University at Albany
CID Director Gina Volynsky

Creating Synergies

Center for International Development Names New Director

By the time she was barely out of her teens, Gina Volynsky’s family had moved 20 times, including moves between countries and even between continents. Pursuing freedom from persecution and seeking a better life, her parents emigrated from Russia, where she was born, to Israel, where she lived for many years, then to Canada and finally the United States.

Recalling both the challenge and excitement of frequently pulling up and putting down roots, the new director of Rockefeller College’s Center for International Development (CID) notes, “It’s not easy for a child in some ways, but there are benefits. It makes you feel welcome, like you almost can make any place your home.”

Living in many locations and traveling with her family also gave Gina a critical insight. “I saw how important it is for there to be stability in the world. And I saw that stability is accomplished by development. If you want stability, people in countries having trouble need jobs, governments they can depend on, access to social services, and schools for their children. Being involved in international development allows you to spend almost every day working toward a better world.”

CID’s new director has been striving for a better world right from the onset of her 25-year career in international development, designing and implementing programs in more than 29 countries and working closely with leading donor organizations, including the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Most recently, Gina Volynsky served as vice president at Dexis Consulting where she led the firm’s institutional support contract for the USAID Global Development Lab’s Center for Transformational Partnerships in reconsidering how the U.S. should configure and prioritize its foreign development aid.

“Gina is uniquely positioned to lead CID’s efforts to grow and expand its development portfolio over the coming years,” says Rockefeller Interim Dean R. Karl Rethemeyer. “She has tremendous experience both in Washington with USAID, the single largest funder for the Center for International Development, and in the field as chief of party on projects in Eastern Europe and Russia.

Volynsky, as excited to head the Center for International Development as Rockefeller is to have her in this role, proudly explains, “CID is one of the most established university-based international development organizations that works globally. It has an excellent reputation and an amazing team already in place. I’m looking forward to working with them and helping CID grow even more. The fact that CID is part of the University at Albany and by extension part of the State University of New York (SUNY) means that in addition to the great work that CID has already been doing, there’s so much more to do by increasing the synergies and connections between CID, the University, and SUNY. A university is the perfect environment for bringing together the top scholars with the knowledge to help developing countries in almost any sphere, from health to science to public policy.”

The Center for International Development has a global presence, with vast experience supporting government agencies and nongovernmental organizations worldwide, particularly in policy development and legislative strengthening. It has operated field offices on five continents and implemented more than $300 million in international development projects over the past quarter-century, including large, multiyear, and university-based technical training projects; focused multiyear institutional capacity-building projects; research-intensive assessments and evaluations; and internships, roundtables, and study tours in the U.S. and abroad. It is a trusted nonprofit partner to multilateral and bilateral donor agencies, national and local governments, universities, and civil society organizations. “CID has been active in almost every region of the globe where development happens — Africa, Asia, Latin America, and post-conflict countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan,” notes Volynsky. “Our mission going forward will be to continue to build on that international experience.”

To the considerable expertise that already resides within CID, the new director brings a wide array of skills, know-how and strategic connections. She’s worked with some of the largest and most important players in international development. “I’ve seen all sorts of organizations and I think I know a lot of the best practices regarding how to go after and organize work,” says Volynsky. “Living and working for fourteen years in the field in developing countries, I understand international development not just from an esoteric perspective, but also I’ve gotten my hands dirty — and by the way, that’s a lot of fun.”

Volynsky is a recognized thought leader known for developing new methodologies or building on emerging methodologies, particularly in the area of inclusive development, an approach ensuring that all marginalized and excluded groups, such as women and minorities, are stakeholders in development processes. “I’ve always enjoyed coming up with innovative ways to do something and figuring out if they really work,” she says.

Gina Volynksy’s vision for making CID an even stronger force in international development and for deepening its partnerships with UAlbany and SUNY can surely make the dream of a better world a reality. That vision reflects her pride in the center’s mission. It also engenders the personal satisfaction that can be achieved when effecting positive change. “I feel like at the end of the day my work somehow matters,” says Director Volynsky.

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2016 Rockefeller College News Magazine.