Over the spring, I served as a communications intern at the US-China Business Council (USCBC) in Washington, DC. USCBC is a private, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization of approximately 200 American companies that do business with China. Its mission is to expand the US-China commercial relationship to the benefit of its membership and, more broadly, the US economy.
Based on my background in international relations and public relations, I helped the communications & publications team at USCBC with daily news updates and social media management. I also helped interview Chinese scholars and translate documents into English for the publication in USCBC’s digital magazine – the China Business Review. Since the U.S. levied its first round of punitive tariffs in 2018, tensions have emerged between the U.S. and China, becoming a major global concern. It was a valuable opportunity for me to intern at USCBC around this period of time as I was able to obtain the first-hand materials and pay close attention to US-China trade issues.
In addition, I was very fortunate to have joined and helped with USCBC’s events and gained precious insights on US-China relations. When Chinese Premier Liu He visited Washington, DC for trade talks with President Trump on January 31, USCBC held its premier conference – Forecast 2019 – on China’s business and political environment and discussed the prospects of trade negotiations. On the Forecast, experts from think tanks, the US Senate and the US House of Representatives talked about the most focused on issues about US-China relations such as cybersecurity, intellectual property, tariffs and subsidies, etc. USCBC also co-hosted the US-China Innovation Forum with CSIS, where American and Chinese representatives from industry, finance, government and think tanks discussed how to best foster, protect, and advance innovation.
Thanks to the Maxwell DC Program, I am here to pursue my public diplomacy practice at the heart of global policy in Washington, DC. Interning at USCBC was a great chance for me to explore US-China trade relations and lay the foundation for my future career.
Yue Chen is a recent alum of the joint MAIR/MSPR degree where she studied at the prestigious Maxwell and Newhouse Schools at Syracuse University. She formerly interned at Temasek’s Stewardship Asia Centre through SU’s Summer Internships in Singapore program.
The U.S. Department of Defense’s USINDOPACOM headquarters is located on Camp HM Smith, Oahu, Hawaii. It was recently renamed from USPACOM to reflect the importance of India in USINDOPACOM’s Area of Responsibility. USINDOPACOM is unique among the Global Combatant Commands (GCC) because it is the only GCC with its subordinate Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Special Operations Commands co-located in the same state and island. Additionally, the island of Oahu is home to Joint Interagency Task Force – West (JIATF-W), the Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance (CFE-DM), the Daniel K. Inouye Center for Asia-Pacific Security Studies (APCSS), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) research facility. An internship with USINDOPACOM offers an amazing opportunity to learn about all of these organizations.
My position was as a Visiting Fellow in the J372 office. The J372 is a sub-category of the J3 Operations directorate. The J372 office consists of Multinational Programs and Theater Security Cooperation Exercises. Multinational Programs, where I interned, consists of two programs: the Multinational Planning Augmentation Team (MPAT) and the Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI). While my internship was officially with GPOI, I was also able to work extensively with the MPAT. GPOI was created in 2004 as the U.S. contribution to the broader G8 Action Plan for Expanding Global Capability for Peace Support Operations because of the strategic importance of international peace operations to US national security. Increasing the capability of partner nations to conduct international peace operations was seen as a cost-effective way of increasing world stability and sharing the burden of conducting peace operations. To meet this objective, GPOI funds training, equipment, and facilities building capabilities worldwide for USINDOPACOM’s twelve regional partners. GPOI is unique in that it is a US State Department program that is executed by the US Department of Defense to build capacity of partners to train and sustain peacekeepers who deploy to United Nations missions around the world.
Like the GPOI team, the MPAT works to improve the capabilities of multinational partner forces. Unlike the GPOI team the MPAT is regionally focused and was an initiative developed by the regional Chiefs of Defense in 2000 with the goal to facilitate the rapid and effective establishment and/or augmentation of a multinational force headquarters (MNF HQ) and/or other multinational military and civil-military coordination mechanisms. In order to improve the ability of regional multinational response to natural disasters, humanitarian crises, and any other operation in USINDOPACOM’s area of responsibility that fall short of war, they have developed the Multinational Forces Standing Operating Procedures (MNF SOP) and conduct the TEMPEST EXPRESS exercise. The MNF SOP is a living document that collects best practices, compiles and defines new terminology, and standardizes methods for all of these operations. Yearly MNF SOP conferences are conducted to update the document as well as create relationships between military planners and civilian organization leaders active in the region. These relationships are seen as added benefits that decrease response time when different organizations arrive to deal with a real-world crisis. The TEMPEST EXPRESS and other theater security cooperation exercises are where the planners try to “break” the MNF SOP. It is a scenario-based exercise that allows the planners to work together using the MNF SOP to deal with a simulated crisis. Flaws exposed by the TE exercise and from real world use are then compiled into the MNF SOP at the next conference.
Getting to attend the MNF SOP 20 conference in Wellington, New Zealand was undoubtedly the highlight of my internship. The conference sought to update and complete sections on Defensive Cyberspace Operations, Protections of Civilians, Logistics, Inter-agency Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Response, and the Glossary. I was assigned to the Glossary section which compiles new terminology, acronyms, and definitions from the other working group. This allowed me a great opportunity to see what every section was working on as well as meet experts from foreign governments, USAID, the IFRC and other NGOs, and different directorates of the US military. I was also asked to research options for a regional case study to include in the Inter-agency Cooperation section. This greatly increased my familiarity with multinational operations in USINDOPACOMs area of responsibility.
My background as a Special Forces Communications Sergeant has given me exposure to planning on the tactical level and this internship expanded that planning knowledge to include the operational and strategic level. My main projects working for the GPOI team was to create a spreadsheet that compiled the GPOI partner nations’ military force pledges to United Nations peacekeeping and identified the priorities for training programs location and subject. Creating the pledge tracker required research into all of the different types of military units that are sent to support UN missions. These included infantry, engineering, force headquarters support, medical, military police, reconnaissance, riverine, special forces, transportation and logistics units. For the MPAT I was assigned the task of incorporating the changes to the MNF SOP from the conference in New Zealand.
Oahu is a great place for recreation as well as professional development. The close relationship with my office was increased with participation in the MPAT fencing club and attendance of the MNF SOP 20 workshop. There are numerous hikes, beaches, and coral reefs that are great to explore with other interns in the program. The food is also unique due to the many cultural influences from Hawaii’s diverse immigrant population. Hawaiian poke is a personal favorite. Getting to know all of the great people in the office: Tak, Dan, Bernie, Joe, Bob, Bobby Ray, Murray, John, and Scott was a lot of fun. Additionally, getting to know all of the other interns from Texas A&M, University of San Diego, University of Hawaii, Johns Hopkins University, Stanford University and other schools was great as well. I want to especially thank Steven “Tak” Takekoshi, Crysti Woods, Dr. John Wood, Professor Robert Murrett, the Global Programs Coordinator at Maxwell, and Gerald B., and Daphna Cramer for their support during this experience.
Chris Tonsmeire completed his MAIR degree in December 2018.
In June 2018, I arrived on Oahu to begin my internship as a Summer Fellow at the headquarters of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, or USINDOPACOM. One of six geographic combatant commands under the Department of Defense, USINDOPACOM had recently assumed a new name (formerly, U.S. Pacific Command) as well as a new Commander, Admiral Phil Davidson, less than two weeks before I arrived. USINDOPACOM’s area of responsibility covers nearly half the earth’s surface and stretches from the west coast of the U.S. to the west coast of India, bringing with it a set of challenges as diverse as the region itself and encompassing several of America’s most steadfast allies. The dynamism of the Indo-Pacific was highlighted when my first week coincided with President Trump’s meeting with Kim Jong Un in Singapore.
As part of the Strategy and Policy branch, which develops strategy and plans for the command’s area of responsibility in accordance with national guidance such as the National Defense Strategy, I grappled with a new language – Department of Defense acronyms – but received support and encouragement, and a crash course in the Napoleonic military staff structure, from those around me. As a joint command, USINDOPACOM’s staff includes personnel from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, as well as Department of Defense civilians, contractors, and liaison officers from other federal agencies, each bringing different perspectives to the work of the command.
One of the highlights of the summer was observing the 2018 Rim of the Pacific or RIMPAC exercise, the world’s largest international naval exercise, which takes place every two years in Honolulu. In addition to improving interoperability between forces of different countries (such as Vietnam, participating this year for the first time), RIMPAC is an opportunity for building international trust and cultural exchange. This was on full display during open ship tours, as vessels from the U.S., Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, India, the Philippines and other countries welcomed visitors aboard (with the Peruvian sailors offering samples of RIMPAC pisco aboard their ship!).
Working at USINDOPACOM throughout an eventful summer gave me an unparalleled opportunity to apply my academic work at Maxwell in national security and Asia-Pacific affairs to thorny strategic questions in a rapidly evolving environment – with just enough time to enjoy the beauty of Hawai’i as well.
Libby Kokemoor is a joint MPA/MAIR student in her final semester. She is also a Robertson Fellow. During her second Fall Semester, she also interned at the U.S. Department of State.
I had the opportunity to study at Yonsei University, which is one of the top universities in South Korea. Yonsei University is one of many World Partner Partner Programs that Syracuse has within Asia. In Seoul, Syracuse also partners with Korea University,
which is known for its great academic reputation and rivalry with Yonsei. At Yonsei University, I took classes at the Graduate School of International Studies where there are many career tracks such as International Cooperation, International Trade, Finance, and Management, and Korean Studies.
Studying at Yonsei University was a great opportunity that has complemented the knowledge I gained at the Maxwell School. My desire to work in Southeast Asia or East Asia in the future was what initially ignited my attraction to studying abroad during graduate school. As I was analyzing my options, Yonsei University captured my attention considering the large amount of courses that are offered, specifically in English. I was easily able to find courses that related to my current career track and were of great interest to me. My coursework at Yonsei included Immigration and Integration, Corporate Finance, and Environment, Sustainability, and
Cooperation. My professors were very thoughtful and provided up to date information regarding current international issues that are relevant to course subjects.
Seoul’s greatest charm is there is always something to do, whether this is educational or recreational. Considering the size of the city, there are many seminars or events that are taking place across multiple universities. This, coupled with the convenience of transportation in the city, made it simple to keep my schedule filled with different events with diverse subjects such as North Korean human rights or the future of the environment. The city also has numerous activities to do, almost anything that you can think of such as board game rooms, ping pong clubs, PC rooms, diverse restaurants, and many great hiking trails. In short, it’s never difficult to find something to do in Seoul.
Overall, I am satisfied with my experience in South Korea. If there are others who are interested in the country or the region, I would definitely recommend this program. There are many people to meet, whether they are Korean or internationals students, and Yonsei provides a comprehensive experience in and outside of the classroom. Adding to this, the traditions within the country and the rapid advancement of the economy make my semester in Seoul memorable.
Jessica Kesler is a recent graduate of the MAIR program. She also interned at InterAction and Women for Women International in Washington, DC during her Summer Semester.
For my summer 2018 semester, I interned in New York City at the Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI), a small think-do tank that conducts research on economic, security, and environmental issues in the Asia-Indo-Pacific region. As one of four interns, my role was to support any research project any of the researchers or fellows were conducting. Throughout the summer I worked on short-term and long-term projects that included tracking countries or regions, compiling research, and writing memos, website blurbs, and heavily contributing to an article written by ASPI’s assistant director.One of my daily tasks was to track the current news coming out of Myanmar for the ASPI director. Ever week I provided her with a compiled list of the main news articles and summaries, and this work will help her as she pursues her future research. ASPI is beginning a new research project that looks at the evolving energy security and defense relationship between the Middle East and Asia. In order to help facilitate this new project, I spent several weeks conducting research and writing a memo about how the economic ties between the two regions have been evolving into security relations and how new sanctions on Iran and disputes between Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE might affect the energy supply to Asia.
The most important extensive task I worked on was the Pakistan elections that took place in July. Before the elections I was tasked to conduct research on the different parties running, the main issues of the election, the military establishment and media’s effect on elections, and possible election outcomes. After conducting this initial research I had to produce a memo summarizing and analyzing my findings for ASPI’s assistant director. Leading up to the election I also had to continuously track major developments on a day-to-day basis. After the elections, I had to do quick turnaround research on Imran Khan, and later was assigned to use my research and knowledge to help contribute to an article about Khan and his (tentative) plans for Pakistani domestic and foreign policy. The article I helped write will soon be published on the ASPI website, which is very exciting.
The experience I gained over this summer has been extraordinary. Interning at a small think tank, I have had the opportunity to work on a lot of extensive projects, and I was able to impact the work done at ASPI even from my position as an intern. Working at ASPI not only allowed me to apply my Maxwell education in the real world, but it helped to expand and refine on this skill set. It also reinforced the idea that this is the type of work I want to do after I graduate this coming December. I am ecstatic that I had this wonderful opportunity to meet and learn from so many amazing people, and I feel privileged to have had the chance to contribute to the work done at ASPI, even if it was only for a short time.
Samm Cadwell is a recent MAIR graduate who also studied at Tsinghua University, an SU World Partner program. She formerly lived in China and speaks advanced Mandarin. She’s looking to capitalize on her Asia expertise.
The Maxwell School offers a variety of opportunities to study or work in East Asia. Through Syracuse University’s partnerships with foreign colleges and companies, students have the chance to live, work (and play) in some of the biggest cultural, political or business centers in the region. Funding to offset airfare and any changes in the cost of living are offered for all opportunities, and is quite generous in some instances.
The Beijing program is offered each fall. Syracuse University runs a center in Beijing in partnership with Tsinghua University, the most prestigious university in China. Tsinghua is located in Beijing’s Wudaokou neighborhood, a student area home to several universities. Maxwell students have the option of taking courses through the center – which offers SU courses taught by SU faculty – or taking graduate courses in English at Tsinghua’s School of Public Policy. Participants can enroll in courses across the social sciences, including Anthropology, Economics, History, Political Science and Public Administration, most of which are China-themed. On top of courses, part-time internships are also available for 1 to 3 credits. Past placements include Chinese NGOs, PR firms, the US Embassy in Beijing and various Chinese research organizations.
The Singapore program is a summer internship program. As Singapore is one of Asia’s leading international business hubs, students typically work full-time at finance, business or trade-related organizations. Past placements have included US multinationals, TEMASEK (a Singapore sovereign wealth fund), and the American Chamber of Commerce. Maxwell students can take up to six credits – their internship and an independent study.
The Maxwell School also offers fall programs at local universities in Seoul or Tokyo. Both programs offer a diverse set of social science courses, in an Asian context. In Seoul, graduate students take International Relations coursework in English at Yonsei University or Korea University. It is possible for students to intern while studying, but this program does not help with placement. Students interested in studying in Japan can do so at Waseda University’s Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies, located in downtown Tokyo. No Japanese language skills are required, but students must enroll in Japanese language courses while studying.
Rachel Penner was searching for a summer internship in 2015, when a staff member recommended that she connect with Beau Miller, a 2010 MPA graduate and the Executive Director of a development NGO in Nepal known as Aythos.
Beau was excited to take Rachel on board with Aythos to work on post-earthquake recovery. Upon arrival in Nepal, Rachel was thrust into the earthquake recovery efforts using her specialty in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) to serve devastated villagers outside of Kathmandu.
Two Maxwell students, Jeffrey Pu and Trace Carlson, followed in Rachel’s footsteps and interned at Aythos in 2017. As an MPA student, Jeff first had to complete the MPA Workshop with a team of fellow students for the U.S. Department of Justice designing a human rights and human dignity course for foreign police. After wrapping this project up, Jeff hopped on a plane to Nepal. Upon arrival, Aythos put Jeff to work doing program evaluation for one of their projects by designing and distributing a survey to local villagers. After two months working for Aythos, Jeff found himself taking another long haul flight to Berlin, where he is currently finishing his MPP at the Hertie School of Governance as part of the Atlantis Transatlantic Dual Degree Program.
Trace Carlson won a Foreign Languages and Area Studies Fellowship (FLAS) from the Moynihan Institute’s South Asia Center. With this fellowship, Trace journeyed to India to study Hindi, but was most interested in applying his academic knowledge to the field. After reaching out to Beau, Trace found himself heading to Nepal to conduct research on kiwi fruit agriculture for Aythos. Immediately, Trace found it very eye opening to compare the gap between research and field implementation. One had to be flexible and ready for anything. He once had to carry five kilograms of potatoes down a mountain for a village family, just because they asked him to.
On February 22, Beau, Rachel, Jeff, and Trace all came together on a Skype presentation for SU students interested in interning at Aythos. All agreed that it was one of the most fulfilling experiences of their lives and were completely humbled by the kindness and generosity of the people in Nepal. They fondly remembered backpacking into villages after encountering washed out roads—while dealing with leeches on the way—only to find countless cups of tea pushed on them upon arriving. While students spent about half their time in Kathmandu, they genuinely felt the impact of projects while working in the villages.
Maxwell’s partnership with Aythos fulfills the goal of professional degrees by creating graduates who are resilient and ready to enter a career upon graduation. According to Beau Miller, “If you can work in Nepal, you can work anywhere.”
I arrived in Kathmandu, Nepal at 6:30 in the morning, and by 8:30, I was already at work with The Asia Foundation (TAF) as the new summer program intern. The whirlwind entry to the country was quickly followed by an introduction to programming that is defining key national policy discourses in Nepal. In my first week alone, I attended the TAF-supported release of the annual national trafficking in persons report and a policy dialogue on legal and regulatory challenges associated with the political transition, both inclusive of a wide set of international and national stakeholders. Needless to say, I was amazed to so suddenly find myself in the midst of policymaking spaces in one of the most exciting transitional political environments for practitioners and scholars of development.
Since the 2015 earthquake and the subsequent signing of the Constitution, Nepal has been experiencing a massive political transition towards a federalist system with three new tiers of government: central, provincial, and municipal. The creation of municipalities—and the constitutional delegation of powers primarily to the municipal and provincial levels—is emboldening local government in a way unseen since the early 1990s. The country has undergone two rounds of local elections so far, which will soon be followed by a third round.
The dynamics under Nepal’s political transition present an interesting challenge for development practitioners to be proactive and responsive to a system that is still characterized by unknowns politically, economically, and legally. My assignment to work primarily under TAF’s program to support the new subnational governance structures became a unique vantage point to understand the incredible breadth and depth of policymaking spaces that require engagement for successful decentralization.
One of my initial responsibilities was coordination of a new program partnership with organizations specifically focused on the empowerment of newly elected women leaders. Despite quotas in elected bodies, the political participation of women—particularly from low castes—in the Nepali system is still limited. My work with a partner organization has included conceptualization of the research approach and framework for responding to the identified capacity gaps and priorities. More broadly, the work has exposed me in more depth to the specific gender equality and social inclusion frameworks that organizations like TAF are using to understand the cross-cutting nature of marginalization. The experience has ingrained a deep appreciation for inclusivity as an overarching philosophy to the TAF office in Nepal.
My role broadened in the program to include work on building the program’s comprehensive monitoring, evaluation, and learning dashboard, as well as significant contributions to the inception report. In both projects, it has been exceptionally engaging and rewarding to be strategically thinking through and contributing to the way that the program’s theory of change can backstop the delegation of power to municipal governments.
I came to Nepal with a passion for engaging questions on governance, and have been invigorated with the strategic thinking of professionals that deeply understand the Nepali context. The exciting research and work on political dynamics and transition that I have found here have set a new personal standard for mindfulness, creativity, and excitement for engagement in developing contexts.
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.
Phuong Ha is a recent alumni who graduated with a MAIR degree in December 2016. He wrote this post about his experience interning at CSIS during the 2016 Summer Semester. In the end, he interned at CSIS during his final Fall Semester as well. During both semesters he completed his MAIR degree by taking evening courses at the Maxwell-in-Washington campus located in the same building as CSIS.
For this summer, I am currently interning at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and working with the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI). The experience has been life changing thus far.
As a research intern, I contribute to the long-term research projects of not only AMTI, but the Southeast Asia program and Japan Chair as well. AMTI covers all Asia maritime disputes ranging from the Indian Ocean to the Sea of Okhotsk. Although, we heavily focus on the South China Sea and East China Sea issues given their rising tensions, and simultaneously pay attention to other “subtle” disputes such as the Kuril Islands/Northern Territories dispute between Russia and Japan.
In greater detail, we monitor the evolvement of these disputes by scouring media for news and tracking government statements either via news reporting agencies or foreign affairs websites. One would be surprised with how many government and foreign affairs’ web pages do not work or contain severely outdated content. Another interesting component of my internship involves analyzing satellite imagery of contested maritime features in the South China Sea. By checking Digital Globe daily and comparing newly released imagery to older versions, we strive to identify the development and status of those features, which can help with the Initiative’s analysis. Other duties include updating social media outlets, staging information of mapping tools on the website, and providing general administrative support at AMTI, Japan Chair, and Southeast Asia’s events.
As one of the most prominent think tanks in the world, CSIS is far from being an unwelcoming place for staff, interns, or guests. I have had incredible opportunities to interact with both resident and non-residents and visiting fellows from all over the world within my Asia department. Likewise, other staff members from different programs and departments are quite friendly and approachable. More importantly, everyone at CSIS is highly professional when it comes to international affairs. Even though I have less chance to directly interact with senior fellows or advisers simply due to their busy schedules and inherent variations of each program, I have always felt acknowledged and appreciated whenever I can afford such an opportunity.
This experience has indeed been a dream came true. I truly appreciate my opportunity to intern for such a great security think tank, where I have been exposed and observed the process of world class foreign policy engagement and research.