Category Archives: Internship Stories

Internship stories shared by students

Celina Menzel, Gaining Valuable Experience in the United Nations in New York

 

UN Headquarters, New York City, USA
UN Headquarters, New York City, USA

Celina Menzel  is a dual degree MAIR/Atlantis student in Syracuse University.

From May to July 2015, I did my internship at the Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations in New York.

Since my internship took place in the development section of the Division of Economic Affairs, my own responsibilities evolved around development-related topics such as:

  • Health, including emergency responses to Ebola and other epidemic diseases, non‑communicable diseases, HIV/AIDS, sexual and reproductive health and rights, antimicrobial resistances, etc.
  • Migration, including refugee and IDP issues such as the Syrian refugee crisis
  • Food security and nutrition, particularly interventions by WFP and FAO
  • UNICEF interventions, particularly humanitarian action and emergency responses as well as long-term development measures
  • South-South Cooperation and Triangular cooperation
  • Reforming Peacebuilding and Post-Conflict Reconstruction, particularly the role that social services and dialogue may play
  • Support to Haiti and the ad-hoc advisory group
  • The Post-2015 Development Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including their implementation in countries affected by conflict and crises

My daily responsibilities mostly included participation in different sessions and events that were held at the UN Headquarters or organized by the member states and then report back to the Permanent Mission and the Headquarters of the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin. For example, I attended sessions at the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, the Executive Board of UNICEF, and different thematic Side-Events. Moreover, I took part in informal negotiations concerning draft resolutions as well as in different conferences (e.g. the Ebola conference in July) and conducted my own research on various topics that were of interest to me.

I personally feel like I gained a lot of knowledge and new skills during this internship. So far, the focus of my studies was mostly on conflict, security and post-conflict reconstruction. One of the reasons why I chose this internship position was that I wanted to expand my focus and learn more about long-term development in post-conflict settings because I believe that it is important for sustained stability and peace. Therefore, it was very valuable for me to deal with topics that I did not know that much about before. Moreover, I learned a lot about the daily work at the Permanent Mission and the United Nations Headquarters, the decision-making processes, the way interventions are designed and implemented, the importance of sufficient political will, etc.

In conclusion, my internship was very insightful for me. I gained a lot of knowledge – content-wise and skill-wise – and gained valuable experience. Particularly the relation to my supervisor, her supportive and encouraging conduct towards me, her eagerness to show me every facet of her work, and her willingness to entrust me with real responsibilities allowed me to have a very productive time during my internship.

Celina Menzel at a UN Headquarters staff BBQ
Celina Menzel at a UN Headquarters staff BBQ

Keome R. Rowe, Managing Costs to Welcoming VIPs at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing

Keome & Ambassador
Keome Rowe and Ambassador Max Sieben Baucus

Mr. Keome R. Rowe is a graduate student in the department of Public Administration and International Affairs. He will be on campus in Syracuse during the Fall Semester of 2015.

This summer I had the pleasure to serve as a Charles B. Rangel Fellow at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China. Since President Obama’s “ Pivot to Asia” announcement the U.S.-China relationship is one of the most important bilateral relationships—if not the most important. As an MPA/MAIR student I wanted to see the internal and external workings of the U.S. Mission to China from the management, political and public diplomacy section perspectives at the Embassy.

Management Section

I did a cost-benefit comparison of housing for diplomats, analyzing the conversion of landlord furnished housing to U.S. government furnished housing to judge which one had cost savings for U.S. taxpayers. This required me to do a series of interviews with diplomats, embassy staff, Chinese landlords and property management companies in Beijing to gather data. The skills I learned in public budgeting, policy implementation, Public Administration & Democracy and Public Organizations & Management came into great use. After analyzing my data, I presented my analysis and policy recommendations on cost effectiveness to the Minister Counselor for Management. Several of my recommendations will be implemented this fall! This particular project gave me the opportunity to see a specific aspect of the management section’s function at the Embassy.

Public Diplomacy Section

I teamed up with the State Department’s historian to thumb through countless pictures of past presidential bilateral meetings and create month long original content for the State Department’s social media accounts for Chinese President Xi Xinping’s first official visit to Washington later this month. This project allowed me to create original and informative content for the more than 2 million Department of State’s social media followers.

Political Section

Perhaps the most high profile project was helping the V.I.P. teams in the management and political teams prepare for the visit of National Security Advisor Susan Rice. I helped the advance team here at the Embassy and the Secret Service prepare all details for her visit. I also prepared most of the logistics and presentations for the visit AND was present for her arrival at the airport alongside Ambassador Baucus.

Conclusion

I learned that being a diplomat is never a dull moment! One day I could be conversing with Chinese landlords on property issues, visiting with members of U.S. Congress and/or officially receiving high profile foreign policy leaders!

Keome Rowe on the tarmac welcoming National Security Advisor Susan Rice
Keome Rowe on the tarmac welcoming National Security Advisor Susan Rice

To learn more about becoming a Charles B. Rangel Fellow, visit the program website.

Emily Fredenberg Assists UNDP with Health & Development

The following entry was drafted by Emily Fredenberg, a dual-degree MPA & MAIR student.

Emily Fredenberg – UNDP Health and Development Unit

This summer, I had the opportunity to intern with the United Nations Development Programme, within their Health and Development Unit in Geneva, Switzerland. As an intern, my work was divided between the unit’s focal point on non-communicable diseases, tobacco control, and the social and economic detriments of health, and a team specialist on UNDP’s partnership with the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.

Much of the work UNDP performs in-country specializes in government capacity building. At the headquarters level, the unit’s partnership team with the Global Fund serves an advisory function in that it provides technical support to UNDP country teams executing Global Fund grants. At country level, UNDP is selected as a principal grant recipient by the Global Fund in instances when a country does not have the capability to implement the grant themselves. As principal grant recipient, UNDP works simultaneously to implement a grant, as well as to build a country’s capacity to carry out Global Fund grants themselves. Currently, UNDP is principal recipient to Global Fund grants in 26 countries.

The UNDP Health and Development Unit in Geneva also specializes in non-communicable disease (NCD) policy. Much of this policy involves joint-programming initiatives with a number of other UN agencies and programmes, most prominently, the World Health Organization (WHO). UNDP and WHO are currently pursuing a joint NCD Governance Programme initiative. This programme is designed to enhance government capacity across government sectors by looking at NCDs more broadly, not only within the health sector. Such sectors include ministries of education, finance, agriculture, trade, and tourism with the ultimate goal of various ministries within a government working collaboratively to address the growing problem of NCDs. The Geneva team also works closely with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in assisting countries to successfully implement and execute the framework.

Throughout the summer, my work was quite varied within the unit. I had the opportunity to attend the World Health Assembly, as well as several other thematic units at various UN agencies pertaining to health in development. I conducted targeted research with NCDs in capital infrastructure projects, examining ways large capital projects can affect the incidence of NCDs as well as solutions to mitigating the side-effects of such projects. I played an integral role in planning a South-South Triangular seminar with the FCTC, where countries in need of technical assistance implementing the FCTC framework could receive expertise from other countries willing and able to provide such. Additionally, two evenings a week I attended a class, as part of Maxwell’s Geneva Summer Practicum. During class, we often had presentations from various guest speakers of UN agencies, government missions, as well as NGOs.

My internship with UNDP certainly allowed me to get a fuller understanding of the intricacies of the UN system, and to develop my research, writing, and strategic planning skills. All in all, I had an amazing summer with the United Nations in Geneva. Geneva truly is a great city to spend the summer in, and I’m quite grateful for the experience I was able to have there.

Emily Fredenberg (left) and fellow intern at the World Health Organization in Geneva
Emily Fredenberg (left) and fellow intern at the World Health Organization in Geneva

Sarah White Harnesses Mobile Health Interventions with WHO

The following entry was drafted by Sarah White, a dual-degree MPA & MAIR student.

Sarah White – WHO, Non-Communicable Diseases department

I spent this summer in Switzerland interning with the World Health Organization (WHO) and studying as a part of Maxwell’s Geneva Summer Practicum. Being in Geneva allowed for personal access and insight into the inner workings of a large UN organization as well as exploring ways the international community comes together to tackle some of the biggest issues we face today.

As an intern at the WHO, I worked on a small team within the Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) department. Our team works jointly with another large international organization, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), on mobile-based health interventions designed to reinforce healthy habits and decrease the likelihood of NCD risks. Lots of these programs are focused on helping people quit smoking as tobacco use directly leads to health, economic, and social losses in every county no matter how rich or poor. You can find examples of these programs on the Be Healthy, Be Mobile website.

Mobile-based health interventions are new, exciting territories for health providers and governments. As technology continues to progress, the Internet becomes more accessible, and service costs decrease, there will be even more opportunities for mobile interventions. Yet the definitive proof is still yet to be found. Part of my internship this summer has been to identify best practices for these programs, figure out ways we can convince governments of their cost-effective benefits, and create a guide that will supplement their recruitment policies by using social media outreach.

Besides learning about the new ways technology is changing the way we think about behavioral health interventions, being at the WHO and in Geneva allows me to learn about many other organizations I had little interaction with before. The WHO constantly has talks from experts on different health challenges. The interns here also organize their own talks from experts and other interns to share what they are working on.

Perhaps the best part of the Maxwell class is this kind of introduction and exposure to the different work done by organizations around Geneva. Coming from the private sector I did not know much about international organizations and their roles in influencing global priorities. During this summer, we had Q&As with over 10 different organizations in Geneva. In today’s culture of “leaning in,” many of our guests included women in high positions, which was not only inspiring, but allowed us to ask candid questions about their experiences becoming leaders. You just can’t get this kind of access every day.

My summer in Geneva taught me a lot about the type of organization I wish to work for in the future, the kinds of leadership to look for, and challenged me to think critically about why and how we do the work we do. Many thanks to Professor Schleiffer, my Maxwell family, and the Cramer Global Programs for making this summer a reality!

Sarah White in front of the Matterhorn.
Sarah White in front of the Matterhorn.

Professional Travel(lers)

Robertson Foundation Fellows Allison Carter Olsen, Tracie Hatch and Justin Gradek at the White House.
Robertson Foundation Fellows Allison Carter Olsen, Tracie Hatch and Justin Gradek at the White House. Photo Courtesy Justin Gradek

Professional Travel(lers)

The public administration and international relations careers that each of you may pursue could potentially require you to travel professionally.

Even though some of you may have extensive travel experience as tourists, exchange students, or international volunteers, I thought I would share a few tips from my recent travels over the past few years.

1) The cheaper flight is not necessarily the less expensive option.

Flying from a non-hub airport like Syracuse often means that the flight is going to be more expensive than one would like, particularly in comparison to flying out of a major international airport such as New York – Kennedy.

However, one should take into account the cost of getting to that alternate airport (it can cost anywhere from $100 to $300 to get from Syracuse to JFK and back, depending on transport and need for hotel), as well as the cost of the ancillary expenses for that flight (one of the marks of really affordable flights can be a late flight out of one city and an early one out of the next, so there might be a hotel room needed).

Professional travel budgets have been under pressure over the last several years, so do take a look at BBC America’s “Ten Tips for Cheap Airfares from the U.S. to the U.K,” but when you are looking at the flight, also calculate the cost above (as well as the cost of your own time).  It’s important to think about what your time is worth as:

2) You always have less time than you think

A conference weekend in Washington, DC is a great opportunity to spend Friday engaged in meetings, and Saturday and Sunday at the conference.

“Land at DCA on Friday at 7, first meeting at 8:30 off K Street, second at 9 on Dupont Circle, then to Main State by 10.” It sounds like a great itinerary designed to maximize face time and get a lot of good information.

However, one must remember to build in travel time between sites.  Despite your best efforts, it will take you more than five minutes to get from the State Department’s C Street Headquarters to USAID’s premises in the Ronald Reagan Building, even if you take a cab.

Also, it is likely that meetings will run long, your meeting partners will be delayed, or you’ll get engaged in a good conversation.

Despite this, make sure you:

3) Plan your days well

If you’re looking to meet with a number of people (such as on a networking trip), have an idea on who you want to meet with ahead of time, set a time and a location and most importantly get a phone number in case you are running late.  Depending on the city or their transportation systems, you might not be able to send an email to your contact if they are already on the way or have not joined the Smartphone set.

 

 

 

Clearing a Hurdle

Clearing the Main Hurdle

Picture of Track Hurdle
Not these Hurdles

Many of you who are entering the U.S. government, particularly in the foreign policy and security policy fields, will have to go through the security clearance process. This process, while intimidating, should rarely be a cause for concern and there are a number of steps you can take to make the process as easy as possible. Please note that this is general information. If your hiring authority provides different information, consider that to supercede the information below.

What is Security Clearance?

Holding a U.S. government security clearance allows an employee to access classified information. Clearances are issued at three levels, confidential, secret, and top secret. At each level, clearance holders have access to different types of information on the basis of their job duties. Different agencies have levels within Top Secret (including TS/SCI – allowing access to Sensitive Compartmentalized Information or SAP – Special Access Program Information). They may also call it something different than Top Secret clearance, such as the Department of Energy’s “Q” clearance.

What is the Goal of the Process?

The primary purpose of the clearance is to determine whether a job candidate is determined to be able to maintain classified information. The government is looking for trustworthy applicants with high levels of reliability, loyalty, and character.

What does the Process Look Like?

Once a federal agency extends a conditional employment offer, the agency human resources contact will provide information about the necessary paperwork for clearance positions. This is usually centered around Standard Form (SF) 86, the Questionnaire for National Security Positions. This information on the form is for the last 10 years (although some forms will list the last ten years or until 18, whichever is closer), detailing residences, jobs, contacts, legal issues, education and much more.

In addition the SF-86, agencies may require fingerprints, personal interviews, credit examinations, polygraph test, or other additional materials at the request of the agency. This can often be a lot of material.

How Long Does It Take?

It is challenging to predict how long each clearance case will take, as each individual investigation is unique. However, when the hiring Department issues the clearance paperwork and a prospective employee completes the paperwork correctly and promptly, the time allocated is usually sufficient.

Are Clearances Transferable?

Possibly. According to the State Department, clearances are normally accepted by other agencies if the investigation was completed in the last 10 years (5 years for Top Secret Clearance) and there has been no more than a two year break in service.

 

Do I need to take a polygraph test?

For a secret level clearance, generally no polygraph test is needed. However, this may be necessary, based on the needs and policies of the hiring authority.

Gustavo Zanabria – United Nations Economic Council on Latin America and the Caribbean

Mr. Gustavo Zanabria is a graduate student in the department of Public Administration and International Affairs.  He will be on campus in Syracuse during the fall semester of 2014.

It was a great experience to complete a twelve-week internship at Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Santiago, Chile. This international organization is one of five regional commissions of the United Nations.  It was founded with the purpose of contributing to the economic development of Latin America. The commission coordinates actions directed towards this objective, including promoting the region´s social development and reinforcing economic ties among other nations of the world. Continue reading Gustavo Zanabria – United Nations Economic Council on Latin America and the Caribbean

On the Ground in Ghana with the International Organization for Migration

2014 IOM Ghana summer interns
2014 IOM Ghana summer interns. Photo: Joanna Kitts for IOM

For the past several years, PAIA students have taken part in SU’s innovative partnership with the International Organization for Migration’s Mission in Accra, Ghana to develop the field skills needed for success as development and humanitarian workers. Continue reading On the Ground in Ghana with the International Organization for Migration

Abigail Reese (JD/IR ’15) – UN Counter Terrorism Executive Directorate

The following entry was drafted by Ms. Abigail Reese a dual-degree JD and MAIR student.

The United Nations Counterterrorism Committee was established by the UN Security Council
United Nations Security Council Chamber. Photo Source: Wikipedia

“I spent my summer working in NYC for the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED). CTED was established by Security Council Resolution 1535 (2004), and its purpose is to assist the work of the Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) and coordinate the process of monitoring the implementation of resolution 1373 (2001). Resolution 1373 requested countries to implement a number of measures intended to enhance their legal and institutional ability to counter terrorist activities.” Continue reading Abigail Reese (JD/IR ’15) – UN Counter Terrorism Executive Directorate