In Summer 2018, I had the opportunity to serve as Student Intern at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services in Los Angles, California. As a Student Intern, I worked on a variety of assignments and projects including the development of a new Leadership and Employee Development Training Program. My job functions included project management, event coordinating, and helping with the hiring process by scheduling interviews and arranging the interview panel. I had the opportunity to assist Immigration Service Officers as they interviewed applicants for citizenship or lawful permanent resident status and assessed documentations to either grant or deny applications.
The Leadership and Employee Development Training Program aims to serve as the master program that will incorporate existing trainings and add new trainings on leadership, technical and other skills. My role was to assist in the stages of program development and implementation by drafting a proposal explaining the purpose and goal of the new training program for every employee at USCIS in the District of Los Angeles, creating the business rules and training courses, and designing the program logo. I accomplished this with the guidance, and under the supervision, of the Los Angeles County Field Office Director.
A major highlight of my internship experience this summer was getting the chance to present the program proposal to the Los Angeles District Director, Deputy Director, Chief of Staff and five Field Office Directors.
In addition to being involved in various exciting projects another incredible experience I had was attending the oath ceremonies in July and August where honorable judges officially granted applicants citizenship. I enjoyed every moment of it especially the part where I got to issue certificates of citizenship. What rewarding moments those were. I take pride in what I did and all that I was able to accomplish during my time at USCIS.
The U.S. Department of Defense’s USINDOPACOM headquarters is located on Camp HM Smith, Oahu, Hawaii. It was recently renamed from USPACOM to reflect the importance of India in USINDOPACOM’s Area of Responsibility. USINDOPACOM is unique among the Global Combatant Commands (GCC) because it is the only GCC with its subordinate Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Special Operations Commands co-located in the same state and island. Additionally, the island of Oahu is home to Joint Interagency Task Force – West (JIATF-W), the Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance (CFE-DM), the Daniel K. Inouye Center for Asia-Pacific Security Studies (APCSS), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) research facility. An internship with USINDOPACOM offers an amazing opportunity to learn about all of these organizations.
My position was as a Visiting Fellow in the J372 office. The J372 is a sub-category of the J3 Operations directorate. The J372 office consists of Multinational Programs and Theater Security Cooperation Exercises. Multinational Programs, where I interned, consists of two programs: the Multinational Planning Augmentation Team (MPAT) and the Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI). While my internship was officially with GPOI, I was also able to work extensively with the MPAT. GPOI was created in 2004 as the U.S. contribution to the broader G8 Action Plan for Expanding Global Capability for Peace Support Operations because of the strategic importance of international peace operations to US national security. Increasing the capability of partner nations to conduct international peace operations was seen as a cost-effective way of increasing world stability and sharing the burden of conducting peace operations. To meet this objective, GPOI funds training, equipment, and facilities building capabilities worldwide for USINDOPACOM’s twelve regional partners. GPOI is unique in that it is a US State Department program that is executed by the US Department of Defense to build capacity of partners to train and sustain peacekeepers who deploy to United Nations missions around the world.
Like the GPOI team, the MPAT works to improve the capabilities of multinational partner forces. Unlike the GPOI team the MPAT is regionally focused and was an initiative developed by the regional Chiefs of Defense in 2000 with the goal to facilitate the rapid and effective establishment and/or augmentation of a multinational force headquarters (MNF HQ) and/or other multinational military and civil-military coordination mechanisms. In order to improve the ability of regional multinational response to natural disasters, humanitarian crises, and any other operation in USINDOPACOM’s area of responsibility that fall short of war, they have developed the Multinational Forces Standing Operating Procedures (MNF SOP) and conduct the TEMPEST EXPRESS exercise. The MNF SOP is a living document that collects best practices, compiles and defines new terminology, and standardizes methods for all of these operations. Yearly MNF SOP conferences are conducted to update the document as well as create relationships between military planners and civilian organization leaders active in the region. These relationships are seen as added benefits that decrease response time when different organizations arrive to deal with a real-world crisis. The TEMPEST EXPRESS and other theater security cooperation exercises are where the planners try to “break” the MNF SOP. It is a scenario-based exercise that allows the planners to work together using the MNF SOP to deal with a simulated crisis. Flaws exposed by the TE exercise and from real world use are then compiled into the MNF SOP at the next conference.
Getting to attend the MNF SOP 20 conference in Wellington, New Zealand was undoubtedly the highlight of my internship. The conference sought to update and complete sections on Defensive Cyberspace Operations, Protections of Civilians, Logistics, Inter-agency Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Response, and the Glossary. I was assigned to the Glossary section which compiles new terminology, acronyms, and definitions from the other working group. This allowed me a great opportunity to see what every section was working on as well as meet experts from foreign governments, USAID, the IFRC and other NGOs, and different directorates of the US military. I was also asked to research options for a regional case study to include in the Inter-agency Cooperation section. This greatly increased my familiarity with multinational operations in USINDOPACOMs area of responsibility.
My background as a Special Forces Communications Sergeant has given me exposure to planning on the tactical level and this internship expanded that planning knowledge to include the operational and strategic level. My main projects working for the GPOI team was to create a spreadsheet that compiled the GPOI partner nations’ military force pledges to United Nations peacekeeping and identified the priorities for training programs location and subject. Creating the pledge tracker required research into all of the different types of military units that are sent to support UN missions. These included infantry, engineering, force headquarters support, medical, military police, reconnaissance, riverine, special forces, transportation and logistics units. For the MPAT I was assigned the task of incorporating the changes to the MNF SOP from the conference in New Zealand.
Oahu is a great place for recreation as well as professional development. The close relationship with my office was increased with participation in the MPAT fencing club and attendance of the MNF SOP 20 workshop. There are numerous hikes, beaches, and coral reefs that are great to explore with other interns in the program. The food is also unique due to the many cultural influences from Hawaii’s diverse immigrant population. Hawaiian poke is a personal favorite. Getting to know all of the great people in the office: Tak, Dan, Bernie, Joe, Bob, Bobby Ray, Murray, John, and Scott was a lot of fun. Additionally, getting to know all of the other interns from Texas A&M, University of San Diego, University of Hawaii, Johns Hopkins University, Stanford University and other schools was great as well. I want to especially thank Steven “Tak” Takekoshi, Crysti Woods, Dr. John Wood, Professor Robert Murrett, the Global Programs Coordinator at Maxwell, and Gerald B., and Daphna Cramer for their support during this experience.
Chris Tonsmeire completed his MAIR degree in December 2018.
This summer, I was fortunate to intern at Catalytic Communities, an advocacy NGO and think-tank based in Rio de Janeiro. The organization runs a variety of programs, but my internship was primarily focused on the Community Land Trust initiative being headed by the organization’s Executive Director. Catalytic Communities is dedicated to formulating networks of discussion between the informal and formal settlements of Rio, community mobilization, and a participatory and asset-based model of development.
The core focus of my internship was on the Community Land Trust (CLT) Initiative, which is a community-managed nonprofit organization that is established to provide permanent affordable housing and build community assets. My main role on this project was to draft materials for our planned workshops in August and to do research on the diverse application of the CLT model. My research on CLT case studies and their diverse application was published in an article for the NGO’s sister organization, “Rio on Watch” , which is a news source that profiles residents of informal settlements, informal settlement regularization efforts in Brazil, and local events in communities of interest. This research was imperative to my understanding of the applicability of the CLT model in Rio de Janeiro, as well as provided support for my education of other interns in my organization.
While I was mainly concerned with the development of the CLT Initiative in preparation for our August workshops, I was able to engage with interns completing a variety of projects. The most important of those being a study on evictions. I joined fellow interns on community visits to profile residents all over the city of Rio. These community visits were essential in helping me comprehend the effects of land speculation, post-Olympic development issues in Rio, and the failure of the government to provide essential services to its residents. In addition to these community visits, I attended community events. These community events were generally in the same communities that we profile or have the intent to profile. I emphasize these events as this enabled us as interns to see the residents of these informal settlements and strengthen our friendly relationships with them. It was also beneficial in simply getting to understand the culture of Rio.
Lastly, I took the time to explore Rio’s sprawling natural landscape. I went on several hikes and, of course, visited the beach. It’s amazing to be laying on the beach in Leme staring at the waves and seeing people rappel on the Sugar Loaf Mountain in the same frame. I also went on a trip to Sao Paulo. The main intent on that trip was to, of course, enjoy myself but it provided an important comparative experience to the function and systems of Rio de Janeiro.
My time in Rio was truly amazing. I am so lucky to have been working for a great organization like Catalytic Communities. I am grateful to have been a witness to a variety of social issues in Rio including community militarization, gentrification, and land speculation. I walk away from this experience with a confidence in what I want to accomplish professionally, one that I didn’t have before.
Victoria Fanibi is a graduate of Maxwell’s MAIR program. After completing her independent internship in Brazil, she finished her degree through Maxwell’s World Partner Program with Tsinghua University in Beijing.
For my summer semester, I participated in the Maxwell in DC program. While in DC, I interned for Fund For Peace (FFP), a non-profit organization that focuses on conflict reduction and violence prevention. FFP uses data analysis and risk assessment tools to provide information on violence, risks, and vulnerabilities around the world. The organization’s work focuses on conflict early warning responses, election violence prevention, capacity building, responsible business practices, and combating violent extremism.
While interning at Fund for Peace, I had the chance to be involved in different projects. For instance, I participated in a project on election violence prevention in Nigeria. During this project I conducted research on election violence using risk assessment tools and quantitative data. By analyzing the data from previous election years, the project attempted to understand trends of violence in order to predict strategies for the prevention of violence in the country’s next elections in 2019.
I also worked on a conflict early warning capacity building training for the African Development Bank. I collaborated in putting together a case study that would be used in the training of AfDB economists on how to face vulnerabilities and prevent violence in the African continent. In addition, I was also engaged in research projects on ICTs and Blockchains in Sub-Saharan Africa and GBV in small-scale mining.
My work at Fund For Peace was a very enriching experience that taught me more about conflict early warning prevention outside of academia. I got to experience how organizations use conflict resolution and violence prevention strategies to affect change. More so, I also gained valuable skills in using different types of methodologies and assessment tools to conduct substantive research. Overall, my internship at Fund For Peace was a valuable and educational opportunity that will contribute to my future career goals.
I spent this summer interning at the Department of Energy’s US Energy Information Administration, commonly known as EIA. I had applied to a general internship with the DOE, and was ultimately placed at EIA. Before the internship began, I had a limited knowledge of energy and was unfamiliar with the work EIA did. After interning at this organization, I can say was very lucky to have this experience.
I had a hunch that I would like working in energy and I was right. EIA primarily produces statistics, analyses and forecasts for the US energy market. However, my specific office – the Office of International Energy Analysis – publishes international energy statistics and conducts analyses on energy markets in foreign countries. As an intern, I had the opportunity to both work in statistics and perform analysis. With the help of full-time “feds,” I transformed data from other sources and analyzed it against ours. I also conducted my own analysis on the energy scenario in various countries. I learned an incredible amount and found my work fascinating. Energy markets are an interesting mix of economics, politics and science, with many moving parts. I also felt that the work I did was important.
Of all places in the energy sector, I feel fortunate to have landed at EIA. It is considered one of the premier sources of energy data in the world, and used by nearly everyone in the energy sector, including many people I have met in Washington. My coworkers are also exceptional people. EIA is an interesting mix of economists, scientists and international affairs specialists, many with PhDs. The depth of their knowledge of energy markets impresses me every day.
Finally, despite the fact that my coursework in energy had been limited prior to starting the internship, Maxwell and Syracuse prepared me well for the work I did. The three economics courses I took at Maxwell helped me to understand the dynamics of energy markets and prices, which I come across daily. Meanwhile, the Data Science course I took at the iSchool provided me with skills I utilized in some of my larger data projects. While energy is a new field for me, the skills I took from graduate school were highly applicable and practicing them on the job was a gratifying experience.
Ian Gottsfeld is a recent graduate of the MAIR program. He also interned at the U.S. Government Accountability Office during his final Fall Semester.
Kevin Oswald is a recent alumni of the Atlantis Transatlantic Dual Degree program, completing an MAIR degree from the Maxwell School and an MPP from the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. He also completed internships at the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Washington D.C. and Agora Energiewende in Berlin during his studies.
From March 29 to 31, 2018 I had the opportunity to participate in the European Student Conference (ESC) 2018 at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. ESC is a conference organized by European Horizons that brought together 100 undergraduate and graduate students from universities across the United States, Europe and Asia with distinguished academics and seasoned policy-makers in order to address some of the challenges confronting the European Union.Prior to the conference, students from different parts of the world and with different academic backgrounds, had been divided into groups, according to their knowledge and interests, in order to deal with the following challenges in six workshops related to: Energy, Technology, EU-China, Democracy, National Sovereignty and Security. Each group then made an effort to develop policy recommendations with regard to their topic and during the conference those proposals by the students were discussed with decision-makers and renowned academics. This year, ESC hosted representatives from business, politics and diplomacy, such as the former President of the European Parliament, Enrique Barón Crespo, as well as several academics from US universities.
As a student enrolled in the transatlantic ATLANTIS dual-degree Master program in International Relations and Public Policy offered by the Maxwell School and the Hertie School of Governance, I am particularly interested in foreign and security policy as well as in energy and climate policy. Therefore, I took part in the energy workshop and together with fellow students worked on the issue of the EU’s dependency on energy imports, particularly natural gas, in order to meet its demand. Given the fact that a high proportion of imports is concentrated among relatively few partners, the security of the EU’s natural gas supplies may be threatened. Our team provided a solid analysis of the status quo and presented several policy recommendations with the primary goals to diversify supply sources (new pipelines, interconnectors, LNG etc.) and to utilize soft tools, which, for instance, might require setting up an EU Energy Diplomacy Task Force to deal with delicate pipeline projects such as Nord Stream 2.
I was impressed with the expertise and dedication of our group and look forward to seeing our recommendations being published in the Review of European and Transatlantic Affairs, a journal that will be distributed to university libraries across Europe and the U.S., as well as to European decision-makers.
In sum, ESC 2018 has been a wonderful experience and I truly enjoyed the opportunity to work with fellow students that all have a passion for the EU. In addition, I hope to become part of the international ESC network that links thinkers and leaders from both sides of the Atlantic and beyond.
For those of you who follow graduate student adventures in The Stacks regularly, you may recognize my name from a former blog post regarding my time interning in Kathmandu, Nepal. My adventures in the Himalayas began back in May 2017, and were happily (if somewhat unexpectedly) extended through the Fall 2017 semester. As I write the second post documenting my experiences in Nepal, I am struck by the immense political transformations that have taken place in such a short period of time.
Nepal is currently undergoing a political transition to a federal system that is intended to redistribute power to local governments. Although the country has successfully held three rounds of local elections, it has begun to witness sparks of violence in the approach to provincial and federal elections. New large-scale political alliances have further demonstrated the high stakes for the country’s political parties.
The complexity of Nepal’s political, social, and cultural landscapes made the opportunity to delve deeper into the political transition extremely rewarding. As a program intern to The Asia Foundation, I observed the transition through a program funded by the Australian Government to support newly established subnational governments. My extended tenure allowed me to further engage gender equality and social inclusion initiatives within programmatic strategies; work as a primary editor to the program’s inception report; and contribute to the development of a monitoring, evaluation, and learning framework. While my initial months provided an excellent introduction to these spaces, engaging them in greater depth enriched my understanding and appreciation of the turbulence that follows long-term development initiatives.
At the completion of my internship, I walk away knowing that I will see Nepal again. This beautiful country has left its mark, thanks to the friendship of many Nepalis, the lights of the Tihar festival, piles of delicious momos, and days spent trekking in the Himalayas. It may be a cheesy sentiment, but as I contemplate my time in Kathmandu, I am reminded that it is not just us as Maxwell students who leave our mark on the cities we work in; these cities also make us as individuals greater, better, and more beautiful.
Rachel Penner was searching for a summer internship in 2015, when a staff member recommended that she connect with Beau Miller, a 2010 MPA graduate and the Executive Director of a development NGO in Nepal known as Aythos.
Beau was excited to take Rachel on board with Aythos to work on post-earthquake recovery. Upon arrival in Nepal, Rachel was thrust into the earthquake recovery efforts using her specialty in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) to serve devastated villagers outside of Kathmandu.
Two Maxwell students, Jeffrey Pu and Trace Carlson, followed in Rachel’s footsteps and interned at Aythos in 2017. As an MPA student, Jeff first had to complete the MPA Workshop with a team of fellow students for the U.S. Department of Justice designing a human rights and human dignity course for foreign police. After wrapping this project up, Jeff hopped on a plane to Nepal. Upon arrival, Aythos put Jeff to work doing program evaluation for one of their projects by designing and distributing a survey to local villagers. After two months working for Aythos, Jeff found himself taking another long haul flight to Berlin, where he is currently finishing his MPP at the Hertie School of Governance as part of the Atlantis Transatlantic Dual Degree Program.
Trace Carlson won a Foreign Languages and Area Studies Fellowship (FLAS) from the Moynihan Institute’s South Asia Center. With this fellowship, Trace journeyed to India to study Hindi, but was most interested in applying his academic knowledge to the field. After reaching out to Beau, Trace found himself heading to Nepal to conduct research on kiwi fruit agriculture for Aythos. Immediately, Trace found it very eye opening to compare the gap between research and field implementation. One had to be flexible and ready for anything. He once had to carry five kilograms of potatoes down a mountain for a village family, just because they asked him to.
On February 22, Beau, Rachel, Jeff, and Trace all came together on a Skype presentation for SU students interested in interning at Aythos. All agreed that it was one of the most fulfilling experiences of their lives and were completely humbled by the kindness and generosity of the people in Nepal. They fondly remembered backpacking into villages after encountering washed out roads—while dealing with leeches on the way—only to find countless cups of tea pushed on them upon arriving. While students spent about half their time in Kathmandu, they genuinely felt the impact of projects while working in the villages.
Maxwell’s partnership with Aythos fulfills the goal of professional degrees by creating graduates who are resilient and ready to enter a career upon graduation. According to Beau Miller, “If you can work in Nepal, you can work anywhere.”
Many MPA students have an international focus in their studies or pursue the joint MPA/MAIR degree. While the MPA degree is a one year intensive program, students do still have the opportunity to gain hands on experience working for international entities.
The MPA Workshop is a four week culminating experience, where students work on a team of three to six of their peers to complete a consulting project for a real world client. Clients range from local community organizations and municipal governments to international government agencies and non‑profit organizations. In 2017, seven of the twenty-one projects had a global focus. MPA project teams acted as consultants for the following clients and international projects.
Participants in the MPA Workshop were allowed to rank five projects from a list of twenty-eight. Projects with the least amount of student interest were dropped, then students were assigned to teams based off their project rankings. In 2017, 93% of students got to work on their first or second choice project. While not every student gets the exact project they desire, international projects are always available for MPA students wanting to take their degree global.
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.
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.