Internship Stories

Xiaotong Liu Helps Detect Global Crisis at UNDPA

I received an internship offer from the Department of Political Affairs (DPA) at the UN Headquarters in New York City this summer. The DPA plays a central role in United Nations efforts to prevent and resolve deadly conflict around the world. The DPA monitors and assesses global political developments with an eye to detecting potential crises before they erupt and devising effective responses. The Department provides support to the Secretary-General (SG) and his envoys, as well as to UN political missions deployed around the world to help defuse crises or promote lasting solutions to conflict. The DPA is divided into two parts: Regional Divisions and Non-Regional Divisions. I was recruited by the Asia and the Pacific Division of the Regional Offices.

Effective policy responses begin with sound and timely information and analysis – having a pulse on events as they develop. Primarily through the work of its regional divisions, DPA monitors developments and provides the Secretary-General with analytical reports and briefing notes to inform his decisions and shape his continuous diplomacy with the UN Member States, regional and non-governmental organizations and other actors. Senior DPA officials are called on frequently to brief the UN Security Council on global political developments, the status of UN peacemaking efforts and the activities of UN political missions in the field.

My major duties were preparing background papers for summits in the Asia and the Pacific region, the General Assembly, SG’s visits to the region, and SG, Under SG and Assistant SG’s meeting with different nations’ UN missions’ permanent representatives. In addition, I contributed to writing regional issues reports, which advocate for regional and global solutions to international problems. I also carried out research regarding economic assistance from Asian nations to Pacific islands countries for infrastructure development. My research provided the teams with more information about how South-South cooperation builds sustainability and resilience in the Pacific region to reach the Sustainable Development Goals.

My graduate study’s focus is on East Asia and the Pacific. Therefore, the UN internship was a perfect opportunity for me to explore what issues are UN concerns in the region and how the UN works on them. My supervisor offered me opportunities to work on almost all the issues that I am interested in. Other staff in the Division also welcome me discussing my questions with them. Besides daily work, I can access all the open meetings at the UN Headquarters and listen to ambassadors discussing the current international issues.

The experience in DPA was genuinely eye-opening. I consolidated my knowledge in East Asia and the Pacific and obtained an overview of how the UN functions in global affairs.

Xiaotong Liu at UNDPA

MAIR/MSPR Program at the Maxwell and Newhouse Schools

Brendan Reaney Looks at Threats to the US and Europe

I spent the summer as part of the Maxwell-in-Washington program. I’ve always wanted to live in DC and Maxwell’s strong reputation in the district is largely responsible for what drew me to Maxwell in the first place. In addition to taking a class with Professor O’Hanlon on Who Will Rule the 21st Century, I spent the summer interning as a transatlantic security analyst with The Streit Council for a Union of Democracies. The Streit Council is driven to create better-organized relations between the United States and Europe, along with liberal democracies across the globe. In order to do so, the council aims to foster greater public awareness on the importance of the transatlantic relationship and to provide expert analysis, perspectives, and identify practical solutions for key policymakers.

As part of the Transatlantic Security Program, our mission was to analyze prominent threats facing the US and Europe. Working closely with Mitch Yoshida, a Maxwell alumnus, we closely followed events related to Russia’s resurgence, terrorism, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and the European Union’s Common Security and Defense Policy. One of my main tasks included daily submissions of pertinent news summaries. I was able to research and analyze major international events on a daily basis, gaining a greater understanding of transatlantic relations on a day-to-day basis in what turned out to be an eventful summer. Apart from the daily responsibilities, I was able to work on longer briefs. One of the major pieces I worked on was analyzing how the potential of a unified European army might affect NATO. The brief analyzed the history of the EU, dissected current events, political statements, and military proposals to better predict what a future relationship might look like. My time in DC this summer solidified my career interest.

The Maxwell-in-Washington program exposes students to real world experiences on what they studied in Syracuse. My internship allowed me to apply the historical and analytical skills I learned while at Syracuse to current events. Although taking a class on top of a fulltime internship was challenging, it offered an opportunity to analyze situations from an academic perspective. My class was also a great place to network with classmates who have a lot of experience working in related fields.

Whether it was through classes, the internship, or networking, my time in DC allowed me to grow both professionally and personally.

Viewing Party of the Washington Capitals Winning the Stanley Cup, Outside Capital One Arena

Brendan Reaney was a Fast Track BA/MA international relations student student who graduated in December 2018. He also spent his last Fall Semester interning at the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC.

MAIR Program at the Maxwell School

International Relations Undergraduate Program

  • For more about the Fast Track BA/MA program, contact the Director of Admissions, Christine Omolino,  at comolino@syr.edu

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Libby Kokemoor Receives Crash Course in Defense Strategy in Hawaii

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.

Libby Kokemoor in front of the naval hospital ship USNS Mercy during RIMPAC ship tours

MPA/MAIR Program at the Maxwell School

Khem Sedhai’s Remarkable Semester of Courses, Interning, & Events

The Fall 2018 semester has been a remarkable period for both of my academic and professional career. I participated in the Global Security and Development Program at Maxwell-in-Washington at CSIS.

Khem Sedhai in front of the U.S. Capital Building

The Global Sustainability and Development class was an extraordinary course taught by Professor Melinda Kimble. The focus was on the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and policy recommendations with an emphasis on climate change and environmental issues. The class discussions mainly concentrated on analyzing international agreements and action plans; assessing national policies in alignment with SDGs; and describing the economic, social and environmental interlinkages among various SDGs.

Khem with Professor Melinda Kimble in DC

The other course I was enrolled in was Statecraft and Smart Power in the Digital Era, offered by Professor Shannon N. Green. The course focused on a strong foundation on public diplomacy by the use of policy formulation, interagency decision-making, and the practice of public diplomacy. I was very much inspired and motivated with the public diplomacy programs administered by the US government agencies and other non-profit organizations. Those seeking employment in public service, NGOs, think tanks, and consulting firms would find this course most appealing.

I worked as a Public Policy and Advocacy Intern at InternAction. It helped me to observe and analyze on the policy strategies of many of its member organizations by attending various events and policy discussion meetings. During the internship, my major assignment was researching newly elected US Congressmen and their political stand on foreign assistance. I accomplished this using advanced research and advocacy skills with my newly acquired knowledge on the American political system. I would like to offer special thanks to the InterAction team, Professor Ryan Williams, Samantha Clemence, and Isaac Olson for their great support and guidance during the period.

Khem at NAGPS

During the semester, I participated in many events of the World Bank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the Brookings Institution, the National Association of Professional-Graduate Students (NAGPS) among others. The Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA) forum of the World Bank was held with the theme “Money Matters: Public Finance and Social Accountability for Human Capital.” I found this event very valuable as I was able to meet and interact with many activists working in the field of social accountability, governance, and education.

Khem at the GPSA forum of the World Bank

The second conference I participated in was Law, Justice and Development Week 2018. Interacting with justices, lawyers, students, and development workers from all over the world was a very enriching experience. Hearing their perspectives and best practices in relation with law, justice and development which are, as we know integral parts of sustainable development.

Khem at Law, Justice and Development Week

MAIR Program at the Maxwell School

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Bonus: Hear Khem speak about his Maxwell Experience at IIE’s conference.

Khem Sedhai Networks and Attends Events in DC & NYC

 

In Chile, Lluvia Hernandez Educates Locals on Their Rights

This Fall I had the opportunity to intern abroad in Santiago, Chile at Fundación Multitudes as an Operations intern. This internship provided me the opportunity to learn about civil society in Chile by educating locals on their right to be heard in government. The mission of Fundación Multitudes is to reduce the gap between citizens and public institutions, working with a strong emphasis on cross-cutting issues to achieve agreements between the government and different sectors of civil society, including the private sector. All of the above encourages citizen participation by raising standards of transparency and open government in state agencies.

I specifically worked on strengthening tied with The Community of Democracies (CD) which is an intergovernmental coalition of states established in 2000 to bring together governments, civil society and the private sector in the pursuit of the common goal of supporting democratic rules and strengthening democratic norms and institutions around the world.

I worked directly for the CEO of Fundación Multitudes who is also the Chair of the ISC for The Community of Democracies. The ISC advises governments on the actions needed to enable civil society to work freely to strengthen democracy, rule of law, and protection for the fundamental rights enshrined in the Warsaw Declaration. The ISC coordinates a variety of initiatives for civil society, including the civil society forum taking place in the biannual Ministerial Conferences of the Community, which results in a set of recommendations to the Ministerial Declaration made by civil society representatives. I was in charge of translating various documents from Spanish to English for The Community of Democracies.

The Civil Society Policy Forum (CSPF) in Indonesia hosted by the IMF and World Bank Group ‘s annual meeting, which provides a space for CSOs to exchange dialogue and views with IMF and World Bank staff, their peers, government delegations, and other stakeholders.

Fundación Multitudes is a very small non-governmental organization that is composed of 10 employees who take on various roles. Due to this I was able to work closely and in the same office as the CEO and the project director. I wrote two communication protocols to define communication between The Secretariat General of the Community of Democracies and the Chair of the ISC. The protocol included information regarding civil society matters and how it can be communicated properly to the governing council. I was given liberty to design and write it according to my best abilities which was later on reviewed and signed by the CEO of Fundación Multitudes and Secretariat General of The Community of Democracies.

The second project I was in charge of was the creation of a branding and internal communication proposal where I was in charge of designing the new logo for The Community of Democracies. This project challenged me in various ways since I do not have a background in design or marketing and was not sure how to design a logo.

Logos Lluvia Hernandez designed

One of the things I learned through this internship is that when you work for a small organization you will be asked to do projects outside of your field of expertise. This not only challenged me but helped me gain new skills that I can further develop in another position. The last project I was in charge of was the creation of a capacity assessment and survey. This was designed to help Community of Democracies identify areas in which all 25 members of the organization need help in. This was designed to help establish a concrete foundation between members of the organization by identifying the needs and capacities of all 25 members. While I interned for Fundación Multitudes I worked with their external partner where I was in charge of designing projects. As I end my semester here in Santiago Chile I am very appreciative of the opportunity I had to intern while taking courses.

Community of Democracies meeting with the 29 governing council members in Poland

MAIR Program at the Maxwell School

SU’s Santiago Center

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Victoria Fanibi Works on Community Housing in Brazil

This summer, I was fortunate to intern at Catalytic Communities, an advocacy NGO and think-tank based in Rio de Janeiro. The organization runs a variety of programs, but my internship was primarily focused on the Community Land Trust initiative being headed by the organization’s Executive Director. Catalytic Communities is dedicated to formulating networks of discussion between the informal and formal settlements of Rio, community mobilization, and a participatory and asset-based model of development.

The core focus of my internship was on the Community Land Trust (CLT) Initiative, which is a community-managed nonprofit organization that is established to provide permanent affordable housing and build community assets. My main role on this project was to draft materials for our planned workshops in August and to do research on the diverse application of the CLT model. My research on CLT case studies and their diverse application was published in an article for the NGO’s sister organization,  “Rio on Watch” , which is a news source that profiles residents of informal settlements, informal settlement regularization efforts in Brazil, and local events in communities of interest. This research was imperative to my understanding of the applicability of the CLT model in Rio de Janeiro, as well as provided support for my education of other interns in my organization.

While I was mainly concerned with the development of the CLT Initiative in preparation for our August workshops, I was able to engage with interns completing a variety of projects. The most important of those being a study on evictions. I joined fellow interns on community visits to profile residents all over the city of Rio. These community visits were essential in helping me comprehend the effects of land speculation, post-Olympic development issues in Rio, and the failure of the government to provide essential services to its residents. In addition to these community visits, I attended community events. These community events were generally in the same communities that we profile or have the intent to profile. I emphasize these events as this enabled us as interns to see the residents of these informal settlements and strengthen our friendly relationships with them. It was also beneficial in simply getting to understand the culture of Rio.

At the very top of Santa Teresa. On my way to a community visit. Rio is a dense, complicated, and beautiful city

Lastly, I took the time to explore Rio’s sprawling natural landscape. I went on several hikes and, of course, visited the beach. It’s amazing to be laying on the beach in Leme staring at the waves and seeing people rappel on the Sugar Loaf Mountain in the same frame. I also went on a trip to Sao Paulo. The main intent on that trip was to, of course, enjoy myself but it provided an important comparative experience to the function and systems of Rio de Janeiro.

My time in Rio was truly amazing. I am so lucky to have been working for a great organization like Catalytic Communities. I am grateful to have been a witness to a variety of social issues in Rio including community militarization, gentrification, and land speculation. I walk away from this experience with a confidence in what I want to accomplish professionally, one that I didn’t have before.

Victoria Fanibi (back row, far right, red bandana) and Catalytic Communities’ crew visiting Barrinha on the third day of their CLT workshops in August

Victoria Fanibi is a graduate of Maxwell’s MAIR program. After completing her independent internship in Brazil, she finished her degree through Maxwell’s World Partner Program with Tsinghua University in Beijing.

MAIR Program at the Maxwell School

Tsinghua University, World Partner Program

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Giovanna de Miranda, Preventing Violence at FFP

For my summer semester, I participated in the Maxwell in DC program. While in DC, I interned for Fund For Peace (FFP), a non-profit organization that focuses on conflict reduction and violence prevention. FFP uses data analysis and risk assessment tools to provide information on violence, risks, and vulnerabilities around the world. The organization’s work focuses on conflict early warning responses, election violence prevention, capacity building, responsible business practices, and combating violent extremism.

While interning at Fund for Peace, I had the chance to be involved in different projects. For instance, I participated in a project on election violence prevention in Nigeria. During this project I conducted research on election violence using risk assessment tools and quantitative data. By analyzing the data from previous election years, the project attempted to understand trends of violence in order to predict strategies for the prevention of violence in the country’s next elections in 2019.

Giovanna (front, center) with fellow interns

I also worked on a conflict early warning capacity building training for the African Development Bank. I collaborated in putting together a case study that would be used in the training of AfDB economists on how to face vulnerabilities and prevent violence in the African continent. In addition, I was also engaged in research projects on ICTs and Blockchains in Sub-Saharan Africa and GBV in small-scale mining.

My work at Fund For Peace was a very enriching experience that taught me more about conflict early warning prevention outside of academia. I got to experience how organizations use conflict resolution and violence prevention strategies to affect change. More so, I also gained valuable skills in using different types of methodologies and assessment tools to conduct substantive research. Overall, my internship at Fund For Peace was a valuable and educational opportunity that will contribute to my future career goals.

MAIR Program at the Maxwell School

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Ian Gottesfeld Applies Statistics to International Energy Markets

I spent this summer interning at the Department of Energy’s US Energy Information Administration, commonly known as EIA. I had applied to a general internship with the DOE, and was ultimately placed at EIA. Before the internship began, I had a limited knowledge of energy and was unfamiliar with the work EIA did. After interning at this organization, I can say was very lucky to have this experience.

Ian Gottsfeld at the EIA

I had a hunch that I would like working in energy and I was right. EIA primarily produces statistics, analyses and forecasts for the US energy market. However, my specific office – the Office of International Energy Analysis – publishes international energy statistics and conducts analyses on energy markets in foreign countries. As an intern, I had the opportunity to both work in statistics and perform analysis. With the help of full-time “feds,” I transformed data from other sources and analyzed it against ours. I also conducted my own analysis on the energy scenario in various countries. I learned an incredible amount and found my work fascinating. Energy markets are an interesting mix of economics, politics and science, with many moving parts. I also felt that the work I did was important.

Ian Gottsfeld with U.S. Department of Energy Seal

Of all places in the energy sector, I feel fortunate to have landed at EIA. It is considered one of the premier sources of energy data in the world, and used by nearly everyone in the energy sector, including many people I have met in Washington. My coworkers are also exceptional people. EIA is an interesting mix of economists, scientists and international affairs specialists, many with PhDs. The depth of their knowledge of energy markets impresses me every day.

Finally, despite the fact that my coursework in energy had been limited prior to starting the internship, Maxwell and Syracuse prepared me well for the work I did. The three economics courses I took at Maxwell helped me to understand the dynamics of energy markets and prices, which I come across daily. Meanwhile, the Data Science course I took at the iSchool provided me with skills I utilized in some of my larger data projects. While energy is a new field for me, the skills I took from graduate school were highly applicable and practicing them on the job was a gratifying experience.

Ian Gottsfeld is a recent graduate of the MAIR program. He also interned at the U.S. Government Accountability Office during his final Fall Semester.

Ian Gottsfeld outside the U.S. Department of Energy

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Linsey Armstrong Reaches Global Audiences

Women Political Leaders (WPL) Global Forum is a nonprofit and nonpartisan global network of female politicians, including Presidents, Prime Ministers, Parliamentarians and Mayors. This summer, I had the opportunity to serve this organization as a communications intern, working to further the organization’s mission of increasing the number and influence of women in political leadership roles across the globe.

As a member of the communications team, I worked on numerous initiatives, campaigns and events under the organization’s umbrella, including WPL Summit 2018, the #Girl2Leader campaign and the Women Leaders Global Forum event. For these events and campaigns, I coordinated and implemented multi-channel communications plans. My primary tasks included: branding and strategy implementation; social media content creation, management, reporting and analysis; graphic design; copyediting and proofreading; media and press relations; and campaign coordination with current and former women political leaders. I was also able to represent the organization at outreach events with partners and was given the opportunity to attend the global launch of the #SheIsEqual campaign.

Linsey Armstrong (right) Attending the launch of the #SheIsEqual campaign

A task near and dear to my heart was coordinating communications for the #Girl2Leader campaign, which aims to get girls involved with and interested in politics. I was provided the freedom to try new things and grow the brand’s social media presence in innovative ways. It was rewarding to be promoting a cause that can have such a vital impact on the world.

My experience working for WPL was incredibly rewarding and helped me grow in countless ways. I was able to refine and further my strategic communications and graphic design skills, as well as explore other opportunities like media outreach and press relations. Working in a diverse, multicultural office that communicates with global audiences was a valuable experience. This internship also provided me with great insight into the structure of international nonprofits and working with high-level political leaders from around the world.

I am excited to be continuing my work for WPL remotely while returning to school in Syracuse!

Linsey Armstrong is pursuing her joint MA International Relations and MS Public Relations (MAIR/MSPR) degree  in Spring 2019.

Linsey Armstrong outside the WPL office in Brussels, just down the street from the European Commission

MAIR/MSPR Program at the Maxwell and Newhouse Schools

Public Diplomacy Internships in Brussels Program

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Assil Alnaser Focuses on European Media in Brussels

The Brussels program gave me the opportunity to complete an internship with OPEN Media Hub. OMH is a project for networking, on-the-job training, and support to media professionals across the EU Neighborhood. The project is funded by the EU and implemented by a consortium led by Thomson Foundation (UK), including Action Global Communications Ltd (Cyprus), European Journalism Centre (Netherlands), France Medias Monde (France), Free Press Unlimited (Netherlands), Market & Opinion Research International Ltd (Ipsos MORI) (UK) and Particip GmbH (Germany). The project includes a series of capacity building, production and networking activities, including the organization of a number of different types of training and exchange events for journalists in each of the 17 countries in the Neighborhood area of the EU.

The main advantage of the Brussels internship is the various networking opportunities. The time of the program is full of events and conferences. By following these events, I had a fantastic opportunity to meet different people working on Middle Eastern and migration issues.  Another advantage of this internship is that it helped me to identify the particular area to write for my independent study. Working in the media sector helped me understand the media impact on migration policies in Europe. It gave me the courage to write on the topic. I met many figures in the field and did  semi-structured interviews with them for my independent study. It is also worth mentioning that having an internship in Brussels is so beneficial for your CV as it demonstrates experience in various countries.

European Commission

On the whole, the Brussels program was a useful experience. I have gained new knowledge, skills and met many new people from different fields. I achieved several of my learning goals. I got insight into professional practice. I learned the various sides of working within a European institution. It has also improved my skills in reporting for media and strengthened my professional ability to work in a multicultural environment.

The speakers’ sessions that were part of the course were linked directly to working with European institutions. This program was an excellent opportunity to test out the skills that I developed in Maxwell. For example, I transferred the academic writing skills that I learned in Maxwell to write a featured article that was published on the OMH website.

I am satisfied with my experience in Brussels as it perfectly matched my career plans to gain more expertise, as well as more exposure to different organizational systems in order to become a better professional.

Assil Alnasser is a recent graduate of the Maxwell School’s MAIR program.

Assil Alnaser in Brussels
2018 SU Brussels Program Participants

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