Alumni Spotlight – Natalie Thunberg

Natalie Thunberg '91 is a perfect example of a Mercyhurst alum living out the college's core value of globally responsible.

This month, we’re happy to spotlight an alumna who has spent much of her post Mercyhurst life dedicating herself to the College’s mission of being globally responsible. We’re featuring Natalie Thunberg ’91 who works as a contracting officer for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Natalie graduated from Mercyhurst with a BA in Finance and minors in Music and German. While still in high school, she was recruited by then Music Director Robert Dowlick to play saxophone in the wind ensemble. When it came time to apply to colleges, Natalie said she didn’t even apply to any other college.

“I wanted to go to Mercyhurst and major in business and minor in music”.

After graduating from Mercyhurst, Natalie received her Master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. From there, she started working at the Department of Defense learning how to be a contracting professional purchasing natural gas for military and civilian installations across the US. While she gained valuable work and contracting experience, Natalie said the work was not fulfilling.

“ As soon as I was trained, I started job hunting” she said.

Through her current position at USAID, Natalie is able to apply the skills and values she learned over her academic and professional careers.

“Knowing I sign contracts and grants that can either make sure people have food to eat or children have vaccinations to survive is very rewarding” she explains.

Over the past eleven years, Natalie has lived in Kenya, Ethiopia, Bolivia, and most recently Sudan where she was based in Kartoum, Sudan in the north but worked on projects that were based in Juba, located in South Sudan.

From May 2010 through Aug. 2011 Natalie worked with USAID to provide comprehensive assistance for the Jan. 2011 Referendum on Self-Determination for Southern Sudan through which the Sudanese people voted to secede from Sudan and form an independent nation.  Natalie helped support the secession process in Sudan from ordering paper ballots for people to vote, to sending technical advisors to train Sudan government poll workers at the voting sites. After decades of civil war and the loss of millions of lives, all of their hard work came to fruition, when the people of South Sudan seceded from Sudan on July 9, 2011 in a peaceful and democratic, breaking-in-two, of what was Africa’s largest country.

“I am grateful to know that my hard work paid off and people were able to decide to be free and independent” Natalie said.

She credits the skills and knowledge that she gained throughout her education to lead her on a career path where she was able to give back to other people.

“You will always feel that you are doing rewarding work and not just making money.  Making money is fine; but you will be able to handle the daily stresses of hard work better if you’re working in a job that allows you to obtain more inner peace by giving back to the world”.

If you know an alum who follows Mercyhurst College’s mission in their day-to- day life please contact us at

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