A passion for the global public good

Kelli Sunabe is among the 35 Peace Corps evacuees at Maxwell, where she is pursuing her interests in international labor. She knew that she was headed to Maxwell when she was evacuated near the end of her Peace Corps service. Kelli is one of four Robertson Foundation for Government Fellows, a scholarship program for highly qualified applicants that provides full tuition plus a stipend. In exchange, graduates agree to work in the U.S. federal government for three of seven years after graduation.

“My dream is to work for the U.S. State Department, for the Office of International Labor Affairs,” says Kelli, who also is pursuing dual MPA/MAIR degrees. “The Office is responsible for overseeing regulations and ensuring that American companies are treating workers overseas ethically.”

Kelli first became interested in ending labor abuses, particularly in the “fast fashion” industry, as an undergraduate at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, where she earned degrees in international business and fashion design. Kelli entered the Peace Corps after graduation, which she says, “was the best experience of my life.” She lived with three different host families in the City of Dujiangyan in the Sichuan Province, where she taught English at a Sichuan Engineering Technical College (SCTEC). “Most of our students end up working in manufacturing or entry level positions. Most scored low on the Gao Kao, which is the Chinese version of the SAT.

Kelli went the extra mile for her students. She organized departments across SCTEC and worked with three local entrepreneurs, creating SCETC’s first Business Case Study Program. She convinced leadership to provide a van so that students had the exclusive opportunity to visit a successful business in Sichuan’s province capital Chengdu. “I wanted to be able to empower my students to believe in themselves,” she explains.

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