Patrick Guyer is an Impact Measurement Specialist with Oxfam Novib in The Hague, Netherlands. His work combines quantitative and qualitative research and evaluation techniques to make better policies for improving well-being and realizing human rights. An SGPIA alum with a concentration in Governance and Rights (2009), Patrick was previously Chief Statistician for Measure of America and has served as a consultant to UN agencies and the private sector.
How did you end up attending SGPIA?
I studied political science and anthropology at McGill University in Montreal, and then spent a few years working in a range of jobs including hospitality, commercial fishing, and political campaigning while travelling a bit in Latin America and Europe when I could get away. When I got tired of bouncing between seasonal jobs, and started looking into graduate programs, The New School stood out for me because of its progressive credentials and its location in NYC.
Was it clear to you what your career path would be by the time you graduated?
I started at SGPIA with a pretty vague idea of wanting to do “something” with human rights at the international level. My coursework and experiences in the program really helped me get a clearer idea of what that could be, and how I could make a contribution to the field. Especially helpful were the courses I took with Professor Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, whom I later had the privilege to work with as a research assistant. Professor Fukuda-Parr showed me how quantitative research methods can be used to support human rights advocacy and human rights-based development work. I didn’t think of myself as much of a quantitatively-minded person up to that point, but seeing how statistics could be used to contribute to something I was passionate about really flipped a switch in my mind. I signed up for all the quantitative methods courses I could find and worked hard to get myself up to speed and have been working with statistics ever since.
What has your post-graduate life looked like?
After the SGPIA, I worked with Measure of America, a project of the Social Science Research Council, for almost six years. That was a wonderful, challenging and formative professional experience for me, and I’ll always be grateful that I landed on my feet with such a great organization and team right out of grad school. I left that role in 2015 when my family and I moved to The Netherlands. I established my own consulting practice, Chiffrephile (which means ‘one who loves numbers’), through which I worked with non-profit and private sector clients in Europe and North America for the last two years. Then this summer I was invited to join the Impact Measurement Team at Oxfam Novib.
You’ve fallen in love with research. Why?
There’s a real thrill in discovering something new, especially when it challenges the conventional wisdom. Research can be slow, tedious and frustrating, but when your work helps solve a complicated problem, the satisfaction must be a bit similar to what a detective feels after solving a crime.
What about the Oxfam mission attracted you to the organization?
I’ve been wanting to do more with human rights-based approaches to development and humanitarian relief work for years now, so Oxfam’s mandate is really exciting. Oxfam is also doing great evaluation work that uses rigorous quantitative as well as qualitative research methods in a mutually-supporting way, which I find very innovative and interesting.
What do you think is the most useful thing to know for someone about to graduate from SGPIA?
There’s a lot of competition out there for the kinds of jobs SGPIA grads are looking for and it can take a while to break into the field you want to be in. Don’t get discouraged and always remember to keep up your contacts with your classmates and your professors. I made great friendships at SGPIA and people I met there have also become a really important part of my professional network.
Any words of wisdom for prospective students?
Don’t rush your decision to go to grad school. If you do it, go with a clear idea of what you want to get out of the experience. I didn’t really have that myself, though many of the people I know who have been successful in their careers since SGPIA certainly did. Classes I took, and people I met in the program helped me narrow my focus and gain skills in graduate school that certainly eased my transition to a career, but I think the best approach is to have well-defined goals for your time in the program and beyond when you show up for your first class.
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