As a Foreign Service Officer from 1970-80, McDonald served as Political Officer in the U.S. Embassies in Uganda and South Africa and as the Desk Officer for Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe. He also was support staff for negotiated settlements in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe and Namibia in the late-1970s and did conflict resolution work in Northern Ireland and Burundi.
From 1982 – 1985, as Executive Director of US – South Africa Leader Development Program, McDonald designed and conducted educational exchange programs with institutions like Johns Hopkins School of International Advanced Studies and Harvard's Niemann Fellowship. McDonald worked with both the National Endowment for Democracy, as a consultant from 1985-1992, and with the African-American Institute, where he was Executive Vice President from 1992-97, in implementing democratization activities. He has personally led missions of elections observers to Ethiopia, Benin, Gabon, Sierra Leone, and Madagascar.
He has worked on assessment teams to design civic education, monitoring and training for elections officials for elections in South Africa and Uganda and has done assessments of human rights situation in Nigeria. He initiated and organized a series of regional conferences, with USAID, Department of Defense, World Bank and United Nations funding, on the role of the military in democratization in Africa.
McDonald also oversaw the African Regional Electoral Assistance Fund which engaged in training of elections officials, civic voters education, observation and monitoring of elections throughout Africa, to include 34 separate country activities in partnership with the National Democratic Institute of International Affairs, the International Republican Institute, and the Carter Center at Emory University. McDonald also served at the Aspen Institute as the Director of the Southern Africa Policy Forum, a project that brought members of Congress together with Southern Africa leaders from 1988 – 1992 to become more engaged and informed about the South Africa transition to democracy.
McDonald has taught at University post-graduate level at Drury College, Springfield, Missouri; taught and supervised the Advanced Areas Studies Course for Francophone Africa at the Foreign Service Institute, Washington, DC; and guest lectured at several universities and institutions, to include the National War College, Georgetown University, and Yale University, amongst others.
M.A., African Politics, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, London, England; graduate studies, East European History, University of Missouri; B.A. French and Political Science, Southwest Missouri State University
“Changes in US Policy on Africa in the Obama Administration: What Will It Mean for AFRICOM?’ a chapter in African Security and the African Command: Viewpoints on the US Role in Africa, Edited by Terry Buss, Joseph Adjaye , Donald Goldstein, Louis Picard (Kumarian Press, July 2011)
- "Democracy and Peace-building: Re-thinking the Conventional Wisdom," coauthor with Howard Wolpe, The Round Table, vol.97(394):137-45, February 2008
- "Training Leaders for Peace," coauthored with Howard Wolpe, Journal for Democracy 17, no. 1 (January 2006)
- "Rebuilding Peace and State Capacity in War-Torn Burundi," coauthored with Howard Wolpe, Eugene Nindonera, Elizabeth McClintock et al., The Round Table 93, no. 375 (July 2004)
- "Participate in the African Renaissance," coauthored with Francis Kornegay and Chris Landsberg, chapter in What Does The World Want from America? Edited by Alexander T.J. Lennon (MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2002).
- "Americans React to Terrorist Tragedy," coauthored with Francis Kornegay, Sunday Independent, Johannesburg, South Africa. September 23, 2001.
- "World Trade: Is It Good for America?," America and the Future, Winter 2000 (Goals for Americans Publication, St. Louis, MO).
- "Grasp The Moment," Business in Africa, Vol. 7, No. 9, December/January 2000. (Rivonia, South Africa).
- "The Role of the Military in African Democracies," African Voices, Vol. 5, No. 3, Fall 1996. (U.S. Agency for International Development).
- "Why Racial Reconciliation Is Possible in South Africa," Chapter in South Africa: Twelve Perspectives on the Transition. Edited by Helen Kitchen and J. Coleman Kitchen (Praeger Press 1994).
- "Sanctions: What Drives U.S. Policy Towards South Africa?" Topic, Issue No. 187, March 1990 (U.S. Information Agency, Washington, DC).
- "Washington Pauses to Reassess the South African Sanctions Issue," CSIS Africa Notes, Number 94 (Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, DC, January 20, 1989).
- "A Guide to Black Politics in South Africa," chapter in South Africa: In Transition to What?, Editor, Helen Kitchen, Georgetown University Center for Strategic and International Studies (Praeger Press, 1988).
- "The Black Community," chapter in Southern Africa Into the 1980s, Editors, Chester Crocker and Richard Bissell (Westview Press, 1979).