This summer I had the opportunity to join the Doing Business department at the World Bank. Doing Business is an annual flagship report which measures business regulation in 190 economies. Each economy is ranked according to 11 sets of indicators. There are combined into an overall “ease of doing business” ranking.
I was part of the Registering Property indicator, where I worked with my team to measure the time, costs, and procedures needed to conduct a transfer of property between two local parties. We closely followed the Doing Business methodology, which you can read more about on http://www.doingbusiness.org/methodology.
Working in the Doing Business department was a truly rewarding experience. It did not only enhance my communication and analytical skills but also taught me about the strategies and components that go behind a ranking report. The working environment was also very international, which made me feel very welcome and taught me about other working cultures.
I embarked on an adventure by spending my Fall Semester in Beijing, taking classes in the School of Public Policy and Management (SPPM), the #1 public policy school in China, at Tsinghua University, one of the most prestigious universities in the world. My class topics included Economics, Development, Governance and International Politics of China, and they were taught by Chinese policy makers and highly influential scholars. My peers in class were a mix of students from different backgrounds, countries and goals, which provided the perfect set up for a world class experience.
My first-hand knowledge in Latin America’s industrial sector complemented my learning about China’s industrial and trade policy, while my master’s study at Maxwell provided me with western economic practices, politics and relations. Therefore, my goal coming to Beijing was to complete a full circle in my academic and professional formation. There is a sea of difference between reading about China and experiencing it: experiencing the country, the culture, the people, the transportation, the day to day, and above all, the food.
Beijing is a mega city with more than 20 million people, and the city is connected to the rest of the country by an incredibly advanced and reliably fast train system. This system allows one to travel more than 1,000 miles in just a couple of hours to every corner of the Asian giant.
The structure of the semester in Tsinghua allowed me to experience not only the capital, but other incredible parts of the country. I was impressed by the very modern city of Shanghai and the hard-contrasting differences between it and Beijing. As an economist, I was amazed by the development policy of the country, where, for example, in a small rural town called Liyang, located 3 hours to the west of Shanghai. An entire city is being built – “growing like grass” – while thousands of 30+ floor towers are being built in every direction.
Language was definitely a challenge and a barrier to life in Beijing. However, the fast pace of internationalization of the city and of its people, makes it possible to find a piece of the world in any corner. You just need to look hard enough and pass though the massive pile of bikes parked all over the city.
Jorge Valdebenito is a joint MAIR/MAECN student in his final semester at the Maxwell School.
Today we would like to showcase the work of Maxwell student Carol Marina Tojeiro. Carol wrote a piece on gender inequality in the labor force in Argentina that was recently published in the Cornell Policy Review. The article discusses the significance of this issue in terms of Argentina’s economic growth and offers policy recommendations. Carol is a dual MA in Economics and International Relations candidate who will graduate this spring. Her experience at IOM in Ghana was previously featured on this blog.
Female participation in the Argentinian workforce is limited, as men comprise 75% of labor force participation, compared to just 41% of women, according to a 2016 study. While women represent a majority of Argentina’s highly educated population, various influences such as religion and traditional expectations of women and men, as well as limited options for childcare have pushed women out of the workforce to the detriment of the Argentine economy. To improve women’s access to employment and increase workforce productivity, the Argentine government must design and adopt inclusive gender-sensitive public policies, address social unrest, and measure the impact of such policies in addressing gender equality.
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.”
This summer, I had the opportunity to intern with the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Washington D.C. within the framework of the Maxwell-in-Washington summer program. The Federal Foreign Office (FFO), i.e. the counterpart of the U.S. Department of State, represents Germany’s interests to the world, promotes international exchange, seeks collaboration with the respective host government, and offers protection and assistance to Germans abroad.
During my time at the embassy I was deployed in the Economic Affairs Department, where apart from members of the FFO, numerous representatives of the various federal ministries serve. Hence, I gained valuable insight into the broad range of economic- and science-policy activities of the embassy. Moreover, I regularly took part in internal meetings which allowed me to become acquainted with the workings of a German foreign mission.
In support of my colleagues, I conducted extensive research for the drafting of an annual energy-policy report. I had to intensively examine the U.S. energy sector and present the results in detail in a multiple-page report highlighting the development of both conventional and renewable energies in the U.S. I also drafted a report on the differences between U.S. and EU competition law against the backdrop of the European Commission ruling against Google. Last but not least, I was given the task to perform research on individual candidates for high-level positions within the Trump-administration.
What stood out as a unique aspect of the internship is the fact that I got to attend many different interesting events all across Washington D.C., such as the presentation of Bloomberg’s New Energy Finance’s New Energy Outlook 2017 at the Center for International and Strategic Studies and the annual independence day celebration at the Embassy of Cabo Verde. Moreover, I had the chance to visit several institutions, such as the World Bank, the French Embassy, and the Pentagon as part of a delegation from the German Embassy.
In sum, there is no doubt that the internship offered a great overview of both what the Economics Department and the embassy do and of what diplomacy and the complicated relations between think tanks, embassies and U.S. departments in Washington D.C. can look like.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.