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Sarah White Harnesses Mobile Health Interventions with WHO

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

Sarah White – WHO, Non-Communicable Diseases department

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sarah White in front of the Matterhorn.

Sarah White in front of the Matterhorn.

Professional Travel(lers)

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

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

Professional Travel(lers)

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

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

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

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

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

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

2) You always have less time than you think

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

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

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

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

Despite this, make sure you:

3) Plan your days well

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

 

 

 

Clearing a Hurdle

Clearing the Main Hurdle

Picture of Track Hurdle

Not these Hurdles

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

What is Security Clearance?

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

What is the Goal of the Process?

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

What does the Process Look Like?

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

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

How Long Does It Take?

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

Are Clearances Transferable?

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

 

Do I need to take a polygraph test?

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

A Boren Fellowship is Never Bor[en]ing.

MAIR Student Perry Copes in Tajikistan

MAIR Student Perry Copes II in Tajikistan

Each year, the PAIA department is lucky enough to have a few successful Boren Applicants.  In addition to Darci Pauser, the department counts Mr. Perry Copes (MAIR ’15) among its Boren Fellows.  Perry is currently spending the year in Dushanbe, Tajikistan improving his Persian skills.  He gave the following interview to  Syracuse University’s Center for Fellowship and Scholarship Advising.

Perry Copes II, from Philadelphia, PA, is earning his MA in International Relations from the Maxwell School with a focus on Global Security and Emerging Markets. In 2013, he was selected for the Critical Language Scholarship Program to study Persian in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. While at SU, he worked as a graduate assistant for the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism (INSCT). He was recently selected as a Boren Fellow for the 2014-15 year and will be continuing his study of Persian in Tajikistan from September to May 2015. Perry has agreed to check in with us periodically for updates on his experience!

1-How did you become interested in this language and region of the world?

I’ve always had an interest international affairs and U.S. Foreign Policy. Before coming to Maxwell I interned in Washington D.C. at a public policy think tank focusing on international security. I developed an affinity towards my research dealing with Iran and Afghanistan, which culminated in my decision to study Persian since it is the language of this region.  Iran has a rich history and beautiful culture that has been disproportionately represented in western media. I wanted to learn more about this country and region outside the lens of traditional security matters. Persian is a “critical language” and by developing this linguistic proficiency, along with a regional expertise, I will be in better position to pursue a career with the U.S. Government.

2-You spent 2 months in Tajikistan in summer 2013. What are your thoughts as you settle in for 9 months of language study and cultural immersion?

I’ve been blessed with an amazing opportunity to dedicate an academic year to studying this language and culture. I feel much more prepared this time around because of my CLS experience in 2013. I know what my weaknesses are as a language student and plan to address them from the moment I step off the plane. Seeing how my language skills improved with just one summer gives me great confidence in what my abilities will be at the end of 9 months. As a student it’s often difficult to devote sufficient time to language study when you have other obligations due to a full course load; I can finally study Persian without the dark cloud of an economics test looming over my head! I know this will be a challenging experience but the gains in language proficiency and cultural expertise will be invaluable in my career. Lastly, I’ve heard Tajikistan can be a little rough in the winter, but that’s nothing that Syracuse hasn’t already prepared me for.

Perry Copes with two young Tajik citizens

Perry Copes II (MAIR ’15) with two young Tajik citizens

3-What will a typical day look like?

It depends on your personal study routine. I usually wake up around 7AM to review flashcards and eat breakfast. Speaking with my host family at the breakfast table serves as a warm-up for the day. I have class 4 hours per day Monday-Friday. When classes are over I rest for a little before starting my homework. Some days I will go to lunch with my language partner to practice speaking. I try to go out and interact with the community as much as I can.  Being exposed to the informal speech and colloquialisms in the community is a useful complement to the formal speech I am exposed to in the classroom. At the end of the day I go home and eat dinner with my host family. This is another chance to practice speaking before preparing for the next day. On the weekends I have down time where I go on cultural excursions, visit other cities in Tajikistan, or go to the bazaars to practice my bargaining skills.

4-Who is an interesting person that you’ve met?

I met the U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan at my briefing in the embassy.  At the embassy’s 4th of July BBQ I met other expats and employees of the U.S. Foreign Service community. It’s always interesting to hear the different backgrounds represented from across the U.S.

5-What are your hopes and goals for this year?

My main goal is to improve my Persian skills as much as possible. Additionally, I want to become more culturally engaged through my interactions. Staying for an academic year allows me to be a cultural ambassador and represent the diversity that makes the U.S. great. Representing myself both as an American and as a minority in America, I will be able to introduce my background to a society that is largely unfamiliar. It’s this cultural exchange that will help break down the stereotypes people may have about parts of the world they have never been to.

6-Please share any advice for students interested in either the CLS or Boren programs.

First, really take the time to think about why you want these awards. CLS and/or Boren are very competitive and having this understanding will make your application essays strong. At Syracuse you have great resources at your disposal to put your best application forward. Reach out to faculty for their regional/cultural expertise, the SU Writing Center, and the Center for Fellowship and Scholarship Advising. Second, be sure to highlight how the skills gained from CLS and/or Boren are directly transferrable to your future careers. Be assertive and make a strong case for why you should receive this award. Third, do not wait until the last minute, and proofread your essays 2471943576987 times. Lastly, have an open mind. Long-term immersion can be challenging and your experience will likely be much different than what you are used to in the U.S. You must realize that at the end of the day you are there to experience their culture and not the other way around. Embracing these differences will give you perspectives that produce lifelong benefits.

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

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

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

Amrou Kotb (PA/IR ’13) – American University in Cairo

Editor’s Note: The following entry was written in the spring of 2014, during Amrou Kotb’s studies at the American University in Cairo through Syracuse University’s World Partner Programs.  Since completing his studies, Amrou has written extensively on American foreign policy in the region and the domestic political environment in Cairo

Continue reading

On the Ground in Ghana with the International Organization for Migration

2014 IOM Ghana summer interns

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

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

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

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

The United Nations Counterterrorism Committee was established by the UN Security Council

United Nations Security Council Chamber. Photo Source: Wikipedia

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

Julia Schulteis (MAIR ’14) – UNICEF Corporate Social Responsibility Unit

Ms. Julia Schulteis is a graduate student in International Relations.  During the fall semester she is serving as a consultant for UNICEF’s Corporate Social Responsibility office.

I was uneasy about accepting an internship in Geneva, Switzerland. Prior to Maxwell, I had spent two years living in rural Thailand working in community development as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I loved my time working outside of an office, living with people of different cultures and learning about development from the very people whose lives are impacted. However, in returning to school for a Masters in International Relations, I knew it would be important to see the other side, the work that happens from headquarters. I am grateful now that my hesitations did not stop me from spending the summer in Geneva, along with seven other Maxwell students, as it proved an invaluable learning opportunity. Continue reading