Alumni Spotlight: Aissata Himmelfarb ’13

Aissata Himmelfarb

Aissata Himmelfarb ’13

Women’s and Gender Studies, International Relations


Aissata Himmelfarb (’13) is currently working in New York City as Senior Grants Manager for ICAP at Columbia University. Since leaving UMW, Himmelfarb has worked in the area of international development. Along the way, she completed a graduate program in gender and economic development.  She received a fellowship with the State Department in Washington, D.C. while completing graduate school.  Following her graduate program, she focused on public health and development – work that had her focus on projects in Africa and Latin America to assist with the AIDS and HIV crises.

Himmelfarb emphasizes the way in which Women’s and Gender Studies teaches students to think in a unique, critical way. Particularly the writing intensive nature of the Women’s and Gender Studies major at UMW, coupled by the high expectations of the WGST faculty, allowed Himmelfarb to advance herself and remain prepared to take on the challenges of both graduate school and the postgraduate work force that she found herself a part of. Himmelfarb feels that UMW prepared her well in this way, opening up opportunities beyond what would be available otherwise.

When asked what she might tell her younger self as a UMW student, Himmelfarb stated that she would encourage herself to be more open-minded about post-graduation possibilities. For example, when Himmelfarb left UMW, she thought that she wanted to work in the area of economic development and pursue a career with the State Department but finds herself now working for a global health nonprofit in New York City. As Himmelfarb says, “It’s important to be open to any and all opportunities that can come your way. Try as many different things as you can.”

Himmelfarb became interested in Women’s and Gender Studies particularly through studying the gendered issues that appear in daily life and how such issues intersected with International Relations, her other primary academic interest. During the time that Himmelfarb attended UMW, the Women’s and Gender Studies major was being developed. This provided her with the perfect opportunity to combine her interests in International Relations and Women’s and Gender Studies.

In her postgraduate work, Himmelfarb has benefited greatly from her Women’s and Gender Studies education. “For better or worse, international development will jump on people with gender expertise,” Himmelfarb tells. Gender has become a much stronger focus in the International Development field; considering how projects and programs affect men and women differently is one example of how gender plays into international development. Having a background in Women’s and Gender Studies has allowed Himmelfarb more opportunities within the broader field of international development. The major provided her with tools and opportunities and opened doors for her that would not have opened without this training.