Alena Stern

Alena with a new friend
Murray 1693 Scholar

Denver, Colorado (Cherry Creek High School)

Why W&M?

Honestly, I could best describe my enrollment at W&M as a series of fortunate coincidences. A family friend suggested I apply to W&M and I hadn't really considered it as somewhere I would actually enroll until I was contacted about applying for the Murray Scholars program. I hadn't seen the campus until I came for the finalist's weekend in March, and though I was impressed by the campus' beauty, I honestly still wasn't convinced.

I was won over for William and Mary by the professors that I met during the finalist's weekend. They were all so enthusiastic about William and Mary, their enthusiasm for their own research only matched by their genuine interest in hearing our opinions and treating them with respect. I thought that if this was the treatment given to high school students, the learning community that must exist at William and Mary between students and professors is certainly one that would enrich my collegiate years.

Upon arriving on campus it immediately felt like home and I've never looked back. From having the opportunity to coauthor papers with professors as a sophomore to dropping by a professor's office to ask about an exam, and finding yourself in a 2 hour discussion about the world, professors at William and Mary truly care about the ideas and aspirations of their students. My initial expectations about the quality of the education here have absolutely been exceeded.


International Relations and Economics

Extracurriculars at W&M

I was very involved in William and Mary's debate team, which competes in the American Parliamentary Debate Association. I also dedicated a lot of time to my research job at the Institute for the Theory and Practice of International Relations, a job I became involved in through a professor I met at Murray Finalist's weekend. I was also a member of the Young Democrats.

Research at W&M

The aforementioned research job primarily centers around the AidData project, an initiative that seeks to create a database of foreign aid commitments at the project level. Through this job, I became passionate about foreign aid and international development, and am certain that my research will align around this interest. I wrote a paper about the propensity of aid donors to "follow the crowd" when making allocation decisions in international organizations. I also worked with my major advisor to create a field research experiment on aid transparency as understood by the citizens of recipient nations.

Reves Center for International Studies article on Alena

Where am I now?

I started a job at Chemonics International in Washington, D.C. as an East Africa Associate, but quickly found my dream job back at William & Mary. My research group at William & Mary (AIDdata) was awarded a $25 million grant from USAID, and I am helping to build that program. Check out the video promoting the international aid research.