I received an internship offer from the Department of Political Affairs (DPA) at the UN Headquarters in New York City this summer. The DPA plays a central role in United Nations efforts to prevent and resolve deadly conflict around the world. The DPA monitors and assesses global political developments with an eye to detecting potential crises before they erupt and devising effective responses. The Department provides support to the Secretary-General (SG) and his envoys, as well as to UN political missions deployed around the world to help defuse crises or promote lasting solutions to conflict. The DPA is divided into two parts: Regional Divisions and Non-Regional Divisions. I was recruited by the Asia and the Pacific Division of the Regional Offices.
Effective policy responses begin with sound and timely information and analysis – having a pulse on events as they develop. Primarily through the work of its regional divisions, DPA monitors developments and provides the Secretary-General with analytical reports and briefing notes to inform his decisions and shape his continuous diplomacy with the UN Member States, regional and non-governmental organizations and other actors. Senior DPA officials are called on frequently to brief the UN Security Council on global political developments, the status of UN peacemaking efforts and the activities of UN political missions in the field.
My major duties were preparing background papers for summits in the Asia and the Pacific region, the General Assembly, SG’s visits to the region, and SG, Under SG and Assistant SG’s meeting with different nations’ UN missions’ permanent representatives. In addition, I contributed to writing regional issues reports, which advocate for regional and global solutions to international problems. I also carried out research regarding economic assistance from Asian nations to Pacific islands countries for infrastructure development. My research provided the teams with more information about how South-South cooperation builds sustainability and resilience in the Pacific region to reach the Sustainable Development Goals.
My graduate study’s focus is on East Asia and the Pacific. Therefore, the UN internship was a perfect opportunity for me to explore what issues are UN concerns in the region and how the UN works on them. My supervisor offered me opportunities to work on almost all the issues that I am interested in. Other staff in the Division also welcome me discussing my questions with them. Besides daily work, I can access all the open meetings at the UN Headquarters and listen to ambassadors discussing the current international issues.
The experience in DPA was genuinely eye-opening. I consolidated my knowledge in East Asia and the Pacific and obtained an overview of how the UN functions in global affairs.
For my summer 2018 semester, I interned in New York City at the Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI), a small think-do tank that conducts research on economic, security, and environmental issues in the Asia-Indo-Pacific region. As one of four interns, my role was to support any research project any of the researchers or fellows were conducting. Throughout the summer I worked on short-term and long-term projects that included tracking countries or regions, compiling research, and writing memos, website blurbs, and heavily contributing to an article written by ASPI’s assistant director.One of my daily tasks was to track the current news coming out of Myanmar for the ASPI director. Ever week I provided her with a compiled list of the main news articles and summaries, and this work will help her as she pursues her future research. ASPI is beginning a new research project that looks at the evolving energy security and defense relationship between the Middle East and Asia. In order to help facilitate this new project, I spent several weeks conducting research and writing a memo about how the economic ties between the two regions have been evolving into security relations and how new sanctions on Iran and disputes between Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE might affect the energy supply to Asia.
The most important extensive task I worked on was the Pakistan elections that took place in July. Before the elections I was tasked to conduct research on the different parties running, the main issues of the election, the military establishment and media’s effect on elections, and possible election outcomes. After conducting this initial research I had to produce a memo summarizing and analyzing my findings for ASPI’s assistant director. Leading up to the election I also had to continuously track major developments on a day-to-day basis. After the elections, I had to do quick turnaround research on Imran Khan, and later was assigned to use my research and knowledge to help contribute to an article about Khan and his (tentative) plans for Pakistani domestic and foreign policy. The article I helped write will soon be published on the ASPI website, which is very exciting.
The experience I gained over this summer has been extraordinary. Interning at a small think tank, I have had the opportunity to work on a lot of extensive projects, and I was able to impact the work done at ASPI even from my position as an intern. Working at ASPI not only allowed me to apply my Maxwell education in the real world, but it helped to expand and refine on this skill set. It also reinforced the idea that this is the type of work I want to do after I graduate this coming December. I am ecstatic that I had this wonderful opportunity to meet and learn from so many amazing people, and I feel privileged to have had the chance to contribute to the work done at ASPI, even if it was only for a short time.
Samm Cadwell is a recent MAIR graduate who also studied at Tsinghua University, an SU World Partner program. She formerly lived in China and speaks advanced Mandarin. She’s looking to capitalize on her Asia expertise.
“Aaron, you can only do something exceptionally well if you are passionate about it. If you are passionate about something, there is no Monday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday because that is all you want to do. When you are consumed by the desire for quality output, the ‘9 to 5 pm just to get the salary work mindset’ is lost.”
These where the words, which were told to me by Kerida Mcdonald, Senior Communications for Development Specialist at the United Nations Children’s Fund on the first day of my internship in her office. Those words struck the right chord with me as I am a passionate supporter of children’s rights.
True to the words of my supervisor, we could email each other back and forth about work over weekends and also way into the evening even after leaving the office. This is why I achieved quite a lot with my boss during my internship. We were able to successfully put together an online course with other team members on communication for development for current practitioners and those who want to join the field. We are also nearing the completion of putting together a compilation of case studies from different countries (12) on the best practices with regards to the use of theater to bring about social change. Being a firm believer in the change which UNICEF wants to bring through its different projects, I also volunteered to help out on work, which was being done by some of the neighboring offices. This helped me to create a good reputation beyond the section in which I worked in to the point that others even just began soliciting for my help.
November, 15th, 2017, was officially my last day after my internship was extended to that date from August, when it was supposed to end. Having needed to come back to school at the end of August, this year, I did the last part of the internship virtually and travelled to New York from Syracuse from time to time when I go the chance. I had to endure the 5 hour bus rides both ways while getting some work done. The fulfillment I got from the work I have been doing made the journeys worthwhile. Indications are that my internship supervisor may want to extend the internship again if that opportunity becomes possible. She actually continues to consult me to this day. That is what passion does. It helps you to do so well that people want to continue working with you. With passion, you work from the heart and not for the pay or simply to clock in the hours. When you work from the heart, you are definitely on to something. Kerida’s parting words to me: “Working with heart is what gets you the seat at the big table even when others think you are too young to be there because you will not be doing what your peers are doing. You will be that exceptional bright shining star that cannot simply be ignored.”
If your desire is to make a difference in the world, you must be different from the world. Passion sets you apart because it gives that cutting edge.
Aaron Mwewa is a Public Diplomacy student who will complete both a Master of Arts in International Relations and a Master of Science in Public Relations by the spring of 2018.
This summer, I was privileged to live my dream — to intern at the United Nations Children’s Fund Headquarters in the Communications for Development (C4D) Section in New York. All of this was made possible thanks to Syracuse University’s robust alumni network. Being interested in the work of the U.N., I took a class with distinguished Prof. Catherine Bertini called “United Nations Organizations: Managing for Change.” Throughout the course, I met former Syracuse University students, including Ms. Shannon O’shea who connected me to Senior C4D Advisor Dr. Kerida Macdonald, under whom I currently work.
My supervisors were so happy with my performance that they decided to extend my internship until Nov. 14, 2017, which is for another three months approximately. I will be doing the extended part virtually and visit the New York office whenever I get the opportunity. What helped me to hit the ground running is the fact that I had been doing work with the same office even before the internship officially began.
This internship is a perfect fit for me, as my ambition is to become a thought leader in Africa in C4D, because I am convinced that communication must be at the heart of any sustainable development effort as it can help to bring those on the margins of society to the table. When women and children are brought to the table, their families have a chance to benefit more from any key social outcomes. For me, there could be no better stage than UNICEF on which I could practice and learn about this evolving field.
While at UNICEF, I helped develop a draft research outline for the forthcoming research on the digital engagement of youths in conversations on developmental issues. This research will take place in 37 countries. I was also essential to putting together theatre for development best practices through a compendium which is scheduled to be published soon. With the assistance of the country offices, I packaged many stories that will be used in the book.
The highlight of my internship was being asked to edit the final draft of the C4D online course designed for UNICEF employees and those who are passionate about the field. This course will help to create other champions like me, who will use C4D to create real impact in the lives of children by giving them a voice. This way, I would have contributed in real Maxwellian fashion to making the world a better place, because a voice for children is a voice for the future.
Alex Jorgensen was a Public Diplomacy (PD) Student who completed a joint MAIR/MSPR. He finished his degree in the spring of 2016. PD students combine an MA in International Relations from the Maxwell School with a MS in Public Relations from the Newhouse School.
This semester I had the privilege of working as an Account Executive at JM Strategic Communications Group in Manhattan. JMSC’s mission is to supply a high-level strategic consultancy to public and private companies in their investor relations and public relations practices. Our mission is to combine business objectives with strategy to communicate effectively to shareholders and stakeholders a company’s story and performance.
My daily activities consist of:
Drafting press/earnings releases
Media monitoring clients and peers
Developing investor presentations for clients
Fully develop & launched our company’s new website (jmscgroup.com, launched in February 2016)
Listen to and analyze quarterly earnings calls
Assist in running earnings conference call
Learn the fundamentals surrounding investor communication and initial public offerings
Gain knowledge of capital markets, the buy and sell side of wall street, and communicating a company’s story effectively both qualitatively and quantitatively
As I developed the basic skills to establish myself in the firm I felt that the Public Diplomacy program puts practitioners in a unique position to differentiate themselves. Students from the Public Diplomacy program have the skills to differentiate themselves through traditional public relations experience from practical PR curriculum, digital marketing, social media strategy, and an understanding of working with government officials while being a non-state actor. Through developing public relations strategies for particular clients, developing a network of Search Engine Optimization colleagues who bolster my digital media knowledge, and delivering on social media operations for in-house accounts and client accounts; I saw firsthand how lessons from the PD program applied directly to my daily routine.
Some key lessons from my practicum were that I learned the foundations of building marketing strategies for communicating the value of a start-up to new business and the general public, through the research and development of our company’s website. Possibly the most impactful lesson was in the balance between quality and timeliness. To become an expert in any field one must learn how to prioritize which tasks need to be treated with extensive detail, and which need to be turned at a speed that combines quality with timeliness. I do not think I have mastered this skill, but think that I am further than I imagined I could be in one semester’s time.
Another key application from Maxwell was knowledge about how the government functions, specifically with non-state actors. The government plays an important role in our operations. The sweeping regulations that came with Sarbanes-Oaxley, and the 2009 financial crisis have produced an environment in which public companies need to constantly be vigilant of the information they disclose in ensuring an equal playing field for all investors. Whether or not that playing field has been established is not up to the practitioners themselves, but taking accountability of their own day-to-day operations should produce a synergistic effect that ensures that playing field is intact. This experience was an incredible way to apply lessons from Maxwell and Newhouse to the beginning of my professional career in investor relations.