Kerry Brennan ’07
The opportunity to travel in high school, and a love of learning about new places and cultures, led Kerry Brennan ’07 to international studies. “I knew I wanted to make a difference in the world,” she says, “so I figured the best way to do that was to study how the world works.” Brennan is realizing her ambition as a project associate with Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), a nonprofit organization that researches new methods in poverty reduction, headquartered in New Haven, Connecticut.
Brennan went to work for IPA straight out of college, conducting field research on microlending, first in Mexico City and then northern Mexico. “The idea behind microcredit is that you offer these small loans to individuals, to bring access to finance to people who would otherwise be forced to take out high-interest loans,” says Brennan. Researchers at IPA then evaluate the results of that field experiment to determine which interventions work best and why.
Disseminating those best practices is another hallmark of IPA’s mission, and it is Brennan’s current focus at the organization’s headquarters in Connecticut. “If only academic economists are reading our papers, very few lives will be improved. We want to bring our message to a wider group of people,” she says.
Brennan credits Boston College’s unique approach to International Studies, as well as opportunities to study abroad in South America, for cementing her interest in development economics. “At Boston College, you have to take all of the courses that comprise the field of international studies. You need to know the importance of political science and history and economics,” she says.
“One of the things I really appreciated about International Studies at Boston College was the focus on the issue of humanity. The whole spirit of Boston College is that education is something you pursue in order to go out and help others.”