Story by Dwain Hebda
It’s a long way from Botswana to Arkansas, and with the stops Thato Masire took in between, his educational and professional journey was more winding than others’.
But the value of what he picked up along the way – including a degree from the Clinton School of Public Service – made every mile traveled worth it.
“I have been positively and fundamentally changed through the approach of the Clinton School,” he said. “I’m taken back to a class I took called Program Planning and Development which taught us before you do anything you need to go through a needs assessment to see, is there really a need? What informs that need? It’s going through approaching issues in a very systematic way to have a better understanding of an issue and the people we seek to serve.”
From his native African nation, Masire completed his undergraduate degree in communication studies and management at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. From there, he moved to Washington, D.C., where he spent a year working for the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs as a project assistant for southern and eastern Africa operations.
“I knew that grad school would be on the horizon, it was just a question of when, having been in D.C. amongst very ambitious, very accomplished individuals,” he said. “Where I lived at the International Student House, we had scholars, interns and young professionals from all over the world. Some of them were Ph.D. students. It made it very clear that I needed to get a master’s degree.”
On the recommendation of a professor and his work-study supervisor, Masire found out about the Clinton School of Public Service. He’d eventually apply and be accepted into the school’s ninth enrolling class and moved to Little Rock in 2013. Over the next two years, he’d complete the concurrent MBA program.
He said even with his international background and previous experiences among different groups of people, the breadth of diversity in his Clinton School class impressed him.
“We had people in the class who were significantly older, we had people with families, we had people that were just getting out of college, we had people that were switching careers, we had people from the military,” he said. “I was excited, because of the interactions that we had. Those interactions were really powerful and insightful, as I met people from various walks of life.
“I remember I worked on a Practicum project for a whole year with a classmate, David, who had served in the military for a significant amount of time. He was very orderly. He wore nice shoes and he always tucked in his shirt. Interacting with David showed there is order, there is discipline required for what we are doing.”
Masire’s major projects included a Capstone with Berea College in Berea, Ky., and an International Public Service Project with Tiger Kloof school in Vryburg, South Africa.
Today, Masire works for UNICEF Botswana, proving communications and advocacy support through a wide range of activities such as media briefings, public events, and key issue campaigns. While Masire is primarily stationed in Gaborone, Botswana, he is currently on a special short-term assignment with UNICEF Slovakia Refugee Response Office.
“I also do a lot of facilitation,” he said. “For example, there was a meeting for transforming education. It was huge and brought a lot of different stakeholders on board. I facilitated that on the ground. I was ensuring that there was the right level of high energy and so forth. There are times when I move from behind the desk to being in front, being on stage to ensure the facilitation.”
In his role, he credits lessons learned through the Clinton School that helped sharpen his communications skills and methodology.
“I know definitely there are some key takeaways from the Clinton School experience that I use in my everyday work,” he said. “I think at the heart of it, it’s all about stressing engagement, how to engage communities.”
Thato Masire is a 2016 graduate of the Clinton School of Public Service. He earned a concurrent Master of Business Administration from the the University of Arkansas Walton School of Business. He works in communications and advocacy support for UNICEF Botswana.