Tag Archives: Fall

Aaron Mwewa Learns the Importance of Passion at UNICEF

Aaron Mwewa is a 2018 graduate of the Maxwell School and the Newhouse School, where he earned joint MAIR/MSPR degrees. This past fall he extended his 2017 summer internship at UNICEF in New York City. 

“Aaron, you can only do something exceptionally well if you are passionate about it. If you are passionate about something, there is no Monday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday because that is all you want to do. When you are consumed by the desire for quality output, the ‘9 to 5 pm just to get the salary work mindset’ is lost.”

Aaron at UNICEF.

These where the words, which were told to me by Kerida Mcdonald, Senior Communications for Development Specialist at the United Nations Children’s Fund on the first day of my internship in her office. Those words struck the right chord with me as I am a passionate supporter of children’s rights.

True to the words of my supervisor, we could email each other back and forth about work over weekends and also way into the evening even after leaving the office. This is why I achieved quite a lot with my boss during my internship. We were able to successfully put together an online course with other team members on communication for development for current practitioners and those who want to join the field. We are also nearing the completion of putting together a compilation of case studies from different countries (12) on the best practices with regards to the use of theater to bring about social change. Being a firm believer in the change which UNICEF wants to bring through its different projects, I also volunteered to help out on work, which was being done by some of the neighboring offices. This helped me to create a good reputation beyond the section in which I worked in to the point that others even just began soliciting for my help.

Aaron Mwewa and David Van Slyke, Dean of the Maxwell School

November, 15th, 2017, was officially my last day after my internship was extended to that date from August, when it was supposed to end. Having needed to come back to school at the end of August, this year, I did the last part of the internship virtually and travelled to New York from Syracuse from time to time when I go the chance. I had to endure the 5 hour bus rides both ways while getting some work done. The fulfillment I got from the work I have been doing made the journeys worthwhile. Indications are that my internship supervisor may want to extend the internship again if that opportunity becomes possible. She actually continues to consult me to this day. That is what passion does. It helps you to do so well that people want to continue working with you. With passion, you work from the heart and not for the pay or simply to clock in the hours. When you work from the heart, you are definitely on to something. Kerida’s parting words to me: “Working with heart is what gets you the seat at the big table even when others think you are too young to be there because you will not be doing what your peers are doing. You will be that exceptional bright shining star that cannot simply be ignored.”

If your desire is to make a difference in the world, you must be different from the world. Passion sets you apart because it gives that cutting edge.

Aaron Mwewa, Living My Dream at UNICEF in NYC

Joint MAIR/MSPR degrees from the Maxwell School and the Newhouse School

The Newhouse School

The Maxwell School

Mia Mazer Gains Significant Humanitarian Experience at InterAction

Mia Mazer is 2018 graduate of the Maxwell School, where she earned a joint MPA/MAIR degree. This past fall she interned at InterAction as part of the Maxwell-in-Washington fall program.

This fall I set out to Washington, D.C. to complete coursework through the Maxwell-in-Washington program and intern at InterAction, an alliance of over 190 NGOs working in the humanitarian and international development sectors. InterAction serves as a convener, thought leader, and voice in the community, representing and advocating for legislation, policies, and practices that impact its members’ work at the international, regional, and national levels. The organization’s mission is to be a leader in the global quest to eliminate extreme poverty and vulnerability, strengthen human rights and citizen participation, safeguard a sustainable planet, promote peace, and ensure dignity for all people.

I worked for the The Humanitarian Policy and Practice (HPP) Team which is dedicated to providing leadership and support for InterAction members that are active in humanitarian response and advocacy. Humanitarian organizations within the InterAction alliance provide services, materials and logistical aid to affected people in crises. InterAction supports the work of these members by providing a forum for consultation, coordination and advocacy on emergency response. Apart from providing immediate response to emergencies, many NGOs engage in activities to improve the overall response of the international humanitarian system. InterAction engages at various levels with United Nations agencies, various policy bodies of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), the U.S. Government, NGO consortia and individual international NGOs on cross-cutting issues and country-specific situations. The HPP team’s work is organized across the following four work streams: humanitarian policy, humanitarian practice, protection (inclusive of results-based protection, gender-based violence, prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse, and NGO security), shelter and settlements.

As an HPP Intern, I gained invaluable experience while supporting the humanitarian policy, humanitarian practice, and protection work streams. I conducted research, drafted summary notes and reports, and attended and reported on Congressional briefings and hearings, working group meetings, and member events to inform InterAction’s humanitarian policy and advocacy work.

My work allowed me to gain a better understanding of the linkage between international policy and programming in the humanitarian field as well as core elements of the global humanitarian architecture. I also gained a tremendous amount of knowledge on various technical, thematic, and regional issues pertinent to the humanitarian field, including some of my own interests, such as the intersection of humanitarian assistance and gender issues.

This experience helped define my goal of pursuing a career in policy and advocacy in humanitarian assistance and/or international development. My work often informed my contributions to class discussions in both classes I took on global sustainability and public policy and African conflicts. Living and working in Washington D.C. allowed me to connect with numerous Maxwell School alumni and other professionals working in my fields of interest and begin to cultivate a meaningful network which will be there for me when I graduate.

Mia Mazer Works on Youth Health in Rural Nicaragua

Maxwell-in-Washington Programs

MPA/MAIR Joint Degree Program at the Maxwell School

Ashley Saulcy Works on Political Transition in Nepal – Part 2

Ashley Saulcy is a 2017 MAIR graduate of the Maxwell School. In the summer of 2017 she interned at the Asia Foundation in Nepal. She decided to extend that opportunity into the fall and continue her work on political transition in the country.

For those of you who follow graduate student adventures in The Stacks regularly, you may recognize my name from a former blog post regarding my time interning in Kathmandu, Nepal. My adventures in the Himalayas began back in May 2017, and were happily (if somewhat unexpectedly) extended through the Fall 2017 semester. As I write the second post documenting my experiences in Nepal, I am struck by the immense political transformations that have taken place in such a short period of time.

Nepal is currently undergoing a political transition to a federal system that is intended to redistribute power to local governments. Although the country has successfully held three rounds of local elections, it has begun to witness sparks of violence in the approach to provincial and federal elections. New large-scale political alliances have further demonstrated the high stakes for the country’s political parties.

Ashley Saulcy in Nepal in the fall of 2017.

The complexity of Nepal’s political, social, and cultural landscapes made the opportunity to delve deeper into the political transition extremely rewarding. As a program intern to The Asia Foundation, I observed the transition through a program funded by the Australian Government to support newly established subnational governments. My extended tenure allowed me to further engage gender equality and social inclusion initiatives within programmatic strategies; work as a primary editor to the program’s inception report; and contribute to the development of a monitoring, evaluation, and learning framework. While my initial months provided an excellent introduction to these spaces, engaging them in greater depth enriched my understanding and appreciation of the turbulence that follows long-term development initiatives.

At the completion of my internship, I walk away knowing that I will see Nepal again. This beautiful country has left its mark, thanks to the friendship of many Nepalis, the lights of the Tihar festival, piles of delicious momos, and days spent trekking in the Himalayas. It may be a cheesy sentiment, but as I contemplate my time in Kathmandu, I am reminded that it is not just us as Maxwell students who leave our mark on the cities we work in; these cities also make us as individuals greater, better, and more beautiful.

Ashley Saulcy Works on Political Transition in Nepal – Part 1

MAIR Degree at the Maxwell School

Liz Pruchnicki Interns at the State Department’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs

Liz Pruchnicki is a 2018 MAIR graduate of the Maxwell School. This past fall she interned at the State Department’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs.

This fall, I interned with the State Department’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs. This internship has been a valuable experience in ways that I never would have predicted: I’ve been amazed with the inspiring team of women in my office who are incredibly dedicated to the mission of our office and I learned to remain positive and focus on the work even when bureaucracy slows it down. I was honored to sit in on meetings with high level State Department officials and leaders from around the world who focus on the intersection of faith and public life, I had the opportunity to attend Think Tank events around the city to learn about new trends in religion and politics. In my day to day work, I compiled news reports and disseminated a daily newsfeed about the intersection of religion and global affairs.

Liz Pruchnicki in action at the State Department.

 

The most valuable piece of my internship, however, was learning the institutional framework of the State Department. On the first day of orientation, interns are given a flow chart that illustrates the reporting chain and official structure of the State Department—it was a confusing flow chart to say the least. After fourteen weeks at the State Department, the chart mostly makes sense and I can finally put some names and faces to those sterile little boxes on the paper.

Liz Pruchnicki.

From my time at the Department of State’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs, I’m very proud of my work redesigning our official handbook, which is given to new Foreign Service Officers, and my ability to navigate the Harry S Truman Building without getting lost! I’m so grateful for the wonderful people I met at State, especially the dedicated women in my office who I’ve gotten to know over the past few months. I’m so appreciative of the resources available to students of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs that make these experiences possible!

MA in International Relations at Maxwell

Maxwell-in-DC Global Program

Jason Pandich Works on US-European Trade Issues in DC

Jason Pandich is a current MAIR/MA in Economics joint degree candidate at The Maxwell School. This past fall he participated in the Maxwell-in-Washington program, interning at the Delegation of the European Union to the United States.

This fall I participated in the Maxwell-in-Washington program and had the opportunity to spend the semester interning at the Delegation of the European Union to the United States in their trade section. This internship provided me the opportunity to merge two things I am deeply interested in: the European Union (EU) and international trade. I’ve been interested with the EU ever since I took a class dedicated to it when I was in undergrad so the opportunity for me to work there was an amazing experience.

The trade section at the Delegation is made up of thirteen people who each have their own portfolio of issues they deal with. I was one of three interns this fall but I was the only one there full time which gave me the opportunity to work with everyone in the section on wide range of issues. My primary tasks were reporting on Congressional hearings, think tank events, and other activities around Washington. I covered topics ranging from sex trafficking to the FCC’s decision to repeal net neutrality to 21st century trade barriers to how to educate a cyber workforce to Brexit. In addition to covering events I was able to work closely with the person in charge of agricultural issues. The ability to work closely on agricultural issues inspired me to choose an issue I heard about in my internship as the focus of a paper I wrote for one of my classes. One of the most important things I assisted with was the compilation of data on EU imports of agricultural products to see how much was coming from the United States in an effort to figure out what products the US might be prevented from supplying to the EU due to non-tariff barriers. I also had the opportunity to attend meetings of member states which allowed me to see firsthand how the 28 EU member states coordinate with the European Commission to pursue common objectives within another country.

The Delegation of the European Union to the United States.

Overall my experience at the Delegation of the European Union was extremely rewarding. It gave me the opportunity to learn about a wide range of topics that I was previously unfamiliar with and allowed me to get an understanding of how the EU looks to work with the United States. My internship also gave me the opportunity to plan and attend an olive oil tasting event which is something I had never thought about but will never forget.

Maxwell-in-Washington Program

Other global programs at the Maxwell School

Emily Hoerner, For Profit Development Consulting

Emily Hoerner is a joint MPA/MAIR student, finishing her MPA degree by working on a team consulting project for the NGO, Health in Harmony. Emily formerly participated in the Survey of Current Issues in African Migration program, where she worked on a project for International Organization for Migration Ghana.

This fall I have been fortunate enough to spend the semester interning with Social Impact, Inc., a development and management consulting firm headquartered in Arlington, VA. In addition, like most other students, I have also been taking night classes at Maxwell’s home base in DC, the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Social Impact has three major pillars or departments: impact evaluation, performance evaluation, and strategy, performance, and capacity building. I work for the latter division, SPCB. My duties as intern cover a wide range of assignments, from overhauling and revamping the SPCB team’s knowledge management platform, SharePoint, to attending meetings with clients such as USAID for projects like developing strategic and change management plans.

As someone who is relatively new to the consulting world, my internship has been an eye-opening experience. Though I was familiar with USAID in an academic context, working with the agency as a consulting client has given me an entirely different perspective on the organization. I’ve had the chance to learn about USAID’s project cycle, the types of work they fund, and how their projects are monitored and evaluated (M&E is actually a specialty of Social Impact’s).

One of my ongoing projects has involved coding qualitative data (focus group discussions and key informant interviews) for a performance evaluation of WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) initiatives implemented by USAID and its partners in Madagascar. Through this coding assignment and other projects I’ve been able to help out with, I get to see up close and in person how the different types of research designs we often discussed in my Introduction to International Relations Research and Quantitative Analysis classes are actually implemented on the ground, which is fascinating. It’s exciting to realize that the research designs you studied in class are used so often in the implementation of development projects.

Though most of my fellow Maxwellians are interning at think tanks and research and policy organizations, interning at a for-profit consulting firm has been an interesting experience. Some aspects of the consulting sector, like business development and proposal writing, are fairly similar to the work I did as a fundraiser for an environmental non-profit before I came back to graduate school. Other aspects, though, like the contract approvals process and sourcing ad-hoc consultants for new projects, are completely different. Ultimately, I’m thankful to have the opportunity with this internship to learn more about the industry I hope to enter upon graduation.

Emily Hoerner

Learn more about the Maxwell-in-Washington program

Featured map image by David Flores (www.dreamflow.es) from Flickr. Creative Commons

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

Emily Ma Finds Taiwan Unforgettable While at Foreign Commercial Service

Emily Ma wrote this post while interning in Taiwan during the fall of 2016. She also interned at United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) during the summer of 2016, where she was posted in Turkey for a time. After graduating with her MAIR degree, she landed a job at USCIS.

Emily Ma (3rd from left) with AIT Director, Kin Moy (4th from left) and other interns

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.

Global Programs in China:

SU Beijing

Summer Internships in Shanghai

Corena Sharp Learns How State Department Promotes Labor Rights

Corena Sharp was a MAIR student who also spent last summer interning at UNICEF in Geneva. She wrote this post last fall, and is now a new Maxwell alumnus.

Corena Sharp (center, 6th from left), Office of International Labor Affairs in DOS’ Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor

Ever read a Human Rights Report released by the State Department? They are released every year and cover every country in the world, and then some. U.S. Diplomats and NGOs alike use them to advocate for human rights. Section 7 of these reports details workers’ rights. I never considered the fascinating position of labor rights before I interned in the Office of International Labor Affairs (ILA) within the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL).

Unlike many human rights, labor rights are often considered oppositional human rights. It is rare that someone would stand up and argue that people do not deserve clean drinking water, but champions of workers’ rights often face skepticism and even hostility. When countries compete for trade deals, they often create a ‘race to the bottom’ where the lowest compensation and fewest benefits make countries and companies more competitive in the name of economic growth. However, many have begun asking ‘growth for whom?’ The Sustainable Development Goals are trying to address this issue through the promotion of ‘inclusive growth.’ The strongest force for protecting workers is the freedom of association and collective bargaining. Yet, few things can shut down a conversation faster than the word ‘unions.’ Achieving decent work is incredibly important for sustainable development; the challenge is changing the perceived either-or categories that labor rights and economic growth are often given.

My small office takes the lead to develop Section 7 into an effective tool for advocates. Developing a successful final draft of these reports goes beyond just proofreading. An effective report is built from research contributed by every editor and thus requires clear communication among the drafters. By utilizing SharePoint, DRL fosters the collaboration among Foreign Service Officers at embassies abroad, editors in regional offices, and policy offices such as ILA.  ILA in turn coordinates with the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and the Department of Labor. Back-to-back tranches of these reports flow into the office—each with different editors depending on their successful completion of each stage of the editing process. The more complete the report, the better a government can be held accountable.

Learn more about the Maxwell-in-Washington program

Zack Lubelfeld Investigates Drug Trafficking at Department of Treasury

Zack Lubelfeld is a joint MPA/MAIR who will finish his two degrees this month, then move onto a Boren Fellowship.

Zack Lubelfeld

Last Fall Semester, I completed an internship in Washington, D.C. at the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), in the Department of the Treasury. I worked in the Crime, Narcotics, and Western Hemisphere Division, which is located in OFAC’s Targeting Office. CNW’s primary focus is on implementing and enforcing the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, or the Kingpin Act, which allows the United States to sanction individuals and entities involved in international narcotics trafficking. These sanctions prevent narcotics traffickers from accessing the international financial system, with the goal of forcing them to cease by starving them of access to money.

It was an interesting experience for me, because I got to see up close part of the United States’ efforts to combat drug trafficking organizations around the world. More than that, though, is that the work I was assigned was no different than that of the sanctions investigators with whom I worked. The opportunity to do the job as if I were any other full-time employee was an invaluable one. I was able to see that my work was actually contributing to the division’s operations, which was really satisfying.

Furthermore, I learned a lot from the experience. Because of the nature of the work, a lot of my learning was done on the job. Fortunately, my coworkers were all very friendly and happy to help me, so whenever I had a question it was easy to find someone who could answer it. The basic components of the job were not very difficult – a lot of reading, researching, and writing – but I had to adjust to a different style of thinking, because much of the work was investigative. It was a new experience, drawing information from all sources to complete an investigation, but by the end I was definitely more comfortable approaching the information like an investigator.

I very much enjoyed my time interning with OFAC, and I gained a lot from it. The experience definitely confirmed that I want to do this sort of work once I graduate. The work done by OFAC has a demonstrable effect on American efforts to maintain our national security. It was very rewarding to get to be a part of it, and to contribute to keeping the country safe.

Learn more about the Maxwell-in-Washington program