Nathan Interns Experience Applied Economics News Feed

Two Washington-area students acquired a deeper appreciation of real-world economics through internships at Nathan Associates Inc., while Nathan benefited from the pair’s talent and commitment.

Summer 2014 interns Sara Asfew and Colleen Zimmerman

Nathan Associates Summer Interns
Sara Asfaw and Colleen Zimmerman

Sara G. Asfaw, a business finance and business management student at the University of the District of Columbia, researched economic conditions in Egypt and Nepal for Nathan projects designed to advance growth and reduce poverty. She applied her training and previous experience to the nitty-gritty work of a consulting firm: preparing work agreements and wire transfers, performing bank reconciliations with the accounting department, and tracking the budgets for Nathan projects.

Colleen M. Zimmerman, who graduated in May from George Mason University with a bachelor’s in economics, followed her interest in development economics by working on project proposals, examining strategies for human and institutional capacity development, and writing a grant proposal for improving literacy among girls and women in Yemen. Ms. Zimmerman worked in other departments, including litigation consulting, as well.

Ms. Asfaw and Ms. Zimmerman received their eight-week internships, which began May 27, through the Robert R. Nathan Foundation. The program was established so that talented young men and women can learn, in a for-profit setting, how economics is applied as a tool for social betterment.  Ms. Zimmerman said she discovered how difficult it is find practical solutions.

A problem for every solution

“There are multiple problems underlying every issue in a developing country, and that was one of the most surprising things I encountered,” Ms. Zimmerman said. Another surprise for her was the “amount of time and attention to detail the litigation department deals with every day—collecting data is amazingly time consuming and I was only focusing on a small section of the work they deal with.”

“Each person I have met here appears to be passionate and excited about their work, which is wonderful to see as a recent grad hoping to jump into an interesting career field,” she said.

Ms. Asfaw said she acquired a fuller understanding of the relationship between finance and economics, which may affect her career direction.

 “I see how economics have an advantage for a country to develop financially,” she said. “It’s a bigger picture than finance. The more I’m here, the more my interest comes to economics.”

A long journey

Ms. Asfaw plans to complete her undergraduate studies in December, then pursue an MBA. The Nathan Foundation is pleased to help Ms. Asfaw, who has worked extremely hard to get where she is.

A native of Ethiopia, Ms. Asfaw came to the United States eight years ago, admitted by lottery through the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. She worked as a cook at the Army’s Fort Myer Bowling Center in Arlington, Virginia, then trained as a phlebotomist and worked in medical practices, and held as many as three jobs at once.

She has an associate degree in Ethiopia, where she had worked for Ethiopian Airlines. She obtained a second associate degree at Northern Virginia Community College before enrolling at the University of the District of Columbia. After completing the internship, she will return to her full-time job at the officers’ club at the Fort Myer while finishing her undergraduate degree.

 “I wanted to do something related to my education,” she said, explaining why the internship was such an opportunity. “Every day I’m thankful.”

Ms. Zimmerman, from Havertown, Pennsylvania, and Roanoke, Virginia, hopes to continue working in international development. In addition, she will undoubtedly pursue her interests in the performing arts. A music minor, she sang the role of  Lucinda in the Mason Players’ production of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods, and performed with Noteworthy, her university’s a cappella group. Blending her business skills with the theatrical, she served as treasurer for Noteworthy and the George Mason University Arts Society.

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