Tag Archives: Economics

Jeff Marshall & the Tick Tock of OECD

Jeff Marshall is a recent graduate of the Public Diplomacy Program, where he earned a Master of Arts in International Relations and a Master of Science in Public Relations. He also received a prestigious Boren Fellowship, which he used to study Urdu in Lucknow, India.

This spring, I had the opportunity to join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) at its Washington Public Affairs and Communications Center. The OECD is an international economic and social policy forum comprising thirty-five of the world’s leading market democracies, and the Washington Center serves as a support and outreach center for the organization’s headquarters, which are located in Paris.

Joining an international organization at the beginning of a new presidency was a fascinating experience. While communicators generally focus their efforts on external engagement, listening, monitoring, and evaluating are equally important aspects of a communicator’s role. As such, much of my initial work at the Washington Center was focused on keeping up with developments in the White House, noting potential sensitivities, and reporting to the Secretary-General’s office in Paris. Given the wide range of policy areas (from chemical testing guidelines to taxation) the OECD produces data and research on, these tasks served as crash courses on a variety of issues and debates.

In addition to monitoring and reporting, I was also tasked with identifying potential areas of cooperation between the public affairs and sales and marketing staff at the center. This entailed examining content released leading up to a major OECD publication, developing processes for sharing content, identifying shared audiences, and, ultimately, producing a series of recommendations for the center. The project provided me with unique insights into how international organizations market their research, conduct outreach, and generate interest in policy issues. The project also afforded me the opportunity to reflect and share my observations and suggestions for improvement.

The exciting conclusion to my internship was a visit from the OECD’s Secretary-General, Ángel Gurría, for the World Bank-IMF Spring Meetings. In preparation, the entire office went into overdrive. We were in a constant process of confirming meetings, arranging (and re-arranging) schedules, and tirelessly reviewing the run of show, or as we referred to it, the “tick tock” to ensure that the Secretary-General’s visit would run smoothly. The entire process was an excellent exercise in team-building, and while I wouldn’t want to be planning such visits every day, it was a phenomenal learning experience.

My time at the OECD Washington Center was undoubtedly time well-spent. Given that it is a small office, I was truly able to immerse myself in most of the Center’s activities, which provided for a highly stimulating and enriching professional experience.

Jeff Marshall with Ángel Gurría, Secretary-General of the OECD

Learn more about the Washington Public Diplomacy program

Vahid Khatami Does Data Analysis at Microfinance Opportunities

Vahid Khatami is a recent graduate of the joint MPA/MAIR program. He is going on to work in an international financial institution in New York City.

Vahid Khatami at MFO

Lack of access to financial services is still an economic barrier for many households and small businesses around the world. Based on the global Findex database in 2014, only 34% of people in Sub-Saharan Africa have access to a financial account and less than 16% use formal savings and borrowings. Similar data for other developing regions has emerged leading to the use of microfinance tools to expand financial inclusion globally. But, promoting the best financial tools for low-income households is very complicated, since one must consider the variety of outflow and inflow categories in their financial diaries. It raises the demand for in-depth research on these micro economies.

Microfinance opportunities (MFO) is a research organization, based in Washington, D.C., committed to understanding the financial realities of low-income households.  They work with other organizations in the microfinance industry to conduct research on behavioral economics of beneficiaries.

During my internship in MFO, I worked on three major projects. First, I was doing statistical analysis on household survey responses in four African countries including Zambia, Senegal, Uganda, and Burkina Faso. I did statistical analysis and data visualization on poverty likelihood scores by controlling demographic characteristics and types of packages provided for beneficiaries. For my second project, I designed an Android application for on-line uploading of financial diaries. The idea was raised after talking with the executive manager where I let him know about my skills in computer programming. The final product, which is going to prepare for alpha testing, makes beneficiaries enable to insert their daily financial diaries without interventions of any third party or interviewer. That data is stored in a cloud-based storage for further auto-analysis. For my third internship project, I helped MFO’s team to provide a comprehensive report on all transactions data in previous and current projects, including more than one million transaction records. Reformatting all data to a uniform structure and applying statistical measurements such as clustering methods was the focal point in that project.

Over all those assignments, I was in almost daily communication with the executive manager to present my progress in work and get guidance on the next steps. I had realized that there were no straightforward answers for problems, which motivated me to do research and ask about possible solutions regularly. I also got a valuable insight into the microfinance industry and its technical aspects, which will help me to take the next steps in my career track with more confidence.

Learn more about the Maxwell-in-Washington program

Sonia Rangel, Mastering International Trade Relations

Sonia Rangel is a joint MPA/MAIR. In addition to her Fall Semester in Washington, DC, she interned at Instituto para las Mujeres en la Migración in Mexico City and was part of a team of MPA students who completed a consulting project for Refugee and Immigrant Self Empowerment in Syracuse.

Former US Ambassador, Earl Antony Wayne, and Sonia Rangel at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Without a doubt, my internship this Fall Semester at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars has been a meaningful and wonderful experience. I am a research intern for a Wilson Center Public Policy Fellow and former US Ambassador to Mexico, Earl Anthony Wayne. The internship has been a great opportunity to investigate economic issues and work closely with a former high level diplomat. This has been an exciting experience for me, because it has provided me with the opportunity to learn more about US – Mexico trade relations and economic ties, a vital topic for both countries that was often discussed during this past presidential election. I have developed a more nuanced understanding of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the benefits it has created for both the US and Mexican economy.

In conjunction with the internship, I am enrolled in a Maxwell course on International Trade and Economic Negotiations that has complemented my internship in many ways. The course has allowed me to understand the complexities of a trade negotiation process by which the rules of trade are developed. The research for my internship has exposed me to the effects of trade agreements once they have been implemented.

Additionally, it is a privilege to work at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a living memorial for President SummerWilson, the only US President with a doctorate degree, and a place of research for some of the brightest scholars and experts from around the world. The Center’s mission is focused on independent and in-depth research to form policy proposals through open dialogue. During the course of the internship, I have had the opportunity to attend forums and events hosted at the Wilson Center on a wide range of topics such as Brazil-US relations, transatlantic challenges in fighting violent extremism, and national security in Mexico. Furthermore, I work in an open space among other remarkably intelligent research assistants and scholars investigating a multitude of different issues and topics and have acquired knowledge through their research.

Working with Ambassador Wayne has been a valuable experience. I have developed a deeper understanding of trade and economic issues through the tasks that I have completed. Likewise, I have also enjoyed learning from his deep knowledge and practical experience. I also admire his high level of intuitiveness and graciousness towards all people. Overall, my experience at the Wilson Center has exceeded my expectations and has led to professional and academic growth.

Entrance to the Woodrow Wilson International Center of Scholars

Sonia Rangel at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars library

Learn more about the Maxwell-in-Washington program

Daniel Matthews Explores Global Competitiveness in US Production

Daniel Matthews took advantage of the Maxwell-in-Washington program during the Summer and Fall semesters, where he interned at the USITC during the day while taking Maxwell courses at night.

usict-logo

This summer, I was able to work at as Pathways Intern with the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) in Washington, D.C.  The USITC is an “independent, quasijudicial Federal agency” that investigates the impact subsidized and dumped imports have on the competitiveness of U.S. industries.  International Trade Analysts and Economists gather and analyze trade-related data and present this information to the President, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), and Congress so that each may be able to make informed decisions regarding trade policy.  The USITC receives investigation requests from USTR, the Senate’s Committee on Finance, the House of Representatives’ Committee on Ways and Means, and from various domestic industries.

I was hired on as an intern with the Office of Industries’ Natural Resources and Energy (NRE) division.  Earlier this year, the Committee on Ways and Means of the U.S. House of Representatives requested that the USITC conduct a 16 month investigation under section 332 of the Tariff Act of 1930 to obtain information on factors that affect the global competitiveness of the U.S. aluminum industry.  As the NRE division intern, I have been tasked with conducting extensive research on trade flows of various aluminum products identified under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) and North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), the production processes of various forms of aluminum, and other background information relevant to the investigation.  I will also have the opportunity to have my research published as part of the report, and will be coauthoring the first chapter with the project leader.  As part of the ongoing investigation, I will also be able to travel to industry facilities throughout Maryland and Virginia in order to observe the production of aluminum products used in the automotive, aerospace, and other downstream industries.

usitc-building

USITC Building, Washington, DC

Through this internship, I have been able to work directly with Trade Analysts and Economists on an increasingly important industry in the United States.  Aluminum’s qualities, including its lighter weight relative to steel, resistance to corrosion, malleability, and ductility are increasingly sought in the automotive, aerospace, construction, and energy industries.  This position has complemented research and coursework that I have undertaken at Maxwell, and has allowed me to apply many of the analytical, research, and writing skills that I have developed as an MAIR student in a professional setting.

Daniel Matthews at the USITC

Daniel Matthews at the USITC

Learn more about the Maxwell-in-Washington program

Vahid Khatami, Monitoring & Evaluation at IRD

Vahid Khatami is a joint MPA/MAIR student who spent his Summer Semester taking part in the Maxwell-in-Washington program where he interned at IRD during the day while taking Maxwell courses at night. Vahid is currently still in Washington, DC interning at IRD and at Microfinance Opportunities.

Based on the Global Humanitarian Assistance report, at least 42% of people with extreme poverty – around 677 million people – are estimated to live in countries that are politically fragile. Many international organizations have been established to address such conflict and post-conflict environments, including International Relief and Development (IRD). With their headquarters in Arlington, Virginia and 18 years of experience, IRD currently operates in more than 15 counties across Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, the Americas, and the Middle East. The international programs address relief, stabilization, and development needs in the areas of health, agriculture, infrastructure, emergency response, and governance.

Vahid Khatami at IRD headquarters in Washington, DC

Vahid Khatami at IRD headquarters in Washington, DC

As an intern in the applied learning unit of IRD, I reviewed mostly current performance reports of the projects to pull out the critical lessons learned and build a database to improve the quality of data-driven policies in the organization. To improve the accuracy of the contents, I did several interviews with program managers to reflect their viewpoints on the most important lessons learned from the programs. Such interviews helped me to improve my work relations with other staff.

I have also performed more technical jobs such as building a database of all the consultants’ historical records who have worked with IRD. For this purpose, I wrote several text-mining codes to extract the relevant information from a mass of documents which resulted in more than a thousand records. Writing the codes to automatically extract data, made a huge difference in my work rather than doing the same job manually. In the end, I suggested developing a managerial dashboard for databases including the lessons learned and consultants and indicators. This was all implemented by the M&E interns’ team and accepted by the office director.

As my career track is focused on international economics and development, I found my internship a good step to leverage my knowledge in the field. I better understand some of the development challenges in the real world and the culture of a non-profit organizations working in international development. I expanded my communication skills through the tasks and applied my technical skills in a professional environment. I hope to find my next professional position in the same career track based on this experience to improve my portfolio.

Learn more about the Maxwell-in-Washington program

Public Diplomacy Program Allows Alex Jorgensen to Stand Out

Alex Jorgensen was a Public Diplomacy (PD) Student who completed a joint MAIR/MSPR. He finished his degree in the spring of 2016. PD students combine an MA in International Relations from the Maxwell School with a MS in Public Relations from the Newhouse School.

PD Alumni Alex Jorgensen

PD Alumni Alex Jorgensen

This semester I had the privilege of working as an Account Executive at JM Strategic Communications Group in Manhattan. JMSC’s mission is to supply a high-level strategic consultancy to public and private companies in their investor relations and public relations practices. Our mission is to combine business objectives with strategy to communicate effectively to shareholders and stakeholders a company’s story and performance.

JMSC logo

My daily activities consist of:

  • Drafting press/earnings releases
  • Media monitoring clients and peers
  • Developing investor presentations for clients
  • Fully develop & launched our company’s new website (jmscgroup.com, launched in February 2016)
  • Listen to and analyze quarterly earnings calls
  • Assist in running earnings conference call
  • Learn the fundamentals surrounding investor communication and initial public offerings
  • Gain knowledge of capital markets, the buy and sell side of wall street, and communicating a company’s story effectively both qualitatively and quantitatively

As I developed the basic skills to establish myself in the firm I felt that the Public Diplomacy program puts practitioners in a unique position to differentiate themselves. Students from the Public Diplomacy program have the skills to differentiate themselves through traditional public relations experience from practical PR curriculum, digital marketing, social media strategy, and an understanding of working with government officials while being a non-state actor. Through developing public relations strategies for particular clients, developing a network of Search Engine Optimization colleagues who bolster my digital media knowledge, and delivering on social media operations for in-house accounts and client accounts; I saw firsthand how lessons from the PD program applied directly to my daily routine.

Some key lessons from my practicum were that I learned the foundations of building marketing strategies for communicating the value of a start-up to new business and the general public, through the research and development of our company’s website. Possibly the most impactful lesson was in the balance between quality and timeliness. To become an expert in any field one must learn how to prioritize which tasks need to be treated with extensive detail, and which need to be turned at a speed that combines quality with timeliness. I do not think I have mastered this skill, but think that I am further than I imagined I could be in one semester’s time.

Another key application from Maxwell was knowledge about how the government functions, specifically with non-state actors. The government plays an important role in our operations. The sweeping regulations that came with Sarbanes-Oaxley, and the 2009 financial crisis have produced an environment in which public companies need to constantly be vigilant of the information they disclose in ensuring an equal playing field for all investors. Whether or not that playing field has been established is not up to the practitioners themselves, but taking accountability of their own day-to-day operations should produce a synergistic effect that ensures that playing field is intact. This experience was an incredible way to apply lessons from Maxwell and Newhouse to the beginning of my professional career in investor relations.

Joshua Klein Contributes to ASEAN Business Outlook at AmCham Singapore

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

Annual ASEAN Business Outlook Survey

Annual ASEAN Business Outlook Survey

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

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

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

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

My supervisor was very helpful in assisting in the meeting of member company executives and providing me with opportunities to attend many of the events AmCham hosts. Through these opportunities, I was able to network and expand my contact base in Southeast Asia. In addition, I was able to interact with other staff members in the office who were all great and welcoming. They taught me everything from scratch, always answered my questions in detail, and shared their career stories and working experiences generously.

I really appreciate this internship experience. It exposed the American business sentiment in ASEAN while providing me with the freedom to contribute to the annual ASEAN Business Outlook Survey publication.

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

Joshua Klein in front of AmCham Singapore logo

Maxwell students Joshua Klein and Gabriela Luciano at AmCham Singapore

Read the ASEAN Business Outlook Survey 2016>>

Justin Gradek Designs Research Trip to Uganda

Justin Gradek, on top of-the minaret, at the Gadafi Mosque

Justin Gradek on top of the minaret at the Uganda National Mosque (formerly Gaddafi National Mosque) in Kampala, Uganda.

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.

Justin Gradek & Dr. Eria Hisali, Dean of the College of Business and Management Sciences at Makerere University

Justin Gradek & Dr. Eria Hisali, Dean of the College of Business and Management Sciences at Makerere University.

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.

To find out more about the Maxwell African Scholars Union, visit the organization website, where you can also see additional photos of Justine Gradek and other scholars of Africa.

Justin Gradek, in front of School of Economics, Makerere University

Justin Gradek in front of the School of Economics, Makerere University

Justin Gradek inside the sanctuary of the Uganda National Mosque.

Justin Gradek inside the sanctuary of the Uganda National Mosque.

Justin Gradek & Dr. Francis Wasswa, Economic Development Policy and Research at the Ministry of Finance, Planning, and Economic Development.

Justin Gradek & Dr. Francis Wasswa, Economic Development Policy and Research at the Ministry of Finance, Planning, and Economic Development.

Dr. Edward Bbaale, Dean of school of Economics at Makerer University & Justin Gradek.

Dr. Edward Bbaale, Dean of school of Economics at Makerer University & Justin Gradek at Dr. Bbaale’s home.

Julianne Dunn, “learning what you don’t want is even more important than learning what you do want”

Julianne Dunn working at the U.S. Embassy booth for the USAFair at Central World in Bangkok, Thailand

Julianne Dunn working at the U.S. Embassy booth for the USAFair at Central World in Bangkok, Thailand

As a joint MAIR/ECON student, Julianne Dunn continues to learn about U.S. economic interests in the world while interning at the United States Department of State in Washington, DC.

If you’re anything like I was, you might be trudging through your first year at Maxwell with a vague idea of the topics you’re interested in and might want to work on. When someone asked me what I was planning to do after graduation, I answered something along the lines of “I want to work on international trade policy in Southeast Asia.” I had very little idea what that actually meant, who I might be working for, or what I might actually do all day for the rest of my life. I spent a lot of time hoping no one asked. After taking on a summer internship and independent research project in Bangkok, Thailand, I not only have a clear idea of the career I want to pursue, but I even learned some skills that are helping me get there.

Through an internship at the U.S. Foreign Commercial Service (FCS) office, I was able to see what working in international trade actually looked like. With offices at embassies around the world, FCS seeks to represent U.S. business interests abroad. This includes helping small businesses export to new markets, and conducting “commercial diplomacy” to ease regulations and facilitate trade for U.S. companies. Through preparing briefs on particular market segments in Thailand for U.S. businesses wishing to export, compiling and editing the annual Country Commercial Guide, and researching and writing a proposal to open a new FCS office in Cambodia, I learned about the challenges facing U.S. companies while honing my professional research and communication skills. In addition, I worked with many of the local staff members to promote U.S. products and companies on social media. At embassy events, including receptions at the Ambassador’s residence, I was able to network with embassy staff, Foreign Service officers, and American and Thai business people. These interactions allowed me to better understand what living and doing business in Southeast Asia was really like.

The local staff and other American and Thai interns turned a good professional experience into a great personally fulfilling one. Through everyday interactions I learned about working with people in a different culture and how to adjust my communication away from the forward, often abrupt style that we use in the U.S. But my coworkers also became fast friends who taught me about their food, culture, and language. We took weekend trips together and exchanged cultural anecdotes. These interactions were fun, but also helped me along my path toward becoming a global citizen.

While I was in Thailand I also had the opportunity to work on an independent research project studying foreign direct investment in Cambodia, something that had just piqued my interest in my spring coursework at Maxwell. Working on the proposal for FCS allowed me to gain new perspectives and allowed me to connect with people who are working with foreign direct investors in Cambodia. I was even able to meet with some of these people in person during a trip to Phnom Penh. These experiences shifted my professional focus and helped me to redefine the direction I’d like to go after graduation.

There’s a huge pressure to intern somewhere you know you want to work after graduation. After all, internships often turn into jobs, right? But what if you don’t really know where you want to work after graduation? I certainly didn’t, but starting an internship in the region and field I was interested in couldn’t have been more helpful in setting me on the path toward my future. Ultimately, I’ve decided that working for the U.S. government on international trade policy isn’t for me. But sometimes learning what you don’t want is even more important than learning what you do want. Along the way, you might even pick up some new friends, professional contacts, and skills. The only way to find out is to jump right in.

Julianne-Dunn(2nd left)and coworkers in Ayutthaya Thailand

Julianne Dunn (2nd left) with coworkers & fellow interns in Ayutthaya, Thailand