Category Archives: Internships

Armand Aquino ’17 with Catholic Relief Services in Senegal

By: Armand Aquino ’17

Armand inside Phare des Mamelles, the highest point in Dakar and the second most important lighthouse in Africa, after Cape Town’s lighthouse.

Last May 9-12, I participated in Catholic Relief Services’ (CRS) first ProPack I training in French in Dakar, Senegal. ProPack I (or Project Package I) is one of CRS’ manuals on project design for CRS project and program managers. The training gathered more than 30 CRS staff from the West Africa and Central Africa country offices including Burkina Faso (where I currently serve as a Fordham Intern), Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Mali, Niger, Rwanda, and Senegal, among others.

Fresh off the press. Armand with the French copy of CRS’ ProPack I.

I first came across CRS’ ProPack I in Dr. Schwalbenberg’s Project Design class where I learned the basic concepts of project design including problem tree analysis and the logical frameworks. The training, however, had more concepts added and it made these concepts more “practical” because they fall in a specific process of project design that CRS staff ought to follow. The process of project design itself was the most useful take-away for me, since I tend to jump from one step to another, when in fact, there is a logical flow that could make the work easier. For instance, when given an issue or problem, I tend to start with a problem tree analysis to identify the causes of the problem. However, conceptual frameworks can already do that for you since it has already made the connections between factors and the problem. What one can do then is to use these conceptual frameworks to specify the causes (scope, gravity, etc.) through research and assessment that will then help make the problem tree more “meaty” and easily convertible to a tangible results framework for the project.

ProPack I training in Dakar, Senegal where CRS staff gathered to learn and share experiences in project design.

In addition to the content, the facilitation of the training which used real-life examples and the opportunity to hear from the experience of various CRS staff in project design were enriching; it made the concepts more real and easier to understand. The training was also a great opportunity to continue practicing my French language skills since everything, including lectures, readings, and group work, was conducted in French and to network with some CRS staff in the region. I must admit I had a little difficulty in following some parts of the discussion since I am not yet fluent in the language. But what really helped me prepare for the training was reading the English version of ProPack I in advance so I have the concepts at the back of my head and I do the translation and connection in French as the training goes. Additionally, it was definitely helpful to have some experience in project design that I could bank on during the training (As an intern, I am involved in a couple of project design initiatives for the Burkina Faso country program).

Armand inside Phare des Mamelles, the highest point in Dakar and the second most important lighthouse in Africa, after Cape Town’s lighthouse.

Given the adventurer in me, I also used this opportunity to visit some superlative places in Dakar and get immersed for a bit in its history and culture. I visited the highest point in Dakar and the furthest West tip of the African continent.

When one is in Dakar, one should not miss Île de Gorée, a colorful island with a very dark history because of the slave trade.

I would like to thank CRS West Africa Regional Office and Burkina Faso Country Office for allowing me to participate in the training and Fordham IPED for financing my participation in the training. The training was definitely a good investment as I continue to explore a long-term career in the international development space.

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Summer Series: Luther Flagstad ’18 Serves as Political/Economic Intern at U.S. Embassy Kazakhstan

By: Luther Flagstad

This summer I had the opportunity to experience what life is like for Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) in the U.S. State Department living and working in Astana, Kazakhstan. On an eight-week assignment as the Political/Economic Sections’ Summer Intern, I briefed officers on attended meetings, contributed to reports back to Washington, and honed diplomatic communication and editing skills. But the biggest takeaway was simply the chance to “test-drive” a career I have been actively pursuing for seven years.

I first took the Foreign Service Officer Test (the first step in applying to be an FSO) in 2010 and failed decisively. My feedback was to get more international experience by considering something like the Peace Corps. So after a lengthy application process, I left for the Kyrgyz Republic seeking to gain new skills as a Peace Corps Volunteer in May of 2012. Four years working in grassroots development in the Kyrgyz Republic helped land me in the 2018 cohort of Fordham’s IPED Program with a Public Service Assistantship, and there I was able to extend my research, writing, and analytic skills further. In the fall semester, with substantial support from IPED professors and Fordham staff, I was fortunate enough to successfully apply for an internship position with the State Department.

Having secured a secret-level clearance with two days to spare (a process worthy of its own blog post) I was on a plane for Astana—the capital of Kazakhstan. I know that my regional experience and interests helped land the internship—that and the fact that there aren’t droves of students lining up to go to Central Asia. Yet, despite its remoteness, Kazakhstan is one of the most exciting and dynamic places to work and will continue to be so over the next thirty years.

Suddenly separated from its former fellow Soviet Republics in 1991, Kazakhstan struggled through the 1990s after an enormous economic contraction. But newly discovered oil and gas deposits on the Caspian Sea in the late 1990s afforded Kazakhstan massive subsequent growth, tripling its GDP per capita in purchasing power parity since 2000. The government is assiduously pursuing policies to bring Kazakhstan into the top thirty economies in the world by 2050. While this process won’t be perfectly smooth—Kazakhstan has yet to experience a transition of presidential power, and its liberal economic regime sometimes moves in fits—the country is emerging with many successes to its credit as well. Kazakhstan beat out Thailand for a two-year, non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for its 2017-2018 tenure, is host this summer to the World’s Fair’s EXPO 2017 on the theme “Future Energy,” and is currently hosting continuing rounds of talks in Astana on Syrian settlement.

Today, due to the U.S.’s own political upheavals, maybe you are among the many university students who once dreamed of a career in public service but are now reconsidering their options.  I would like to encourage you, however, as long as you have this dream, to keep these passions alive and to nurture them, whether through community activism, a job in local government, or any work that serves others. Fortunately for American citizens, U.S. government is bigger than one person—it always has been—and foreign and domestic policies are written, communicated, and implemented by thousands of individuals striving for the rights for all to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Policy is not something that exists on its own but is forwarded by the aggregate decisions of many. The U.S. government needs individuals of strong character who will edge the needle through consistent, daily commitment and service.

To be honest, I personally have not yet settled on how I will contribute and have opted to try out a number of different sectors as an IPED student. This is where IPED has a huge advantage; because of the schedule, content of coursework, incredible support of the program’s director and staff, access to professors, small cohort size, and comradery and encouragement from classmates, students can get the hands-on experience necessary to jump into a career upon graduation. I have interned with the Council on Foreign Relations and the U.S. Department of State, assisted a professor with a research project, and coordinated the IPED Lecture Series—all in my first year! Over this next year I will continue to make use of these opportunities, seeking an internship with The Economist Intelligence Unit and a Boren Fellowship for Russian language study. With IPED, these outside fellowships, internships, and experiences are not just encouraged, but are actively supported and are consistently realized by IPED students every year.

If you desire to pursue an internship in the U.S. government, please reach out to me or any of the other IPED students doing government work this summer. And, if you’re interested in private sector consulting, internships with the United Nations, NGO work, or language study, there are IPED students ready to answer your questions on those areas as well.

Best of luck in your summer endeavors!

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Summer Series: Tess Hart ’18 and the Chuuk Women’s Council in Micronesia

By: Tess Hart

Tess Hart, an IPED Arrupe Fellow, was awarded the Santander International Internships Fellowship to spend part of the summer in Chuuk, Micronesia working at the Chuuk Women’s Council (CWC). The CWC is an umbrella organization of 64 women’s groups across the state with over 1,000 total members. The mission of the organization is “to assist women in becoming more productive and self-sufficient members of our society through comprehensive programs which enhance the social, economic and physical well-being of women and their families in Chuuk.”

Members of the Chuuk Women’s Counsel at a general meeting joined by two representatives from USAID

The Chuuk Women’s Council is currently implementing their Tongen Inepwinéú, Tongen Fénúwach (Love of the family, Love of Our Islands) Climate Change Adaptation through Family, Gardens, Food, and Health Project, which is being funded through the USAID Pacific American Climate Action Fund (PACAM). The program involves training and providing ongoing support for 45 home gardeners, maintaining 3 community nurseries, and developing and implementing a high school gardening curriculum. The program seeks to help participants improve food security through climate resilient gardening methods with a co-benefit of increasing access to nutritious food options.

The USAID PACAM Review team meeting with the CWC.

Returning to the FSM having served as a Jesuit Volunteer in the region prior to attending IPED, Tess helped the CWC team prepare for their mid-term grant review. She worked with the Monitoring and Evaluation team and Project Coordinator to compile data and strengthen implementation methods. The review included visiting and interviewing home gardeners in the villages.

One of the CWC-PACAM sponsored home gardens in Sapuk village.

Tess with one of the many young beneficiaries of the home gardening program (11% are under 5 and an additional 29% are school aged).

In addition to assisting with the PACAM project, Tess assisted the with several grant applications and helped with the preparation of summer curriculums for the CWC’s Summer Enrichment Program for second to fifth graders, which focuses improving reading, writing, and math skills while exploring the importance of the environment and the impacts of climate change. She also reviewed the CWC’s Young Women’s Empowerment Program and helped prepare the implementing team for compliance with AusAid. Moreover, while in Chuuk, Tess had the opportunity to utilize the Micronesian Seminar library, attend the Xavier High School Class of 2017 graduation, attend the inauguration of the governor of Chuuk, and meet with the ambassador of the United States to the FSM.

There is nothing like a beautiful sunset in Chuuk, Micronesia.

Tess is very grateful to the CWC for warmly welcoming her back to Chuuk and allowing her to be a part of their programs. Her advice for students considering applying for Santander funding or seeking a summer internship is to look for opportunities early, make the experience your own, and pursue an area in which you are passionate.

 

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Summer Series: Crisostomo Ala ’18 and CRS Ecuador

By: Crisostomo Ala

The purpose of my internship with CRS Ecuador is twofold: to gain work experience, insight, and involvement in the development sector and to understand the field operations of development NGOs whom I used to collaborate with when I worked for the consulting industry.

Upon my arrival in Ecuador, I was sent to Esmeraldas from Quito to support the shelter, water, and sanitation project of CRS which provided low cost housing and latrines to the most vulnerable communities affected by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake of April 2016. The city was characterized by economic activity limited to the production and sale of mostly agricultural goods and also, by poor infrastructure investments concretized by unfinished buildings along the province’s coastline. Esmeraldas is locally known as a tourist destination and such investments were intended to be profitable hotels and tourist attractions. However, after last year’s calamity, they were immediately abandoned placing a great strain on the area’s economic development.

I was assigned to the project’s operations where we had to acquire raw material to manufacture into housing parts that can be delivered and assembled on site. I handled inventory, monitoring and evaluation of delivered parts, and payroll of drivers who delivered these parts. My main role was to ensure that the beneficiaries received the correct amount of parts and in good quality for them to be able to construct their houses. By fulfilling my role, I was able to be involved in the implementation of the project on the ground. Furthermore, I was also able to observe how the specific process I handled was integrated to the project as a whole and how each procedure was meant to ensure donors that budgets are being spent in a cost-effective manner. The main purpose of this was to optimize operations so that the least amount of money was being spent while retaining the same level of quality in project delivery. In essence, the goal was to spend optimally so that the savings from one project can be used in other program efforts.

As such, by contributing the operations side of the project, I was able to gather sufficient understanding of how projects are executed on the ground. I can use such experience in the future when applying for career opportunities in development NGOs like CRS and other similar organizations as well.

Moreover, apart from merely being part of the process ensuring seamless transactions at the operational level, I was also enabled to observe and understand how NGOs function at the field level. Previous work experience in the consulting industry taught me that the performance of NGOs is measured by the utility they bring the cost-effectiveness of their operations. I was able to observe this from the HR side for the past 6 years, how one can improve operations while optimizing salaries and benefits, one of the biggest costs of an organization. Similarly, from this internship, I was able to learn the importance of cost optimization not just at the regional level but also at the field level when it came to the execution of procurement transactions of raw materials for a shelter and water sanitation project. It was indeed a learning experience for me as it provided the link I was searching for between field operations and regional operations.

Overall, it was an experience filled with lessons both on international development level and actual project implementation on the ground. This internship trained me to respond to unforeseen circumstances in the field and have contingency plans in place for such instances which will be very helpful for either a career in development or development and HR consulting. Being involved at the field level allows one to understand local circumstances, gain anticipatory insight in project development, and adapt project execution to the local level whenever circumstance dictates to ensure seamless delivery.

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Summer Series: Jackie Yap ’18 and the Diplomatic Fellowship at the Holy See Mission to the UN

By: Jackie Yap

Photo credits: Anna Fata, Holy See Mission to the UN

After finishing my IPED courses last December 2016, I began my full-time, six-month fellowship at the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN (Holy See Mission) on January of 2017. The Holy See Mission is the diplomatic section representing the Vatican at the UN.

As a diplomatic fellow, my day comprised mainly of attending meetings and conferences at the UN headquarters. Occasionally, I would stay at the Mission office to attend briefings, discuss my insights with my supervisor, and write my reports. At the meetings, I listened to ambassadors, heads of states, and experts give statements on economic, social, and political issues. Since it is a small group, I was privileged to shadow negotiators and get a preview of what their day-to-day was like, especially during negotiations.

 

Given my training in Political Economy and Development, I was assigned to follow the various commissions and political negotiations in Economic and Social Committees (2nd and 3rd committee, respectively). In these commissions, I gained a better and multi-disciplinary understanding of the global discourse on various socio-economic issues surrounding Women Empowerment and Gender Equality, Indigenous people’s issues, Ocean Conservation and Preservation, Science and Technology, and Human Rights. I was assigned to manage and coordinate the staff reports during the 2-week long Commission on Status of Women week March 2017. It was a hectic yet unforgettable experience.

I looked forward to each week because it was different from one to the next. The variety gave me plenty of opportunity to learn about different issues around the globe. It was challenging to digest a lot of information but the training I received from Economic and Political Science courses taught me to write comprehensively and concisely. The summary reports that I have written and organized were eventually submitted to the head office in Rome, Italy.

It is also worth noting the collegiate and familial atmosphere at the Mission. We began with a morning meeting and since lunch was served, everyone had to sit in one large table and talk to each other. The attachés, including the ambassador, His Excellency Archbishop Bernardito Auza, were my mentors and they were generous in sharing their knowledge with the interns.

I landed this fellowship through IPED’s program partnership with the Holy See Mission. While I had to undergo the internship application process, Dr. Schwalbenberg, the program director, had been very supportive and generous, providing me the funding in order to make the experience possible.

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