Internationally Focused Projects for MPA Students, 2017

Many MPA students have an international focus in their studies or pursue the joint MPA/MAIR degree. While the MPA degree is a one year intensive program, students do still have the opportunity to gain hands on experience working for international entities.

The MPA Workshop is a four week culminating experience, where students work on a team of three to six of their peers to complete a consulting project for a real world client. Clients range from local community organizations and municipal governments to international government agencies and non‑profit organizations. In 2017, seven of the twenty-one projects had a global focus. MPA project teams acted as consultants for the following clients and international projects.

Client Project
Chicago Council on Global Affairs Girls in Rural Economies
Global FoodBanking Network Developing a Program Model to Strengthen Hunger Relief Organizations in More than 30 Countries
Health In Harmony Does Coupling Incentive-based Systems with Legally Protected Forest Areas Enhance Conservation, Economic & Human Health Outcomes within the Global South
U.S. Department of Justice, International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program A Scenario Based Human Rights and Human Dignity Course for Foreign Police
Ministry of Economy and Finance of Peru National Infrastructure Plan
Near East Foundation International Development NGO Organizational Performance Management
RAND Corporation International Public-Private Security Partnerships
Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction Afghanistan Lessons Learned Gender Study
U.S. Agency for International Development Informing USAID’s Approach to Gender and Indigenous Representative Institutions

Projects with an international focus have always been present in the MPA Workshop. Take a look at projects from 2016 and 2015.

Participants in the MPA Workshop were allowed to rank five projects from a list of twenty-eight. Projects with the least amount of student interest were dropped, then students were assigned to teams based off their project rankings. In 2017, 93% of students got to work on their first or second choice project. While not every student gets the exact project they desire, international projects are always available for MPA students wanting to take their degree global.

Students working on projects for the RAND Corporation and the Institute for Defense Analysis had the opportunity to give their final project presentations in Washington, DC. Back row from left: Earl Shank, Kyle Crichton, Kashaf Ud Duja Ali, Eni Maho, Derrick Taylor, Brittany Utz, Tim McNamara, Patrick Brierley, John Lowman, Mark Temnicky, Matthew Kienzle. Kneeling: Frank Garrison

Featured image of the globe by Jacques Caffin from Flickr. Creative Commons.

Janessa Price Learns about the Conflict Between Natural Resources & Development

Janessa Price is a recent graduate of the Maxwell and Newhouse School’s Public Diplomacy Program. She also interned at the Joint Inspection Unit of the United Nations in Geneva.

Janessa Price

This spring, I had the opportunity to intern with the Freshwater team at the World Wildlife Fund in Washington D.C. My decision to pursue an internship with WWF came after taking a course on development and sustainability with Dr. Farhana Sultana, which gave me a greater insight into the conflict between natural resource preservation and economic development. Working with WWF allowed me to explore the relationship between development and sustainability further while simultaneously honing my communications skills.

The work of WWF’s freshwater team spans the globe and ranges from promoting good water governance to protecting freshwater ecosystems to working with the private sector on water stewardship and conservation. This spring, in conjunction with the Policy and Advocacy group, the team launched its new Water and Security Initiative. Through this initiative, WWF seeks to inform U.S. development policy by showing that support for cooperative arrangements over shared water resources and other environmental considerations can reduce the likelihood of social and economic disruptions. As a communications intern, I was tasked with helping develop an outreach strategy for this initiative that would help inform policymakers, media and the general public about the critical linkage between global freshwater challenges and U.S. national security.

This experience was particularly valuable as it gave me greater insight into how NGO advocacy can be successfully conducted, even in what could be considered a hostile or at least atypical political environment. As an organization focused on environmental and ecological preservation, it was both interesting and promising to see how WWF found ways to maneuver and push its agenda forward despite the current administration’s apathy toward environmental health. At the same time, WWF provided a perfect example of the struggle between environmental sustainability and human development. While the organization was created with the protection of nature for nature’s sake in mind, it has slowly recognized that the needs of people must too be considered in any approach to environmental sustainability.

Learn more about the Washington Public Diplomacy program

Caitlin Flattery, International Development with Tetra Tech

Caitlin Flattery is a recent graduate of the Public Diplomacy program, where students earn both a Master of Arts in International Relations (MAIR) from the Maxwell School and a Master of Science in Public Relations (MSPR) from the Newhouse School.

Caitlin Flattery

I spent my semester off-campus participating in the Maxwell-in-Washington program based in Washington, DC. During this time, I regularly attended two classes and worked full-time at a private government contractor, Tetra Tech International Development Services. Tetra Tech is a large firm that offers many services domestically, but due to my interest in foreign affairs, I was placed in their International Development Services sector. The specific Tetra Tech International Development Services office in which I worked was located in Arlington, VA so I had the opportunity to experience both work and life in DC and in Arlington, which I’ve come to learn are very different.

The two classes in which I was enrolled were a public diplomacy seminar and a cohort-specific class focusing on our research consultancies. The seminar took place every Wednesday night after work, and the research consultancy meetings took place every other Tuesday night. It was interesting to have students from other schools in the class, as well as students who had no background in public diplomacy whatsoever; it required guest speakers to truly back their presentations up with specialized knowledge. Such a busy schedule was a great way to break out of the graduate school routine and prepare myself for the business to come after finishing this internship and beginning a new job.

Overall, this program off-campus has been a positive experience. I was able to use my visual and written communications skills to produce collateral and publications for clients and individuals interested in Tetra Tech, Tetra Tech International Development Services, or the sector as a whole. My graphic design and public relations writing skills have come in very helpful on a daily basis—this position truly requires a particular type of education. I am glad to have been able to partake in this experience.

Learn more about the Washington Public Diplomacy program

Emily Hoerner, For Profit Development Consulting

Emily Hoerner is a joint MPA/MAIR student, finishing her MPA degree by working on a team consulting project for the NGO, Health in Harmony. Emily formerly participated in the Survey of Current Issues in African Migration program, where she worked on a project for International Organization for Migration Ghana.

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.

Emily Hoerner

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Featured map image by David Flores (www.dreamflow.es) from Flickr. Creative Commons

Vahid Khatami Does Data Analysis at Microfinance Opportunities

Vahid Khatami is a recent graduate of the joint MPA/MAIR program. He is going on to work in an international financial institution in New York City.

Vahid Khatami at MFO

Lack of access to financial services is still an economic barrier for many households and small businesses around the world. Based on the global Findex database in 2014, only 34% of people in Sub-Saharan Africa have access to a financial account and less than 16% use formal savings and borrowings. Similar data for other developing regions has emerged leading to the use of microfinance tools to expand financial inclusion globally. But, promoting the best financial tools for low-income households is very complicated, since one must consider the variety of outflow and inflow categories in their financial diaries. It raises the demand for in-depth research on these micro economies.

Microfinance opportunities (MFO) is a research organization, based in Washington, D.C., committed to understanding the financial realities of low-income households.  They work with other organizations in the microfinance industry to conduct research on behavioral economics of beneficiaries.

During my internship in MFO, I worked on three major projects. First, I was doing statistical analysis on household survey responses in four African countries including Zambia, Senegal, Uganda, and Burkina Faso. I did statistical analysis and data visualization on poverty likelihood scores by controlling demographic characteristics and types of packages provided for beneficiaries. For my second project, I designed an Android application for on-line uploading of financial diaries. The idea was raised after talking with the executive manager where I let him know about my skills in computer programming. The final product, which is going to prepare for alpha testing, makes beneficiaries enable to insert their daily financial diaries without interventions of any third party or interviewer. That data is stored in a cloud-based storage for further auto-analysis. For my third internship project, I helped MFO’s team to provide a comprehensive report on all transactions data in previous and current projects, including more than one million transaction records. Reformatting all data to a uniform structure and applying statistical measurements such as clustering methods was the focal point in that project.

Over all those assignments, I was in almost daily communication with the executive manager to present my progress in work and get guidance on the next steps. I had realized that there were no straightforward answers for problems, which motivated me to do research and ask about possible solutions regularly. I also got a valuable insight into the microfinance industry and its technical aspects, which will help me to take the next steps in my career track with more confidence.

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Emily Ma Finds Taiwan Unforgettable While at Foreign Commercial Service

Emily Ma wrote this post while interning in Taiwan during the fall of 2016. She also interned at United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) during the summer of 2016, where she was posted in Turkey for a time. After graduating with her MAIR degree, she landed a job at USCIS.

Emily Ma (3rd from left) with AIT Director, Kin Moy (4th from left) and other interns

This fall, I was able to travel to Taipei, Taiwan to intern for the American Institute in Taiwan, Commercial Section. The American Institute in Taiwan is the de-facto embassy for the United States in Taiwan, created under the Taiwan Relations Act after the United States acknowledged China’s “One-China Policy.” The functioning of AIT is no different than a typical American Embassy other than the fact that the titles of the officers are slightly different. For example, the “ambassador” is called the “director” of the Institute.

The Commercial Section is run under the Commerce Department rather than the State Department, meaning that in our lobby, we have framed pictures of President Obama and Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker rather than Secretary of State John Kerry. The purpose of the Foreign Commercial Service (FCS) is to provide assistance to U.S. Firms hoping to export abroad, or foreign entities looking to invest into the United States. Although there are other groups such as the U.S. Trade Representative, and the Economics section of the State Department, The FCS provides assistance to individual companies for a minimal fee. The fee is simply to allow the Commercial Section, an entity representing the U.S. government, to assist one individual company without providing assistance to all other U.S. companies (although it is available once the basic fee is paid).

As an intern, I have been able to attend meetings with both U.S. and Taiwan representatives of the public and private sector. I have assisted with several trade shows in which American companies have taken part in, and have done thorough research on the burgeoning activity in the area of smart city technology.

Taiwan itself is a beautiful island with friendly locals. Commercially, it is the gateway to Asia. Amidst the fierce competition, as firms try to enter China, many overlook Taiwan. Developed, and with close ties to China, Taiwan businesses are eager to diversify their portfolio, and are always looking for something new.

Whether it is for tourism, or business, Taiwan is definitely not a place to forget.

Global Programs in China:

SU Beijing

Summer Internships in Shanghai

Corena Sharp Learns How State Department Promotes Labor Rights

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.

Corena Sharp (center, 6th from left), Office of International Labor Affairs in DOS’ Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor

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.

Learn more about the Maxwell-in-Washington program

Zack Lubelfeld Investigates Drug Trafficking at Department of Treasury

Zack Lubelfeld is a joint MPA/MAIR who will finish his two degrees this month, then move onto a Boren Fellowship.

Zack Lubelfeld

Last Fall Semester, I completed an internship in Washington, D.C. at the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), in the Department of the Treasury. I worked in the Crime, Narcotics, and Western Hemisphere Division, which is located in OFAC’s Targeting Office. CNW’s primary focus is on implementing and enforcing the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, or the Kingpin Act, which allows the United States to sanction individuals and entities involved in international narcotics trafficking. These sanctions prevent narcotics traffickers from accessing the international financial system, with the goal of forcing them to cease by starving them of access to money.

It was an interesting experience for me, because I got to see up close part of the United States’ efforts to combat drug trafficking organizations around the world. More than that, though, is that the work I was assigned was no different than that of the sanctions investigators with whom I worked. The opportunity to do the job as if I were any other full-time employee was an invaluable one. I was able to see that my work was actually contributing to the division’s operations, which was really satisfying.

Furthermore, I learned a lot from the experience. Because of the nature of the work, a lot of my learning was done on the job. Fortunately, my coworkers were all very friendly and happy to help me, so whenever I had a question it was easy to find someone who could answer it. The basic components of the job were not very difficult – a lot of reading, researching, and writing – but I had to adjust to a different style of thinking, because much of the work was investigative. It was a new experience, drawing information from all sources to complete an investigation, but by the end I was definitely more comfortable approaching the information like an investigator.

I very much enjoyed my time interning with OFAC, and I gained a lot from it. The experience definitely confirmed that I want to do this sort of work once I graduate. The work done by OFAC has a demonstrable effect on American efforts to maintain our national security. It was very rewarding to get to be a part of it, and to contribute to keeping the country safe.

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Sonia Rangel, Mastering International Trade Relations

Sonia Rangel is a joint MPA/MAIR. In addition to her Fall Semester in Washington, DC, she interned at Instituto para las Mujeres en la Migración in Mexico City and was part of a team of MPA students who completed a consulting project for Refugee and Immigrant Self Empowerment in Syracuse.

Former US Ambassador, Earl Antony Wayne, and Sonia Rangel at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Without a doubt, my internship this Fall Semester at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars has been a meaningful and wonderful experience. I am a research intern for a Wilson Center Public Policy Fellow and former US Ambassador to Mexico, Earl Anthony Wayne. The internship has been a great opportunity to investigate economic issues and work closely with a former high level diplomat. This has been an exciting experience for me, because it has provided me with the opportunity to learn more about US – Mexico trade relations and economic ties, a vital topic for both countries that was often discussed during this past presidential election. I have developed a more nuanced understanding of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the benefits it has created for both the US and Mexican economy.

In conjunction with the internship, I am enrolled in a Maxwell course on International Trade and Economic Negotiations that has complemented my internship in many ways. The course has allowed me to understand the complexities of a trade negotiation process by which the rules of trade are developed. The research for my internship has exposed me to the effects of trade agreements once they have been implemented.

Additionally, it is a privilege to work at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a living memorial for President SummerWilson, the only US President with a doctorate degree, and a place of research for some of the brightest scholars and experts from around the world. The Center’s mission is focused on independent and in-depth research to form policy proposals through open dialogue. During the course of the internship, I have had the opportunity to attend forums and events hosted at the Wilson Center on a wide range of topics such as Brazil-US relations, transatlantic challenges in fighting violent extremism, and national security in Mexico. Furthermore, I work in an open space among other remarkably intelligent research assistants and scholars investigating a multitude of different issues and topics and have acquired knowledge through their research.

Working with Ambassador Wayne has been a valuable experience. I have developed a deeper understanding of trade and economic issues through the tasks that I have completed. Likewise, I have also enjoyed learning from his deep knowledge and practical experience. I also admire his high level of intuitiveness and graciousness towards all people. Overall, my experience at the Wilson Center has exceeded my expectations and has led to professional and academic growth.

Entrance to the Woodrow Wilson International Center of Scholars

Sonia Rangel at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars library

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Jack Gall Helps Promote Accountability in Foreign Policy

Jack Gall in Washington, DC

Jack Gall is a recent graduate of the MAIR program who wrote this post while interning during his final Fall Semester. Prior to interning, he also completed a summer course at the Brookhaven National Laboratory on the framework created by the international community to address the threats of nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism. He combined this with an independent research project with a Maxwell faculty.

This fall in Washington DC has been a rewarding experience as I have worked as the Center for International Policy’s national security intern during some of the most exciting and turbulent times in our nation’s capital in our nation’s capital in recent history.

The Center for International Policy (CIP) is a think tank that promotes transparency, cooperation, and accountability in foreign public policy. CIP was founded shortly after the Vietnam War’s end and has for decades engaged in research and advocacy programs ranging from arms control reform and diplomatic conflict resolution to US security assistance monitoring and environmental protection. The majority of my work has been supporting CIP’s national security program, led by Harry C. Blaney III. A State Department diplomat of over 20 years, Mr. Blaney runs a blog that covers and commentates on current US foreign policy events called Rethinking National Security. Harry has been an invaluable mentor in analyzing the impact of current events, preparing for my post-graduate plans, and fully appreciating the enriching opportunities Washington DC has to offer (he’s particular to local art galleries and I highly recommend the Phillips Collection).

By far the storyline that dominated coverage for the national security program was coverage of the 2016 Presidential Election and the following transition process. My primary responsibilities have been following daily election developments, providing worthwhile quotes, and proofreading and posting regular blog posts. In addition, I have worked to expand the blog’s readership through social media outreach and occasionally wrote posts of my own focusing on my interests such as nuclear security. As an exception to a generational stereotype, I didn’t have much experience with Twitter prior to my internship, so outreach has come with a bit of a learning curve.

Outside of working on the blog, my time at CIP also includes front desk duty and occasionally assisting other programs with open-source resource, database correction, and one hectic but memorable envelope-stuffing marathon for fundraising. My fellow interns are passionate about the work they do in promoting CIP’s mission for a peaceful and cooperative world. Overall, my time at the Center for International Policy has provided valuable professional experience in the public policy arena and taught me the importance of being inquisitive, assertive, and understanding in my work.

Jack Gall and Harry C. Blaney III at CIP

Austin Strain, Jack Gall, Celina Menzel, Leyko Nagayoshi, and Paritt Nguiakaramahawongse at CIP’s Pumpkin Social Function

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