Robb Woodruff’s Professional & Cultural Experience in Southeast Asia

Singapore is a unique city that offers a cosmopolitan experience in the heart of Southeast Asia. Culturally, it is a mix of neighboring Asian nations such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. There is a parallel to the New York City metaphor of a “melting pot” of people, religions and cultures. This can be seen especially through all the different types of food that you can find in the food centers.

Shifting from academic life to professional was an adjustment but a welcome one. I worked in the finance department of Pratt & Whitney, an American aerospace firm that produces jet turbines for commercial and government aircraft. My work focused on performing invoice price verifications, asset inventory identification and management and generating comparative tables for hours workers logged. I was fortunate to have supportive coworkers that assisted me with understanding the different tasks and projects that were assigned to me.  I ended each day at 4:50pm which left me time to enjoy parts of the city with some daylight still left.

Robb Woodruff with Singapore program participants
Robb Woodruff (back, 2nd from L) with SU Singapore program participants and Program Director, Professor Gary Lapoint (middle, 2nd from L) plus fellow Maxwell MAIR student, Mark Aludino (middle, 1st from L)

Despite being a small island, there are many areas to explore in the city and always something new to see. Our program group was fortunate enough to travel to Malaysia and Indonesia as well. In Malacca, there were bike taxis decorated in vibrant colors and booming stereo systems. It was fun to see the wide array of taxis, and how the drivers chose to personalize them. Indonesia was a nice escape to a little resort with an amazing beach. The water was piercingly blue, and crystal clear which made leaving after two days even more difficult. All in all, the Singapore program was an amazing experience that gave me professional and culture experience in Southeast Asia.

MAIR Program at the Maxwell School
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Bart Kassel at DoS Office of Global Social Media

This summer, I interned with the Department of State in the Office of Global Social Media in Washington, D.C. The office is responsible for communicating U.S. foreign policy through direct engagement with millions on digital platforms. Over the course of the summer, the frenetic pace of the office and news cycle was both exciting and exhausting.

Bart Kassel with fellow interns
Bart Kassel (back, 7th from left) with fellow interns

My responsibilities included managing social accounts, drafting copy, editing media, and much more as current events demanded. One of my main projects was leading the implementation of a new content calendar and work-flow tracking system. Another regular responsibility had me editing video from press briefings and other official events for real-time broadcasting on social channels. Attention to detail, careful planning, close team-work, and swift action were my keys to success.

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo cuts a ceremonial cake with former Secretary of State Dr. Henry Kissinger at an event celebrating the 230th anniversary of the State Department.
Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo cuts a ceremonial cake with former Secretary of State Dr. Henry Kissinger at an event celebrating the 230th anniversary of the State Department

The practical experience I developed with the Global Social Media team has taught me with new skills to go along with my Maxwell classes. I was able to apply theory from my Advanced Public Diplomacy class through regular communications activities. My statistics class prepared me to analyze metrics and provide data-driven insights to my colleagues about which types of content was performing well. Management classes that stressed theories of change and log frames proved valuable for my role in planning meetings. Having an opportunity to intern during my MAIR program has also provided me with many new connections.

As an intern, I had the opportunity to network with amazing staff from unique backgrounds. Foreign and Civil Servants, contractors, and political appointees all contribute to the broad and unrelenting demands of diplomacy. I spoke with PhD-holders advancing environmentally friendly mining practices; foreign aid administrators engaging with grant recipients via foreign languages; exchange program leads exploring creative ways to meet policy goals; and many more inspiring people. One thing remained clear—all shared a deep commitment to public service.

DOS Event
DOS Event
Bart Kassel atop one of the State Department buildings in Washington, D.C.
Bart Kassel atop one of the State Department buildings in Washington, D.C.
MAIR Program at the Maxwell School
Maxwell-in-Washington Program

Askar Salikhov Opens a Door to Fieldwork

For two months, I interned at the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Accra, Ghana. IOM is a UN-related agency that manages migration globally. Its mission is to promote safe and orderly migration that benefits all. Many of its responsibilities include assisting government agencies with border management, raising awareness about the dangers of irregular migration, combating human trafficking, helping migrants return to the country of origin, and other activities. The mission in Ghana focuses particularly on child trafficking in the Volta Lake, bringing back migrants stuck in Libya and Niger, and building resilience among communities against push and pull factors of irregular migration.

Representatives from the University of Ghana Center for Migration Studies meet with Syracuse University students
Representatives from the University of Ghana Center for Migration Studies meet with Syracuse University students to exchange information about ongoing project relating to migration in Ghana and Sub-Saharan Africa

During my internship, I’ve worked with two colleagues from Syracuse University, Esther Chung and Jingxuan Wang, on two major assignments relating to child trafficking and assisted voluntary return and reintegration. Our team worked with project managers and assistants to collect visibility materials from victims of trafficking and returnees. Our purpose was to take their experiences and produce engaging narratives that help inform parents and potential migrants about the dangers of child trafficking in the Volta Lake and irregular migration through the Mediterranean corridor. Additionally, we had the chance to take part in a youth and migration conference, income-generating brainstorm sessions with community leaders, and one-on-one meetings with academic partners at a local university.

From the beginning, my objectives were to get exposure to fieldwork activities, connect with practitioners within the milieu of migration and grow my network, learn new skills relating to project design, development, and implementation, and have a positive impact on the mission of IOM and its beneficiaries. I believe that my time with IOM has opened a door for me in development fieldwork, created lasting relationships with colleagues from all over the world, taught me the basics of project conceptualization, and left me with a sense of pride and accomplishment.

Askar Salikhov is a recent graduate of the MAIR program. He completed his degree in Washington, DC while interning for the U.S. Department of State. Askar was part of the last class to participate in the Survey of Current Issues in African Migration program, but IOM Ghana will still consider students as interns based off their experiences working with Maxwell students for a number of years.

Askar Salikhov, Jingxuan Wang, and Esther Chung pose for a photograph with project managers Akpene Amenumey and Victoria Klimova, project assistant Daniel Tagoe, and IOM intern Bowie Ko on the last day of the internship
SU Students Askar Salikhov (center), Jingxuan Wang (5th from L), and Esther Chung (6th from L) pose for a photograph with IOM project managers Akpene Amenumey (L) and Victoria Klimova (2nd from L), project assistant Daniel Tagoe (3rd from L), and IOM intern Bowie Ko (far R) on the last day of the internship
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Nick Rogers, Intel and Strategic Legal Services in DC

Dentons is the largest law firm in the world, employing more lawyers than any other firm. With branches and partner firms all over the globe, the company’s interests are broad and varied. The Washington, DC office houses the government contracts, public policy, intellectual property, health care, energy, and corporate representation practices, among others. The firm also provides business intelligence and strategic services for a variety of clients.

Nick Rogers in front of Denton's Washington office
Nick Rogers in front of Denton’s Washington office

As an intern in the Intelligence and Strategic Services group, I was granted a view of national security and international relations unlike anything I had experienced before. Our group creates a variety of products for our clients, and the work can best be described as “taking the pulse of Washington.” We cover several pertinent topics, track the conversations being had in Congress, by the Administration, and various non-governmental organizations around town. I would regularly be dispatched to events around town, and after taking notes I would write up an analysis of the event for the clients. One of the most exciting aspects of my internship was seeing the finished analysis that I had written and knowing that important people would be reading it.

The work fell into three broad categories: analysis, investigations, and special data-driven projects. Analysis falls into the description of “taking the pulse” of the city, and in some ways the special projects did as well. I took full control of a few different data-driven projects, and I’m grateful for the experience I gained at the Maxwell School and iSchool during undergrad at Syracuse, because it equipped me with the skills I needed to build a few valuable projects from the ground up. Investigations, on the other hand, requires a completely new set of skills to think creatively and solve complex problems. Our group performed due diligence for internal and external clients, providing global insight for mergers and acquisitions decisions. My internship at Dentons was challenging, but incredibly rewarding because I saw the impact my work was having every single day.

Nick Rogers is a fast track BAIR/MAIR students who will complete his bachelor’s in international relations AND his master’s in international relations in five years.

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  • For more about the Fast Track BAIR/MAIR program, contact the Director of Admissions, Christine Omolino, at comolino@syr.edu
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Eric Baker Reports on Journalists in Trouble

Few institutions I’ve known illicit a wider range of reactions than Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. In my short few months there, I’ve had Prazaks (Prague locals) tell me everything from how thankful they are for my help in fighting dictators, to being told that I’m a CIA asset. The truth, understandably, is somewhere in the middle.

Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, once separate organizations, broadcast anti-communist propaganda into the former Soviet Union and its satellites via CIA funding (now Congress funds RFE/RL). For many, particularly older Czech citizens, listening to RFE/RL was not only their only window into the “West,” but an act of rebellion. Though the Soviet Union has faded into the annals of geopolitical strife, its shadow remains over much of RFE/RL’s 22-country region. With the weakening of democracy and rise of oligarchs across the region, RFE/RL’s mission is as important now as it was in 1991.

As the Media and Public Affairs Intern, it’s my job to help boost the visibility of the great work RFE/RL’s journalists do day in and day out. I write press releases, monitor our reporting for awards and mentions in other media, and issue “Kudos” on our website to RFE/RL journalists who have made an impact. This work not only allows me to become more intimately familiar with the work done by our correspondents, it enables me to give credit where credit is due: to our innovative, insightful, and dedicated correspondents who often put themselves in dangerous situations to tell important stories.

With great journalism often comes great risk to our reporters in countries that lack press freedom rights. As such, it is another part of my role to keep up on “Journalists in Trouble” and help report their stories, and the stories that got them into said trouble, to a wider audience. In just the few months, RFE/RL reporters have been harassed and arrested, banned by government officials, and killed in the line of duty. These harsh realities face journalists worldwide but often go underreported. This is why my colleagues and I created the “Journalists in Trouble” newsletter. The bi-weekly newsletter keeps influencers and policy makers across the globe informed on threats to journalists, regardless of their station affiliation. A threat to press freedom anywhere is a threat to press freedom everywhere.

In my final coming weeks, I will continue to work on “Journalists in Trouble,” issue press releases, and edit work from writers who aren’t native English speakers. My final project is a collaborative effort between our department and the country bureaus on the thirtieth anniversary of the Czech Velvet Revolution and other revolutions in 1989. Though I will be back in Syracuse when published, I will assist in building the foundation for this microsite and remind people of the great work RFE/RL has been doing in Central and Eastern Europe for decades.

It has been an incredible opportunity to work with and learn from the professionals at RFE/RL and one that has taught me to be all the more appreciative of our press freedom in the United States. People cannot make informed decisions to benefit their communities if they aren’t given the proper information and context. Radio Free Europe celebrate its 70th anniversary this year and given the incredible work I’ve seen in just a few months, I feel confident they’re just getting started.

Eric Baker is a joint MAIR/MSPR student at the Maxwell and Newhouse Schools. He will be completing his degree at the Maxwell Schools Washington DC program with an internship at Albright Stonebridge Group.

Eric Baker at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Prague, Czech Republic
Eric Baker at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Prague, Czech Republic
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Karen Reitan Learns How Council of Europe Functions

This summer, I spent my time interning at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. The Council is an intergovernmental organization with 47 member states, working to promote democracy, human rights, and the rule of law within its jurisdiction and beyond. As I am currently working toward master’s degrees in both Public Administration and International Relations this presented an opportunity for me to gain insight into both my areas of interest simultaneously. Due to its sheer size the Council is a highly bureaucratic body, with slow progress. At the same time, however, this bureaucracy is also what allows the organization to be effective once decisions have been made, and the European Court of Human Rights allows for actual adjudication of breaches to agreements.

Karen Reitan in Strasbourg
Karen Reitan in Petit France, Strasbourg

My main work assignment focused on various research projects relating to human rights, with my main emphasis being on environmental issues as these relate to human rights. I also wrote some speech drafts, proofread documents to be sent out and published, and took notes at different meetings. The most valuable experience for me during my internship, however, was the opportunity to experience how the organization functions. In Europe it is extremely rare for internships to be unpaid, so as I did not get any monetary compensation for my contributions it was important to my supervisor that I get as much out of my experience as possible. She thus both allowed and encouraged me to attend meetings and sessions during which I did not have work to do per say, but where I could observe and learn. To me as a student this is far more valuable than a minimum wage salary.

Karen Reitan with a coworker at the Council of Europe
Karen Reitan with a coworker at the Council of Europe

I would recommend this internship experience to anyone who has the opportunity to apply, especially if this is a field you wish to enter into upon graduation. As an international student I did not initially consider going “abroad” to be a priority for me, but this allowed me to gain more connections in Europe and has been a great improvement to be experience.

Karen Reitan, Welcome Event
Karen Reitan at Bienvenue à Strasbourg (Welcome to Strasbourg) in the Palais Rohan, where professionals from the city and people who newly moved there come together
Karen Reitan with her wonderful host mother in Strasbourg
Karen Reitan with her wonderful host mother in Strasbourg

 

Karen Reitan in Liechtenstein
Karen Reitan in Liechtenstein
Karen Reitan, Swiss Alps, Hiking
Karen Reitan on an overnight hiking trip in the Swiss Alps
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Emma Diltz at Department of State’s Press Office

The Office of Press Relations at the U.S. Department of State is the hub of media activity at the Department. It works directly with journalists to disseminate the Department and Secretary’s messages to the media and the public concerning U.S. foreign policy. It also helps staff the Secretary’s events and travel, whether domestic or abroad.

As an intern, I’ve had the opportunity to really get to know how the Department functions. I also helped staff multiple events, such as the roll out of the 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report, the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, and the 230th anniversary of the Department of State. While working, I have met dignitaries from different countries and helped members of the press gain access to cover events.

Emma Diltz had the opportunity to staff the 230th anniversary celebration where Dr. Henry Kissinger spoke

While these major events were interesting to experience, and they change based on administration, the main day-to-day functions are consistent and what keeps the office running. Much of my job consisted of working with journalists to understand the major topics of the day and delivering those queries to the various bureaus’ Public Affairs Officers. They delivered their guidance to the spokesperson on those queries so then she is ready to answer them at the podium on press briefing days. On days the spokesperson and Secretary traveled, I compiled the virtual guidance into a memo and sent it to the officer director, who delivered it to the spokesperson.

As the press office, it’s the outreach team’s job to set up interviews for the Secretary. This includes knowing who is interviewing him. Part of my job as an intern was to write short biographies of journalists who were interviewing him, and draft that into a memo for his front office.

Emma Diltz, Department of State, Press Brieffings room
A regular part of Emma Diltz’s internship was helping and attending Department Press Briefings.

Much of my internship allowed me the opportunity to shadow press officers and understand the rotations they do in their jobs. Each officer has a different task every day, and through my time at the Department, I now have a better understanding of each. The Fourth Estate continues to be one of the most important pillars of democracy, even when leadership doesn’t always see it that way.

While we’re in a tumultuous time with the way the government interacts with the media, my few months at the Department of State Office of Press Relations showed that, regardless of the message coming from the heads of the departments, there are truly good people doing important work in these agencies. The collaborative effort by the press office and the journalists showed that there doesn’t need to be animosity between the groups, and there’s much more room for understanding than it looks like from the outside.

Emma Diltz is currently finishing a joint Master of Arts in International Relations and Master of Science in Public Relations degree at the Maxwell and Newhouse Schools.

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Maggie Callahan Gets Rewards Tenfold with Aythos in Nepal

Nepal is not for the faint of heart. In the two months I lived there, I vomited from dust induced coughing a dozen times; made countless emergency visits to a squatty potty; got over 20 bed bug bites and seven leach bites; rode in a jeep with people hanging off the sides and sitting on the roof up a narrow winding mountain road; and survived countless motorbike rides through rush hour traffic without holding on to the man driving. Surprisingly, I would do it again, and I would recommend an Aythos Nepal internship to anyone ready to overcome these challenges for rewards tenfold.

Maggie Callahan assisting with health education
Maggie Callahan (2nd from left) assisting in women’s reproductive health trainings in Kathmandu

As an Aythos Nepal intern, no two days are alike, but each day brings new tasks and ways to effectively and meaningfully contribute to the work of the organization. My days in the office ranged from: leading and planning evaluation and monitoring trainings for staff, formulating needs assessments and surveys, researching for women’s empowerment and agriculture projects, assisting in program planning, and cutting out fabric pads for upcoming trainings.

My days outside the office, however, were my favorite. In the field, I hiked along the most beautiful mountains I’ve ever seen, learned and performed local dances, assisted in feminine hygiene and sustainable livelihood projects, and traveled to parts of Nepal that tourists never see. As for the places tourists see, my time off during the weekends and flexible schedule allowed me to travel to well traversed areas of Nepal as well.

Maggie Callahan at Nepalese Temple
Maggie Callahan traveling on free weekends throughout Nepal

Ultimately, my internship with Aythos Nepal was one of the most challenging experiences of my graduate school career. It pushed me out of my comfort zone professionally, culturally, physically, and mentally. It was an immeasurably valuable opportunity to constantly practice and refine the intercultural communication and program planning and evaluation skills that will be the cornerstone of my future career. For students ready for the challenge and eager to have an internship that gives them real experience, Aythos Nepal is the perfect fit.

Maggie Callahan is completing her joint MAIR/MSPR degree at the Maxwell and Newhouse schools at Syracuse University.

Maggie Callan at a Nepalese Temple
Maggie Callahan traveling on free weekends throughout Nepal
Maggie Callahan (Center) with her Aythos colleagues
Maggie Callahan (center) and her two supervisors at Aythos, Shanti Magar (left) and Samikshya Shrestha (right)
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Henry Mau, In the heart of Europe

My name is Henry Mau and I spent my summer working for the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. But hold on: What exactly is the Council of Europe? Often confused with “something from the European Union”, the CoE is actually not affiliated to the European Institutions. In fact, it is older (70 years) and has more members (48), including Russia and Turkey. It was the CoE that came up with the European flag and its anthem. Ever since its founding, the CoE has been operating in the fields of Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law. The most notable institution that is part of the CoE is the European Court of Human Rights, where every citizen within the CoE’s jurisdiction can appeal to. But this is just, let’s say, the professional side of my journey in Strasbourg.

Henry Mau at the Council of Europe
Henry Mau with friend Emanuela, visiting the European Parliament. A living example of the cultural exchange that Europe stands for.

On a more personal note, moving to France for the summer let me experience the vibrant cultural melting pot that the so-called “European Capital” really is. Strasbourg, the largest city in France’s Alsace region, is a battleground of Europe’s bloody history and at the same time an uplifting symbol for the union of Europe. The European Union, a guarantor for peace among its member states for more than 70 years, is arguably one of the greatest achievements of humankind, a textbook example for intercultural understanding.

Myself an Italian-turned German, the mere fact of being able to cross the Franco-German border without stopping, let alone passport controls or an actually visible border check point, is just one of the countless benefits that the European Union provides for its citizens. But it certainly is enough to preserve the flame in my heart burning for the European integration project.

Henry Mau is a student in the Atlantis Transatlantic Dual Degree Program, where he will complete a Master of Arts in International Relations at the Maxwell School in Syracuse, NY and a Master of Public Policy at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin.

Atlantis Transatlantic Dual Degree Program
SU’s Strasbourg Center
The Maxwell School
The Hertie School of Governance

Leah Knobel Furthers Understanding of Human Rights

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is a private, non profit organization dedicated to the growth and strengthening of democratic institutions around the world. Each year, NED makes more than 1,600 grants to support the projects of non-governmental groups abroad who work for democratic goals in more than 90 countries.

Leah Knobel at the National Endowment for Democracy
Leah Knobel at NED

This summer, I had the opportunity to serve in the Endowment’s Office for Governmental Relations and Public Affairs; the office is responsible for maintaining relationships and strengthening NED’s reputation with lawmakers on Capitol Hill to advocate for our annual appropriation, as well as all communication functions of the organization.

As an intern, I worked on a diverse set of initiatives and projects. On a weekly basis, my responsibilities included cultivating a weekly update of legislation and hearings of relevance to NED, writing memos for hearings attended on the Hill, fulfilling FOIA requests, scheduling meetings with lawmakers and their staff, and assisting the public affairs team with communications outreach. I also worked on several long-term projects, including an extensive media list and the digitization of NED’s Annual Report .

I was fortunate to attend some of the Endowment’s major events. My first week coincided with NED’s annual Democracy Awards, which honored three defenders of human and religious rights in China. The Endowment regularly hosts discussions, panels, and guest speakers at its office; I attended countless events featuring experts in the areas of democracy promotion and human rights.

My experience with NED has helped refine and further my understanding of the world’s most pressing human rights issues and how the Endowment addresses them by supporting civil society movements abroad. My exposure to government and congressional relations work was by far one of the most valuable takeaways of my summer–the insight into Capitol Hill and the skills gained will serve me well into the future as a public diplomacy professional.

Leah Knobel is a MAIR/MSPR student at the Maxwell and Newhouse Schools at Syracuse University.

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