Category Archives: International Relations Alumni

Zeyar Win, Advocacy and Policy at Amnesty International

I participated in the Maxwell-in-Washington Global Security and Development program during my Fall Semester and had the opportunity to do my internship at Amnesty International USA (AIUSA), the Nobel Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with over 7 million members and supporters worldwide. This internship provided me the opportunity to merge two things I’m strongly interested in: advocacy and policy briefing. I have been interested in advocacy work, so this was great opportunity for me to work there.

My off-campus experience working with AIUSA in Washington D.C. was terrific and fruitful. It was also related to my previous activism experience in Burma. I fulfilled three main tasks at AIUSA: 1) Tracked the United States Policies on human rights issues in the Asia-Pacific region including Myanmar, and wrote the bi-monthly Asia Policy Brief; 2) Assisted in petitions and campaigns of AIUSA, including logistical support for program activities and events; 3) Attended the congressional hearings and panel discussions on the Rohingya crisis as a fellow of AIUSA. I also enrolled in two classes: Statecraft and Smart Power, and Global Sustainability and Development, at Maxwell in D.C.

This internship gave me the opportunities to use the advocacy tools that I learned theoretically from classes. It also improved my communication and presentation skills and strengthened my professional ability to work in a multicultural environment. On November 10th, I attended the regional conference of Amnesty International at the University of Denver in Colorado as a panel speaker, where I discussed the Rohingya refugee crisis and possible options to find a sustainable solution. I gave an interview with Voice of America (VOA) about my personal experience of institutionalized segregation against the Rohingya community in Burma. In addition, I attended many panel discussions and congressional hearings on human rights violation issues. I was also invited to discuss Rohingya problems with the Chief Officer of the Burma desk at the State Department in Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. is a vibrant professional environment for me to improve my knowledge about social work and to broaden my network. I usually joined Maxwell alumni gatherings in Washington, D.C. Those gathering were helpful for me because we shared knowledge and information with each other and, sometimes, discussed our plans, internship and job opportunities.

Zeyar Win (right) at the Amnesty International Regional Conference in Denver

Zeyar Win is a graduate of Maxwell’s MAIR program. He previously interned at VOA and now works at the International Republican Institute.

MAIR Program at the Maxwell School

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Zeyar Win Assists VOA with Rohingya Issues

Ivan Ponomarev Looks at Threats Inside Aviation

I spent this fall in Washington D.C. as part of the Maxwell-in-Washington program. After spending a wonderful summer here, I had decided to continue my studies here this past fall. It was important for me to get the most out of my final semester in the program, and so I took two classes and participated in an internship as well.

My internship was at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), which is a research center at the University of Maryland. It focuses its studies on the causes and consequences of terrorism, as well as on national and international responses to terrorist groups and activities. START conducts extensive firsthand and secondhand research and works with vast quantities of data, as evidenced by its Global Terrorism Database (GTD) which it describes on its website as “the most comprehensive unclassified data base on terrorist events in the world.”

Ivan Ponomarev at START

More specifically, I have been part of the Unconventional Weapons and Technology (UWT) division. This division studies terrorist use or potential use of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons. The project that I have been working on is the Aviation Insider Threat project, which is working on the development of the Cargo Aviation Insider Threat Assessment Tool (CAITAT) to help detect vulnerabilities within the air cargo supply chain which may potentially be exploited by insiders looking to commit illicit or terrorist activities. My tasks have included, but have not been limited to, conducting research on air cargo supply chains and potential vulnerabilities within them, conducting red-teaming exercises with CAITAT to help refine it before it is finalized in December, and assisting with the preparation and editing of
CAITAT training materials.

I am eternally grateful for the wonderful opportunities that I had this fall, as it was certainly one to remember. This has been quite a unique experience for me, as my previous two internships were very different from this one, and I have learned a great deal about national security and counterterrorism. I will always look back at this fall as an important building block in the person that I will become and am beyond excited to find out what lies ahead in my future.

Ivan Ponomarev is a recent MAIR graduate. He also interned at Nonviolence International and the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy in DC.

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Ivan Ponomarev Wastes No Time with Two Internships in DC

Michelle Herr Helps Presidential Appointees Become Ready to Govern

I spent my time at the Partnership for Public Service in the organization’s Center for Presidential Transition. Launched in 2016, the Center’s purpose is to support the safe and effective transition of power from one administration to the next. It does this by developing tools, sharing best practices and connecting transition subject matter experts to inform transition team planning, and supporting the outgoing administration and federal agencies in managing their part of this transition. The Center also keeps track of issues that impact how an administration might execute its agenda, focuses on federal management issues and provides guidance for Congress, presidential candidates, and senior political appointees to lead and manage government. My responsibilities included researching and analyzing federal management issues, assisting with research about presidential transitions, and supporting the coordination and execution of Partnership events.

Within the Center for Presidential Transition is the Ready to Govern program. Ready to Govern assists the presidential appointees in navigating the transition process, engages Congress and promotes presidential transition reforms, develops management recommendations to address government’s operational challenges, and trains political appointees to lead effectively in their new positions. Over the course of my internship, I helped develop a new training module for political appointees. The module was piloted twice to a small group of advisors and current presidential appointees to ensure that the content is engaging, impactful, and strategic.

Lastly, the Center is housed within the Partnership’s Government Affairs team in the organization. During my internship, I had the opportunity to visit with congressional staff and members of Congress to talk about the Partnership’s priorities and what role Congress can play in transforming government.

One of the highlights of my internship was attending the annual Service to America Medals gala, referred to as Sammies. The Partnership for Public Service honors outstanding workers in the federal government who are nominated by their peers. In all, the event recognized nine award winners out of 28 nominees surrounded by top government officials, private-sector partners of the organization, the Partnership’s board members, and the families of the award-winners. This year, the Partnership presented the first Spirit of Service Award to Jeff Bezos to honor individuals in the private sector who are making a positive difference in government. Sammies was a great experience to be a part of – it is organized and run entirely in-house by the Partnership and accurately honors the spirit of public service.

Michelle Herr (4th from left), Maxwell Dean David Van Slyke (2nd from left), and Maxwell Faculty Sean O’Keefe (far right) at the Sammies

My time at the Partnership was incredibly rewarding. I learned about critical issues facing the federal government, the amazing things people in government are doing, and leading strategies and methods to mitigate the challenges government experiences.

Michelle Herr is an alum of the MPA/MAIR program. She currently works at Deloitte.

Michelle Herr (top left) with fellow interns

MPA/MAIR Program at the Maxwell School

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Internationally Focused Projects for MPA Students, 2018

While MAIR students participate in off-campus internships and global programs, the Maxwell School’s MPA Workshop gives MPA students the chance to work as consultants for a real world client on a team of their peers. Many of these projects work with international entities or focus on serving international communities.

While the number of international projects varies from year to year, MPA students always have a chance to further hone their professional skills with a project to add to their portfolio. In 2018, MPA and joint MPA students worked with the following clients with a global perspective.

Client Project
Global FoodBanking Network Emerging Markets – Food Systems Analysis
Hopeprint Empowering Resettled Refugees to Thrive
InterFaith Works of Central New York Qualitative and Quantitative research report concerning economic and workforce issues facing low-income immigrants (including refugees, migrants and immigrants)
RAND Corporation, National Security Research Division North Korea Strategy for Security on the Future of the Korean Peninsula
RAND Corporation, National Security Research Division Middle Eastern Rivalries and the Future of the Region
Refugee & Immigrant Self-Empowerment Assessment of RISE monitoring and evaluation procedures
U.S. Department of Justice, International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program A Pilot Community Policing/Community Prosecution Project for Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism in Kenya
United Nations Office for Project Services, UNOPS Ghana Suppliers Sustainability Initiative

For the 2018 MPA Workshop, students used ranked preference voting to narrow a larger list of projects down to 18. Then, students ranked their top four projects from the final list. These rankings were used to assign students to teams according to their project rankings. This method saw 97% of students receive their first or second choice project. MPA students were able to add a global perspective to their degree with these projects, further enhanced by taking a variety of international relations courses at Maxwell.

RAND and IDA project teams traveling to Washington, DC to deliver presentations on their projects.
Project teams arrive at RAND to give presentations.
RAND and IDA Team Members, 2018. Left to Right: Andrew Sander, Max Tucker, Matt Heggy, Sam Friedman, Tim Schmidt, Ryan Pensyl, Ryan Gross, Phil Porter, Taylor Hart-McGonigle, Chih Yun Huang, Minyang Wang, James Heller

Featured image of the Globe by Andrew Smith from Flickr. Creative Commons.

Internationally Focused Projects for MPA Students, 2017

Internationally Focused Projects for MPA Students, 2016 & 2015

Jacob Wisenbaker, National Security Innovations at MD5

Tucked away amid the hustle and bustle of Crystal City, Virginia is a small team of men and women who are working to completely transform the Department of Defense. Created in October of 2016, MD5 is a program office within the Office of the Secretary of Defense tasked with creating new communities of innovators to solve national security problems. We do this by partnering with those individuals who are typically not associated with the DoD. These include students, entrepreneurs, university professors, startup companies, venture capital communities, city governments, and private accelerators/incubators. We collaborate with our above partners to bring solutions to the national security problems of our customer, the DoD.MD5 is organized into three distinct yet integrated portfolios: Education, Collaboration and Acceleration. The Education portfolio is tasked with building a DoD workforce that has strong innovation skills and an improved problem framing capacity. The Collaboration portfolio helps to develop the novel solutions that are put forth by our partners in addition to creating new communities of innovators. Lastly, the Acceleration portfolio works to improve the viability of dual-use ventures and solutions for defense market entry.

As an Innovation Fellow with MD5 I have had the opportunity to work at the headquarters located in Crystal City. My tasks over the summer have ranged from writing policy recommendations for how the program conducts itself to meeting with various DoD entities to better understand the problems they face. I have been tasked with constantly seeking more innovative and streamlined ways in which MD5 can complete its mission. By enabling better communication processes, developing publications, consolidating and distributing workflows, and optimizing MD5’s vast troves of data, I am helping MD5 team members to better serve our customer.

Before coming to work for MD5 I had little understanding as to what innovation truly meant. Many times the word is used as a buzzword that few people efficiently know how to employ. MD5 actualizes this abstract concept by teaching hard skills relating to Human Centered Design (HCD), Lean Launch Pad (LLP), Mission Model Canvas (MMC), and Minimum Viable Product (MVP). With these skills the DoD will undoubtedly hold its competitive edge in the 21st century.

Jacob Wisenbaker is a recent graduate of the MAIR program.

Jacob Wisenbaker

MAIR Program at the Maxwell School

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Carol Tojeiro, Doing Business at World Bank

This summer I had the opportunity to join the Doing Business department at the World Bank. Doing Business is an annual flagship report which measures business regulation in 190 economies. Each economy is ranked according to 11 sets of indicators. There are combined into an overall “ease of doing business” ranking.

Read the Report: http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/reports/global-reports/doing-business-2019

I was part of the Registering Property indicator, where I worked with my team to measure the time, costs, and procedures needed to conduct a transfer of property between two local parties. We closely followed the Doing Business methodology, which you can read more about on http://www.doingbusiness.org/methodology.

Working in the Doing Business department was a truly rewarding experience. It did not only enhance my communication and analytical skills but also taught me about the strategies and components that go behind a ranking report. The working environment was also very international, which made me feel very welcome and taught me about other working cultures.

Carol Tojeiro at World Bank

MAIR/MAECN Program at the Maxwell School

Maxwell-in-Washington Program

Carol Tojeiro Featured in Cornell Policy Review

Carol Tojeiro at the UN Migration Agency in Ghana

Jennifer Valdez Assists Training at USCIS in LA

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.

Jennifer Valdez (left) with the Congressional Leads at Rep. Linda Sanchez 16th Annual Seniors Fair. August 10th, 2018, Congressional Outreach event

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.

July 24th, 2018. Oath Ceremony at the Los Angeles Staple Center. Approximately 10,000 applicants became citizens that day.
Jennifer Valdez at USCIS in Los Angeles

MPA/MAIR Program at the Maxwell School

Chris Tonsmeire, Peace Operations Initiative at DOD

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.

Seal of USINDOPACOM

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.

USINDOPACOM Area of Command

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.

Chris Tonsmeire in Hawaii

MAIR Program at the Maxwell School

Victoria Fanibi Works on Community Housing in Brazil

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.

At the very top of Santa Teresa. On my way to a community visit. Rio is a dense, complicated, and beautiful city

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 (back row, far right, red bandana) and Catalytic Communities’ crew visiting Barrinha on the third day of their CLT workshops in August

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.

MAIR Program at the Maxwell School

Tsinghua University, World Partner Program

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Giovanna de Miranda, Preventing Violence at FFP

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.

Giovanna (front, center) with fellow interns

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.

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