Tag Archives: MPA/MAIR

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

South Africa: A Global Health Education Experience

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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

Maxwell-in-Washington Programs

MPA/MAIR Joint Degree Program at the Maxwell School

Ana Monzon Spends a Semester Abroad in the Paris Institute of Political Studies, Sciences Po

Ana Monzon graduated from the Maxwell School in August 2017 with a joint Master of Arts in International Relations – Master of Public Administration degree. She spent her last semester abroad, participating in the Sciences Po Global Program in the spring.

I began my final full semester as a grad student in NYC, just two weeks before departing for Paris. I took the course United Nations Managing for Change at the UN Headquarters. Thanks to Professor Catherine Bertini, my class was able to gain insight into the UN system from UN leaders, past and present. This was my second class with a role model for me in the field of global food security; I took Ms. Bertini’s Food Security class in Rome on my first semester at Maxwell.

Ana at the Sciences Po main campus.

Immediately after at Sciences Po, I studied with Olivier De Schutter, former UN Special Rapporteur to the Right to Food. On my Fulbright Fellowship in 2012, I had informed much of my research on the agricultural development in rural Brazil from De Schutter’s academic work. Being taught by him on a weekly basis in Paris was surreal; each and every class! For my final project I titled my reform’s proposal; A State-led Agri-food Development System Based on Savings-Based Women Associations and Agroecology. I could not believe I was writing a paper for THE expert on global hunger issues!  I still can’t.

Alongside former U.N. Special Rapporteur to the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter.

My other courses at Sciences Po allowed me to delve further into land tenure and property rights, and gender issues. This focus and subsequent academic research products led me to my final grad student placement in Tetra Tech ARD, one of the largest consulting and contracting firms in international development. Specifically, I gathered the Lessons Learned for all the projects under the 700 million USD USAID STARR IDIQ (contract) that the Land Tenure and Property Rights Sector of Tetra Tech ARD implemented around the world.

Ana and her Tetra Tech supervisors, Dr. Mark Freudenberger and Ms. Amy Regas, after the Lessons Learned presentation to USAID leaders from its Office of Land and Urban .

Being at Tetra Tech ARD meant, sadly, foregoing a language fellowship in Indonesia that I was awarded from the Critical Language Study Program of the U.S. Department of State, which I would attribute to my first graduate internship with the Millennium Challenge Corporation in Indonesia.

Yet, I wouldn’t change a thing in my Master’s journey. All has come full circle. Currently, I am a Fulbright Public Policy scholar in my home country, Guatemala. My placement at the Vice Ministry of Food and Nutritional Security of the Ministry of Agriculture of the Government of Guatemala enables me to employ all the knowledge gained in international affairs and public administration at the Maxwell School and Sciences Po.

Alongside community leaders from the “Cooperativa Integral Agrícola Joya Hermosa de las Tres Cruces R.L.”, working with Heifer International on projects of indigenous corn and potato storage and employing Heifer’s “passing on the gift” approach on these staples as well as on goat herding, in Huehuetenango, Guatemala.

I am forever grateful to the financial support from the Robertson Foundation, Global Programs, Clements Award, and to the remarkable education acquired at Syracuse University and abroad in France.

Last day of the UN class in NYC, handing Professor Catherine Bertini a ‘thank you’ coffee souvenir from Indonesia, where I had previously interned with the Millennium Challenge Corporation.
Ana’s last evening in Paris, strolling along River Seine.

Ana Monzon Promotes UN Recovery Month at U.S. HHS

Ana Monzon, Indonesia Happens All Around You When Doing M&E for MCC

Maxwell MPA/MAIR Degree

Sciences Po Global Program

Christie Gingras, Pacific Command in Hawaii

Christie Gingras is a joint MPA/MAIR student with one more semester of studies remaining. She is a Robertson Fellow and a former Peace Corps Volunteer in Mongolia.

This summer, I was fortunate enough to intern at United States Pacific Command (USPACOM) in Hawaii. Within PACOM, I interned for the Global Peacekeeping Operations Initiative, a State Department program implemented by Department of Defense. In support of the program, I conducted feasibility and trend analyses, wrote case studies, implemented a new monitoring system, and provided recommendations for a new course evaluation system. Additionally, I was able to attend the Association of Asia-Pacific Peace Operations Training Centers Conference in Sri Lanka as part of the GPOI team.

This internship was an incredible experience, but three aspects of the internship stood out as being particularly advantageous to my future career.  First, I was able to observe civilian-military as well as interagency cooperation, both within the federal government and abroad. Learning how the military and DoD operates will be invaluable in a future career in post conflict reconstruction, where they will be involved in reconstruction efforts. Next, I was able to build on my ground-level experience in the Peace Corps and appreciate how, at the higher, operational level, programs are managed in support of the strategic policy for the region. Finally, I was able to spend time networking with other individuals at the combatant command who connected me with colleagues in Washington, D.C.; I plan on leveraging these connections in the fall as I begin my job search for after graduation.

While not working, I took advantage of living in Hawaii. I hiked and enjoyed the beaches. I learned fencing from one colleague and krav maga from another. All in all, I had an incredible time and will be dreaming of O’ahu during Syracuse’s long winter!

Christie Gingras at her fencing class
Association of Asia-Pacific Peace Operations Training Centers Conference in Sri Lanka. Christie Gingras, back row, 17th from left

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

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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.

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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.

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Sonia Rangel, Mastering International Trade Relations

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

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

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

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

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

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

Entrance to the Woodrow Wilson International Center of Scholars
Sonia Rangel at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars library

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