Tag Archives: Nepal

Ashley Saulcy Works on Political Transition in Nepal – Part 2

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

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

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

Ashley Saulcy in Nepal in the fall of 2017.

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

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

Part 1: Ashley Saulcy Works on Political Transition in Nepal

MAIR Degree at the Maxwell School

Maxwell Students Make a Difference in Nepal

Rachel Penner was searching for a summer internship in 2015, when a staff member recommended that she connect with Beau Miller, a 2010 MPA graduate and the Executive Director of a development NGO in Nepal known as Aythos.

Beau was excited to take Rachel on board with Aythos to work on post-earthquake recovery. Upon arrival in Nepal, Rachel was thrust into the earthquake recovery efforts using her specialty in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) to serve devastated villagers outside of Kathmandu.

Two Maxwell students, Jeffrey Pu and Trace Carlson, followed in Rachel’s footsteps and interned at Aythos in 2017. As an MPA student, Jeff first had to complete the MPA Workshop with a team of fellow students for the U.S. Department of Justice designing a human rights and human dignity course for foreign police. After wrapping this project up, Jeff hopped on a plane to Nepal. Upon arrival, Aythos put Jeff to work doing program evaluation for one of their projects by designing and distributing a survey to local villagers. After two months working for Aythos, Jeff found himself taking another long haul flight to Berlin, where he is currently finishing his MPP at the Hertie School of Governance as part of the Atlantis Transatlantic Dual Degree Program.

Jeffrey Pu in Nepal

Trace Carlson won a Foreign Languages and Area Studies Fellowship (FLAS) from the Moynihan Institute’s South Asia Center. With this fellowship, Trace journeyed to India to study Hindi, but was most interested in applying his academic knowledge to the field. After reaching out to Beau, Trace found himself heading to Nepal to conduct research on kiwi fruit agriculture for Aythos. Immediately, Trace found it very eye opening to compare the gap between research and field implementation. One had to be flexible and ready for anything. He once had to carry five kilograms of potatoes down a mountain for a village family, just because they asked him to.

Local Aythos staff receive feedback on kiwi fruit cultivation

On February 22, Beau, Rachel, Jeff, and Trace all came together on a Skype presentation for SU students interested in interning at Aythos. All agreed that it was one of the most fulfilling experiences of their lives and were completely humbled by the kindness and generosity of the people in Nepal. They fondly remembered backpacking into villages after encountering washed out roads—while dealing with leeches on the way—only to find countless cups of tea pushed on them upon arriving. While students spent about half their time in Kathmandu, they genuinely felt the impact of projects while working in the villages.

An Aythos staff member talks to a farmer. Women’s empowerment is a goal of the organization, since many Nepalese men go abroad to work leaving women to manage farms and businesses independently.

Maxwell’s partnership with Aythos fulfills the goal of professional degrees by creating graduates who are resilient and ready to enter a career upon graduation. According to Beau Miller, “If you can work in Nepal, you can work anywhere.”

Temple in Kathmandu

Maxwell’s MAIR Degree

Atlantis Transatlantic Dual Degree

Nepal Connections:

Trace Carlson’s blog post

Rachel Penner’s SU Today article

Ashley Saulcy’s Internship at the Asia Foundation in Kathmandu

Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu
Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu

Trace Carlson Conducts Research in Hindi

Trace Carlson is currently finishing up a Master of Arts in International Relations (MAIR) degree from the Maxwell School.  He was awarded a Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship (FLAS) from Maxwell’s South Asia Center.

Trace Carlson.

My experience this summer was both difficult and rewarding. I used the summer global program award to help finance my second year of Hindi language studies in Jaipur, India and to help offset the costs of my short internship experience in Kathmandu, Nepal. The language program was incredibly difficult because it packed the entire second year of Hindi into just eight weeks. We spent half of the summer reviewing what we had (or had not) learned during our first year of Hindi and then the second half learning entirely new material. The experience was so difficult purely because of the speed at which we were learning new material. We would be learning something new one day and then everything would change the next day. Ultimately, I was able to improve my understanding of the grammar rules and my speaking skills rapidly improved much more than they would have if I took the second year of Hindi at Syracuse because I had to use it every single day. We also stayed with host families so it made the experience feel as though we really got to understand the daily life and routine of your average Indian family. Overall, it was an extremely difficult learning experience, but deeply rewarding as well.

Jaipur, India.

The last part of my summer was spent working with a local NGO in Kathmandu. While I was in India, I was doing some research for the organization on the Indian supply chain of kiwi because it is often imported into Nepal, undercutting the local market because the kiwi is better developed. After the language program ended, I was able to join the team on the ground in Kathmandu. I helped develop some surveys with the organization to better understand the Nepalese side of the kiwi supply chain because the organization works with one hundred apple and kiwi farmers. We needed to better understand the supply chain so we could connect the farmers to the appropriate supply chain based on their needs and their output. My greatest memory of the experience was getting to head out into the field and actually speak with the farmers to hear about their experiences and what they needed from the organization in order to be successful. The rural areas of Nepal are absolutely stunning. I also got to continue practicing my Hindi because so many people in Nepal know Hindi as well. My experiences this summer were challenging, but incredibly rewarding because they helped me grow personally, academically, and professionally.

Maxwell MAIR Degree

Maxwell South Asia Center

Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship Program

Ashley Saulcy Works on Political Transition in Nepal

Ashley Saucy is a current Master of Arts in International Relations (MAIR) student at the Maxwell School. 

I arrived in Kathmandu, Nepal at 6:30 in the morning, and by 8:30, I was already at work with The Asia Foundation (TAF) as the new summer program intern. The whirlwind entry to the country was quickly followed by an introduction to programming that is defining key national policy discourses in Nepal. In my first week alone, I attended the TAF-supported release of the annual national trafficking in persons report and a policy dialogue on legal and regulatory challenges associated with the political transition, both inclusive of a wide set of international and national stakeholders. Needless to say, I was amazed to so suddenly find myself in the midst of policymaking spaces in one of the most exciting transitional political environments for practitioners and scholars of development.

Since the 2015 earthquake and the subsequent signing of the Constitution, Nepal has been experiencing a massive political transition towards a federalist system with three new tiers of government: central, provincial, and municipal. The creation of municipalities—and the constitutional delegation of powers primarily to the municipal and provincial levels—is emboldening local government in a way unseen since the early 1990s. The country has undergone two rounds of local elections so far, which will soon be followed by a third round.

The dynamics under Nepal’s political transition present an interesting challenge for development practitioners to be proactive and responsive to a system that is still characterized by unknowns politically, economically, and legally. My assignment to work primarily under TAF’s program to support the new subnational governance structures became a unique vantage point to understand the incredible breadth and depth of policymaking spaces that require engagement for successful decentralization.

Ashley Saulcy

One of my initial responsibilities was coordination of a new program partnership with organizations specifically focused on the empowerment of newly elected women leaders. Despite quotas in elected bodies, the political participation of women—particularly from low castes—in the Nepali system is still limited. My work with a partner organization has included conceptualization of the research approach and framework for responding to the identified capacity gaps and priorities. More broadly, the work has exposed me in more depth to the specific gender equality and social inclusion frameworks that organizations like TAF are using to understand the cross-cutting nature of marginalization. The experience has ingrained a deep appreciation for inclusivity as an overarching philosophy to the TAF office in Nepal.

My role broadened in the program to include work on building the program’s comprehensive monitoring, evaluation, and learning dashboard, as well as significant contributions to the inception report. In both projects, it has been exceptionally engaging and rewarding to be strategically thinking through and contributing to the way that the program’s theory of change can backstop the delegation of power to municipal governments.

I came to Nepal with a passion for engaging questions on governance, and have been invigorated with the strategic thinking of professionals that deeply understand the Nepali context. The exciting research and work on political dynamics and transition that I have found here have set a new personal standard for mindfulness, creativity, and excitement for engagement in developing contexts.

Ashley Saulcy

Students Work with Nepalese Communities in Earthquake Recovery

In case you missed it, Syracuse University News ran an article in early November featuring one of our PAIA students, Rachel Penner, who worked in disaster relief over the summer in Nepal. Rachel is a dual degree MAIR/Atlantis* student.

Read the original article>>

Excerpt:

Working with Aythos

Kam and Rachel Penner, a graduate student in the international relations program in the Maxwell School, both connected with the U.S.-based organization Aythos. The NGO was co-founded by Maxwell School alumnus Beau Miller G’10, who is Aythos’ president and executive director, and has worked in Nepal for six years.

Penner, who is interested in disaster response and development, was also drawn to the work Aythos was doing.

“Since Aythos was focused on development through their agricultural work before the earthquake, I knew that they would have a unique perspective on how to respond to a crisis with an eye toward long-term efforts,” Penner says.

Nepal-relief.Rachel.Penner.2final
Rachel Penner displays a water distribution tank that allowed the biosand-filtered water to be distributed to different housing clusters in a Nepalese village. Penner designed the tank to ensure the structural integrity of the main, 2,000-liter storage tank.
Nepal-relief.Rachel.Penner.final
Rachel Penner, fourth from right, stands with other volunteers near a mission transport plane.

Read the original article>>

*The Atlantis Transatlantic Degree Program allows students to study at U.S. and European institutions while earning a MAIR or MPA from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University and a MPP from the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, Germany.