Liz Pruchnicki is a 2018 MAIR graduate of the Maxwell School. This past fall she interned at the State Department’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs.
This fall, I interned with the State Department’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs. This internship has been a valuable experience in ways that I never would have predicted: I’ve been amazed with the inspiring team of women in my office who are incredibly dedicated to the mission of our office and I learned to remain positive and focus on the work even when bureaucracy slows it down. I was honored to sit in on meetings with high level State Department officials and leaders from around the world who focus on the intersection of faith and public life, I had the opportunity to attend Think Tank events around the city to learn about new trends in religion and politics. In my day to day work, I compiled news reports and disseminated a daily newsfeed about the intersection of religion and global affairs.
The most valuable piece of my internship, however, was learning the institutional framework of the State Department. On the first day of orientation, interns are given a flow chart that illustrates the reporting chain and official structure of the State Department—it was a confusing flow chart to say the least. After fourteen weeks at the State Department, the chart mostly makes sense and I can finally put some names and faces to those sterile little boxes on the paper.
From my time at the Department of State’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs, I’m very proud of my work redesigning our official handbook, which is given to new Foreign Service Officers, and my ability to navigate the Harry S Truman Building without getting lost! I’m so grateful for the wonderful people I met at State, especially the dedicated women in my office who I’ve gotten to know over the past few months. I’m so appreciative of the resources available to students of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs that make these experiences possible!
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!
Corena Sharp was a MAIR student who also spent last summer interning at UNICEF in Geneva. She wrote this post last fall, and is now a new Maxwell alumnus.
Ever read a Human Rights Report released by the State Department? They are released every year and cover every country in the world, and then some. U.S. Diplomats and NGOs alike use them to advocate for human rights. Section 7 of these reports details workers’ rights. I never considered the fascinating position of labor rights before I interned in the Office of International Labor Affairs (ILA) within the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL).
Unlike many human rights, labor rights are often considered oppositional human rights. It is rare that someone would stand up and argue that people do not deserve clean drinking water, but champions of workers’ rights often face skepticism and even hostility. When countries compete for trade deals, they often create a ‘race to the bottom’ where the lowest compensation and fewest benefits make countries and companies more competitive in the name of economic growth. However, many have begun asking ‘growth for whom?’ The Sustainable Development Goals are trying to address this issue through the promotion of ‘inclusive growth.’ The strongest force for protecting workers is the freedom of association and collective bargaining. Yet, few things can shut down a conversation faster than the word ‘unions.’ Achieving decent work is incredibly important for sustainable development; the challenge is changing the perceived either-or categories that labor rights and economic growth are often given.
My small office takes the lead to develop Section 7 into an effective tool for advocates. Developing a successful final draft of these reports goes beyond just proofreading. An effective report is built from research contributed by every editor and thus requires clear communication among the drafters. By utilizing SharePoint, DRL fosters the collaboration among Foreign Service Officers at embassies abroad, editors in regional offices, and policy offices such as ILA. ILA in turn coordinates with the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and the Department of Labor. Back-to-back tranches of these reports flow into the office—each with different editors depending on their successful completion of each stage of the editing process. The more complete the report, the better a government can be held accountable.
This summer I lived in Washington, D.C. as an intern with the U.S. Department of State. At State I worked in the Office of Public Affairs and Strategic Communications (PASC) within the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). ECA works to build friendly, peaceful relations between the people of the United States and the people of other countries through academic, cultural, sports, and professional exchanges, as well as public-private partnerships. My office oversaw all public affairs and digital communications for the entire bureau. Some of the program offices we worked with were Fulbright, CLS, Education USA, and Edward R. Murrow Fellows program.
PASC is made up of a group of videographers, photographers, graphic designers, data analysts, web developers, and public affairs practitioners. I worked on projects with all aspects of our office, but mainly I served as a digital designer. I led the design of the Discovery Diplomacy brand through the U.S. Diplomacy Center and the redesign of the International Education Week branding (look out for it November 14th-18th this year). Over the course of twelve weeks I was put in charge of designing the design guidelines for ECA that will then be used to shape all public diplomacy for the entire State Department. The design guide that I created was presented to the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and other public diplomacy officers in D.C. and at posts.
I was lucky enough to be given a lot of responsibility as an intern and be able to head several high priority projects. Everyday I was putting the skills I had learned in the Public Diplomacy program to use. Since my officer served as the in-house digital communications team it was not only our job to produce content, but to ask why this campaign or this method of presenting information was necessary. I spent much of time team researching objectives, goals, and target audiences of programs so that I could create the most effective and engaging design materials for each office.
While I was at State I was able to meet many Syracuse alumni across many bureaus and across government agencies. Even being in D.C. for only three months allowed me to significantly grow my network. Every week I was able to meet with one or two alums to talk about life after Syracuse, tips they had for me in their first jobs, and other career advice they were willing to share. Most of all this summer has also helped me shape where I want my career to start after Syracuse. I am excited to be continuing my internship virtually with my office in the Fall and back in D.C. in the Spring.
Kimberly Hatcher is a graduate of the Public Diplomacy (PD) program, where students earn a joint Master of Arts in International Relations and a Master of Science in Public relations from Syracuse Universities two most prestigious schools, the Newhouse School and the Maxwell School. All PD students are required to spend their final Spring Semester in Washington, DC.
My Global Programs Award funded three D.C.-centric endeavors: a research consultancy with the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), a fellowship in the State Department, and an unintentional internship at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). At the conclusion of the Public Diplomacy degree program (M.A. International Relations, Maxwell School/M.S. Public Relations, Newhouse School of Public Communications), being able to study and work in D.C. for the final semester was not only a key factor in my SU enrollment decision, but additionally a vital maneuver in my career development.
Security clearances take (too much!) time, therefore much of my semester was spent attending South Asia events and networking with like-minded individuals at various think tanks and government institutions. Through these interactions, I began my research consultancy with the South Asia department of CIPE, for which I am (still) slowly building an entrepreneurial ecosystem for the youth of Pakistan, currently comprising over 60% of their 200 million populace. However, as the conclusion of the semester loomed, and my internship requirement was yet to be fulfilled, I utilized the Maxwell-CSIS partnership to procure a part-time research position with the Wadhwani Chair in U.S.-India Policy Studies.
Just prior to the conclusion of my masters course of study, my clearance was approved and I began my fellowship at the Department of State. Originally a member of the India Desk, because of staffing shortages and my years of communications experience, I was transferred to the Press Office for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs. Currently I am the point for Central Asian press guidance, in addition to contributing to the Bureau’s social media, Indo-Pak, and Indian economic directions. I am also press lead for this year’s U.S.-Pakistan Business Opportunities Conference, and am very fortunate to be able to say that I am doing exactly what I had hoped for upon entering Maxwell two years ago. Without the support of Maxwell’s Global Program Award, it would have been very difficult for me to pursue my career aspirations, and I am very grateful for every afforded opportunity.
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.
As a joint MAIR/ECON student, Julianne Dunn continues to learn about U.S. economic interests in the world while interning at the United States Department of State in Washington, DC.
If you’re anything like I was, you might be trudging through your first year at Maxwell with a vague idea of the topics you’re interested in and might want to work on. When someone asked me what I was planning to do after graduation, I answered something along the lines of “I want to work on international trade policy in Southeast Asia.” I had very little idea what that actually meant, who I might be working for, or what I might actually do all day for the rest of my life. I spent a lot of time hoping no one asked. After taking on a summer internship and independent research project in Bangkok, Thailand, I not only have a clear idea of the career I want to pursue, but I even learned some skills that are helping me get there.
Through an internship at the U.S. Foreign Commercial Service (FCS) office, I was able to see what working in international trade actually looked like. With offices at embassies around the world, FCS seeks to represent U.S. business interests abroad. This includes helping small businesses export to new markets, and conducting “commercial diplomacy” to ease regulations and facilitate trade for U.S. companies. Through preparing briefs on particular market segments in Thailand for U.S. businesses wishing to export, compiling and editing the annual Country Commercial Guide, and researching and writing a proposal to open a new FCS office in Cambodia, I learned about the challenges facing U.S. companies while honing my professional research and communication skills. In addition, I worked with many of the local staff members to promote U.S. products and companies on social media. At embassy events, including receptions at the Ambassador’s residence, I was able to network with embassy staff, Foreign Service officers, and American and Thai business people. These interactions allowed me to better understand what living and doing business in Southeast Asia was really like.
The local staff and other American and Thai interns turned a good professional experience into a great personally fulfilling one. Through everyday interactions I learned about working with people in a different culture and how to adjust my communication away from the forward, often abrupt style that we use in the U.S. But my coworkers also became fast friends who taught me about their food, culture, and language. We took weekend trips together and exchanged cultural anecdotes. These interactions were fun, but also helped me along my path toward becoming a global citizen.
While I was in Thailand I also had the opportunity to work on an independent research project studying foreign direct investment in Cambodia, something that had just piqued my interest in my spring coursework at Maxwell. Working on the proposal for FCS allowed me to gain new perspectives and allowed me to connect with people who are working with foreign direct investors in Cambodia. I was even able to meet with some of these people in person during a trip to Phnom Penh. These experiences shifted my professional focus and helped me to redefine the direction I’d like to go after graduation.
There’s a huge pressure to intern somewhere you know you want to work after graduation. After all, internships often turn into jobs, right? But what if you don’t really know where you want to work after graduation? I certainly didn’t, but starting an internship in the region and field I was interested in couldn’t have been more helpful in setting me on the path toward my future. Ultimately, I’ve decided that working for the U.S. government on international trade policy isn’t for me. But sometimes learning what you don’t want is even more important than learning what you do want. Along the way, you might even pick up some new friends, professional contacts, and skills. The only way to find out is to jump right in.