Heller Profiles

The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University

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Jessica  Girard '10

USA

MA-SID '14

Citizen Leaders: Harnessing the Power of Education

Heller enables Jessica Girard '10 to make the transition from the military to civilian leadership.

Jessica Girard was deployed with the U.S. Air Force three times. She was in Oman after Sept. 11, 2001, and twice went to Iraq. While stationed in Baghdad, she traveled to villages where she met local people without any form of livelihood. Sometimes she would see Army soldiers passing out soccer balls to children as a goodwill gesture, but, she recalls, “the kids would literally try to kill each other to get a ball.” They had nothing. Even though she was only 24 at the time, Girard knew she could do something to improve the lives of those children.

“People from home kept sending me these care packages…that’s when it hit me,” she says. “Instead of sending me stuff I really didn't’t need, I asked people to send pencils, school bags, paper and other school supplies. Then I worked with a local imam to deliver it all to a school.” This one experience convinced Jessica that when she came back to the United States, she wanted to work in international development. “I loved the way it made me feel,” she says. “It made me happier than anything I’d ever done.”

At Heller, Girard discovered the difference between military leadership and civilian, advocacy leadership. “The Air Force is more management by directive,” she says. “At Heller, leadership is based on being an educated person, crafting partnerships — you learn from them, they learn from you, and everyone is empowered.”

Knowledge Advancing Social Justice

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