“I want to work on ways economic development can be our strongest form of diplomacy.”

With her undergraduate background in international relations, Amy Sennett’s fellowship at the China Foreign Affairs University, where she taught oral English and current events, was a natural fit for her talents. While the experience was rewarding, it also challenged Amy to push further. “At the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton, I was exposed to many international crises, but I felt that I didn’t have the hard skills to tackle problems in a tangible way.”

In her second year in China, Amy worked with the dean of the Woodrow Wilson School, Anne-Marie Slaughter, who was on sabbatical in Shanghai. “She had attended and taught at Harvard Law School and recommended it as a place where I would find women moving into leadership roles,” Amy says. Once at the school, “I realized I wanted to stay in the community longer, to build my network over an extra year. At Harvard, there’s an incredible academic atmosphere that brings out curiosity in people.”

HBS appealed to Amy for many reasons. “Business is becoming more important than ever in shaping issues and policies. I needed tactical skills in finance and management, and also the ability to speak the same language as business leaders.”

Safe environment to test ideas

“At HLS,” Amy observes, “there’s a constant pushback on your comments; you’re always forced to reevaluate your position. It’s a safe environment, a kind of practice round for policy work, in which you can put a viewpoint out there, get feedback, rethink things, and try again.”

“One of the remarkable things about HBS,” says Amy, “is that we sit in classrooms with people from the U.S., the Middle East, Europe, South America, Asia – all over the world. It’s a place where all voices are heard equally – an atmosphere that’s so much more international than what most Americans experience. And one that reflects where the world is really going.”

After her first year of law school, Amy went to Geneva to work with thirty-four lawyers on the U.N.’s International Law Commission. Amy served as research assistant for the Portuguese delegate, Paula Escarameia – an HLS alum – and helped draft treaty language “for the codification and progressive development of international law.”

Development as best diplomacy

Through the HBS Social Enterprise Club, Amy has seen “a lot of ways for-profits and entrepreneurial interests can be a big part of solving public policy issues, especially for the poorest of the poor at the bottom of the socioeconomic pyramid.” As vice chair of the Club’s Microfinance and Social Investment Group, she “looks at ways global capital can flow to places where it can have make a social impact. We want to see if profit-seeking capital can find rewarding opportunities in the developing world or in unconventional investments.”

In January, Amy participated in the first Rwanda IXP where she worked with a consulting group helping a furniture manufacturer redesign its layout for greater efficiency. “I put my Technology and Operations Management (TOM) class into practice far sooner than I had envisioned,” Amy says.

Once Amy graduates, she plans to practice law, and then sees herself “moving back and forth between the private and public sectors. I want to work on ways economic development can be our strongest form of diplomacy.”