Ute Reisinger was a Fulbright grantee in 2015 and studied at the University of Connecticut. Before moving to the United States, she worked in the private sector and in international development in Europe, China, and Mozambique. Ute has worked for the Inter-American Development Bank since completing her master’s degree in international studies.
How did you become interested in what you studied (both prior to and during your Fulbright grant)?
After studying international business administration at the Fachhochschule Krems, I did my first master’s degree in human rights. I have since advocated for the extraterritorial application of human rights obligations, meaning that not only states are responsible for respecting, protecting, and fulfilling human rights, but also businesses and international organizations.
The University of Connecticut is a member of a research consortium that is dedicated to this matter. Therefore, beyond the master’s program I chose at UConn, I knew that there would also be professors at the university working in the field I was interested in.
What were some highlights of your time as a Fulbright grantee?
The University of Connecticut offered me a full tuition waiver and even a graduate assistantship at their Human Rights Institute that provided a small salary. I got the chance to work on an important initiative measuring economic and social rights, an indicator that has since greatly expanded, has won various awards, and is widely used today by civil society.
I was the only Fulbright student in my master’s program, and the entire faculty welcomed me with open arms. I was fully integrated into the team at the Human Rights Institute and had the privilege of representing Fulbright at all events.
What are you currently doing?
I am currently working at the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) in Washington, DC. As a social specialist in the Environmental and Social Safeguards Unit, I support our clients in identifying, avoiding, and mitigating the negative impacts and risks of development projects. These range from building highways or geothermal plants to national investment programs for green innovation. Specifically, I monitor the resettlement and adequate compensation of affected populations, facilitate meaningful stakeholder consultation, and ensure the socio-cultural integration of indigenous peoples and other vulnerable groups.
What impact did your Fulbright experience have on your current work as an environmental and social safeguards specialist at the IADB?
Being a Fulbright student is truly a competitive advantage for those who want to work in international development. But more importantly, my academic research at UConn perfectly combined my background in economics and human rights with my experience working in development, which uniquely qualified me for the position.
In my research, I used human rights as a tool to advocate for sustainable development. Now, the IADB’s safeguards policies fulfill the same purpose for me.
What is on the horizon for you?
I enjoy working for the IADB and deepening my experience in Latin America and the Caribbean. The bank will reform its safeguards policies in the upcoming years. This is an exciting time to be part of the team, and working here offers plenty of opportunities to learn more and advocate for human rights in development projects.
Apart from work, I still contribute to the research I worked on at UConn, which has now become the first global initiative to track the human rights performance of countries and produces metrics for the full range of human rights listed in the International Bill of Human Rights.