Mongolia landscape
Category: Discovery & Impact, Student Experience

Title: 6,500 miles from home, but closer to fulfilling a dream

Ideruugan Galbaatar doesn’t have much free time. From working as a graduate assistant in the McCourt School’s Office of the Dean to consulting at the World Bank, Galbaatar fills his schedule as a full-time graduate student and part-time employee, while maintaining involvement in numerous student organizations, including the Policy Innovation Lab, East Asian Policy Association, McCourt Education Policy Initiative and Georgetown Graduate Consulting Club.

Any member of the McCourt community has undoubtedly been greeted by Galbaatar, who also serves as a McCourt Ambassador and a McCourt Leadership Fellow, at the front desk in Old North. As a graduate assistant and one of the first faces community members and guests see when they enter the McCourt School, Galbaatar has enjoyed opportunities to make “more human connections, with students, faculty and staff.”

Ideree Galbaatar, McCourt School
Ideruugan Galbaatar at the McCourt School of Public Policy on Georgetown’s Hilltop Campus

Working at McCourt has been a life-changing experience. It has enabled me to build relationships across the community, supported me financially and allowed me to focus my time and attention on giving back.

Ideruugan Galbaatar (MPP’23)

From rural Mongolia to the center of the policy world

Galbaatar, who grew up in a rural community in the mountains of northern Mongolia, was awarded a scholarship by the U.S. government to study English while completing his undergraduate degree. He had seldom been exposed to the language or U.S. culture. That all changed during a two-month-long English as a second language (ESL) program in St. Louis, Missouri.

Ideree and colleagues in St Louis
Ideruugan Galbaatar and fellow ESL program participants at St. Louis Community College in 2009

Upon returning to his home country, Galbaatar questioned where best he could contribute to his community. He felt called to help young Mongolians discover the power of the English language and pursued a career in the public affairs section of the U.S. Embassy in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia. After realizing that most education exchange applicants were from urban areas, Galbaatar traveled 16,000 miles across Mongolia, a country roughly half the size of the European continent, to promote education programs to more than 20,000 youth, including those living in rural communities. During his travels, Galbaatar met with provincial governors and hundreds of NGO representatives and business owners.

“The people I met, and the voices I heard from such diverse backgrounds inspired me to pursue a career through which I could shape policies that might impact their lives,” said Galbaatar.

Hoping to contribute to his home country and the world around him, Galbaatar sought out graduate programs that would provide him with the necessary technical and quantitative skills for a successful career in public policy.

“Quant is my favorite subject, and DC is my favorite U.S. city; McCourt offered me both,” he said.

Ideruugan Galbaatar in his hometown, Khuvsgul, (left) and at the Global Partnership for Education office (right)
Ideruugan Galbaatar in Mongolia (left) and at the Global Partnership for Education office in Washington, DC (right)

Balancing school, work and life as a McCourt student

While graduate school is Galbaatar’s main priority, he finds purpose in being involved and building relationships with faculty, peers and alumni. 

“The student organizations at McCourt have really enriched my experience,” said Galbaatar. “Balancing multiple commitments has taught me how to better organize my schedule and set aside time for breaks but also when to take a step back.” 

“I’m always at the McCourt School,” he said, jokingly adding, “my peers say that I’m becoming part of the furniture of Old North.”

All of that time spent on campus has served Galbaatar well. He considers McCourt School leadership, including Sharon Mar, chief of staff, Barbara Schone, professor and associate dean for academic affairs, and James Habyarimana, provost distinguished associate professor, as mentors and friends. It was Professor Habyarimana who connected Galbaatar with a McCourt alum working at the World Bank. 

By way of connection, Galbaatar applied for and was hired for a part-time consulting position with the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), of which the World Bank is a longstanding member. While completing his final semester of graduate school, Galbaatar is working to further GPE’s goals of transforming education in lower-income countries.

“Education is the biggest reason why I’m here today,” he said. “Working with the World Bank and GPE has been a great experience, and it confirms why I like education and why I want to continue my career in education policy.”