Mary-Collier Wilks joined the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (APARC) as Shorenstein Postdoctoral Fellow on Contemporary Asia for the 2021-2022 year. Her research interests include globalization, gender, and the politics of international development. Wilks' interests arose due to her work as a grant writer at a local NGO, Social Services of Cambodia. At that time, she began to think about the complicated process of foreign aid and international development, seeing how resources and ideas from all over the world flow through NGOs to affect the lives of people in Cambodia. Following from this experience, her research agenda centers meaning-making and power dynamics in international organizations. She is particularly interested in how development is encountered in people’s everyday lives, and the gendered meanings, divisions, and struggles that arise from such encounters.
Wilks recently obtained her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Virginia. For her dissertation, funded by the National Science Foundation and the Fulbright IIE, she conducted a multi-sited ethnography comparing INGOs from the U.S. and Japan implementing women's health programs in Cambodia. Her dissertation contributes to scholarly theories of global civil society and international development, contending that in order to adequately analyze and improve development outcomes, we must attend to national variation in INGO programs and practices. She has also worked as a consultant in the development sector, working as a researcher for a local NGO in Cambodia, conducting a gender analysis for a USAID health project, and served as a trainer for a USAID Women’s Leadership Conference.
At APARC, she worked on transforming her dissertation manuscript into a book and extending her comparative research agenda to investigate how NGO practices are shaped by the business cultures in which their donors are embedded.