• Working for Microsoft.
  • Assisting in disaster relief efforts.
  • An economics and German graduate.
  • Serving at the global level.

Claire Bonilla is the senior director of Microsoft's disaster management team.

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The Human Face of Technology

Claire Bonilla ’95 was a volunteer at WU — today she serves global communities through Microsoft.

When floods, earthquakes or hurricanes occur, most people are exiting a disaster zone, while Claire Bonilla '95 is busy working her way toward ground zero.

As senior director of Microsoft's disaster management team, she provides the technology that connects resources to people in need.

Disasters often result in chaos. Sometimes computer systems crash because of massive donations pouring in, or Internet capacity is disrupted by a catastrophic event.

"When tragedies strike, information can become as precious as food, potable water and shelter," Bonilla says. "The effectiveness of rescue efforts relies heavily on the ability of first responders to share information and manage resources. By enabling communication and collaboration, technology can literally save thousands of lives."

Bonilla sometimes spearheads the creation of an Internet portal that allows relief workers to organize the inflow of volunteers, donations, equipment and supplies. She helps people identify where medical assistance, shelter or water is most needed.

Or she collaborates with the International Red Cross, the United Nations and local nonprofit organizations, coordinating the volunteer efforts of employees in 166 Microsoft offices around the world.

Bonilla's degree in economics and German fed her interest in international relations and global commerce.

"My first taste of that came at Willamette," she says. "Because of the broad-based curriculum, I was able to explore my intellectual interests. At the same time, I could explore my passion for working with nonprofits by reaching out as a volunteer. That experience provided the roots for my current work."

Bonilla's advice to Willamette students?

"Never underestimate your power to create opportunity. Identify your passion and find a way to fuse your professional capabilities with your idealism and turn your work into something meaningful. If you can come up with an idea and your heart is in it, you will ultimately find success."

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