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Mission To empower individuals. To provide, as Amartya Sen says, people with choices, thus giving them freedom. Both the freedom to succeed and the freedom to fail, and learn. Sometimes empowerment comes from personal investment, such as microloans, sponsorships, and trainings. Other times empowerment comes from changing systems and opening up political and economic space.

Michael working with the Turkana in the Peace Corps, Kenya.


Organizational & Geographic Focus Innovative international development organizations looking to grow educational and economic programs and scale-up initiatives in East Africa.

Specialties Kenya education system, East African Deaf education and organizations, HIV/AIDS and life skills training, behavior change models, behavioral economics, curriculum Watch video development, persuasion and communication--including low-literate communications, community mobilization, social media, blogging, entrepreneurship.

Languages Professional working proficiency in Kiswahili. Fluency in Kenyan Sign Language. Limited working proficiency in American Sign Language.

Michael and a student at the Isiolo School for the Deaf, Kenya.


Summary Entrepreneurial in spirit, all of Michael’s positions have involved leading new initiatives. Whether developing a new and innovative approach to Deaf education in Kenya, re-imagining how educational programs for refugee youth could be more fully integrated into the resettlement process, or implementing an integrated communications plan to drive company growth, Michael is action and goal-oriented, driven to see tangible results. Michael is an intuitive and imaginative problem solver. His ability to quickly perceive patterns, draw out information and understand how the problem fits into a larger system allows him to turn information into concrete plans, even under difficult circumstances. Michael is a team leader, adapt at negotiating competing interests and resolving conflicts in dynamic group settings.

Video: Do something important in Africa

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Project: Sponsoring Deaf Students in Kenya Since returning from Kenya in 2008 I’ve been fortunate to find people to help sponsor deserving deaf students from the Isiolo School for the Deaf to attend high school. Since 2006 fifteen students from the school have graduated High School. High school isn’t only about academics, but allowing students to grow their identities and abilities. The truth is, for almost all of the girls from Isiolo, if they don’t go to high school, they return home and are married off for the dowry. High school gives them the time, confidence, and contacts to do something with their lives.

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International Experience • • • • • • • • •

UCSB Field Research: Interviews with Save Lamu coalition and Lamu community, Kenya (2011) Heartland Alliance: Working with Somali, Burundi and Iraqi communities in resettlement (2009) US Peace Corps, Kenya: Behavior Change Facilitator, HIV & AIDS and life skills (2005-2008) US Peace Corps, Kenya: Task force to facilitate nationwide coordination of deaf and low-literate visual aid materials (2006-2008) US Peace Corps, Kenya: Baseline survey for HIV/AIDS project at Kenyan Deaf schools (2007) DARE Foundation, Kenya: Health & Sanitation project with Turkana community (2008) Purdue University: International Student Recruitment, Australian Universities (2004) Purdue University: Trade Missions Program, Meetings with Spanish Universities (2003) Study Abroad Program: Edith Cowan University, Perth, Western Australia (1998)


Employment • Integrated Communications Specialist, FTR | Transportation Intelligence September 2012 – Present, Remote • Graduate Student, MA Global & International Studies, UC Santa Barbara September 2010 – April 2013, Santa Barbara, CA • Refugee Youth Integration Manager, Heartland Alliance for Refugee Resettlement February 2009 – July 2009, Chicago, IL • Behavior Change Facilitator, Deaf Education, Peace Corps September 2005 – July 2008, Isiolo, Kenya • Marketing and Publications Coordinator, Study Abroad, Purdue University July 2001 – September 2005, Lafayette, IN • Freelance Communications Professional August 2000 – Present


Education MA, Global & International Studies University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), 2010-2013 Emphasis: Political Economy & Sustainable Development Thesis: Developing a Reflexive Framework for Sustainable Development – The Case of Save Lamu Research: Save Lamu coalition, Lamu, Kenya, Fall 2011 Awards: MAGIS Fellowship BA Communications, Minor in Business Marian University, May, 2000 Awards: Marian Scholar, Deans List

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Michael J. Starks - Agent for Global Change