Category Archives: International Relations Alumni

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

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

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.

Internationally Focused Projects for MPA Students

While we mostly cover the exploits of MAIR students on this blog, many MPA students do international projects and go on to work in the global sphere. The MPA Workshop is the culminating course for MPA candidates, where students work on a team of their classmates as consultants for real world clients.

Every year a number of international projects are offered. This year MPA project teams are currently working with the following clients on projects affecting the international community.

Client Project
U.S. Department of Justice, The International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICIPTAP) Developing Monitoring and Evaluation Frameworks for DOJ/ICITAP
Refugee & Immigrant Self-Empowerment (RISE) RISE Strategic Plan
Global FoodBanking Network Critical analysis of current annual data sets collected from non-US partners
AtrocityWatch Creating version 2.0 of the AtrocityWatch Digital Strategy and Planning Roadmap

Last year, students worked with a number of organizations in Latin America in particular and with other organizations focusing on a diverse set of global issues.

Client Project
Ministry of Education of Peru (Ministerio de Educación del Perú), Public-Private Partnership Unit Proposed scheme for Public Private Partnerships in schools in Peru
World Vision Comparative Analysis of Humanitarian and Emergency Affairs Evaluation Policies
The Anticorruption Party of Honduras (Partido Anticorrupción de Honduras) (PAC) Support of the historic Honduras – Transparency International Agreement signed Oct. 6, 2014
Sense & Sustainability (S&S): Fresh Perspectives on Sustainable Development Developing a Fund Development and Nonprofit Management Strategy
U.S. Department of Justice, The International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICIPTAP) ICITAP’s Analytical Approach to Establishing the Conditions Necessary to Promote Sustainable Institutional Development
Amazon Conservation Association (ACA) Performance Monitoring of Research and Ecotourism Lodges in the Context of Conservation NGO Goals: the case of the Amazon Conservation Association
Somali Bantu Community Association of Onondaga County (Now known as Refugee & Immigrant Self-Empowerment (RISE)) SBCA Management Project

While there is no guarantee students will be placed on the exact project team that they would like, over 85% of students received their first or second project choices in the last two years. There are always a number of projects with an international focus for MPA students who want to use their public administration skills to address issues crossing borders.

Projects in Peru make an impact

The Amazon Conservation Association’s own Valerie Peterson said, “The students were extraordinary, and their work will have lasting impacts for years to come. We would look forward to working with your students again next year.” The project team delivered a final report to ACA outlining mechanisms to measure the performance of its ecotourism lodges in Peru. The project team consisted of Elena Borzenkova, Vivian Carandang-Smith, Anna Nicol, and Emily Simonson.

Utilizing remote conferencing, now MPA alumni Maria Laura Veramendi Garcia, Gonzalo Talavera Forlin, James Jarvis, and Gustavo Zanabria collaborated with the Public‑Private Partnership Unit of Peru’s Ministry of Education to create a report concerning recommendations to reduce the infrastructure gap in primary and secondary schools throughout the country.  The final report first analyzes educational PPPs in Australia, Brazil, Canada, and the UK, then makes 13 key recommendations catered specifically to the Peruvian situation. According to faculty advisor Dr. David Van Slyke, “The quality of the work is very high. The sponsor is very happy. What’s especially exciting is that Syracuse as a location is not a barrier. We were skyped in with all the ministerial officials in Lima. The capstone’s group is going to have impact. And, the sponsor got this project for free”.

Photo provided by Jenn Calder from Flickr. Creative Commons license. View the photo on Flickr.

Joshua Klein Contributes to ASEAN Business Outlook at AmCham Singapore

Joshua Klein graduated from the MAIR program with a focus on East Asia. He participated in the Singapore Summer Practicum during the summer of 2015 and took advantage of the SU Beijing Center where he took courses at Tsinghua University during the fall of 2015.

Annual ASEAN Business Outlook Survey

Annual ASEAN Business Outlook Survey

This summer, I accepted an internship at the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore. I worked for three months as a “Government Relations Intern,” for the Public Affairs and Government Relations team.

The American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore (AmCham) is the leading international business association in Singapore, with over 5,000 members representing 750 companies. American companies’ direct investment in Singapore exceeds and estimated US $180 billion.

The Government Affairs team represents member companies at the highest level of government in Singapore and Washington D.C. AmCham played a significant role in the development of the U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement and meets regularly with senior members of the Singapore Government to represent the interests of member corporations. In addition, the American Chamber of Commerce presents weekly lectures that continue to educate member companies about new business developments occurring in Singapore and ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations).

As a Government Relations intern, my main task was to draft and analyze data for AmCham’s annual publication, the ASEAN Business Outlook Survey (ABOS). This publication shares the insights of senior American business leaders across the ASEAN region. These respondents are charged with making investment decisions on behalf of their companies, offering a unique opportunity to shape the character of development across ASEAN.

My supervisor was very helpful in assisting in the meeting of member company executives and providing me with opportunities to attend many of the events AmCham hosts. Through these opportunities, I was able to network and expand my contact base in Southeast Asia. In addition, I was able to interact with other staff members in the office who were all great and welcoming. 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. It exposed the American business sentiment in ASEAN while providing me with the freedom to contribute to the annual ASEAN Business Outlook Survey publication.

Students interested in an internship at the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore should contact Gary LaPoint at gelapoin@syr.edu. He is a Professor of Supply Chain Practice in the Whitman School of Management and Head of the Singapore Summer Practicum. AmCham Singapore is interested in Maxwell interns annually.

Joshua Klein in front of AmCham Singapore logo

Maxwell students Joshua Klein and Gabriela Luciano at AmCham Singapore

Read the ASEAN Business Outlook Survey 2016>>

Networking with Alumni in D.C. and New York

Over the course of Spring break, Maxwell students had the great opportunity to visit various sites and attend coffee chats with alumni. They connected with people who worked at various organizations in Washington, DC and New York and learned a lot about opportunities in different fields. There is no doubt that this unique opportunity helped Maxwell students to  consolidate their careers.

Networking with Alumni in D.C. and New York

Maxwell alumnus David Bauer ’49 and the students he hosted on Roosevelt Island

Maxwell alumnus David Bauer ’49 and the students he hosted on Roosevelt Island

Excerpt:

Over the course of our spring break, approximately 60 members of our cohort traveled to Washington, D.C. and New York City to network and connect with Maxwell alumni who work in various professions in the public, private, and nonprofit fields.

The busy week’s networking festivities kicked off at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), an internationally-focused think tank in D.C. that the Maxwell School has a unique partnership with. Throughout the D.C. leg of the trip, current students had the opportunity to attend site visits and coffee chats with a variety of organizations that had a Maxwell connection. The Office of Personnel Management, the Brookings Institute, the Congressional Budget Office, the Department of Energy, the World Bank, and Booz Allen Hamilton are a just few names of the many site visits our cohort attended. A group of MPA students attended the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a think tank that considers the needs of low-income and disadvantaged individuals and families. The most valuable trip for me was visiting the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor, given its relevance to my interests in higher education and labor. After this visit, I was able to connect with a 2010 alumnus about a graduate summer fellowship opportunity starting in July. He even offered to connect me with the Fellow Coordinator and offered a recommendation.[…]

This article is published on the PAIA Insider blog.

Read the full article on the class’ activities>>

Students at the D.C. Public Schools site visit

Students at the D.C. Public Schools site visit

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MAIR students outside the Brookings Institution (Claudine Lim, Phoung Ha and Vahid Khatami from left to right)

MPA/MAIR student Vahid Khatami connecting with Maxwell staff

MPA/MAIR student Vahid Khatami (right) connecting with Maxwell staff Isaac Olson (center) and Dr. Ryan Williams (left)

Learn more about the Maxwell-in-Washington program

Hyeseul Hwang Does Cross Sectoral Work at IOM

Hyeseul Hwang wrote about her summer experience in Geneva last August. She has now graduated with an MAIR degree from the Maxwell School and a wealth of professional experience.

I arrived in Geneva at the end of the May to conduct my internship in International Organization for Migration (IOM) and to participate in the Geneva Summer Practicum. Since the start of my internship at IOM on June 1st, it is hard to believe that today is my last day of the internship! Time really flies.

During this summer, I have worked in the department of International Cooperation and Partnerships in IOM for two and a half months. I worked at supporting my supervisor, a migration policy officer. I was mainly in charge of supporting and following up with an interagency research project about a crisis related migration stocktaking exercise which targets eighteen agencies over thirty‑nine countries from all over the region. Also, I conducted my own research and wrote papers about the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), Global Migration Group (GMG)), and UN HABITAT III.

The other interesting activities that I have done during my internship in IOM are participating in various events and sessions that are going on inside and outside of IOM. Day by day, there are many learning sessions and events within IOM regarding the current migration crisis, such as the Mediterranean and Syrian crises. Also, I have participated in many IOM intern events with professional talks from the field of emergency affairs, shelter assistance, and many other topics. In addition to that, participating in the ECOSOC Humanitarian Affairs Segment was an amazing opportunity for me to actually see how many UN organizations and other humanitarian affairs agencies such as ICRC are working for humanitarian affairs in more collaborative ways.

In addition to my internship, the Geneva Summer Practicum course provided valuable opportunities for me to gain more understanding about work within other international actors in Geneva via guest speakers from UNHCR, Permanent Mission, Center for Human Dialogue and others. Dr. Werner Schleiffer’s profound knowledge about the UN system and class debates truly nurtured my knowledge and sense of working in the field of humanitarian affairs. Moreover, class field trips to Bern, Luzern, Zermatt, Basel, and Zurich gave me a greater understanding about living in Switzerland. I am very happy that I have spent my amazing summer in Geneva through my internship, course with the Dr. Schleiffer and awesome classmates.

Hyeseul Hwang in front of Lake Geneva

Hyeseul Hwang in front of Lake Geneva

Maxwell in the World

Syracuse University Well Represented in Kabul.

Note the flag on the right.  Source: GAO Management News April 7 – 18, 2014

Earlier this year at the MAIR orientation, we were happy to host a few excellent alumni of the program to talk about their journey in the international affairs arena.

While there, one of the alumni, Mr. Omar Qudrat (JD/PD 2010) spoke about one of the truisms of the program.  Namely that in most organizations, both in Washington and worldwide, there are either Maxwell alumni or Syracuse alumni.  Thus, I thought I would share two interesting stories for an early Fall Friday.  Continue reading