, multi-ethnic collaboration and cooperation in your future friendships, relationships, and careers.

Read the entire WORLD Magazine Winter 2014 edition here.



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