Internship Stories

Sarah Forland at Hopeprint: Interning from Home During a Global Pandemic

Finding a summer internship is a trying process of searching, applying, and writing cover letter after cover letter until you get an interview that leads to a job. So, when my summer plans to participate in one of Maxwell’s global programs was abruptly cancelled due to COVID-19, I really considered calling the summer a wash. However, after a few more applications and offers, I decided to intern with Hopeprint, a local Syracuse non-profit that works to build community and provide resources for refugees and New Americans to prosper in place. Being able to work within a community in which I also lived, felt valuable and purposeful after feeling disconnected by the shift to working from home and self-isolating.

During my internship, I served as the Fund Development Intern Team Leader working with other interns to research private and government funding opportunities and draft grants for Hopeprint’s planned expansion into new cities across America. I particularly worked on researching government-based grants for each of Hopeprint’s locations, looking at every level from federal to city for grant opportunities and public programs in place to assist with community development needs in line with Hopeprint’s mission. At the end of this internship, one of my main deliverables will be a government funding guide on how to locate, apply for, and use government grants and community development programs, as well as which funding opportunities best align with each location’s projects.

While this was all new territory for me, the most important learning aspect was learning how to intern from home. How do I manage distractions, create work-life balance, and feel motivated to get work done when my cat keeps interrupting my Zoom calls? I’m still working on those answers, but I’m taking my summer internship from home experience as practice for the new learning and working environment that lies ahead. Each week during the all-team meeting, everyone shares their “hopeprint” for the week—what kept you going, what inspired you, and what made you remember why you chose non-profit/public service work—and my “hopeprint” for this pandemic summer is Hopeprint.

Sarah Forland is a recent graduate of the Public Diplomacy and Global Communications program from the Maxwell and Newhouse Schools. She formerly interned at the American Security Project and the Global Engagement Center (GEC) at the U.S. Department of State.

Sarah Forland working from home.
Sarah Forland working from home for Hopeprint

Public Diplomacy and Global Communications Program

Sarah Forland, Exploring Public Diplomacy with ASP and the GEC

This spring semester I had the opportunity to intern at the American Security Project (ASP) in Washington D.C., as a Public Diplomacy and Strategic Communications Intern. ASP is a non-partisan research organization that aims to inform Americans—representatives, opinion leaders, and the general public alike—of the ever-changing nature of national security concerns in order to forge a bipartisan consensus on a national security strategy for the 21st century.

Sarah Forland
Sarah Forland

As a student interested in exploring public diplomacy’s role in national security strategy, this internship was the perfect opportunity to research topics from Russian disinformation to the growing importance of subnational diplomacy to the future of internet and tech regulations. Each week I worked on writing various articles about issues in public diplomacy, building a solid writing portfolio that matched my career and academics interests. I also assisted with other ASP projects, such as the organization’s podcast and other perspective and strategy reports.

In addition to my internship with ASP, I was able to complete my academic research consultancy (a component of the Public Diplomacy program) with the Global Engagement Center (GEC) at the U.S. Department of State. I worked specifically with the Technology Engagement Team to research and create reports on social media regulation around China’s treatment of Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region and on the emerging threat of deep fake technology.

While both of my experiences were virtual, I was still able to safely explore Washington, D.C., attend many virtual events, and even meet other interns that I collaborated with for various projects. Both opportunities provided insight into public diplomacy’s role in national security strategy and addressing new and emerging threats to the information space, helping inform my future career goals.

Sarah is a recent graduate of SU’s Public Diplomacy and Global Communications program between the Maxwell and Newhouse Schools.

Sarah Forland on the National Mall
Sarah Forland (C) on the National Mall

Sarah Forland in DC with friends
Sarah Forland (C) in DC with friends

Public Diplomacy and Global Communications Program

Ehsan Ghafourian, STEM Curriculum at Asian Development Bank in DC

I found a great chance to work as an Intern for Asian Development Bank (ADB) during last fall. This institute is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. ADB assists its members and partners, by providing loans, technical assistance, grants, and equity investments to promote social and economic development.

I was part of the North American Representative Office (NARO), Washington DC team with a smart supervisor. My focus was on developing a creative STEM curriculum to drive public support and ramp up government investment in slow-moving education systems. I conducted research to develop the capacity to identify strategic sciences and technologies—as well as the physical and human resources—that are critical for national, economic and security interests. All my activities were completed in a systematic way and according to theory of change.

I found innovative initiatives and indicators that can impact students throughout the United States. I used leading primary open source research to encourage a more flexible manufacturing sector and domestic production by investing in workforce training. By focusing on education issues, I framed a case as curriculum into practical and immediate concerns for average citizens.

Ehsan Ghafourian on the SU Quad in Syracuse
Ehsan Ghafourian on the SU Quad in Syracuse

I greatly appreciated Bart Edes, former ADB NARO representative, and Jukka Tulivuori, Social Sector Specialist, because both of them and other ADB staff were always nice and cooperative.

Ehsan Ghafourian is a recent graduate of the MAIR program. He formerly interned at the Near East Foundation in Syracuse.

Ehsan Ghafourian Finds Innovative Initiatives for Near East Foundation

Kyle Winters, Extremely Rewarding Work for UNDP’s Finance Sector Hub

The United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Finance Sector Hub is a start-up within the greater UNDP. Focusing on financing the Sustainable Development Goals, the Finance Sector Hub works across 17 core areas of financial expertise to align global economic policies and financial systems with the 2030 Agenda.

UNDP Finance Sector Hub

Originally set to work with UNDP’s Istanbul International Center for Private Sector in Development (IICPSD), like many of my peers, the opportunity fell through the cracks due to COVID-19. Fortunately, I was able to connect with my boss and was quickly re-assigned to the Finance Sector Hub as one of the first interns within the start-up. The unique position of being one of the first interns gave me the opportunity to be treated as more of an equal than an intern in an extremely fast passed environment.

This responsibility was rewarding and at times demanding. Coordinating with our five regional bureaus and numerous country offices often resulted in 4 A.M. conference calls and only about a two-hour window – between 7 and 9 P.M. – where my phone wasn’t vibrating from email notifications.

With that being said, my day-to-day work was extremely rewarding. Across our 17 financial areas of practice, I developed internal and external communities of practice for crisis response. This assisted in cutting UNDP’s response time down to under 48 hours. Additionally, I learned skills in web development and was tasked with managing UNDP’s internal web portal. On this platform, I  helped create forums for discussion, resource allocation, and managed webinars. This internal platform proved to be extremely helpful for communicating the needs of regional bureaus and country offices with our global team in NYC. As we were a new team, circulating information and discovering the needs of country offices was somewhat ad hoc – centralizing everything was useful.

While I was not able to work in-country as I originally planned, my experiences with UNDP’s Finance Sector Hub have surpassed all expectations for a remote internship. Working out of headquarters – remotely from Colorado – afforded me the opportunity to meet and work with individuals not just in Turkey, but all around the globe, something I am extremely thankful for. While I may not continue to work with the Finance Sector Hub after my six-month contract ends, I certainly aim to stay within the greater-UN system through the Young Professionals Programme.

MAIR Program at the Maxwell School
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Alice Lu, Continued Learning and Growth at UNICEF C4D

For my internship experience, I was fortunate to be offered a 6 month role on the UNICEF Communications for Development (C4D) team in the Program Division. The C4D section’s primary purpose in supporting the UNICEF Strategic Plan 2018-2021 is to promote, engage, empower and create positive behavior and social change in communities in the humanitarian context for children. The project I got to work on was a USAID grant by the Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance that strived to improve the global capacity and foster partnerships for social science for community engagement in humanitarian emergencies. The goal of this project was to address the need in humanitarian action for the participation of affected communities in effective communication, community engagement and accountability of relief work.

From early morning meetings, I got to be exposed to the WCAR and ESAR UNICEF regional offices, COVID-19 RCCE Collective Service, WHO, IASC and other partners who are contributing to creating the social data tools in the grant. To support my supervisors, I worked alongside another intern based in Mexico to perform program operation tasks, research, and attend conferences on global RCCE response actions in COVID-19. I was excited to be engaged in the design of an M&E framework and support the development of various work products. During this unprecedented time in the COVID-19 pandemic, I worked remotely from my parent’s home which gave me more flexibility and time to balance the internship and schoolwork. Coming from a lack of public health background, I had a great experience so far working alongside the team who has supported my continued learning and growth of understanding the challenges faced by the global public health sector in community engagement and social science in a humanitarian context.

Alice Lu
Alice Lu

Alice Lu graduated with an MPA/MAIR degree and is currently working as an Accounting Associate for Kiva Microfunds.

MPA/MAIR Program at the Maxwell School
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Kendall Horvath Researches Organized Crime in the Amazon with InSight Crime

I spent my Fall 2020 internship as a Writing and Research Intern for InSight Crime. InSight Crime is a think tank dedicated to studying the top threats to national and citizen security in Latin America and the Caribbean, which is the threat of organized crime. Their mission is to deepen and inform the debate on these issues by providing the general public with regular reporting, analysis and investigation on the issue and state efforts to combat it.

I was excited about the opportunity to intern with InSight Crime because it offered unique and exciting work experience that was different from the traditional internship that one is likely to find in DC. The internship advertised itself as a program that allows interns to gain substantive experience reporting, researching, and writing, while increasing one’s knowledge of organized crime in Latin America. The experience lived up to these expectations and more. It was also the perfect match to my MAIR Peace, Security, and Conflict (PSC) concentration and future career aspirations of working on issues related to transnational organized crime.

My primary duties were focused on helping the Environmental Team investigate illegal mining, logging, wildlife trafficking, and deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest. While I initially knew very little about the scope of these criminal activities, I gradually became familiar with the topic, its regional and international context, and its impact on society.

InSight Crime also allowed me to work with its publishing department to write articles for their website. Working with this team gave me first-hand experience in scraping websites for news related to organized crime, pitching potential articles for publication, and the opportunity to author byline articles. It was also an informative look into the world of journalism.

My internship with InSight Crime truly was a memorable and rewarding experience. I had the incredible opportunity to work alongside some of the most intelligent and dedicated individuals, while simultaneously building investigative and research skills that are applicable to multiple different industries. If you have an interest in the topic and can speak Spanish, I would highly recommend this opportunity for its substantive and rewarding work.

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Anne Ahrendson Works on Debt Sustainability for Sri Lanka

Last fall, I had the opportunity to support the implementation of US policy by working with the US Embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka. As an intern for the economic section of the embassy, I got to spend ten weeks researching macroeconomic issues and providing context around those issues to help inform US policies.

As someone who studies International Political Economy, is interested in macroeconomic development, and cares about the interaction between the public and private sector, this was a dream position for me. The economic section of an embassy, particularly in a smaller embassy, handles everything that isn’t directly political or consular in nature. In Sri Lanka, this means that the economic section covers everything from commercial policy to research and development, which is particularly exciting in the area since there are a lot of research vessels in the Maldives.

My primary project focused on creating a report on debt sustainability in Sri Lanka. The covid-19 pandemic has caused an economic downturn in many countries, Sri Lanka included, resulting in challenges making debt payments. To help inform US policy, I researched reports from commercial banks and think tanks and created models showing different outcomes of possible mitigations to address the debt issues.

Though my experience was meant to be in person, the pandemic made it into a virtual experience instead. What would have been an exciting few months in Sri Lanka was instead an exciting few months spent working from home in Washington, DC. Having missed out on some of the opportunity to be in person and meet people that I worked with, instead I had opportunities to join remote meetings with other interns and work with my supervisors to create a better experience for future interns who would also be coming on during the pandemic.

Despite the challenges around interning in a virtual environment, I was grateful to have the opportunity to learn more about the kind of work that the embassy does and use that to inform my future career goals.

Anne Ahrendson
Anne Ahrendson

MAIR Program at the Maxwell School
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Sakshi Thorat Supports Research at Business Executives for National Security

Business Executives for National Security (BENS) is a non-partisan think tank with HQ in D.C. and seven regional offices across the United States. It was founded by mining executive Stanley A. Weiss and has over 400 members who are the senior business and industry executives volunteering their time and expertise to address the national security community’s most pressing challenges. BENS leverages the diverse expertise of its members to support government efforts that tackle other prominent challenges. They provide actionable solutions in terms of best practices. The organization’s Policy/projects work for the Commission includes government projects focusing on military modernization, national security workforce, and critical defense challenges. The research wing of the organization is the four Councils- Technology & Innovation Council, Energy Council, Competitiveness Council, and Resilience Council.

Sakshi Thorat (lower R) at BENS weekly Policy Team meeting
Sakshi Thorat (lower R) at BENS weekly Policy Team meeting with fellow Maxwell student, Sean Withington (upper L)

My work at the organization mainly focused on supporting the Council’s research. I had the opportunity to sit in on roundtables and discussions held by experts in the fields. I researched various issues relating to great power competition with China, particularly its economic policies and the rare earth mineral supply chain. On the Commission side, I assisted in the research about DARPA’s Mosaic Warfare Technology, Artificial Intelligence and Innovation Ecosystem in the U.S., and Data standardization operations within the DHS. I also had the chance to contribute to the weekly Executive Briefs on news events relevant to the Commission and the Council.

I was still able to learn the dynamics and the importance of public-private sector engagement in National Security, gain a deep understanding of the different sides of the great power competition with China and learn about the U.S. Government’s efforts and projects on military modernization. My work at BENS has exposed me to the practical side of the MA in International Relations Program, which I will carry on to my professional career.

MAIR Program at the Maxwell School
Maxwell-in-Washington Program
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Nadia Husseini-Eyre Gets Thrown Into the Deep End at BCW & Ends Up With a Well Trained Mind

Last fall, I took the opportunity to diversify my knowledge of International Relations into the Public Affairs and Global Communications sector. Interning with Burson Cohn & Wolfe in Brussels, recently named PRovoke Media’s 2020 Global Agency of the Year and formerly known as Burson-Marsteller, I had the opportunity to closely interact with several private sector and government clients. From organizing, publicizing and promoting Government and European Commission initiatives to working with several energy, sustainability, and policy directed projects across the EU, I was never short of new learning.

Nadia Husseini-Eyre in Brussels, Belgium
Nadia Husseini-Eyre in Brussels, Belgium

I have always imagined myself working in policy and development, in the foreign office or the UN. However, this internship opened my eyes to a new aspect of IR and public diplomacy. Alongside my placement in the BCW Communications Team, I was able to work in the Government Relations department at BCW. These confidential projects utilized my Maxwell experiences by covering IR and global digital policy developments, engaging in policy with the private sector, and drafting urgent crisis communication proposals (for which we won!).

My main responsibilities changed every day. In fact, on my first day I was warned, “you’ll be thrown into the deep-end, it might feel overwhelming, but you’ll adjust quickly”. Never have those words been truer. Immediately assisting with client-media relations, policy and social monitoring, proposal drafting, event planning and management, writing and publishing promotional materials, communicating with MEPS and influencers and more, all across several private sector clients and governing bodies, my mind was being well trained in the art of efficient multitasking. Previous 4-hour long tasks can now be completed in 1 hour; the blessing of being thrown into the deep-end – you can really see how far you’ve come!

I was pleasantly surprised by how hands on I was during my internship. It was great to feel valued as an intern and to see my work approved and used with clients. This experience has motivated me on my IR endeavors, and I will leave my internship being both incredibly thankful for this experience and with a new-found beloved Nespresso addiction.

Nadia Husseini-Eyre is an MAIR student currently finishing her degree in Seoul, Korea at SU’s Yonsei University, World Partner program.

Nadia Husseini-Eyre at BCW
Nadia Husseini-Eyre at BCW

MAIR Program at the Maxwell School
Yonsei University, World Partner Program
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Yuliia Popyk Works on Ukraine at US Institute of Peace

During my MAIR program I had the opportunity to intern at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) as a Visiting Research Assistant. My summer internship at USIP was covered by the Edmund Muskie Internship Program for Fulbright Graduate students from Eastern Europe, and my continued internship through the Fall 2020 was made possible with the support of the PAIA Department and a Global Programs Award.

Yuliia Popyk, Lincoln Memorial
Yuliia Popyk at the Lincoln Memorial

“USIP is a national, nonpartisan, independent institute, founded by Congress and dedicated to the proposition that a world without violent conflict is possible, practical, and essential for U.S. and global security.” I have been a part of organization’s critical department – Office of Strategic Stability and Security (OSSS), with the focus on Russian activities in the conflict zones around the world. My line of work was on Ukraine, my home country. USIP established the Office of Strategic Stability and Security (OSSS) to provide research, analysis and policy recommendations on the growing impact of global powers on international peace and stability with a special focus on Russia and Ukraine.

Ukraine has been fighting in an ongoing war with Russia for more than six years now, and it continues today. USIP is engaged in many projects directed at change in Ukraine. In fact, during my 6 month internship at USIP I co-researched material for the analytical paper on the impact of COVID-19 in Ukraine and its conflict zones; assisted with Religious Mapping Methodology (RLM) research on the impact of religion on war in Ukraine; participated in the development and preparations for the Track 3 dialogues between Ukrainians and Russians; co-organized the RLM presentation of preliminary findings; attended multiple webinars, online events, and discussions on various topics related to national security, global order, and Russia’s engagement in the conflict zones.

I was immensely honored to work with Ambassador William B. Taylor as the head of our department, as well as many other fascinating American foreign officers and researchers. Many thanks to my supervisor Leslie Minney for her constant support, help, and understanding. I enjoyed my internship experience at USIP very much!

Yuliia Popyk
Yuliia Popyk

United States Institute of Peace
United States Institute of Peace

MAIR Program at the Maxwell School
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