Anya Prusa currently manages the Brazil Institute at the Wilson Center as its Senior Associate and leads a Wilson Center project examining gender-based violence in Latin America through a rule of law lens. Before joining the Brazil Institute, Anya worked for the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Brazilian and Southern Cone Affairs and interned at the Albright Stonebridge Group and Brookings Institution. She lived in Brazil from 2012-2014. She graduated from the Elliott School in 2011 with a Masters in Latin American and Hemispheric Studies, and also holds an MPP from Georgetown University. She has been interviewed and quoted by the BBC, Washington Post, Bloomberg, Al Jazeera, Huffington Post, and other media.
Describe your current position and what have you learned since being in the position?
I am currently the Senior Associate and manager of the Brazil Institute at the Wilson Center, an international affairs policy institute or “think-tank.” A big part of my job is staying informed on current events and policy discussions in Brazil, and being able to analyze and explain developments to a U.S. audience; but I also organize events and publications, manage relationships with our partners and stakeholders, and help fundraise to support the Brazil Institute’s programming. Much of this work is self-driven, in that I am coming up with projects and ideas for the Brazil Institute to implement, and so I have learned just how important it is to prioritize and think strategically. There often isn’t time for all of the issues that I want to cover.
What professional organization, websites, or events would you recommend for students interested in your field, and why?
There are many excellent think-tanks in Washington, DC. Pick a few that focus on your particular interests, and read their blogs and attend their events. It’s a good way to get a feel for the policy conversation and to learn who the key players in your particular field are. There are also a number of young professionals organizations that can provide good networking opportunities, such as Young Professionals in Foreign Policy or Young Professionals of the Americas, which is run by the Council of the Americas.
What was your favorite Elliott School course and why?
It’s hard to pick just one! I think my favorite class was my capstone project, in part because I was working with an amazing classmate, but also because it was an opportunity to think through a major project from start to finish and it was my first time doing field research. We focused on assessing the success of Plan Ceibal, which is Uruguay’s nation-wide One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program, and I got to spend a week in Uruguay visiting different schools and speaking with educators and policymakers. I was also able to spend a few days in Paraguay, to learn about their smaller OLPC pilot program. It was incredible to see the full range of voices and stakeholders involved in policymaking, from students and teachers to the Ministry of Education. And it impressed on me the importance of local context and the end-user because it can have an enormous impact on a policy’s success. In the case of OLPC, for example, that meant coming up with an effective computer repair process—not something you traditionally think of when designing education policy, but laptops don’t last long in the hands of 7-year olds! And broken laptops are a real bottleneck when the curriculum is designed around digital learning.
What part of your career do you find most challenging and how do you stay motivated?
Sometimes the public policy challenges that we address can feel insurmountable, from containing the spread of COVID-19 to curbing deforestation in the Amazon. It’s easy to get caught up in all of the problems that our world is confronting. I stay motivated by focusing on the areas where I know the Brazil Institute can have an impact, and remembering that policymaking is a collective effort—there are many incredible, dedicated people working in this field. And sometimes, on the weekends, I’ll take a vacation from the news.
If you could throw a parade of any caliber, what type of parade would it be?
I would absolutely love to participate in a samba school parade during Carnaval in Brazil.
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The #ElliottProud profile series is managed by the Elliott School Office of Graduate Admissions and highlights graduate program alumni to answer common questions posed by prospective, incoming, and current students. For more information on this series or to submit questions, e-mail the Office of Graduate Admissions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed by students profiled do not necessarily represent those of organizations they work for, are affiliated with, or the Elliott School of International Affairs.