My fall semester in D.C. was busy, but incredibly rewarding. Between interning full-time, taking twelve hours of classes, three of which was language study, and finding time to enjoy all that D.C. has to offer, I was busy to say the least. I spent the fall semester interning for the Fund for Peace, an NGO that focuses on conflict research and mitigation activities around the world. The Fund for Peace is most well known for their prolific Fragile States Index. However, I did not work on the Fragile States Index. I worked on a USAID-funded project that sought to develop early warning conflict systems for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The scope of the work is what drew me to the Fund for Peace and to decline other internship opportunities.
For the project, we conducted months-long desktop research on every country in ECOWAS and wrote a national-level report detailing specific indicators and sub-indicators in each country that could contribute to the outbreak of conflict. The reports were then analyzed to understand the major issues in each country so that we could develop a list of stakeholders to interview in each country. Unfortunately, I did not get to go on any field visits for the stakeholder interviews. The transcripts and other data collected from the field visits were culled for pertinent information to either corroborate the research or edit aspects we had previously misinterpreted to better reflect the situation on the ground. The stakeholder interviews occurred in different states or provinces around each country and helped inform our research on the hyperlocal issues. The collective voice of stakeholders and the issues they faced were used to write a sub-national report for nearly every state, province, or region in every ECOWAS country. The national level report was further edited and the sub-national level reports were added to it, as well as other data packets and analyses to comprise the final report.
Carol Tojeiro is a joint MAIR/MAECN student who will complete a Master of Arts in International Relations and a Master of Arts in Economics. She will be completing an internship at the Organization of American States in Washington, DC this fall.
This summer, I had the opportunity to intern abroad with IOM, the UN Migration Agency, in Ghana. My decision to pursue an internship abroad was to gain practical field experience with an international organization in a development context. During my internship, I had the opportunity to work on migration and child trafficking related issues, and to travel to different regions of the country.
Following the first week of orientation, along with other SU interns, we travelled to the Brong Ahafo region where we interviewed migrants who returned from Libya, Spain, Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal, and Algeria. They shared with us the hardships they faced when travelling irregularly, which we later narrated in the iamamigrant.org Campaign. This campaign, spearheaded by IOM, aims to promote positive perceptions of migrants and to combat xenophobia. During the following weeks, we also interviewed potential migrants to learn about their own perceptions and we participated in the Safe Migration sensitization campaigns conducted by IOM and Ghana’s Immigration Service.
During the second half of the internship, we travelled to the Volta region to observe module rollouts and gather visibility materials of the Child Protection and Child Trafficking Prevention Campaign. This campaign, funded by UNICEF and implemented by IOM, educates community members on how to raise a child, about children’s rights, and on the importance of investing in their future. It also aims to reduce child trafficking in the region, given that children are often sold to fishermen when families find themselves in destitute situations.
Overall, it has been a rewarding experience which has provided me with essential skills to pursue a career in the humanitarian field. My most memorable experiences were visiting the Egyeikrom Refugee Camp, the slave castle in Cape Coast, interviewing returnees, and the traditional dances performed by the school children in several of the Volta communities.
Sam Connors is a MAIR student on track to graduate this semester. His interests are in Africa, migration, aid, and development, which is why he took part in the Survey of Current Issues In African Migration program during the summer of 2016.
Considering this was my first time traveling out of the United States, my summer spent in Ghana was unlike anything I have previously experienced. Interning with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) was not only an opportunity for me to test my professional ability in a new environment, but a chance to explore the dynamics of migration – the focus of my studies.
The IOM program in Ghana was an ideal fit for me due to my interest in migration but also considering my desire to gain field work experience with an IO. I was able to gain a comprehensive understanding of working as an expat in both the field and capital city of another country, splitting my time with a month in the field and a month in the IOM office in Accra. Another Maxwell student, Emily Hoerner, has captured our experience in Accra well in a previous PAIA blog entry, and I suggest learning of that portion from her entry.
My time spent in the field was working with IOM’s counter trafficking department in the Ho West district, 3 hours north of Accra. This time was without a doubt the most interesting and impacting facet of the program for me. Not only was I able to participate with the IOM on one of their projects, I was also given a stipend along with my fellow Syracuse students to design a small aid project of our own in the region.
The IOM counter trafficking project was targeted at preventing the selling and trafficking of children in the Volta region of Ghana. This effort took the five of us to five different rural communities in the surrounding area – though we resided in one community (Dodome Tsikor) for the month. Along with local government officials, we would introduce a program designed to educate these communities concerning the rights of a child and perils of trafficking. This introduction was ceremoniously celebrated with a painting by the whole community – the tree of life – as a symbol of the community’s commitment to protect their children.
It is not possible to fit the sheer volume of information and lessons I gathered during my time in Ghana in one blog post. It is not possible for me to quantify the personal and professional growth I experienced working for an IO in a foreign country. The most important professional lesson I gathered is the simple yet oft underappreciated lesson of – communicate, communicate, communicate. The most lasting personal lesson I found reinforced in Ghana is of similar characteristics – live with love and understanding will follow.
Emily Hoerner used her previous experience in the non-profit sector to contribute to IOM Ghana’s mission through the Survey of Current Issues in African Migration global program. This program gives students experience doing field work for a UN agency.
As a joint-degree MPA/MAIR, my first year at Maxwell has been a whirlwind. Without a doubt, the most rewarding part of my Maxwell experience so far has been the two months I spent interning with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Accra, Ghana this summer.
I was drawn to IOM’s Ghana program because it offered me the opportunity to work on the ground with a respected international organization. I wasn’t disappointed. After a week of cultural and professional orientation to Ghana and IOM, I spent four weeks working with IOM’s Assisted Voluntary Return & Reintegration (AVRR) team. The AVRR program aims to help migrants who have left Ghana and wish to return, providing them with reintegration assistance like accommodation or support if they wish to start micro-businesses.
My time with the AVRR team was spent primarily working on their reintegration database. I looked at trends and best practices from other IOM missions’ AVRR databases, and suggested improvements to the system the Ghanaian AVRR team was currently using. I then worked with a member of the AVRR team to re-build their database from the ground up, in the hope that this new framework would allow them to capture, input, and report out on migration and reintegration data more effectively and efficiently. When the database was complete, I also performed some trend analysis for the team on their migration data from the past five years, creating charts and graphs from the data that the team could use for informational one-pagers about the AVRR program.
The final two weeks of my internship were spent doing a bit more fieldwork: traveling in and around the greater Accra region to speak with beneficiaries of the AVRR program. This was, by far, my favorite part of the internship. Though I knew the database work I completed was important, having the opportunity to speak one-on-one with AVRR beneficiaries put a truly human face on the program. Some of the beneficiaries I spoke with were quieter or more reserved than others, but I loved having the chance to speak with these people and hear their stories of hardship, perseverance, and sometimes triumph.
Overall, my internship with IOM Ghana’s AVRR team was a fantastic introduction into the world of international development, and what it is like to work in a country office of a complex international organization. My time with IOM was replete with frustrations, challenges, and opportunities for both personal and professional growth. Above all, my internship solidified my desire to work in the complicated, frustrating, and rewarding field of international development.
Kara Coughlin is a joint MPA/MAIR student who interned at the IOM in Geneva, Switzerland during her summer semester and in Pretoria, South Africa during her fall semester.
This summer I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to intern for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in their headquarters office in Geneva, Switzerland. I worked within the IOM Development Fund (IDF) on project development, monitoring, and evaluation. The goal of IDF is to provide “seed” money to governments in developing countries for projects that build capacity to better manage migration in the future. These projects focus on developing policy frameworks, training government officials, building infrastructure, raising awareness, and developing guidelines and manuals to better protect migrants and enhance governments’ ability to manage migration in a humane and orderly manner.
Working with the IDF team was an incredible learning experience for me. IDF projects cover a wide variety of migration thematic areas and are implemented in IOM country offices all over the world. As a result, I was able to learn about key migration issues in each region of the world and be in constant contact with IOM staff members from all different country offices. My role was to assist country offices in developing project proposals, as well as edit and review interim reports, final reports, and extension requests. Through these tasks I was able to gain a deeper understanding of how projects are monitored and evaluated, and the importance of designing projects with well thought out indicators.
In addition to reviewing reports, I conducted a review of completed IDF projects that focused on the prevention of human trafficking. The goal of this review was to evaluate methods used for project development and implementation to better inform IDF on how counter-trafficking related projects can be more sustainable. Sustainability is a key factor for IDF and refers to how well governments and relevant stakeholders maintain project outcomes once the IDF funding period is completed. To assess sustainability, I developed a survey that was sent to each country office that implemented one of the 18 counter-trafficking projects being reviewed. I analyzed the data from the surveys and wrote an in-depth report outlining the project characteristics that led to the greatest level of outcome sustainability, as well as the main challenges that these projects faced in maintaining outcomes. Through this project I was able to develop a better understanding of project evaluation and obtain valuable insight into the strengths and weaknesses of methods used to prevent human trafficking.
Interning at the IOM in Geneva gave me the opportunity to use the skills I learned from my courses at Maxwell and gain indispensible knowledge regarding the phases of project development. Through this experience, I was able to seek out another internship opportunity with IOM for the fall semester and am currently in Pretoria, South Africa interning at the IOM Regional Office for Southern Africa. I am very grateful for Global Programs Award for supporting me in these endeavors. These experiences have been pivotal to my educational goals and have given me the practical skills needed to be successful when entering the workforce.
Not only has Justin Gradek completed research in Uganda, but he has further interned in Washington, DC at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, International Affairs Office and the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He is a joint MAIR/ECON student who will graduate with two degrees and a wealth of experience.
This year I applied for and won a research grant from the Maxwell African Scholars Union to further pursue my research interests on the economics of healthcare delivery in East Africa. I had been working on a project to analyze the distribution and allocation of budget resources to the healthcare sector in Uganda when I was unable to locate the data needed for such a project. This challenge led to designing a research trip to collect the data in-person from ministries which curate the national data sets I was looking for.
I arranged to work from Makerere University as a visiting researcher while I attended meetings at ministries around Kampala, the capital of Uganda, to collect the data. I wanted to collect budgetary and healthcare outcome data to better understand the mechanisms by which resources are distributed. The data would need to be anonymized and disaggregated by region, and where possible disaggregated by district.
Designing and following through with this plan required extensive personal interaction. I worked with Maxwell to set goals, form a research proposal, and gain initial contacts for the trip. I worked with the dean of the school of Economics at Makerere University to set up meetings with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Finance Planning and Economic Development to gather the necessary data. All of these steps contributed to the ultimate outcomes of the trip.
In the end this was a rich experience which required the use of diverse skills including clear communication, active listening, problem solving, and navigation of a foreign system. Using these skills effectively resulted in the collection of clean and clear datasets which were very valuable for my research.
The experience was rich and interesting. Over the course of the project I made good contacts with people researching similar topics both in Uganda and in other countries. I explored some of the local cuisine and culture in Kampala between my official meetings. Most of all I left Uganda with more questions than when I arrived, suggesting that the whole experience was a profound learning opportunity to try something completely new and formative as part of my broader Maxwell education.
Brittany Renner is currently interning and studying in Washington, DC as part of the Maxwell-in-Washington program. She is a MAIR student in the Public Administration and International Affairs Department at the Maxwell School.
This Summer I completed the Geneva Practicum in Geneva, Switzerland. Even though I knew I wanted to do this program before I got into the Maxwell School, I learned so much more than I could have ever expected in the three months that I was there.
I received an internship position in the Director General’s Office of the International Organization for Migration under the supervision of the Senior Regional Advisor for Sub‑Saharan Africa. I spent my weeks at the IOM doing substantial work, including conducting independent research, attending United Nations conferences, and meeting with country ambassadors. My independent research focused on analyzing African visa policies and their economic and social impacts on African migrants and potential investors. It was eye-opening to work for migrants’ rights, and it was an opportunity to learn more about my region of focus. I even had the chance to present my research at an internal IOM staff meeting for constructive criticism before it was presented at the annual Intra-Regional Consultations on Migration and Labour Mobility within Africa meeting in Accra, Ghana. My internship was a crucial experience for me and my future career path in international development.
In the class component of the Practicum, I learned so much about not only the United Nations system, but also about the life of an international worker and what goes into choosing a career path in foreign service. Our group had class twice a week and during that time we had numerous presentations and meetings with officials from organizations such as UNICEF, UNHCR, Humanitarian Dialogue, and World Economic Forum. We also had the opportunity to learn about the history of Switzerland and how Geneva became a hub of international diplomacy.
We toured around the country learning about other important cities like Bern, Zurich, and Lucerne and were lucky enough to travel to Zermatt and experience an amazing up-close view with the famous Alps. Of course, on weekends we also were able to travel to other neighboring European countries like France, Italy and Germany. I would highly recommend this experience to anyone who is serious about potentially working in international relations organizations, especially the United Nations. It is truly a unique program with history, culture and professional experience waiting for you.
For those of you interested in working in the international development field, starting your search will involve more than just deciding on what the focus of your studies will be, but conceptualizing the development landscape to make sure that you are pointing your career search in the right direction. Luckily, Michele Carter, an Association of Professional Schools in International Affairs (APSIA) aluma wrote an essay that can offer some additional tips to those of you interested in the field.