Liberal Arts = Adaptability
Christina (Wright) Bruff ’04
Now: Economic development and multilateral affairs officer for the Bureau of African Affairs, part of the U.S. Department of State.
On second thought: She’s grateful Carthage “forced” her to take classes across a wide variety of disciplines. A strong foundation makes all the difference when you’re building a career.
Back in the late 1990s, when Christina (Wright) Bruff was searching for the perfect college, she didn’t care that Carthage offered a liberal arts education. Torn between economics and political science, she was just relieved to find a place where she could pick both.
Today, Ms. Bruff works for the U.S. State Department, in its Bureau of African Affairs. She works to address a plethora of development needs across 49 sub-Saharan African countries — with a strong emphasis on women’s issues. She administers a small grants program, works to influence policies to combat gender-based violence, and preps for major meetings like the United Nations General Assembly.
It’s a career that has required her to be flexible and adaptable.
“As long as you have the skills …”
Before her current position with the Bureau of African Affairs, Ms. Bruff focused on Latin America, spending three years in the Dominican Republic with the Peace Corps and working with microfinance programs in Nicaragua.
Shifting her focus to an entirely different continent didn’t faze her. A series of internships and jobs at federal agencies taught Ms. Bruff that’s just how Washington works. It’s a city full of chameleons.
“You could jump from the Congo to East Timor,” she said. “As long as you have the skills, it’s assumed you’ll figure out what your country is all about.”
It’s more than the geography that changes. A list of the publications Ms. Bruff co-authored during nearly six years at the Government Accountability Office bounces between issues like a pinball: drugs in Afghanistan, military policy on gay service members, sanctions on North Korea, even food safety.
“Every 9 to 15 months, the topics changed,” she said. “I had to be really comfortable not knowing what I was talking about, diving into the weeds to fully understand it, and then writing a paper about it.”
“A foundation to move forward”
Today, Ms. Bruff can appreciate the immense value of cross-disciplinary education. At Carthage, she double-majored in economics and international political economy, a field that also folds in geoscience, foreign language, and social science.
Like someone dismantling an engine and then rebuilding it, she can spot subtle but important connections between very different fields — and understand the immense value in an education that teaches you to make such connections.
“That 300-level class you don’t want to be taking? All of a sudden, it makes sense,” Ms. Bruff said. And the cross-disciplinary Carthage Symposium courses she admittedly was “grumpy” about taking? She’s grateful the College required those, too.
Ms. Bruff came back to Carthage in April as a Chapman Executive-in-Residence for the Division of Professional Studies. Over several days on campus, she spoke with current Carthage students about her career and was interviewed on WGTD’s “The Morning Show.”
She explained how it was so easy for her to adapt.
“Carthage has provided me with the foundation to move forward in an international career,” she said in the radio interview. “And the way it’s done that is through a liberal arts education that forced me to take classes across a wide variety of disciplines.”