Tag Archives: MPA/MAIR

Taylor Hart-McGonigle, African Affairs at DOD

During the course of the fall semester, I worked with the Office of the Secretary of Defense- Policy (OSD (P)) in the African Affairs

office. African Affairs office informs the Department of Defense’s (DoD) policy and positions for the countries included in the Africa Combatant Command’s (AFRICOM) Area of Responsibility (AOR). The office is led by an appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and works with the interagency, the Joint Staff, and international partners, among others in executing DoD policy priorities in Africa. The office draws upon the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy to inform its policy recommendations and priorities and applies these documents to the African context when executing policy and programs.

In my position as a policy intern, I worked with the regional directors, action officers, and leadership to fulfill the office’s mission set. While I assisted in each African region where needed, my primary focus was on the Magreb, Sahel, Lake Chad Basin, and the Horn of Africa because I have prior experience with northern Africa. On a weekly basis, I assisted in drafting policy briefs that communicate the office’s activities for leadership with a focus on our activities related to the National Defense Strategy. Additionally, I worked on a few meetings where I was responsible for contributing to my principal’s preparation and read materials and working level engagements prior to the meetings.

The DoD was completely foreign to me at the start of my internship, and I am now better aware of its mission and function. In particular, I learned how DoD collaborates and connects across the combatant commands, Joint Staff, Security Cooperation, Policy, and the interagency. While I learned about Africa, I also learned how to be adaptable and get the information you need when you are not an expert. Overall, I really wanted to better understand how Policy contributed to the national security enterprise, and I feel that my experience with OSD (P) has given me invaluable insight into how national security policy is created and executed.

Taylor Hart-McGonigle in front of a Qiam-1 SRBM missile at the Iranian Material Display in Washington, DC.

MPA/MAIR Program at the Maxwell School

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Michelle Herr Helps Presidential Appointees Become Ready to Govern

I spent my time at the Partnership for Public Service in the organization’s Center for Presidential Transition. Launched in 2016, the Center’s purpose is to support the safe and effective transition of power from one administration to the next. It does this by developing tools, sharing best practices and connecting transition subject matter experts to inform transition team planning, and supporting the outgoing administration and federal agencies in managing their part of this transition. The Center also keeps track of issues that impact how an administration might execute its agenda, focuses on federal management issues and provides guidance for Congress, presidential candidates, and senior political appointees to lead and manage government. My responsibilities included researching and analyzing federal management issues, assisting with research about presidential transitions, and supporting the coordination and execution of Partnership events.

Within the Center for Presidential Transition is the Ready to Govern program. Ready to Govern assists the presidential appointees in navigating the transition process, engages Congress and promotes presidential transition reforms, develops management recommendations to address government’s operational challenges, and trains political appointees to lead effectively in their new positions. Over the course of my internship, I helped develop a new training module for political appointees. The module was piloted twice to a small group of advisors and current presidential appointees to ensure that the content is engaging, impactful, and strategic.

Lastly, the Center is housed within the Partnership’s Government Affairs team in the organization. During my internship, I had the opportunity to visit with congressional staff and members of Congress to talk about the Partnership’s priorities and what role Congress can play in transforming government.

One of the highlights of my internship was attending the annual Service to America Medals gala, referred to as Sammies. The Partnership for Public Service honors outstanding workers in the federal government who are nominated by their peers. In all, the event recognized nine award winners out of 28 nominees surrounded by top government officials, private-sector partners of the organization, the Partnership’s board members, and the families of the award-winners. This year, the Partnership presented the first Spirit of Service Award to Jeff Bezos to honor individuals in the private sector who are making a positive difference in government. Sammies was a great experience to be a part of – it is organized and run entirely in-house by the Partnership and accurately honors the spirit of public service.

Michelle Herr (4th from left), Maxwell Dean David Van Slyke (2nd from left), and Maxwell Faculty Sean O’Keefe (far right) at the Sammies

My time at the Partnership was incredibly rewarding. I learned about critical issues facing the federal government, the amazing things people in government are doing, and leading strategies and methods to mitigate the challenges government experiences.

Michelle Herr is an alum of the MPA/MAIR program. She currently works at Deloitte.

Michelle Herr (top left) with fellow interns

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Sybelle Rodriquez, A New Passion for Advocacy

This summer I was an intern at InterAction, a nonprofit organization that serves as a convener for the NGO community and as a space for collaboration and action. Focusing on policy, advocacy, development and humanitarian practice, InterAction contributes to advances in these fields internationally.

I was an intern in the public policy team. I focused on the budget and appropriations work where I followed the humanitarian assistance and development accounts of the Federal Budget. This experience has helped me understand the budget and appropriations process in more detail and the complexity behind it. Mostly I worked with InterAction’s foreign assistance budget expert, explored data visualizations, and gained a better understanding of nonprofit dynamics in the office.

This experience helped me to reaffirm my interest in international development and helped me discover a new passion for advocacy. There is value in educating and helping people communicate their own beliefs because it gives them the ability to act. In addition, I have gained an understanding about NGOs and how they work together to reach consensus and move forward. The opportunity to interact every day with many people with different backgrounds and expertise and learn from them is something that I will always be grateful for.

Sybelle Rodriguez at InterAction Forum 2018

My days at InterAction made me understand the importance of giving your best effort. Waking up every day thinking that your work can save lives is a great reason to give your best. While I was in Washington, DC working in an office, my work impacted the life of someone on the other side of the world and this was the biggest lesson InterAction gave me: it does not matter how small the task, the task matters.

While I still have a long way to go in my career, InterAction surely marked my journey as I continue to discover my path.

Sybelle Rodriguez is a joint MPA/MAIR student. She went on to intern at InterAction in the fall of 2018 as well, and she is now in Washington, DC interning at Search for Common Ground.

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Jennifer Valdez Assists Training at USCIS in LA

In Summer 2018, I had the opportunity to serve as Student Intern at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services in Los Angles, California. As a Student Intern, I worked on a variety of assignments and projects including the development of a new Leadership and Employee Development Training Program. My job functions included project management, event coordinating, and helping with the hiring process by scheduling interviews and arranging the interview panel. I had the opportunity to assist Immigration Service Officers as they interviewed applicants for citizenship or lawful permanent resident status and assessed documentations to either grant or deny applications.

The Leadership and Employee Development Training Program aims to serve as the master program that will incorporate existing trainings and add new trainings on leadership, technical and other skills. My role was to assist in the stages of program development and implementation by drafting a proposal explaining the purpose and goal of the new training program for every employee at USCIS in the District of Los Angeles, creating the business rules and training courses, and designing the program logo. I accomplished this with the guidance, and under the supervision, of the Los Angeles County Field Office Director.

Jennifer Valdez (left) with the Congressional Leads at Rep. Linda Sanchez 16th Annual Seniors Fair. August 10th, 2018, Congressional Outreach event

A major highlight of my internship experience this summer was getting the chance to present the program proposal to the Los Angeles District Director, Deputy Director, Chief of Staff and five Field Office Directors.

In addition to being involved in various exciting projects another incredible experience I had was attending the oath ceremonies in July and August where honorable judges officially granted applicants citizenship. I enjoyed every moment of it especially the part where I got to issue certificates of citizenship. What rewarding moments those were. I take pride in what I did and all that I was able to accomplish during my time at USCIS.

July 24th, 2018. Oath Ceremony at the Los Angeles Staple Center. Approximately 10,000 applicants became citizens that day.
Jennifer Valdez at USCIS in Los Angeles

MPA/MAIR Program at the Maxwell School

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

Emma Buckhout, Internal Communications at USCIS

This summer, I participated in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Summer Enrichment Program at headquarters in Washington, DC. As “student trainee,” or intern, with the Internal Communications (IC) division within the Office of Public Affairs, I supported internal workforce communication for 19,000 government employees and contractors. Among other tasks, I provided primary support on USCIS’ tri-weekly internal newsletter, editing and publishing articles for the agency intranet site.

Through my MPA/MAIR studies at Maxwell I am concentrating on immigration and refugee policy. I applied for this internship with hopes of learning first-hand what USCIS actually does and how it operates. USCIS is the component within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) tasked with, as its mission statement says, “adjudicating requests for immigration benefits.” I had previously worked on immigration and U.S.-Mexico border policy for two NGOs in Washington, DC, but had focused primarily on political debates, border enforcement issues, and migration through Mexico. I was eager to learn more about how the actual U.S. immigration services are carried out and more about the granular process of immigrating to the U.S. and gaining citizenship.

Emma Buckhout addresses fellow interns and a USCIS audience at the USCIS Summer Enrichment Program 2018 closing ceremony

While internal communications may seem removed from the actual immigration and refugee adjudications, and even farther from the big-picture policy work, it was the perfect window from which to learn how all of USCIS’ varied components fit together. My office cleared and sent out any policy directives and announcements from USCIS or DHS leadership to all USCIS employees. At the same time, we received articles and announcements from field offices across the country on special events, accomplishments, and trainings. To properly edit and publish them, I not only had to learn the agency style rules, but I also got to learn a little bit about what each agency component does.

The USCIS Summer Enrichment Program also provided invaluable learning and professional development opportunities for the cohort of over 60 interns. We visited a regional USCIS service center, where we heard from the officers who review the applications for specific immigration benefits, and the Virginia asylum office, where officers explained how they conduct in-person asylum interviews. We also attended a naturalization ceremony in which we got to witness dozens of people complete the rigorous process to become U.S. citizens. Furthermore, the internship program worked with several headquarters offices to host career panels and skills workshops, as well as a talk with USCIS Director Cissna. As a result of my participation, I was honored as one of three Summer Enrichment participants chosen to speak at Intern Closing Ceremony.

In the end, I succeeded in learning more completely about the structure and work of USCIS. I also built invaluable relationships with my talented Internal Communications team, and gained a renewed respect for the value of communication, clear writing, and editing in any professional field.

Emma Buckhout is a MPA/MAIR student and Robertson Fellow focusing on immigration and refugee policy.

Emma Buckhout with the USCIS-DHS seal

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Stephanie Spera Works with Illiterate Mothers in South Africa

Stephanie Spera is a current joint MPA /MAIR student at The Maxwell School. This summer she interned with Connect Network, a non-profit network based in Cape Town, South Africa, as part of her degree requirements. She also participated in the summer program South Africa: A Global Health Education Experience.

This summer, I embarked on a journey that has changed me academically, professionally, and personally. It all started with a Skype call with Dee Moskoff, an alum of the Maxwell School and Director of Connect Network, an organization that partners with NGOs around Cape Town to reach women and children at risk through health, education, and empowerment programs.

Connect Network office in Cape Town, South Africa

My primary responsibility at Connect was to aid in the final stages of developing a health literacy manual for illiterate mothers and their children in the Western Cape. The manual focuses on empowering women and children to respect their bodies, identify their health needs, and improve their understanding of issues such as sexuality, emotional health, and abuse. This included several steps, including performing a baseline survey of mothers to identify community needs; meeting with partners to finalize content and to ensure they are happy with the final product; writing a year-end report for donors; and drafting a budget request for year two funding.

From the start, my team met the stress of development and deadlines with passion, purpose, and perseverance. We sat for hours with partners to make sure the manual met their objectives. We facilitated conversations between each partner, the illustrator, and donors to maintain the vision of the project at every step. Amid threats of rioting, we traveled weekly to Khayelitsha Township to meet with local facilitators who helped to develop and collect surveys and provided valuable feedback on the needs of the community. Although each partner has different interests in the project, our shared dedication to improving the lives of women and children by empowering them to advocate for themselves and improve their access resources has kept us moving forward.

Stephanie Spera and her team at Connect Network

During my time in South Africa, I have found a passion for health care and bridging resource gaps for people from disadvantaged backgrounds. My experience at Connect has taught me the importance of people and relationships, and has given me the skills necessary to continue that fight when I return stateside.

MPA/MAIR Program at the Maxwell School

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At World Vision-Ecuador, Valeria Urbina Cordano Applies Collaborative Governance

Valeria Urbina Urbina Cordano is a De-Sardon Glass Fellow working on the joint MPA/MAIR degree.

Between the months of June and August, I had the opportunity to do my internship at World Vision (WV) in Ecuador. My professional interest in social policies aimed to enhance the quality of life of vulnerable people, particularly in Latin America, motivated me to do an internship with this great NGO.

WV-Ecuador is a Non-profit Organization aimed at increasing the well-being and integral protection of children and youths in Ecuador. To achieve this, WV works with children and youths together with their families and communities to reach their full potential in the exercise of their rights and participation. It also works to promote their economic development.

As an intern, I worked within the Directorate of Integrated Ministry, the department in charge of implementing, monitoring, and evaluating their institutional programs and projects. In a context of organizational change, my responsibilities were twofold. First, I conducted research regarding the inter-institutional cooperation between WV and the public sector oriented towards recommending improvements to WV’s inter-institutional cooperation strategy. Second, I identified and assessed the most important causes of vulnerability in children and youths in order to diversify and increase the positive impacts of WV’s interventions.

Valeria Urbina Cordano conducting a focus group discussion with community leaders in Colta, Chimborazo Province, Ecuador.
Group Photo of the focus group with community leaders in Colta, Chimborazo Province, Ecuador.

I had the great opportunity to lead both endeavors. In this sense, I was in charge of activities such as setting goals, literature research, methodology design, tools’ development, coordination, data collection and systematization, as well as analysis and elaboration of the final report. I really enjoyed reviewing the literature and applying frameworks from my Maxwell courses, particularly, those related to Collaborative Governance.

Moreover, as part of this work, I visited two of WV’s Area Development Programs located in different regions (Colta which is in the highlands, and Santa Ana which is on the coast). There, I conducted interviews with WV’s personnel and partners from the local government. I was able to grasp the perspectives of decision-makers in charge of local policies in education, health, social development, among other areas.

Group Photo of the focus group with community leaders in Santa Ana, Manabí Province, Ecuador.

Furthermore, I conducted two focus groups with community leaders, who in the case of Colta belong to the Kichwa indigenous people. They inspired me. These extraordinary men and women work every day to achieve greater development in their communities. Despite the long distances typical of Ecuadorian rural areas, they attended and participated enthusiastically in the activity.

Valeria Urbina Cordano conducting an interview with the Major of the Municipality of Colta.

This experience was so meaningful for me. It allowed me to strengthen my methodological, analytical and interpersonal skills in a context of cultural diversity. Also, from my fieldwork, I learned more about issues of ‘collaborative governance’ from the current role of WV Ecuador. In this context, for instance, I could identify some challenges for promoting and developing this form of government effectively in Ecuador, Peru, and other Latin American countries. Finally, I met a great team and many people who deepened my passion for working on development policies in this region.

Valeria Urbina Cordano with the Directorate of Integrated Ministry’s team on her last day at work. From left to right, Top: Pamela Toro, Kelly Gonzales, Mabel Bustamante, Milena Olivares, Mares Sandoval, Gabriela Romero. Bottom: Ángel Cucurí, Valeria Urbina, Gabriela Benítez.
Valeria Urbina Cordano in the Historic Center of Quito, Ecuador.

MPA/MAIR Program at the Maxwell School

De-Sardon Glass Fellowship at the Maxwell School

In Ghana, Lindzzi Ngati Understands to be Effective You Have to be Evolving

Lindzzi Ngati is a joint MPA/MAIR student focusing on international development.

This summer, I had the opportunity to intern with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Accra, Ghana through Syracuse Abroad. The IOM is the leading international agency in the field of migration, spearheading programs on brain drain and diaspora engagement, refugee resettlement, counter-trafficking, voluntary return and reintegration, migration health, labor migration, and border management. The organization is committed to the principle that humane and orderly migration benefits migrants and society.

From left to right: Lindzzi Ngati in a locally made dress, and SU students Sunil Casuba, Giovanna Saccoccio, and Khang Tran standing outside of the IOM Ghana office

During my internship I was tasked with two major group assignments in the Countertrafficking Unit and Migrant Assistance Unit. Other small assignments included: reporting about the Egyeikrom Refugee Camp, a presentation of the IOMs work to graduate students at the Centre for Migration Studies at the University of Ghana and created two info sheets about the SU/IOM student mobility program. In addition to these assignments, I had the opportunity to support the Migration and Development Project Manager during an African Union meeting and Ghanaian Migration National Stakeholder meeting.

Lindzzi Ngati during the African Union West/Central African regional meeting on regional migration

The Countertrafficking Unit tasked the group with collecting visibility material (pictures and videos) that could be used for fundraising. However, to protect the identity of the victims we could not capture their faces. In collecting the visibility material, we shadowed a social worker who was conducting the quarterly meetings with the victims, their families and teachers in the Volta region. At the end of the assignment, we produced 2 short videos and 15 profiles that highlight the achievements and needs of the victims. During this assignment I learned how to use iMovie and used the new skill to create my own personal short video that summarized my experience in Ghana for my final presentation to office staff.

For the second assignment, we conducted focus group discussions throughout various communities in the Greater Accra region. Once the focus group discussions were completed, we analyzed data and produced a report and infographic of our findings. Finally, we presented the report to the Migrant Assistance team. During the focus group discussion, we sensitized community members about the dangers of irregular migration. We also had the chance to have conversations with migrants returning from Libya and Niger. During this assignment I was able to share some of my negative experiences as a Black woman in the U.S. in order to sensitize community members about the social issues they may face in the Western world.

In addition to interning in Accra, I was able to explore other regions of Ghana. I visited Elmina Castle, Kakum National Park, and Fort Victoria in Central region, Fort Metal Cross and Busua in Western region, Mole National Park and Larabanga Mosque in the Northern region.

My time in Ghana has been a very rewarding experience which has provided me with new skills and a renewed mindset. During my last extensive international experience, I lived by the quote: “comfort and growth cannot coexist,” however, during this internship I lived by the quote: “to be effective you have to be evolving” – Daniel Tagoe, Focal Point during Volta trip. This quote is reflective of the lifestyle of an international development practitioner.

Lindzzi Ngati conducting a focus group discussion with members of the Kasoa, Greater Accra Region community members

MPA/MAIR Joint Degree Program at the Maxwell School

Survey of Current Issues in African Migration Program

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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

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MPA/MAIR Joint Degree Program at the Maxwell School