Penn State Alumni Association honors SIA grad with achievement award

Rachel Sayre

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Penn State Alumni Association has named Rachel C. Sayre, a 2011 graduate of the School of International Affairs, as a recipient of the Penn State Alumni Achievement Award.

Alumni Achievement Award recipients are nominated by an academic college or campus and invited by the President of the University to return to campus to share their expertise with students and the Penn State community. Honorees demonstrate to students that Penn State alumni succeed in exceptional fashion at an early age.

“From day one Rachel showed she was going to be unmatched in her performance as a student and that she was going to go on to great accomplishments once she graduated,” said Dennis Jett, SIA professor and recommender of the award. “She was a superb student in every respect.”

Sayre is a senior disaster specialist for the U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). USAID is the leading government agency responsible for administering civilian foreign aid and working to end extreme global poverty. After being selected for the federal government’s prestigious Presidential Management Fellows Program, Sayre rose rapidly within USAID, becoming chief of staff to the chief information officer, and then senior adviser to the administrator of the agency. As senior disaster specialist, Sayre advises the agency’s leadership on policy for today’s most challenging complex emergencies, including in Yemen and Syria.

“I depended on her every single day, including weekends and very difficult trips around the world as a trusted adviser and friend. From the get-go, Rachel distinguished herself as a person of exceptional intelligence, poise and capacity to lead on several major global emergencies, most notably during the Ebola crisis. Without hesitation, Rachel put her own health at risk to confront the crisis head on in West Africa,” said Rajiv Shah, former head administrator of USAID and now a distinguished fellow at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. “Her extraordinary balanced temperament and ability to relate to and lead her colleagues made an incalculable contribution to ensure that the United States could lead a successful response to an unprecedented global crisis. I am continually awed by her integrity, drive, and sheer passion for making the world a better place.”

Prior to joining USAID, Sayre advised the Royal Society for Protection of Nature on water and climate issues, and their effects on development in Thimphu, Bhutan. While in Bhutan, Sayre taught sociology at the Royal Thimphu College. Before graduate school, Sayre worked for a rural government in Ecuador, traveling by canoe through the Amazonian jungles to reach remote communities. Sayre graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire in 2003. From 2003 to 2009, she was a consultant on corporate communications for a variety of firms.

Sayre is an active SIA alumna, having guest-lectured on several occasions and hosted SIA students on career exposure visits to USAID headquarters in Washington, D.C. While at Penn State, she received the Spirit of Internationalization Award in 2010, given by Global Connections to women who personify efforts to empower and improve life for women and girls around the world.

The Alumni Association Alumni Achievemnt Award began in 2005 and has honored 129 outstanding alumni, including this year's class. This year, Sayre is one of 13 accomplished Penn State Alumni to receive the award. She will be officially recognized next month, when she visits the University Park campus for guest lectures and a ceremony on April 8.