When I first learned about Room to Read through a group project in Professor Lux’s class – Managing NGOs in Developing Countries – I never thought I would be interning with them this summer. While I was interested in gaining and practicing data analysis skills, I didn’t think that it would be in an organization close to where I grew up and in a field that I am passionate about; international education.
Room to Read is an international education NGO focused on helping children gain a habit of reading through literacy training and helping girls complete a secondary education throughout Asia and Africa. I have spent the summer working in their San Francisco, CA office on the Research, Monitoring, & Evaluation team analyzing reading assessment data. Their emphasis on data-driven decision making has made this a rewarding opportunity. Projects have included research on the EGRA assessment tool, early grade dropout, and the relationship between fluency and comprehension; analysis on reading assessment data and tablet use in the data collection process; and report drafting and editing.
While I learned an array of skills at Maxwell, this internship has enabled me to practice specific skills such as data analysis and visualization skills – as well as research skills – in a fun and cutting edge environment. In addition to the skill-building projects, I have been able to take time with several of the departments at Room to Read giving a rich and full exposure to NGO work life. The wide variety of projects and experience have really helped me to understand the type of work I would like to do and have further kindled my passion to empower others through education.
Without knowing it at the time I applied for the internship, this experience has been everything that I could hope for; great experience, great people, and an amazing organization.
Carol Tojeiro is a joint MAIR/MAECN student who will complete a Master of Arts in International Relations and a Master of Arts in Economics. She will be completing an internship at the Organization of American States in Washington, DC this fall.
This summer, I had the opportunity to intern abroad with IOM, the UN Migration Agency, in Ghana. My decision to pursue an internship abroad was to gain practical field experience with an international organization in a development context. During my internship, I had the opportunity to work on migration and child trafficking related issues, and to travel to different regions of the country.
Following the first week of orientation, along with other SU interns, we travelled to the Brong Ahafo region where we interviewed migrants who returned from Libya, Spain, Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal, and Algeria. They shared with us the hardships they faced when travelling irregularly, which we later narrated in the iamamigrant.org Campaign. This campaign, spearheaded by IOM, aims to promote positive perceptions of migrants and to combat xenophobia. During the following weeks, we also interviewed potential migrants to learn about their own perceptions and we participated in the Safe Migration sensitization campaigns conducted by IOM and Ghana’s Immigration Service.
During the second half of the internship, we travelled to the Volta region to observe module rollouts and gather visibility materials of the Child Protection and Child Trafficking Prevention Campaign. This campaign, funded by UNICEF and implemented by IOM, educates community members on how to raise a child, about children’s rights, and on the importance of investing in their future. It also aims to reduce child trafficking in the region, given that children are often sold to fishermen when families find themselves in destitute situations.
Overall, it has been a rewarding experience which has provided me with essential skills to pursue a career in the humanitarian field. My most memorable experiences were visiting the Egyeikrom Refugee Camp, the slave castle in Cape Coast, interviewing returnees, and the traditional dances performed by the school children in several of the Volta communities.
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.
Sarah Baumunk is a joint MPA/MAIR student who also interned at the U.S. Department of State’s Western Hemisphere Affairs Bureau, Office of Policy Planning in Washington, DC. She also took evening courses as part of the Maxwell-in-Washington program.
I sit on the phone on hold while trying to help an Eritrean asylee file a claim with his insurance company after a recent car wreck, when a Haitian immigrant—who only speaks French—comes to ask for help with applying for jobs. In the living room outside the office I can hear a crew of Cubans and Mexicans cheering on a soccer match together. I walk out of the office to see that a generous community member has left two giant bags of donations that need to be sifted through, but before I can get a start I’m intercepted by a group of West Africans who remind me we’re still out of vegetable oil to cook with. Once I get the extra oil and bring it into the kitchen, I’m waved down by about a dozen Ethiopians and Eritreans insisting that I come eat with them. They treat me to one of their specialties—lentils in a tomato sauces on top of injera (a typical East African spongy bread)—and we practice their English. With a full stomach, I shoo everyone off to their respective rooms just in time to make the 11 o’clock lights-out, and retreat to the office where I pull out the futon that I will sleep on that night. All in a typical day’s work while interning with Casa Marianella this summer.
Casa Marianella is a homeless shelter that provides hospitality and support for immigrants and refugees in Austin, Texas. While the nonprofit organization was originally founded 30 years ago to assist primarily Central American and Mexican immigrants, it has since evolved to encompass a much wider variety of noncitizens, with the majority coming from Eritrea, Ethiopia, and French-speaking West African countries. Casa has 38 beds to offer (although it frequently is home to many more) to residents who are either immigrants who can no longer work due to medical problems or asylees who arrive in the US and have no friends or family in our country. Residents stay for three to six months on average, while they receive legal help from pro bono lawyers and case management from staff members like myself.
Working at Casa Marianella this summer was a life-changing experience that brought practical experience to my studies, allowed me to sharpen my soft skills, and showed me what a compassion-driven organization looks like.
Over the past year, I have studied immigration policy and law through a number of Maxwell and law school courses. Given this background, I entered my position in Casa Marianella with a broad understanding of immigration in the US, but was surprised by how much I had to learn about the ground-level experience of immigrants today. From the job search for non-English speakers, to the tedious paperwork, to the hour-long drives every six months to check in with the government, working at Casa gave me valuable insight into the way our immigration laws and policies play out day-to-day.
My time at Casa was additionally an excellent practice in honing those soft skills that are so difficult to learn while sitting in a classroom. In a lot of ways, working at Casa was very similar to being a summer camp counselor. The job involved almost constant multitasking, and I quickly had to develop the ability to gently let people know they would have to wait while a more pressing issue was solved. I learned how to use a combination of enthusiasm and tough love to push our residents to do challenging things like find work, apply for an apartment, or meet with a lawyer. I saw how establishing a relationship of mutual respect and caring was essential to maintaining fruitful relationships with each resident.
Finally, Casa opened my eyes to the value of prioritizing compassion and hospitality as an organization and personally. One of the most surprising things about Casa was how willing every staff member was to go the extra mile for each person that walked through Casa’s door or called on the phone. The Executive Director Jennifer Long always described the goal of Casa as doing the most good for the most people—regardless if they are our residents or not. This attitude toward life and public service is particularly poignant in our global political climate today. As we see so much negativity being hurled at people that are different than us, Casa stands as a reminder that our world is seriously lacking in compassion—and for some groups more than others. This summer I was shown that the practice of unfettered compassion can be the most effective tool to encouraging others to become their best selves.
Oleksiy Anokhin is a student in Maxwell’s Executive MPA and MAIR programs. These programs are aimed at mid-career professionals with significant management experience.
I spent summer 2016 in Atlanta, GA, as an intern at The Carter Center (TCC). I chose this organization as my internship opportunity intentionally for several reasons. First of all, my previous work experience in Ukraine was primarily related to public service, elections, and law. I regularly communicated with representatives of US NGOs, which observed several electoral campaigns in Ukraine. As a result, I became interested in their activities and wanted to learn more about their internal management process.
The Carter Center, which is still actively managed by the former US President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn, has an excellent reputation in international development. The Center observed more than 100 elections during last 25 years across the world, is actively engaged in conflict resolution and human rights advocacy projects, and manages various health programs. For instance, TCC fights several diseases in developing countries. Due to efforts of TCC and their partners, one such disease, the Guinea worm disease, which infected approximately 3.5 million people in 1986 in 21 countries in Africa and Asia, has almost been eradicated. In 2015, only 22 cases were observed. One more example of their impactful activity is TCC’s Syria Conflict Mapping Project, which analyzes information about a complicated military conflict in this country.
I was an intern in the Democracy Program, which is primarily focused on elections and improving TCC legal knowledge about European electoral standards. This work gave me a chance to learn more about the real-life work of an exceptional US NGO, build connections with excellent experts, and gave me several ideas about crucial skills necessary for working in international development such as data analysis and budgeting. As a result, I picked my fall 2016 courses based on my experience in TCC and have been very pleased so far.
The second reason for me was a chance to be involved in amazing humanitarian work, which is conducted by Jimmy Carter. He still remains extremely proactive, participating in various TCC events and making decisions in the Center. Jimmy Carter became a moral leader for millions of people across the world, and especially effective in the humanitarian field. TCC makes for a great job, organizing different social events for their interns with the former President and the First Lady and inspiring the younger generation to follow their life path.
Finally, TCC and Atlanta became an interesting cultural experience for me as a foreigner. After one year in Upstate New York, I was interested to see the South and compare it with the North.
In general, internships in TCC are unpaid, but partial funding is possible (and I got it). However, right now I understand the benefits of internships in the US professional culture more. In my case, having almost 10 years of legal and government experience, I was more interested in TCC activity as a professional, not as an intern. I tried to note their effective and ineffective managerial processes, and understand how to cooperate with such organizations and their experts in future as a Ukrainian public servant.
I strongly encourage those Maxwell students who are interested in conflict resolution, human rights, elections, and health management to consider TCC as a possible internship and future job opportunity. I was impressed that people in this organization are so focused on values promoted by TCC and work hard to make the world a better place. Jimmy Carter still remains their fierce chief and a moral leader for many others. TCC is an excellent place for those who are driven by Maxwell’s Athenian Oath ‘to transmit this city not only not less, but greater, better and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us’.
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.