Vahid Khatami is a joint MPA/MAIR student who spent his Summer Semester taking part in the Maxwell-in-Washington program where he interned at IRD during the day while taking Maxwell courses at night. Vahid is currently still in Washington, DC interning at IRD and at Microfinance Opportunities.
Based on the Global Humanitarian Assistance report, at least 42% of people with extreme poverty – around 677 million people – are estimated to live in countries that are politically fragile. Many international organizations have been established to address such conflict and post-conflict environments, including International Relief and Development (IRD). With their headquarters in Arlington, Virginia and 18 years of experience, IRD currently operates in more than 15 counties across Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, the Americas, and the Middle East. The international programs address relief, stabilization, and development needs in the areas of health, agriculture, infrastructure, emergency response, and governance.
As an intern in the applied learning unit of IRD, I reviewed mostly current performance reports of the projects to pull out the critical lessons learned and build a database to improve the quality of data-driven policies in the organization. To improve the accuracy of the contents, I did several interviews with program managers to reflect their viewpoints on the most important lessons learned from the programs. Such interviews helped me to improve my work relations with other staff.
I have also performed more technical jobs such as building a database of all the consultants’ historical records who have worked with IRD. For this purpose, I wrote several text-mining codes to extract the relevant information from a mass of documents which resulted in more than a thousand records. Writing the codes to automatically extract data, made a huge difference in my work rather than doing the same job manually. In the end, I suggested developing a managerial dashboard for databases including the lessons learned and consultants and indicators. This was all implemented by the M&E interns’ team and accepted by the office director.
As my career track is focused on international economics and development, I found my internship a good step to leverage my knowledge in the field. I better understand some of the development challenges in the real world and the culture of a non-profit organizations working in international development. I expanded my communication skills through the tasks and applied my technical skills in a professional environment. I hope to find my next professional position in the same career track based on this experience to improve my portfolio.
Emily Hoerner used her previous experience in the non-profit sector to contribute to IOM Ghana’s mission through the Survey of Current Issues in African Migration global program. This program gives students experience doing field work for a UN agency.
As a joint-degree MPA/MAIR, my first year at Maxwell has been a whirlwind. Without a doubt, the most rewarding part of my Maxwell experience so far has been the two months I spent interning with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Accra, Ghana this summer.
I was drawn to IOM’s Ghana program because it offered me the opportunity to work on the ground with a respected international organization. I wasn’t disappointed. After a week of cultural and professional orientation to Ghana and IOM, I spent four weeks working with IOM’s Assisted Voluntary Return & Reintegration (AVRR) team. The AVRR program aims to help migrants who have left Ghana and wish to return, providing them with reintegration assistance like accommodation or support if they wish to start micro-businesses.
My time with the AVRR team was spent primarily working on their reintegration database. I looked at trends and best practices from other IOM missions’ AVRR databases, and suggested improvements to the system the Ghanaian AVRR team was currently using. I then worked with a member of the AVRR team to re-build their database from the ground up, in the hope that this new framework would allow them to capture, input, and report out on migration and reintegration data more effectively and efficiently. When the database was complete, I also performed some trend analysis for the team on their migration data from the past five years, creating charts and graphs from the data that the team could use for informational one-pagers about the AVRR program.
The final two weeks of my internship were spent doing a bit more fieldwork: traveling in and around the greater Accra region to speak with beneficiaries of the AVRR program. This was, by far, my favorite part of the internship. Though I knew the database work I completed was important, having the opportunity to speak one-on-one with AVRR beneficiaries put a truly human face on the program. Some of the beneficiaries I spoke with were quieter or more reserved than others, but I loved having the chance to speak with these people and hear their stories of hardship, perseverance, and sometimes triumph.
Overall, my internship with IOM Ghana’s AVRR team was a fantastic introduction into the world of international development, and what it is like to work in a country office of a complex international organization. My time with IOM was replete with frustrations, challenges, and opportunities for both personal and professional growth. Above all, my internship solidified my desire to work in the complicated, frustrating, and rewarding field of international development.
Ana Monzon is a Robertson Fellow and a joint MPA/MAIR student who will take part in the Maxwell-in-Washington program for her Fall 2016 semester. While in Washington, DC, she will begin an internship at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“Indonesia happens all around you” was the motto of my Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Internship at the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) this Summer. My first days here indeed were wild. On my second week, I set out on trip to what was supposed to be a field visit with MCA-I staff from the Green Prosperity (GP) project, the biggest of three projects encompassing the 600 million USD MCC Compact in Indonesia, to monitor cocoa sustainability projects. I never made it, and instead, I was stranded in a layover island for three days (mainly due to an airplane’s broken window and the airport’s remote location). It was a first introduction of all that can go wrong, but also a first wonderful experience in the remoteness of rural Indonesia. As excited as I was to begin my third week of work in Jakarta, my laptop died on the first day back in the office. After many exasperating trips to IT centers, due to the infamous Jakarta traffic, I learned that Indonesia does not carry my laptop for which reason I flew to Singapore on the last week of Ramadan, a week-long holiday!
Once my ordeal was over, almost a month later, I quickly began working on looking at the proposals/ implementation plans of the 8 grantees (e.g., Rainforest Alliance and WWF) of the GP project’s resource management activities, “Window 1”. I was charged with identifying targeted indicators tracked by the MCC’s Indicator Tracking Table, from the grantees’ proposals and developing a thematic roadmap of each; strengthening the link between indicators and the GP Theory of Change in the master M&E plan. These tasks will help support and hold grantees accountable in the coming months and as the MCC Compact comes to an end in 2018.
Excitingly so, and to get contextual background on tasks realized in the office, I also partook in field site visits (unlike in the first attempt, all ensuing visits were a SUCCESS; no broken airplane windows!) for three different purposes; monitoring grantees’ projects, in support of a high-level management delegation from the MCC headquarters in Washington D.C., and to inform a policy paper I will spearhead on another of GP’s activity, Participatory Land Use Planning, for the World Bank’s Conference on Land and Poverty 2017. In every field visit I was marveled by the diversity in Indonesia; each region’s distinct and unique languages, foods, religions, landscapes, and customs (working in MCA-I, staffed by all Indonesians, made this discovering all the more “local”). Underlying commonalities, most characteristically the friendliness and warmth of Indonesians, persisted everywhere I went.
Indeed, Indonesia happened all around me, way too quick and with much intensity, contributing to both my professional and personal growth in ways I never fathomed. This was a dream come true for an international development aspiring professional as myself, and I owe it to all the generosity of all who financially and otherwise made it happen: Terima kasih Maxwell, Robertson Foundation, Clements and Global Awards, MCC, and MCA-I!
Camila Urbina is a joint MPA/MAIR student who secured her internship at WFP by writing directly to country offices and looking outside well known locations. For her Fall 2016 Semester, she plans to study at Sciences Po in Paris through one of SU’s World Partner Programs.
Amongst the amazing opportunities the Maxwell School has provided me during my joint degree, this summer was certainly the most life-changing. I could have never imagined the incredible professional and personal experiences and growth that awaited me while working for the World Food Programme (WFP) in Timor-Leste.
Timor-Leste is one of the newest countries in the world, the proud and resilient Timorese gained their independence from Indonesia after a terrifying war only 16 years ago. With one million inhabitants and a young government, Timor is navigating post-conflict, much like my native Colombia, with the help of the UN.
The country has the world’s worst stunting in the world and some of the worst malnutrition numbers in Asia; this is why the World Food Programme is supporting the Timorese Ministry of Heath to conduct a mother and child nutrition programme. The programme provides nutrition screenings, education and supplementary foods for pregnant and lactating mothers and malnourished children under two years old in 6 of the most critically malnourish municipalities in the island nation. WFP is also providing technical assistance and capacity building to the Timorese so that they may eventually take full control of the program.
My three months were divided into working in the main office in the capital Dili, supporting the monitoring and evaluation department, and working in the field, providing food and nutrition education for the country’s most remote and malnourished communities in the mountains of enclave province of Oecusse.
The WFP country office in Timor is aiming at creating a social accountability mechanism to include in their nutrition program. During my time in Dili, I was tasked with creating a benchmark of the mechanisms and strategies used by those other UN agencies and NGOs in Timor to get feedback from communities and help put together a proposal to create the country office’s own social accountability system. Furthermore I was in charge of creating a gender action plan for the office, based on the guidelines provided by WFP headquarters in Rome, in order to help materialize WFP’s commitment to women empowerment and gender balance in all aspect of their work. I also supported various communication needs, writing stories, interviews and particularly covering the work in the field during international Breastfeeding week.
It was a profoundly enriching experience to be a part of the country’s learning process in matters of nutrition and social resilience and to experience not only the challenge of working with government in a different culture but more importantly the joy of serving in the remote and beautiful villages. This summer was an incredible experience, serving the resilient and loving Timorese and living amongst the wild and the unbridled beauty of their island-home has provided me with new perspectives on humanitarian work and given me the opportunity to practice all the theory provided by the Maxwell School to the benefit of the most vulnerable.
Kyra Murphy is a joint MPA/MAIR student who worked as a graduate policy fellow with the National Security Network (NSN) in Washington, DC during the Summer 2015 semester . She was also Head Intern at the National Security Studies Program at the Maxwell School under with Col. Bill Smullen (Ret.) and Executive Director Sue Virgil during the Fall semester 2015.
Originally, I had planned to be in New York City for the Fall 2015 Semester of my 2nd year working toward the MPA/MAIR Degrees. My internship with the U.S. Department of State at the permanent mission to the United Nations was confirmed and I could not have been more excited! Then, things changed. Unfortunate circumstances and wonderful new opportunities resulted in my decision to forget NYC and come back to Syracuse for the Fall Semester. My decision was primarily influenced by the announcement that I had been awarded a national Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship for South Asian studies. This opportunity meant that I would have the chance to begin studying new languages, both Hindi and Urdu, as well as return to my former graduate fellowship position working at the National Security Studies program with Col. Bill Smullen (Ret.) and Executive Director Sue Virgil.
To my surprise, my decision ended up being one without any regrets. Even though the chance to work at the U.S. Mission to the UN would have been an unbelievable opportunity, I truly believe that I made the right choice. Now, I have the opportunity to expand my language skills even further, and have applied for a Boren Fellowship to spend the next year in India researching nuclear policy. I am even more marketable for when I begin my job search, as I have two additional critical languages to add to my former experience in Turkish. Finally, I am working as the Brady K. Fellow for the National Security Studies program and have been able to acquire skills in administration, logistics, strategy, and overall organization management.
The U.S. State Department will always have internship opportunities, but incredible fellowships don’t come around very often. I am thankful that I had wonderful mentors and advisors at the Maxwell School to help me make the right decision.
For the third year in a row, the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs received top honors for “Outstanding Delegation” at the annual Model UN Conference in New York City. The team, composed of 20 undergraduate students, won the top prize for its research and portrayal of the island nation of New Zealand, the country assigned by conference officials[. . .]
[. . .]Kyra Murphy, a graduate student in public administration and international affairs and graduate assistant for the delegation, credits Model UN with rounding out her degrees. “Today, as I get ready to graduate from Maxwell, I can confidently attribute my oral presentation and public speaking skills, my knowledge in diplomacy and international etiquette, and my comfort in new situations to the time that I have spent with Model UN.”
Over the course of Spring break, Maxwell students had the great opportunity to visit various sites and attend coffee chats with alumni. They connected with people who worked at various organizations in Washington, DC and New York and learned a lot about opportunities in different fields. There is no doubt that this unique opportunity helped Maxwell students to consolidate their careers.
Over the course of our spring break, approximately 60 members of our cohort traveled to Washington, D.C. and New York City to network and connect with Maxwell alumni who work in various professions in the public, private, and nonprofit fields.
The busy week’s networking festivities kicked off at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), an internationally-focused think tank in D.C. that the Maxwell School has a unique partnership with. Throughout the D.C. leg of the trip, current students had the opportunity to attend site visits and coffee chats with a variety of organizations that had a Maxwell connection. The Office of Personnel Management, the Brookings Institute, the Congressional Budget Office, the Department of Energy, the World Bank, and Booz Allen Hamilton are a just few names of the many site visits our cohort attended. A group of MPA students attended the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a think tank that considers the needs of low-income and disadvantaged individuals and families. The most valuable trip for me was visiting the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor, given its relevance to my interests in higher education and labor. After this visit, I was able to connect with a 2010 alumnus about a graduate summer fellowship opportunity starting in July. He even offered to connect me with the Fellow Coordinator and offered a recommendation.[…]
Emily Fredenberg is a dual-degree MPA & MAIR student. She interned with the United Nations Development Programme, within their Health and Development Unit in Geneva, Switzerland during the summer. She came back to Syracuse to continue her studies after finishing her internship with the United Nations Network for Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Secretariat.
This autumn, I had the opportunity to intern with the United Nations Network for Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Secretariat, hosted by the headquarters of the UN World Food Programme in Rome, Italy. As an intern, my function was to support the global-level work of the UN Network for SUN Secretariat, in its coordination and facilitation functions amongst the main UN agencies principally working on nutrition.
Overview of the Roles of the SUN Movement, the UN Network for SUN, & REACH within the Global Nutrition Landscape:The Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement is a global initiative, aiming to spur political action and investment among both national government leaders as well as development partners, to improve maternal and child nutrition. SUN focuses on investing targeted action for the first 1,000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday. Poor nutrition during this period can result in irreversible consequences for a child, such as stunted growth or impaired cognitive development. Therefore this short window of time can have life-changing impacts on a child’s health throughout the entire life-cycle as well as their ability to break the cycle of poverty for their families and communities.
SUN is a country-led movement (currently present in 55 participating countries), bringing various stakeholders together, across the different SUN Networks which include government, civil society, UN, and the private sector, to support national efforts to scale up nutrition. This multi-stakeholder approach fosters greater coordination and access to technical and financial resources which are necessary to galvanize nutrition action. The SUN Movement focuses on encouraging the implementation of key nutrition-interventions (such as the promotion of breast-feeding), as well as the integration of nutrition into the broader policy efforts of relevant government sectors such as health, agriculture, education, social protection, sanitation, and women’s empowerment.
At the national level, there is frequently a lack of coordination and capacity to develop a multi-sectoral, multi-stakeholder approach. Hence, nutrition activities can remain fragmented and uncoordinated, and result in duplicative efforts with limited impact. In order to facilitate coordination, the work of the SUN Movement is synchronized amongst the various SUN Networks, including the work of the UN Network for SUN. The UN Network was endorsed in June 2013 by five UN Agencies principally working in nutrition related issues (FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO). The Network serves to: harmonize and coordinate UN activities in support of country nutrition efforts, and to align UN nutrition efforts with those of national governments, other SUN Networks and nutrition stakeholders at global and country levels.
Renewed Efforts Against Child Hunger and Undernutrition (REACH) is an essential component of the UN Network for SUN, and provides participating governments with impartial coordinateon and analytical support to simplify administrative mechanisms. It further allows UN Network agencies to focus their efforts on the technical aspects of nutrition. REACH’s neutral facilitation takes the shape of a national and international nutrition facilitator, which work directly with the national government to foster greater country-led stakeholder engagement, with the aim of progressing the level of national commitment for nutrition efforts. Currently, REACH facilitation is present within 17 SUN countries.
UN Network for SUN/REACH Secretariat Internship Roles: As the UN Network for SUN Secretariat works to coordinate the efforts amongst the participating UN agencies, the Secretariat also facilitated an interagency workshop on the UN’s approach to Capacity Development Assessments the first week of November. Currently, most UN Network agencies conduct their own assessments, and this workshop was designed to harmonize these assessments as a collaborative UN Network for SUN approach to capacity building efforts.
As my principal internship project, I worked to facilitate a colleague from FAO to firstly conduct a pre-workshop analysis, by 1) mapping the existing UN assessment tools, 2) drafting a capacity development framework based upon the various UN assessment methodologies, and 3) conducting a country case study analysis of previous assessments conducted to get a better sense of how these assessments could be improved to better leverage country level capacity. Through workshop discussions, we were able to finalize the draft framework, and also agreed to create a harmonized guidance package for countries interested in conducting assessments. I additionally assisted in this development process, though the final guidance package will not be complete until this coming spring 2016.
Overall, my internship with the UN Network for SUN Secretariat certainly allowed me to get a fuller understanding of the intricacies of the UN system, particularly with regards to inter-UN agency collaboration efforts specific to nutrition. It also helped to further develop my research, writing, and strategic planning skills. All in all, I had an amazing semester with the Secretariat in Rome. Rome truly is a great city, and I’m quite grateful for the experience I was able to have there.
Suhyeon Lee is a MAIR student who does a great deal to maintain this blog. She decided to try her hand at drafting an article about the course, UN Organizations-Managing for Change taught by Professor Catherine Bertini. This is an intensive one-week course taught in New York City with multiple visits to United Nations Headquarters.
This UN course was an opportunity for my classmates and I to obtain valuable learning by seeing much and studying much. This course was not just a normal class, but a special one in that it consisted of a variety of activities including lectures, speeches, a UN trip, and networking, all of which is not easily combined. If there is anyone who is looking for courses during the Winter Session, I would definitely recommend this one for you.
As we walked into the classroom on the first day, we were delighted to see that it was a big class setting where we each could work on our own personal computer. As Prof. Bertini began to go over class procedures, we were excited to learn about United Nations’ organizations in upcoming classes, which made the room filled with passion and excitement.
For five days, we learned the operations and processes for change in several United Nations’ organizations mainly focusing on the Security Council, UN Secretariat, and World Food Programme. This course began with a brief summary of each organization, including their purposes, funding systems, and governance structures, intertwined with speeches of guest speakers who have vast experience in their field. In addition, we had an opportunity to learn culture and representational issues of the United Nations organizations where efforts at future improvement must be made.
One of the great advantages of taking the UN course was listening to the speeches of guest speakers. On the second day of the UN course, my classmates and I had the honor to have the Former Executive Director of UNICEF, Carol Bellamy, as a speaker. She talked about leadership strategy–one important skill that MAIR students have to be equipped with–and her achievements at UNICEF. It was a thrilling and memorable moment, and we felt so blessed to learn a lot from her.
For the last two days, we went on a trip to the UN to get an idea of how the UN works and met prominent people who were working to make the world a better place. On the first day of the UN trip, we headed to the Public Chamber under the supervision of a security guard to learn operations and the processes of the Security Council. When we arrived at the public chamber, the representatives of Congo were on the screen and the members of the Security Council, ambassadors, and a few people were seated. The president of the Security Council was in the center, and the discussion started with his remarks. Looking at this scene made being at the UN even more real.
During the afternoon, the Director of the Secretary General visited the conference room where we stayed. We learned the operations and processes of the Security Council in more detail and representational issues of the Security Council such as the number of permanent members and non-permanent members.
The most impressive part of the second UN visit was meeting with Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Jan Eliasson. He put emphasis on a few ideas while speaking. First, he valued human rights. He said that we should not forget human rights and that human rights violations are a sign of danger. When he said these words, we strongly agreed with his ideas, and we were pleased with the fact that the world has Jan Eliasson as the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations. Second, he talked about diversity. He said that the world together is the most important thing. There are a lot of criticism in regards to migrants and refugees, especially now days when terrorism by ISIS threatens the world. However, we had a lesson from him that we should not forget that each country is one part of the world.
This course helped students prepare for working at international organizations by attending a lecture of operations and processes of the United Nations organization. This was a positive experience where we gained valuable information and skills. I am grateful for taking this course and all I learned from it. I will definitely be able to implement the information and skills I learned in this class in the future.
Prof. Bertini and the UN course
The UN course was taught by Prof. Catherine Bertini. She is currently a Professor of Public Administration and International Affairs at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs of Syracuse University, and was the Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Program from 1992 to 2002. All courses she teaches are drawn by the vast experience she gained during a career spanning public service at international, national, state, and local levels, and private sector and foundation experience. The UN course is one of a number of courses that she teaches. This course originally was held at Syracuse University, but with the help of a few people including Prof. Bertini and Syracuse University, the location was moved from Syracuse to New York City two years ago.
Beth Gawne spent three years teaching English in rural Japan before coming to the Maxwell School. She is a joint MPA/MAIR student who will finish with two degrees. She interned at the United States Department of State in Washington, DC and is a regular contributor to the PAIA Insider blog.
“And they will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war anymore.” –Isaiah 2:4
This is a quote I saw often in a hallway of the Harry S Truman building of the State Department while I spent my Fall Semester learning about nonproliferation efforts in the US. This quote was written as a mural on the wall of the floor I worked on, and across from it was an image of a mushroom cloud from the first successful nuclear test of the Manhattan Project. It gave me inspiration and motivation as I worked in the front office of the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN), sitting in on meetings with high-level diplomats and representatives from the government, taking notes, and organizing briefing documents for the Assistant Secretary.
My time in the State Department provided me a 30,000-ft view of what the US does to prevent nuclear, biological, and chemical materials from being used as weapons, and instead to focus those efforts on peaceful means. I learned that these efforts range from formal treaties and conventions, to interdiction and export control, to even helping scientists overseas to prevent accidents or theft of dangerous materials. Even more, I learned about the slow moving machine that is the bureaucracy meant to ensure that these efforts are consistent and properly coordinated. I realized that without this, our government would spend its time responding to the latest crisis and be unable to do anything else long-term.
My job itself had me working alongside other staff assistants to make sure the leadership of the bureau was prepared for meetings and events. I got to see what makes a strong leader within the government, and I had the opportunity to work with some of the most engaging, kind, and supportive people I have ever met. I even was given a chance to do a few projects in other offices, helping with detailed data collection that was going to be used to impact a real problem on the ground. Knowing I was involved in something that would make a difference was probably one of the best parts of the internship overall. I wasn’t making copies and running to Starbucks; I was helping to communicate an argument for NATO or inform bureau officers of a country’s stance on an issue.
I was most impressed with the quality of the leadership within the bureau, and for people who have such important and high-level jobs, everyone was down-to-earth and welcoming. I’m excited to see what my future holds, and hopefully my path will cross with ISN once again— even if I’m not directly working there.