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“I cannot imagine my life evolving as it did without Warren Wilson College and the Triad,” says Jesse Fripp, an English and Literature major from the class of 1994. “I now understand ‘success’ in the context of community success and not just personal achievement. I am in the international consulting business, and while that may seem exotic (though perhaps not glamorous), my Warren Wilson experience always keeps me grounded in the well-being of my neighbor and the value of humility and hard work.”
While Jesse was at Warren Wilson, he helped instigate the Big Brothers Big Sisters project for the WNC Juvenile Evaluation Center, a detention center in Swannanoa. Jesse was involved right from the beginning, so he learned a lot about the leadership, planning, and strategy required for community and social development. Because of the leadership and organizing experience he acquired, Jesse was accepted into the Peace Corps and given placement options superior to those of the average graduate. He chose Romania because it was a new country for the Peace Corps and because the country was going through the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union and the collapse of communism.
Jesse served first in Galati, in eastern Romania, and then in Timisoara, in the west. During his time in the Peace Corps he met Marga Claudio, whom he married after he finished his two years of service. “By far the most profound outcome of my Peace Corps experience was the incredible and long-lasting friendships that I built with people I never would have known otherwise,” Jesse says, specifically mentioning his wife. “Other profound outcomes include a gritty understanding of the nature of change, human politics, and the things that make people around the world more alike than different.”
After his time with the Peace Corps, Jesse was hired as a consultant for CHF International, a U.S. non-governmental-organization. He started out working on new project development in Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, and Romania. “I will never forget my first experience in a post-conflict area,” Jesse says. “I was traveling alone to the town of Vukovar in eastern Croatia in late 1997. The United Nations was handing control of the town back to local elected officials, and I was there doing field work for a community development project. I remember rolling into town at night and seeing block after block of abandoned houses that had literally been shot to pieces. It seemed that every building in the town of 200,000 people had bullet holes in it. Half of the population had been killed, been ethnically cleansed, or become refugees. “I spent the next two days meeting with the small grassroots community groups that remained—teachers, students, small business owners, etc.—and I was profoundly humbled by their energy and optimism. At that point, I knew I had found my calling.”
Jesse was soon helping CHF International’s country director to design a regional community and economic development project for Western Romania. When the project was completed, Jesse transferred to a full-time position there, and he took over as country director in 1999. As country director, Jesse set up a microfinance company which provides low-income clients with financial services such as savings, insurance, fund transfers, and microcredit (loans in very small amounts, such as $100 to purchase a sewing machine).
Jesse returned to the U.S. in 2001, where he helped CHF International set up a development program for other war-ravaged and crisis-stricken countries, including Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Sudan/Darfur. He also focused more time and energy on earning his Master of Public Management from the University of Maryland, which he had begun while overseas.
By 2004, Jesse needed a change. After trying a year as operations manager with BearingPoint consulting, he joined the international consulting arm of ShoreBank International, the leading U.S. community development bank. Currently Jesse is a Vice President for ShoreBank International and responsible for their global microfinance practice. He travels regularly, primarily to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine, the broader Middle East, and Papua New Guinea.
“No two days are the same,” Jesse says, “My role encompasses mundane issues of management, strategy, and business development, as well as technical work in the field and ‘thought leadership.’ For example, in the past few months I have coordinated a business plan for a leading microfinance bank in Pakistan, overseen a strategy for expanding small enterprise finance in the war-torn areas of Southern Afghanistan, supervised development of an approach to expand access to equitable savings services for the poor in South Asia, briefed the US Overseas Private Investment Corporation on investment strategies for microfinance in South-east Asia, and developed a strategy for sustainable development financing for Palestinian entrepreneurs in the West Bank.”
In his free time, Jesse enjoys running, archery, hiking, camping, gardening, cooking, reading, and spending time with his family. He is glad to discuss his career and Peace Corps experience, as well as mentor students and help them explore opportunities. He asks that you be patient with response time. You can find Jesse on LinkedIn or email him at email@example.com.