Member of Adelphi University’s 10 Under 10.“I’m a passionate individual who wants to make a difference.”
“I’ve always wanted to see myself as being a part of a change,” Ewa Sobczynska said. Her grandparents and parents lived through World War II and Communism in rural Poland. She grew up during a political upheaval in Poland. “Individual people unified, and were able to change political systems in my country,” Ms. Sobczynska said. “I guess being a part of that personal and national background made me think: what can I do to make that difference?”
Today Ms. Sobczynska is operations officer for the Sustainable Development Department of The World Bank Group, an international financial institution that provides loans to developing countries for capital programs. “The Bank’s main mission is to fight and alleviate poverty around the world,” she said. “The Bank provides very competitive loans or grants to governments.” These loans are for concrete projects in the areas of infrastructure, environment, agriculture, health or education, among others; building hospitals or providing vaccines to populations.
“Loans are not aimed to help build a road in the capital of Congo, but rather to create roads from the capital to small rural areas so that farmers can access the market,” Ms. Sobczynska said. “The Bank provides financing and technical support, but it is the countries who are in the driver seat—that is they are responsible for implementing the projects, for example building the roads according to their national standards.”
“The Bank works closely with national governments to engage in a policy dialogue to affect that positive change,” she said. As an operations officer for sustainable development, Ms. Sobczynska has to be fluent in the way the World Bank does business so that she can provide policy advice to regional country teams on the specific operations, and support the senior management, who represent the Bank externally in the area of sustainable development in their daily work.
To deliver that type of advice, she works with a team of people from different backgrounds and with different technical expertise who engage and share different perspectives. Ms. Sobczynska’s direct team is comprised of colleagues from Uganda, Ghana, South Africa and Germany. “Working with people from different backgrounds is something that has given me a lot of energy and positive enthusiasm,” she said.
“A large part of working for an international organization is that people are coming from such diverse cultures and all different parts of the world. And that is really where international organizations have their strengths,” she said. “You cannot go and advise a Latin American government if the only people who come to the table from the World Bank are from Europe or North America.”
A lover of languages and other cultures, Ms. Sobczynska first realized she had the potential to enjoy a fulfilling career in international relations as a student in Adelphi’s Honors College. “My second semester I took a global studies class. It had a really deep impact on me,” she said. “I realized that not only could I read about these developments happening around the world—I could actually be a part of them in the future.”
“Adelphi impacted me tremendously. There was a big shift in the educational experience that I received at the University. What I found at Adelphi was very much an intellectual engagement…a personal nourishment that I’d never felt before,” she said.
“My Adelphi professors always had time to spend with me to engage me in intellectual discussions about things I was interested in, and the research I wanted to do,” Ms. Sobczynska said. “My professors were interested in who I was, where I was coming from and the struggles I had had, personally and intellectually.”
After graduating from Adelphi, Ms. Sobczynska went on to earn her master’s degree from Georgetown University. In addition to the roles she has held at the World Bank—policy analyst and currently operations officer for sustainability—she has also worked with the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative and the International Food Policy Research Institute, as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Italy, Zambia and Washington, DC.
Even living 250 miles away in Washington, D.C., Ms. Sobczynska continues to stay connected with her alma mater today. “I frequently visit Adelphi and meet regularly with professors, and recently had the opportunity to talk to current students,” she said. “Because I stay engaged, I have an impact on how, potentially, the University develops, grows its relationships with alumni and shapes its programs. If you want to shape the future, you have to engage in it.”