All posts by Suhyeon Lee

Beth Gawne Tackles Security & Nonproliferation at the State Department in DC

Beth Gawne is enjoying her life in Washington D.C.

Beth Gawne is enjoying her life in Washington D.C.

Beth Gawne spent three years teaching English in rural Japan before coming to the Maxwell School. She is a joint MPA/MAIR student who will finish with two degrees. She interned at the United States Department of State in Washington, DC and is a regular contributor to the PAIA Insider blog.

“And they will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war anymore.” –Isaiah 2:4

This is a quote I saw often in a hallway of the Harry S Truman building of the State Department while I spent my Fall Semester learning about nonproliferation efforts in the US. This quote was written as a mural on the wall of the floor I worked on, and across from it was an image of a mushroom cloud from the first successful nuclear test of the Manhattan Project. It gave me inspiration and motivation as I worked in the front office of the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN), sitting in on meetings with high-level diplomats and representatives from the government, taking notes, and organizing briefing documents for the Assistant Secretary.

My time in the State Department provided me a 30,000-ft view of what the US does to prevent nuclear, biological, and chemical materials from being used as weapons, and instead to focus those efforts on peaceful means. I learned that these efforts range from formal treaties and conventions, to interdiction and export control, to even helping scientists overseas to prevent accidents or theft of dangerous materials. Even more, I learned about the slow moving machine that is the bureaucracy meant to ensure that these efforts are consistent and properly coordinated. I realized that without this, our government would spend its time responding to the latest crisis and be unable to do anything else long-term.

My job itself had me working alongside other staff assistants to make sure the leadership of the bureau was prepared for meetings and events. I got to see what makes a strong leader within the government, and I had the opportunity to work with some of the most engaging, kind, and supportive people I have ever met. I even was given a chance to do a few projects in other offices, helping with detailed data collection that was going to be used to impact a real problem on the ground. Knowing I was involved in something that would make a difference was probably one of the best parts of the internship overall. I wasn’t making copies and running to Starbucks; I was helping to communicate an argument for NATO or inform bureau officers of a country’s stance on an issue.

I was most impressed with the quality of the leadership within the bureau, and for people who have such important and high-level jobs, everyone was down-to-earth and welcoming. I’m excited to see what my future holds, and hopefully my path will cross with ISN once again— even if I’m not directly working there.

Read Beth’s latest contribution to the PAIA Insider blog:
Life as a Returning 2nd Year Student, AKA: Should you do a dual degree?

Learn more about the Maxwell-in-Washington program

Beth Gawne with friends in Washington D.C.

Beth Gawne with friends in Washington D.C.

Beth Gawne standing in front of mural on the wall of the State Department

Beth Gawne standing in front of mural on the wall of the State Department

Mark Temnycky “Let’s Call Ukraine By Its Proper Name.”

On Saturday January 30th, Mark Temnycky  wrote an article on the topic of “Ukraine” versus “the Ukraine,” and the implication of the three letter word in post-Euromaidan Ukraine. On Tuesday, February 2nd, Mark experienced an honorable moment. Forbes contacted him – they published his piece! 

Let’s Call Ukraine By Its Proper Name

Excerpt:

The Polish term Ukrajina, or “the borderland,” first emerged during the 16th century when the Ukrainian lands were incorporated into the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. By the 18th century, the French introduced l’Ukraine, and the article stuck. The usage of “the Ukraine” then became most popular when it was a territorial entity of both the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. But why does the article matter?

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Ukrainian government declared in its constitution that it would hence forth be referred to as “Ukraine,” thus dropping the article. There were two justifications for this. First, in Russian and Ukrainian, the two most popularly spoken languages in Ukraine, articles do not exist, hence it seemed foolish to incorporate the article. Second, with the establishment of its independence, “the Ukraine” became a demeaning term, as it implied that Ukraine remained a territorial region of one of its former rulers.[…]

Read entire article >>

Mark Temnycky, MPA ,Maxwell School, Syracuse University

Mark Temnycky is a Ukrainian–American student, pursuing a joint MPA/MAIR degree at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

 

Ryan Drysdale Gains First-Hand Info on US Foreign Policy Impacts in Chile

Ryan Drysdale spent his Summer and Fall Semesters in Santiago, Chile, improving his Spanish, interning at TechnoServe and taking courses through SU’s university partnerships. He is a MAIR student.

Chilean Diego Rivera, Maxwell MPA alumna Eliana Briceno, and Ryan Drysdale in front of the Chilean executive office called La Moneda

Chilean Diego Rivera, Maxwell MPA alumna Eliana Briceno, and Ryan Drysdale in front of the Chilean executive office called La Moneda

The Santiago Center through Syracuse University Study Abroad offers graduate students a unique opportunity to study at two of the best universities in Chile and South America while interning at a variety of organizations. During the Fall 2015 Semester, I was able to intern with the global NGO TechnoServe helping their Monitoring and Evaluation program track the progress of their initiatives working towards helping small entrepreneurs improve their business performance.

In addition to my internship, I took the two courses offered by the Santiago Center: 1) Environmental Policy in Chile and 2) Dictatorships, Human Rights, and Historical Memory in the Southern Cone. The highlight of the academic experience in Santiago was the latter course taught by historian and the center’s director, Professor Mauricio Paredes, a former member of the resistance against the Pinochet dictatorship who was detained and tortured.

Through declassified US government documents, visits to local museums and torture centers with Professor Paredes, and his engaging lectures, we gained a firsthand look at the impacts of US foreign policy and how those effects still linger today in Chile. The United States establishment in the 1970s during the Cold War, led by President Richard Nixon and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger, feared the rise of democratically elected socialist President Salvador Allende in the US sphere of influence. According to declassified documents, during a National Security Council meeting in 1970, Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird stated: “We have to do everything we can to hurt Allende and bring him down.”

The US helped orchestrate a failed coup attempt against President Allende in 1970 and supported the successful coup against Allende in 1973 which brought General Augusto Pinochet to power. Seventeen years of military rule resulted in tens of thousands tortured and disappeared, over 400,000 forced into exile abroad, and the ushering in of neoliberal economic policies crafted by Milton Friedman which has led to Chile being one of the most unequal countries in the OECD today based on a Gini coefficient of 0.51 out of 1.0

Forty-five years after the US first started to meddle in Chile’s internal politics, the ramifications still exist. Our experience in Chile, however, coincided with a historical announcement by socialist President Michelle Bachelet to start a four year process to finally rewrite the current constitution implemented in 1980 under Pinochet’s brutal military rule. A major takeaway from the semester was seeing and hearing firsthand about the drastic impacts that foreign policy and geopolitical decisions can have for decades on a country and more importantly the people of that country.

Ryan Drysdale and Maxwell MAIR-ECON student Julianne Dunn on top of the Santa Lucia hill in the heart of Santiago, Chile

Ryan Drysdale and Maxwell MAIR-ECON student Julianne Dunn  on top of the Santa Lucia hill in the heart of Santiago, Chile

 

Ryan Drysdale is Repelling down a 75 foot cliff outside of Pucón, Chile

Repelling down a 75 foot cliff outside of Pucón, Chile

Chris Conrad, Interning with International Justice Mission–“Justice is Our Middle Name”

Chris Conrad recently completed his Master of Arts in International Relations (MAIR) degree. While completing coursework in Syracuse, he also worked on the Black Spots Project: Mapping Global Insecurity at the Maxwell School’s Moynihan Institute for Global Affairs.

Chris Conrad went sailing for the first time ever with his Contingency Ops team. Despite the cold and windy conditions, it was a day filled with fun and laughter

Several years ago, I read Gary Haugen’s The Locust Effect, which describes a plague of everyday violence against the poor. This violence keeps them in situations of poverty, while offenders – committing abuses such as human trafficking, forced labor, and violence against women and children – escape with impunity. To break the cycle of violence and poverty requires transforming dysfunctional justice systems, protecting vulnerable communities, and bringing criminals to justice for their crimes. This is the goal of International Justice Mission (IJM) through its operations around the world. IJM is partnering with governments, local communities and a network of supporters to “rescue thousands, protect millions, and prove that justice for the poor is possible”

Fast forward to my time at the Maxwell School, where I accepted an internship with IJM in Washington, D.C. for Fall 2015. The internship provided me an opportunity to combine my studies on security and transnational crime with advocacy for human rights and the justice movement. I worked closely with IJM’s Contingency Operations team, drafting safety and security policies, researching emerging global threats, compiling daily news briefings for senior leadership, and monitoring security events in IJM’s areas of operation.

My favorite part about working with IJM was the lively, encouraging atmosphere I encountered every day at work. The staff at IJM are some of the kindest and most encouraging people I’ve met, and they made the internship an affirming experience for all of us interns. Likewise, I grew close to the cohort of interns I worked with, who displayed a variety of knowledge and skills and a passion for justice.

Another highlight from the experience was attending IJM’s Advocacy Summit in support of the End Modern Slavery Initiative. Throughout the day, we met with U.S. Senators and Representatives from our home states, either thanking them for their support of the bill or asking them to be a co-sponsor.

The entire semester was an amazing time to learn and experience new things, and I feel confident as I take these next steps after graduation from the Maxwell School. Thank you for all of the support and encouragement along the way!

Attending a conference with Maxwell alum Kean Clifford, on the roof of D.C.s Newseum.

Attending a conference with Maxwell alum Kean Clifford, on the roof of DC’s Newseum.

Selfie with IJM’s CEO, Gary Haugen and other interns at IJM HQ. He delivered us delicious brownies made by his wife, Jan.

Selfie of IJM’s CEO, Gary Haugen, and other interns at IJM HQ. He delivered us delicious brownies made by his wife, Jan.

In front of the U.S. Capitol with other constituents from Michigan for IJM’s Advocacy Summit. We were on our way to meet with Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Gary Peters (D-MI) in support of the End Modern Slavery Initiative. (See http://news.ijm.org/early-christmas-gift-for-anti-slavery-efforts-as-congress-approves-25-million)

In front of the U.S. Capitol with other constituents from Michigan for IJM’s Advocacy Summit. We were on our way to meet with Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Gary Peters (D-MI) in support of the End Modern Slavery Initiative. (See http://news.ijm.org/early-christmas-gift-for-anti-slavery-efforts-as-congress-approves-25-million)

Learn more about the Maxwell-in-Washington program

Marc Barnett Tells us About Working with Transparency International

As part of the Atlantis Transatlantic Degree Program in International Security and Development Policy, Marc Barnett will graduate with dual degrees from two leading institutions. He will complete a Master of International Relations (MAIR) degree at the Maxwell School in Syracuse, and he will complete a Master of Public Policy (MPP) from the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. Over the summer, he further interned at the Council of Europe.

Atlantis students Celina Menzel, Andrew Lyman, Tim Stoutzenberger, Rachel Penner, & Marc Barnett at the Berlin Festival of Lights

Atlantis students Celina Menzel, Andrew Lyman, Tim Stoutzenberger, Rachel Penner, & Marc Barnett at the Berlin Festival of Lights

Corruption represents a pervasive issue for both the developing and developed world. It tends to undercut national security by providing safe havens for terrorist groups and organized crime as well as undermining human security through impunity and lack of accountability. Transparency International is headquartered in Berlin, Germany and one sector of this organization, the Secretariat, has fought against corruption since its inception in 1993.

Transparency International was founded by Peter Eigen who is a former World Bank employee. The Berlin-based Secretariat organizes and coordinates the fight against corruption working in conjunction with over 100 national chapters. Corruption issues have found their way to the top of many policymakers’ agendas in recent years, in no small part due to the work Transparency International has done. Due to support from PAIA, The Maxwell School, and Syracuse University I was given the opportunity to intern with Transparency International – Secretariat, which is nestled in the eclectic Berlin district of Moabit on the river Spree.

Working under the Europe and Central Asia (ECA) division, my duties mainly focused on the Western Balkans. This is an area in which I had prior expertise due to my research with the Global Black Spots Project, a joint initiative between the INSCT and Moynihan. I edited and synthesized various corruption reports from the region. Most notably I analyzed the National Integrity Systems (NIS) project, which contained seven accounts from national chapters in the region including Turkey. Some of my other responsibilities were substantial and sophisticated donor mapping analysis of South East Europe as well as working with members of the ECA team on grant proposals and concept notes to various organizations including the European Commission, Open Society Foundation, and bilateral donors in the region. Finally, I tested out important recommendations from the NIS reports in order to strategically plan for the next phase of the NIS project.

As someone interested in the developing nexus between corruption and national security, the experience proved to be invaluable. I was able to be a privileged observer to corruption experts in the field. Furthermore, building upon my experience this summer with the Council of Europe (Pompidou Group), I gained valuable insight into the inner workings of an international organization. As Transparency International develops a new strategic plan, conversations in the Berlin Secretariat resounded and resonated with my prior coursework from the Maxwell School, centering on impact, output, and strategic analysis.

I hope that future students will be able to follow in my footsteps and continue the arduous, yet rewarding work of Transparency International. Ultimately, fighting corruption remains more of an art than a science with no formula for success. Even scholars and experts often disagree on the most successful initiatives, but fixing political corruption proves to be the most important, yet possibly the most elusive.

IOM and ASP Allow Ngoc Hong Le to Explore Multiple Interests

Ngoc Hong Le is a recent graduate of Maxwell’s MAIR program. For her final two semesters, she participated in the Geneva Summer Practicum and the Maxwell-in-Washington Program.

Fall internship at ASP in Washington, DC

Ngoc Hong Le smiling in front of ASP's photo zone

Ngoc Hong Le smiling in front of ASP’s photo zone

After coming back from Europe with a wider knowledge of the migration and international relations fields, I decided to challenge myself to understand a new security field related to climate change: Climate Security. Personally, I am very concerned about the impact of climate change from manufacturing to human being’s daily lives. Climate security involves challenges from climate change to national security.

American Security Project (ASP) invited me to be a climate security intern in Fall 2015. ASP is a nonpartisan organization created to educate the American public and the world about the changing nature of national security in the 21st Century in the U.S. ASP brings together prominent American business leaders, former members of Congress, retired military flag officers, and prominent former government officials to address climate security.

As a Climate security intern, my daily duties were providing news articles related to climate change policies adopted by countries around the world and in turn following the latest news about climate change in social media such as Twitter, Google+, and other news sources. In addition, my position involved posting blog post(s) on the ASP website related to climate security issues under ASP aspects and personal aspects, and attending conferences on the Hill and around Washington D.C that were related to climate change and climate security. In addition, as an intern in ASP, I assisted ASP staff to operate conferences related to security issues, such as cyber security. Moreover, interns rotated daily to contribute to “In Case You Missed” for ASP subscribers. This gave interns the opportunity to improve knowledge on many security subjects such as American competiveness, national security strategy, asymmetry operations, public diplomacy, climate security, energy security and nuclear security, in addition to their own focus.

While interning in ASP, I got to learn basic public relations skills associated with social media, and this was a valuable contribution to interning at ASP. Public relations and communications are a tools to promote your business, as well as to increase reader viewership. The internship taught me many new things that I did not know before and it was a great experience.

Summer internship at IOM in Geneva

Ngoc Hong Le is enjoying the beauty of La Rade Lake and the Jet d’eau Fountain Geneva after the first day of work

Ngoc Hong Le enjoying the beauty of La Rade Lake and the Jet d’eau Fountain in Geneva after the first day of work

IOM Headquarters located in Geneva, Switzerland gave me an opportunity to work with the Governing Bodies Division, Department of International Cooperation and Partnerships during summer 2015. IOM is the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration and works closely with governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental partners. My department was responsible for supporting and coordinating organization relations with IOM Member States, inter-governmental organizations, civil society and the media.

I spent a whole summer at IOM assisting staff working on the Annual International Dialogue of Migration, named the Conference of Migrant and Cities from October 26 and 27, 2015 in Palais des Nation, Geneva, Switzerland. My internship duties included providing information about potential guest speakers for all five sections of the two-day conference, as well as responding to requests from attendants and guest speakers about visas, accommodations and travel arrangements. I also attended conferences in Palais des Nation related to migration issues in the world. I have learned a lot about how to organize an international conference with VIP level guests, which I did not have before. I was able to have a great learning experience in Geneva thanks to IOM.

In addition to my daily duties, I had the opportunity to attend weekly lunch meetings, featuring different departments in IOM with other interns. They taught me how an intern-government organization works with countries and international communities. I got to know more about how field work takes place in developing countries, and I wish to learn more about my international relations field because of this experience.

Even though I did not work on the conference with staff until the last day, my knowledge of migrants has expanded, and I’ve learned necessary conference operation skills from being so deeply involved in the “Migrant and Cities” conference. It was a unique experience that I could only gain from my master’s degree from the Maxwell School of Public Affairs and Citizenships.

Ngoc Hong Le traveling in Jungfrau mountain region

Ngoc Hong Le traveling in the Jungfrau mountain region

Yibing Tang Obtains Valuable Experience at UNOCC

Yibing Tang, with other Maxwell interns at UN headquarters.

Yibing Tang (center), with other Maxwell interns at UN headquarters

Yibing Tang is a Public Diplomacy student who will earn two degrees, a Master of International Relations and Master of Science in Public Relations. She is currently taking part in the Maxwell-in-Washington program while simultaneously interning at the Broadcasting Board of Governors in the Public Affairs Department in Washington, DC. Yibing wrote the following in August 2015.

This summer, I received an internship opportunity at United Nations Headquarters in New York City. I worked for three months at the United Nations Operations and Crisis Centre (UNOCC).

UNOCC is known as the “nerve centre of the United Nations”. The UNOCC provides support to senior leaders across the UN system, enabling informed, timely and coordinated decision-making and strategic engagement on UN field operations and crisis-related issues. UNOCC was established at UN Headquarter in a joint effort by 10 stakeholders, which represent the three UN pillars of peace and security, human rights and development. The UNOCC has three basic functions: situational awareness, crisis response support, and executive communication.

Although I was recruited by the Information Management Unit (IMU) of UNOCC, I also worked with two other major units: the Research and Liaison Unit (RLU) and the Watch Room. My major duties were related to graphic design, but I helped with lots of other works as well. For example, I assisted in the preparation of presentations and speaking points for operational briefings and other meetings on a regular basis. I helped to categorize historical political, security and humanitarian incidents according to reports from peacekeeping missions in the field. I created maps to visualize peacekeeping information, and designed several layout options for UNOCC reports.

My supervisor was very concerned about my own interests. He offered me opportunities to work with other units and departments besides IMU, which enabled me to explore UNOCC as a whole and get a synthetic knowledge of the centre. Other staffs in the office were also very helpful. They taught me everything from scratch, always answered my questions in detail, and shared their career stories and working experiences generously.

I really appreciate this internship experience, from which I consolidated my graphic design skills and obtained an overview of United Nations peacekeeping operations.

Town Hall briefing at a conference room Yibing Tang helped with the visual aids and presentation of Town Hall briefing

Town Hall briefing. Yibing Tang helped with the visual aids and presentation for the Town Hall briefing.

 

Justin Gradek Designs Research Trip to Uganda

Justin Gradek, on top of-the minaret, at the Gadafi Mosque

Justin Gradek on top of the minaret at the Uganda National Mosque (formerly Gaddafi National Mosque) in Kampala, Uganda.

Not only has Justin Gradek completed research in Uganda, but he has further interned in Washington, DC at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, International Affairs Office and the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He is a joint MAIR/ECON student who will graduate with two degrees and a wealth of experience.

This year I applied for and won a research grant from the Maxwell African Scholars Union to further pursue my research interests on the economics of healthcare delivery in East Africa.  I had been working on a project to analyze the distribution and allocation of budget resources to the healthcare sector in Uganda when I was unable to locate the data needed for such a project.  This challenge led to designing a research trip to collect the data in-person from ministries which curate the national data sets I was looking for.

I arranged to work from Makerere University as a visiting researcher while I attended meetings at ministries around Kampala, the capital of Uganda, to collect the data.  I wanted to collect budgetary and healthcare outcome data to better understand the mechanisms by which resources are distributed.  The data would need to be anonymized and disaggregated by region, and where possible disaggregated by district.

Justin Gradek & Dr. Eria Hisali, Dean of the College of Business and Management Sciences at Makerere University

Justin Gradek & Dr. Eria Hisali, Dean of the College of Business and Management Sciences at Makerere University.

Designing and following through with this plan required extensive personal interaction.  I worked with Maxwell to set goals, form a research proposal, and gain initial contacts for the trip.  I worked with the dean of the school of Economics at Makerere University to set up meetings with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Finance Planning and Economic Development to gather the necessary data.  All of these steps contributed to the ultimate outcomes of the trip.

In the end this was a rich experience which required the use of diverse skills including clear communication, active listening, problem solving, and navigation of a foreign system.  Using these skills effectively resulted in the collection of clean and clear datasets which were very valuable for my research.

The experience was rich and interesting.  Over the course of the project I made good contacts with people researching similar topics both in Uganda and in other countries.  I explored some of the local cuisine and culture in Kampala between my official meetings.  Most of all I left Uganda with more questions than when I arrived, suggesting that the whole experience was a profound learning opportunity to try something completely new and formative as part of my broader Maxwell education.

To find out more about the Maxwell African Scholars Union, visit the organization website, where you can also see additional photos of Justine Gradek and other scholars of Africa.

Justin Gradek, in front of School of Economics, Makerere University

Justin Gradek in front of the School of Economics, Makerere University

Justin Gradek inside the sanctuary of the Uganda National Mosque.

Justin Gradek inside the sanctuary of the Uganda National Mosque.

Justin Gradek & Dr. Francis Wasswa, Economic Development Policy and Research at the Ministry of Finance, Planning, and Economic Development.

Justin Gradek & Dr. Francis Wasswa, Economic Development Policy and Research at the Ministry of Finance, Planning, and Economic Development.

Dr. Edward Bbaale, Dean of school of Economics at Makerer University & Justin Gradek.

Dr. Edward Bbaale, Dean of school of Economics at Makerer University & Justin Gradek at Dr. Bbaale’s home.

Na Ra Kim, Private Sector Engagement at UNICEF

Na Ra Kim is working on dual master’s degrees, an M.A. in International Relations and an M.S. in Public Relations, as a Public Diplomacy student at Syracuse University. She interned at UNICEF in Geneva, Switzerland last summer.

I have always believed protecting children’s rights is the most important task for civil society to be aware of and act on, and my interest in children and their rights was bolstered while studying in the Public Diplomacy program at the Maxwell School.

I interned at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Geneva, Switzerland from May to August 2015. I worked under the Knowledge Management (KM) Specialist and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) team within the Private Sector Engagement Section in the UNICEF Private Fundraising and Partnership division.

As a Private Sector Engagement Officer, I provided ongoing technical support for knowledge management information on issues related to UNICEF’s private sector engagement. This included uploading content to their intranet site/Internet website, developing templates for collecting information, and drafting case studies and other related materials for newsletters. My role also included participating in conference calls, creating presentation materials and press releases, and supporting data collection and statistical evaluation. Additionally, I researched CSR in different industries (e.g., Food and Beverage, Garment, ICT, Extractives) and the way in which those sectors affect children’s rights and youth development. I also took notes at the Human Rights Council 29th session for the CSR team.

From this internship, I learned about development policy, advocacy, and communication strategy in general, but I mostly realized how important it is to share information and documents within the organization and how it affects the targeting of civil society and leads to its participation.

I would like to add it was a great chance to work with UNICEF staff members and other interns. I was fortunate to work with incredibly nice and sincere supervisors who truly wanted me to learn from my internship, as well as with interns who all encouraged each other to accomplish our goals. Also, it was an honor to meet incredible UN people, ambassadors, representatives and spokespeople during conferences and events. It was a turning point of my life and I really want to recommend this opportunity to everyone in Maxwell.

In addition to my internship, Professor Schleiffer’s lectures also inspired me a lot. He helped me understand the UN system and the history of international organizations in Geneva. Presentations from speakers who currently work at the UN, International Organizations and the Permanent Mission, were the part of his class that I definitely loved the most.

No doubts, Geneva is the most beautiful city to work, travel and dream in. You will find yourself enjoying cheese, chocolate and wine around the nearby lake after work. That’s Geneva.

Nara Kim, at the UN Headquarter, in Geneva

Nara Kim at UN Headquarter in Geneva

Vicki Tien, Public Information Intern at UNHCR in Washington DC

Lin Tien, Public Diplomacy student

Vicki Tien, UNHCR in Washington, DC, USA

Vicki Tien formerly interned at the World Food Programme in Geneva as part of the Geneva Summer Practicum. She is a MAIR student who will graduate in December.

This fall I had the opportunity to work at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Washington, DC. UNHCR is the UN refugee agency mandated to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. UNCHR’s Washington Office on the other hand is a regional office of UNHCR which specifically covers the United States as well as 27 countries and overseas territories in the Caribbean.

As a Public Information intern, I work closely with the Public Information officers and UNHCR Spokespersons for the US. I am responsible for several tasks, such as:

  • Monitoring news related to refugee issues and immigration policies in the US and the Caribbean, and preparing daily reports
  • Responding to requests from the US media and the public
  • Providing support for UNHCR campaigns and pitching to major media outlets
  • Disseminating press releases and other relevant documents on a timely basis
  • Attending congressional hearings and public policy forums pertaining to UNHCR and briefing staff.

In addition to my duties in the Public Information Unit, I also provide assistance to staff in other units as needed. For instance, I provided support to our External Relations officers during the High Commissioner’s visit to Washington. I also work directly with our Regional Representative for the Washington Office’s weekly reports.

There are several learning opportunities during the internship at UNHCR. In the beginning of the internship, units like the Resettlement Unit and the Protection Unit would provide intern training, which are open to every intern from every unit. From time to time, heads of different regional offices, such as UNHCR’s Jordan Representative and Americas Bureau Director, would visit the Washington Office to share the latest refugee situations in their regions with DC staff and interns. There is also a weekly UN in DC Brown Bag Series, featuring different speakers from various UN offices to introduce the mandates of different UN agencies and share their career advice with the interns.

Due to a surge in media attention for the Syrian refugee crisis around the globe, UNHCR’s Public Information Unit has been flooded with hundreds of media requests during the past few months. It is such a unique learning experience for me to join UNHCR under these circumstances as it has allowed me to gain first-hand insight into the work of UNHCR and see how it is handling and managing the current crisis. It has also expanded my knowledge on refugee issues and US resettlement processes as well as further building my experience and skills in the field of communications, particularly in media relations and social media. Interning with UNHCR has been an invaluable experience, and I am truly grateful for every experience I am able to have here.

High Commissioner António Guterres launches a new UNHCR report, Women on the Run, at the Wilson Center

High Commissioner António Guterres launches a new UNHCR report, Women on the Run, at the Wilson Center

Vicki Tien carries a giant backpack around DC to raise awareness for refugee children! This backpack is part of UNHCR’s “the Tour around the World in a Backpack” Campaign and has traveled in more than 10 countries collecting messages and gifts of support and solidarity for refugee children.

Vicki Tien carries a giant backpack around DC to raise awareness for refugee children! This backpack is part of UNHCR’s “the Tour around the World in a Backpack” Campaign and has traveled in more than 10 countries collecting messages and gifts of support and solidarity for refugee children.

Backpack promo pic