Category Archives: Alumni

PAIA Alumni

Janessa Price Learns about the Conflict Between Natural Resources & Development

Janessa Price is a recent graduate of the Maxwell and Newhouse School’s Public Diplomacy Program. She also interned at the Joint Inspection Unit of the United Nations in Geneva.

Janessa Price

This spring, I had the opportunity to intern with the Freshwater team at the World Wildlife Fund in Washington D.C. My decision to pursue an internship with WWF came after taking a course on development and sustainability with Dr. Farhana Sultana, which gave me a greater insight into the conflict between natural resource preservation and economic development. Working with WWF allowed me to explore the relationship between development and sustainability further while simultaneously honing my communications skills.

The work of WWF’s freshwater team spans the globe and ranges from promoting good water governance to protecting freshwater ecosystems to working with the private sector on water stewardship and conservation. This spring, in conjunction with the Policy and Advocacy group, the team launched its new Water and Security Initiative. Through this initiative, WWF seeks to inform U.S. development policy by showing that support for cooperative arrangements over shared water resources and other environmental considerations can reduce the likelihood of social and economic disruptions. As a communications intern, I was tasked with helping develop an outreach strategy for this initiative that would help inform policymakers, media and the general public about the critical linkage between global freshwater challenges and U.S. national security.

This experience was particularly valuable as it gave me greater insight into how NGO advocacy can be successfully conducted, even in what could be considered a hostile or at least atypical political environment. As an organization focused on environmental and ecological preservation, it was both interesting and promising to see how WWF found ways to maneuver and push its agenda forward despite the current administration’s apathy toward environmental health. At the same time, WWF provided a perfect example of the struggle between environmental sustainability and human development. While the organization was created with the protection of nature for nature’s sake in mind, it has slowly recognized that the needs of people must too be considered in any approach to environmental sustainability.

Learn more about the Washington Public Diplomacy program

Caitlin Flattery, International Development with Tetra Tech

Caitlin Flattery is a recent graduate of the Public Diplomacy program, where students earn both a Master of Arts in International Relations (MAIR) from the Maxwell School and a Master of Science in Public Relations (MSPR) from the Newhouse School.

Caitlin Flattery

I spent my semester off-campus participating in the Maxwell-in-Washington program based in Washington, DC. During this time, I regularly attended two classes and worked full-time at a private government contractor, Tetra Tech International Development Services. Tetra Tech is a large firm that offers many services domestically, but due to my interest in foreign affairs, I was placed in their International Development Services sector. The specific Tetra Tech International Development Services office in which I worked was located in Arlington, VA so I had the opportunity to experience both work and life in DC and in Arlington, which I’ve come to learn are very different.

The two classes in which I was enrolled were a public diplomacy seminar and a cohort-specific class focusing on our research consultancies. The seminar took place every Wednesday night after work, and the research consultancy meetings took place every other Tuesday night. It was interesting to have students from other schools in the class, as well as students who had no background in public diplomacy whatsoever; it required guest speakers to truly back their presentations up with specialized knowledge. Such a busy schedule was a great way to break out of the graduate school routine and prepare myself for the business to come after finishing this internship and beginning a new job.

Overall, this program off-campus has been a positive experience. I was able to use my visual and written communications skills to produce collateral and publications for clients and individuals interested in Tetra Tech, Tetra Tech International Development Services, or the sector as a whole. My graphic design and public relations writing skills have come in very helpful on a daily basis—this position truly requires a particular type of education. I am glad to have been able to partake in this experience.

Learn more about the Washington Public Diplomacy program

Vahid Khatami Does Data Analysis at Microfinance Opportunities

Vahid Khatami is a recent graduate of the joint MPA/MAIR program. He is going on to work in an international financial institution in New York City.

Vahid Khatami at MFO

Lack of access to financial services is still an economic barrier for many households and small businesses around the world. Based on the global Findex database in 2014, only 34% of people in Sub-Saharan Africa have access to a financial account and less than 16% use formal savings and borrowings. Similar data for other developing regions has emerged leading to the use of microfinance tools to expand financial inclusion globally. But, promoting the best financial tools for low-income households is very complicated, since one must consider the variety of outflow and inflow categories in their financial diaries. It raises the demand for in-depth research on these micro economies.

Microfinance opportunities (MFO) is a research organization, based in Washington, D.C., committed to understanding the financial realities of low-income households.  They work with other organizations in the microfinance industry to conduct research on behavioral economics of beneficiaries.

During my internship in MFO, I worked on three major projects. First, I was doing statistical analysis on household survey responses in four African countries including Zambia, Senegal, Uganda, and Burkina Faso. I did statistical analysis and data visualization on poverty likelihood scores by controlling demographic characteristics and types of packages provided for beneficiaries. For my second project, I designed an Android application for on-line uploading of financial diaries. The idea was raised after talking with the executive manager where I let him know about my skills in computer programming. The final product, which is going to prepare for alpha testing, makes beneficiaries enable to insert their daily financial diaries without interventions of any third party or interviewer. That data is stored in a cloud-based storage for further auto-analysis. For my third internship project, I helped MFO’s team to provide a comprehensive report on all transactions data in previous and current projects, including more than one million transaction records. Reformatting all data to a uniform structure and applying statistical measurements such as clustering methods was the focal point in that project.

Over all those assignments, I was in almost daily communication with the executive manager to present my progress in work and get guidance on the next steps. I had realized that there were no straightforward answers for problems, which motivated me to do research and ask about possible solutions regularly. I also got a valuable insight into the microfinance industry and its technical aspects, which will help me to take the next steps in my career track with more confidence.

Learn more about the Maxwell-in-Washington program

Emily Ma Finds Taiwan Unforgettable While at Foreign Commercial Service

Emily Ma wrote this post while interning in Taiwan during the fall of 2016. She also interned at United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) during the summer of 2016, where she was posted in Turkey for a time. After graduating with her MAIR degree, she landed a job at USCIS.

Emily Ma (3rd from left) with AIT Director, Kin Moy (4th from left) and other interns

This fall, I was able to travel to Taipei, Taiwan to intern for the American Institute in Taiwan, Commercial Section. The American Institute in Taiwan is the de-facto embassy for the United States in Taiwan, created under the Taiwan Relations Act after the United States acknowledged China’s “One-China Policy.” The functioning of AIT is no different than a typical American Embassy other than the fact that the titles of the officers are slightly different. For example, the “ambassador” is called the “director” of the Institute.

The Commercial Section is run under the Commerce Department rather than the State Department, meaning that in our lobby, we have framed pictures of President Obama and Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker rather than Secretary of State John Kerry. The purpose of the Foreign Commercial Service (FCS) is to provide assistance to U.S. Firms hoping to export abroad, or foreign entities looking to invest into the United States. Although there are other groups such as the U.S. Trade Representative, and the Economics section of the State Department, The FCS provides assistance to individual companies for a minimal fee. The fee is simply to allow the Commercial Section, an entity representing the U.S. government, to assist one individual company without providing assistance to all other U.S. companies (although it is available once the basic fee is paid).

As an intern, I have been able to attend meetings with both U.S. and Taiwan representatives of the public and private sector. I have assisted with several trade shows in which American companies have taken part in, and have done thorough research on the burgeoning activity in the area of smart city technology.

Taiwan itself is a beautiful island with friendly locals. Commercially, it is the gateway to Asia. Amidst the fierce competition, as firms try to enter China, many overlook Taiwan. Developed, and with close ties to China, Taiwan businesses are eager to diversify their portfolio, and are always looking for something new.

Whether it is for tourism, or business, Taiwan is definitely not a place to forget.

Global Programs in China:

SU Beijing

Summer Internships in Shanghai

Corena Sharp Learns How State Department Promotes Labor Rights

Corena Sharp was a MAIR student who also spent last summer interning at UNICEF in Geneva. She wrote this post last fall, and is now a new Maxwell alumnus.

Corena Sharp (center, 6th from left), Office of International Labor Affairs in DOS’ Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor

Ever read a Human Rights Report released by the State Department? They are released every year and cover every country in the world, and then some. U.S. Diplomats and NGOs alike use them to advocate for human rights. Section 7 of these reports details workers’ rights. I never considered the fascinating position of labor rights before I interned in the Office of International Labor Affairs (ILA) within the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL).

Unlike many human rights, labor rights are often considered oppositional human rights. It is rare that someone would stand up and argue that people do not deserve clean drinking water, but champions of workers’ rights often face skepticism and even hostility. When countries compete for trade deals, they often create a ‘race to the bottom’ where the lowest compensation and fewest benefits make countries and companies more competitive in the name of economic growth. However, many have begun asking ‘growth for whom?’ The Sustainable Development Goals are trying to address this issue through the promotion of ‘inclusive growth.’ The strongest force for protecting workers is the freedom of association and collective bargaining. Yet, few things can shut down a conversation faster than the word ‘unions.’ Achieving decent work is incredibly important for sustainable development; the challenge is changing the perceived either-or categories that labor rights and economic growth are often given.

My small office takes the lead to develop Section 7 into an effective tool for advocates. Developing a successful final draft of these reports goes beyond just proofreading. An effective report is built from research contributed by every editor and thus requires clear communication among the drafters. By utilizing SharePoint, DRL fosters the collaboration among Foreign Service Officers at embassies abroad, editors in regional offices, and policy offices such as ILA.  ILA in turn coordinates with the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and the Department of Labor. Back-to-back tranches of these reports flow into the office—each with different editors depending on their successful completion of each stage of the editing process. The more complete the report, the better a government can be held accountable.

Learn more about the Maxwell-in-Washington program

Jack Gall Helps Promote Accountability in Foreign Policy

Jack Gall in Washington, DC

Jack Gall is a recent graduate of the MAIR program who wrote this post while interning during his final Fall Semester. Prior to interning, he also completed a summer course at the Brookhaven National Laboratory on the framework created by the international community to address the threats of nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism. He combined this with an independent research project with a Maxwell faculty.

This fall in Washington DC has been a rewarding experience as I have worked as the Center for International Policy’s national security intern during some of the most exciting and turbulent times in our nation’s capital in our nation’s capital in recent history.

The Center for International Policy (CIP) is a think tank that promotes transparency, cooperation, and accountability in foreign public policy. CIP was founded shortly after the Vietnam War’s end and has for decades engaged in research and advocacy programs ranging from arms control reform and diplomatic conflict resolution to US security assistance monitoring and environmental protection. The majority of my work has been supporting CIP’s national security program, led by Harry C. Blaney III. A State Department diplomat of over 20 years, Mr. Blaney runs a blog that covers and commentates on current US foreign policy events called Rethinking National Security. Harry has been an invaluable mentor in analyzing the impact of current events, preparing for my post-graduate plans, and fully appreciating the enriching opportunities Washington DC has to offer (he’s particular to local art galleries and I highly recommend the Phillips Collection).

By far the storyline that dominated coverage for the national security program was coverage of the 2016 Presidential Election and the following transition process. My primary responsibilities have been following daily election developments, providing worthwhile quotes, and proofreading and posting regular blog posts. In addition, I have worked to expand the blog’s readership through social media outreach and occasionally wrote posts of my own focusing on my interests such as nuclear security. As an exception to a generational stereotype, I didn’t have much experience with Twitter prior to my internship, so outreach has come with a bit of a learning curve.

Outside of working on the blog, my time at CIP also includes front desk duty and occasionally assisting other programs with open-source resource, database correction, and one hectic but memorable envelope-stuffing marathon for fundraising. My fellow interns are passionate about the work they do in promoting CIP’s mission for a peaceful and cooperative world. Overall, my time at the Center for International Policy has provided valuable professional experience in the public policy arena and taught me the importance of being inquisitive, assertive, and understanding in my work.

Jack Gall and Harry C. Blaney III at CIP

Austin Strain, Jack Gall, Celina Menzel, Leyko Nagayoshi, and Paritt Nguiakaramahawongse at CIP’s Pumpkin Social Function

Learn more about the Maxwell-in-Washington program

Andrew Sweet’s Career from Maxwell to a Rockefeller Fellow

Could you introduce yourself?

My name is Andrew Sweet and I am an Associate Partner at Dalberg, a global development strategy consulting firm. I am based in Johannesburg, but am often traveling around the world.

How did you start your career?

I had the good fortune of starting my career as a Peace Corps Volunteer. For two-and-a-half years, I served as a Natural Resource Management Volunteer, working with farmers on the Togo-Benin border. It was a life-changing experience and one I look back upon with great memories. I went to Maxwell following the Peace Corps and learned from the greats, such as Catherine BertiniPeter Castro, and Peg Hermann. It was energizing to learn from people whose careers were highly practical, and who could help structure and deepen my thinking.

After Maxwell, I spent a few years at the Center for American Progress (CAP) on the National Security team. I co-authored a number of publications on the future of U.S. global development policy. At the time, CAP was housing a number of key thinkers for both the Clinton and Obama campaigns. After President Obama was elected, a lot of the CAP National Security team went into the Administration at the White House, State Department, and USAID. I received an appointment at USAID, where I served as a Conflict Advisor for West Africa, focused on Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire. After two years in this role, the USAID Administrator, Dr. Rajiv Shah, asked me to serve as his Senior Advisor. For the nearly three years, I was one of his closest aides, traveling with him on each of his trips, foreign and domestic. In the last year alone, we went to 24 countries. In this capacity, I also helped to establish two major Presidential Initiatives, Power Africa and the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.

How did you become a David Rockefeller Fellow, and what is the Trilateral Commission?

I was nominated to be a David Rockefeller Fellow by former USAID Administrator and current Rockefeller Foundation President, Dr. Rajiv Shah, and a great mentor and former professor of mine at Maxwell, Catherine Bertini. I have kept in very close contact with both and am fortunate and humbled to have been nominated by them.

The Trilateral Commission was established in 1973 to bring together leaders from the private sector to discuss issues of global concern for Europe, North America and Asia. It still includes a range of leaders from the private sector, but also from the public, and social sectors as well as prominent journalists. Members include Henry Kissinger, Madeleine Albright, Michael Bloomberg, David Gergen and Eric Schmidt.

Have you had any memorable experiences while working in the field?

I love helping put together coalitions of institutions and individuals with the intent of doing something big in global development. To this end, I enjoyed being part of putting together Power Africa and the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. My experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer also helped inform my thinking and grounded my experiences in the reality.

One of the highlights from my current work is helping the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation put together Emergency Operations Centers in West Africa. The goal of this work is to capacitate emergency response workers and help ensure future crises, such as Ebola, can be prevented or better managed.

I also have been fortunate to meet and learn from a number of global leaders. I have drawn great inspiration from people like Kofi Annan, Catherine Bertini, and Bill Gates who have all dreamed big and accomplished great things.

What advice do you want to give Maxwell students?

My advice is to focus and dream big. Global development is too large a field for this to be your specialty. Think about the sector (e.g. energy, health, good governance) and a region of the world you are passionate about, then think and do big things. Develop language skills that are relevant to your passions. Build your networks and learn from leaders to draw inspiration and insights. Be a voracious consumer of information. Travel the world and spend significant amounts of time with people whose lives you are working to improve.

Andrew Sweet

Tim Stoutzenberger, Balkan Research Leads to Job

Tim Stoutzenberger is a recent graduate of the ATLANTIS Transatlantic Degree Program, where he earned a MAIR from the Maxwell School in Syracuse, New York and a MPP from the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin.

Last Summer, I was fortunate to receive a field research grant from the Moynihan Institute. I spent thirty-five days working in the Balkan region, conducting site visits, interviews, and performing general research for the Global Black Spots Project. That experience helped me further formulate my thesis, which focuses on security and development trends in the Balkans during European Union accession.

With that in mind, in June I began a three month consulting contract with Caritas Switzerland at their Western Balkans Regional Coordination Office in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H). A bit of background…I got in touch with Caritas Switzerland by reaching out to Raymond Bach, director of the SU Strasbourg Center in Strasbourg, France. I knew Professor Bach had friends in the Balkan region, and sure enough the wonderful Maxwell network came through.

For the month of June I teleworked from The Hague, Netherlands while finishing classes at the International Institute of Social Studies. During the first few weeks of my contract, I collaborated via Skype wtih the Balkan Regional Delegate, gained a better understanding of current programs, and began developing the frameworks for upcoming projects.

I arrived in Sarajevo on July 1st during an interesting time for the B&H office and for Caritas Switerland’s regional activities in general (the organization is present in Kosovo, B&H, and Romania). 2011-16 projects were ending, the corporate strategy in Luzern was shifting away from unfettered humanitarian aid, and the local offices were beginning to draft their country programs for 2017-20 with the new strategy in mind.

At the B&H office I work with projects focused on regional food security, youth education and vocational training, income generation, market expansion, migration/refugees/human trafficking, and socio-economic rights for marginalized communities. Larger programs dealing with everything from resource sustainability to public health to conflict resolution are in play as well. I get to travel a good bit, meeting with partners in Tirana, Gorazde, and at our Kosovo office in Przren.

The Global Programs Award I received proved essential during these last few months, especially while I was getting set up in Sarajevo and working locally on my thesis. Additionally, Caritas Switzerland recently agreed to extend my contract which came as welcome news.

Tim Stoutzenberger working at Caritas Switzerland's Western Balkans Regional Coordination Office in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Tim Stoutzenberger working at Caritas Switzerland’s Western Balkans Regional Coordination Office in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Deborah Baldwin Does Coms for The Brookings Institution

Deborah Baldwin is a recent graduate of the Public Diplomacy program. She earned a joint Master of Arts in International Relations and a Master of Science in Public Relations from the prestigious Maxwell and Newhouse schools.

From introducing me to new tools and software, giving me opportunities to perform and learn more about research, and allowing me to gain hands-on experience in engaging with their target audience, The Brookings Institution’s communications department provided me with an unforgettable internship experience. I interned this past spring semester with the organization’s social media team, which was a great experience for me being a Public Diplomacy student with an interest in research. I got to not only read much of the great research published by the institution, but I also had the opportunity to learn how to best market it to their online public audiences through tweets, Facebook posts and Medium. I would then gauge how the audience interacted to it. In addition to learning how to market others’ research, I got to perform some of my own, writing reports to help determine the direction of the department’s iTunes U channel and giving recommendations on whether and how they should engage with their public over Snapchat.

The communications department was also open to letting interns get involved in other areas and meet people working outside of their own teams. When the events intern took a new job and left, I filled in for him, checking in guests at the events, helping facilitate discussions with panelists (one of whom was Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken), and learning to use attendance tracking tools to add to my resume. I also made some really great friends with whom to try out the local restaurants.

Brookings has some awesome perks, including a great cafeteria with a specialty coffee machine, a library that not only allows interns to check out an unlimited number of books for up to four weeks, but is also staffed with the sweetest librarians you’ll ever meet and a bookshelf of giveaway books, and events that are free and open to the public. I frequented all of these things, especially the coffee machine. Not only did I see Anthony Blinken at a Brookings event, but I also got to see Gayle Smith, executive director of USAID, along with Justice Stephen Breyer, Turkish President Erdogan, and Sen. John McCain. I even got to see what may have been the largest protest in the history of The Brookings Institution, conducted by Amnesty International when President Erdogan came. From a public relations perspective, it was a good experience to see how an audience might react to a decision made by your organization with which they might not agree, so I got to take advantage of a learning opportunity by going outside and talking to protestors.

This internship allowed me to gain experience in digital communications and relationship building with organizational public audiences while also giving me insight into writing research and helping me to make new contacts in the policy sector. I especially enjoyed getting to know the faces behind the Brookings social media accounts, the YouTube channels and the Brookings Cafeteria Podcast, as well as some of the researchers of the number one research institution in the world.

Deborah Baldwin at The Brookings Institution.

Deborah Baldwin at The Brookings Institution.

Learn more about the Maxwell-in-Washington program

Public Diplomacy Program Allows Alex Jorgensen to Stand Out

Alex Jorgensen was a Public Diplomacy (PD) Student who completed a joint MAIR/MSPR. He finished his degree in the spring of 2016. PD students combine an MA in International Relations from the Maxwell School with a MS in Public Relations from the Newhouse School.

PD Alumni Alex Jorgensen

PD Alumni Alex Jorgensen

This semester I had the privilege of working as an Account Executive at JM Strategic Communications Group in Manhattan. JMSC’s mission is to supply a high-level strategic consultancy to public and private companies in their investor relations and public relations practices. Our mission is to combine business objectives with strategy to communicate effectively to shareholders and stakeholders a company’s story and performance.

JMSC logo

My daily activities consist of:

  • Drafting press/earnings releases
  • Media monitoring clients and peers
  • Developing investor presentations for clients
  • Fully develop & launched our company’s new website (jmscgroup.com, launched in February 2016)
  • Listen to and analyze quarterly earnings calls
  • Assist in running earnings conference call
  • Learn the fundamentals surrounding investor communication and initial public offerings
  • Gain knowledge of capital markets, the buy and sell side of wall street, and communicating a company’s story effectively both qualitatively and quantitatively

As I developed the basic skills to establish myself in the firm I felt that the Public Diplomacy program puts practitioners in a unique position to differentiate themselves. Students from the Public Diplomacy program have the skills to differentiate themselves through traditional public relations experience from practical PR curriculum, digital marketing, social media strategy, and an understanding of working with government officials while being a non-state actor. Through developing public relations strategies for particular clients, developing a network of Search Engine Optimization colleagues who bolster my digital media knowledge, and delivering on social media operations for in-house accounts and client accounts; I saw firsthand how lessons from the PD program applied directly to my daily routine.

Some key lessons from my practicum were that I learned the foundations of building marketing strategies for communicating the value of a start-up to new business and the general public, through the research and development of our company’s website. Possibly the most impactful lesson was in the balance between quality and timeliness. To become an expert in any field one must learn how to prioritize which tasks need to be treated with extensive detail, and which need to be turned at a speed that combines quality with timeliness. I do not think I have mastered this skill, but think that I am further than I imagined I could be in one semester’s time.

Another key application from Maxwell was knowledge about how the government functions, specifically with non-state actors. The government plays an important role in our operations. The sweeping regulations that came with Sarbanes-Oaxley, and the 2009 financial crisis have produced an environment in which public companies need to constantly be vigilant of the information they disclose in ensuring an equal playing field for all investors. Whether or not that playing field has been established is not up to the practitioners themselves, but taking accountability of their own day-to-day operations should produce a synergistic effect that ensures that playing field is intact. This experience was an incredible way to apply lessons from Maxwell and Newhouse to the beginning of my professional career in investor relations.