Alumna Conducts Philanthropic Sector Evaluation

JANUARY 16, 2014 - Alumna Katelyn (Perna) Mack (NHS’06), MS, says her time at Georgetown prepared her for a career in evaluating social sector programs and organizational strategy.

Now a senior consultant at FSG, Mack specifically points to the research internship she completed in Mexico as part of her independent study within the Department of International Health.

“The practical experience abroad program was hands down the most important in terms of getting exposure to real-world problems,” she says.  “The depth of experience has really paid dividends for me in terms of getting my first job after Georgetown and also has practical applications to my job today.  I am very indebted to Georgetown for that experience in Chiapas.”

Well-Being of Veterans

After Georgetown, Mack moved to California to work at the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“I was part of a team that was researching violence against women and how it impacts the lives of veterans and women throughout California,” she says.  “We were trying to build knowledge about the intersection between mental health issues, intimate partner violence, employment, and other health-related outcomes.”

She says that work helped her to further develop her understanding of the social determinants of health she learned about at Georgetown.

“Health can’t be isolated from all of the different facets of people’s lives,” she says.  “Education, poverty, economics, employment, violence, and safety – they all influence a person’s ability to be healthy.  That has really shaped my vision for what I want to do with my career.”

Social Causes

Two years later, Mack returned to the East Coast to attend graduate school at Harvard School of Public Health, where she earned a master’s degree and focused her attention on the social causes of poor health.

She split her time as a research assistant examining the health consequences of sex trafficking in Southeast Asia and studying the impact of school nutrition and transportation policies on community health.

“I was doing social epidemiology,” she says.  “We used quantitative analysis to try to understand the social causes of health, disease, and well-being.”

Research and Evaluation

Now back in California at FSG, Mack is using her research and evaluation skills to help philanthropic organizations understand the impact their investments are making on issues such as substance abuse, obesity, and access to higher education.

She is working with organizations to apply lessons learned to their ongoing or future strategies.

“Our goal is for the evaluations we do to inform the development of the programs going forward,” she says.

Real-World Experience

Mack says she is really enjoying her current career and the path she has taken.

“Georgetown creates lifelong learners,” she says.  “It was a no-brainer going back to school at Harvard.  At FSG, I am surrounded by smart, talented, and motivated people.  The organization has really played a critical role in shifting the way that philanthropy thinks about its work – in terms of being more proactive, deliberate, and focused in what they give to in order to address social problems.”

To current students, she says get involved.

“Volunteer,” she says.  “Get an internship.  Get as close up to the type of work you want to do as you can – both in school and when you leave.  The hands-on experience is really important and is something you need to be able to talk about in a job interview.”

By Bill Cessato