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SIT Graduate Institute
"The future of Iraq is going to depend on whether there is a vibrant civil society"
--Noah Baker Merrill
- Putting passion into practice with experientially-based master's degree programs.
- Equipping tomorrow's leaders with real-world strategies, on-the-ground field experience in area of study, and the intercultural management skills sought after in global leaders.
Noah Baker Merrill
In one evening, Noah Baker Merrill went from being an outside observer of the Iraq war to someone deeply involved in ensuring a better future for the country's people.
Baker Merrill arrived in Jordan in 2007 to gather stories for an online newspaper. His Iraqi translator, Haider, took him to a house outside of Amman where he expected to interview an Iraqi refugee family. Instead, the house was full of dozens of their Iraqi neighbors who shared their own war stories late into the night.
"I was overwhelmed by a sense of not being able to do anything," remembers Baker Merrill.
Haider told him that the Iraqi people did not need his pity—they needed him to tell the world about what was happening in Iraq, "because the world has forgotten about us."
In response, Baker Merrill founded Direct Aid Iraq, an Iraqi-American partnership that addresses gaps in the existing aid system to ensure that all Iraqis can access medical care and refugee services. The organization's initial scope was small, but it had a lasting impact on the lives of individual Iraqis. It also caught the attention of the Utne Reader, which in 2009 named Baker Merrill one of "50 visionaries who are changing the world."
To broaden his experience, Baker Merrill is pursuing a master's degree in conflict transformation at SIT Graduate Institute. The program's practical approach is helping him transform Direct Aid Iraq from an organization that supports individuals to one that builds community capacity.
"We need to focus on building a network of Iraqi groups and organizations that will work towards anti-corruption and peaceful governance."