2018 Summer Internship Series: Brian Harper at the Americas Society and Council of the Americas

by: Brian Harper ’19

I spent the summer of 2018 working with Americas Society and Council of the Americas (AS/COA), a remarkable opportunity to research and write about some of the most fascinating contemporary topics in Latin America.

Established in the 1960s, the two organizations that make up AS/COA are designed to foster learning and debate surrounding major political, economic, and social issues and trends throughout the Americas. This mission was especially relevant in 2018, with nine Latin American countries holding elections or otherwise experiencing a transition of power (in one case unexpectedly). AS/COA members include experts in relevant fields, while top governmental ministers and even sitting and former presidents routinely speak at AS/COA events.

Brian at the AS/COA

As part of AS/COA’s Web Team, my role was to support my colleagues in research, maintaining and updating AS/COA’s website with new content, and overseeing the organizations’ social media presence (primarily via Facebook and Twitter). When AS/COA held one of its Latin American Cities Conferences—as it did in Quito, Ecuador on my first day—it was my job to assist in live Tweeting the event. This task put my Spanish skills to the test.

Brian with the team from AS/COA

My coworkers have been exceedingly generous in giving me opportunities to cover topics that are of interest to me and AS/COA members. A story I pitched on a Migration Policy Institute report led to my putting together an article with interactive graphs documenting immigration policy under U.S. President Donald Trump. I also conducted an interview with a renowned Colombian journalist, wrote detailed explainers on Brazil’s presidential candidates and Colombia’s Special Jurisdiction for Peace, and assessed Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra’s first 100 days in office. Furthermore, I joined Young Professionals of the Americas’ (YPA) internal committee to help build a community of the next generation of leaders dedicated to AS/COA’s mission.

Reading academic and policy-oriented papers in IPED classes like Econometrics and Politics of Global Economic Relations made me more comfortable in the research I did with AS/COA. Moreover, I was able to synthesize what I learned in my work into papers I wrote on Colombia and Argentina for Political Risk Analysis and Emerging Markets respectively. Finally, this internship both complemented and built upon work I am doing with the Council on Foreign Relations’ Latin America Studies program.

I would encourage anyone interested in Latin America to consider applying to work with AS/COA or attending a YPA event. In addition to the Web Team, other departments offer internships, such as Communications and Strategic Engagement. You can learn more by visiting www.as-coa.org or following on these  organizations on social media (@ASCOA and @ascoaYPA).

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Reduce Hunger: Pope Francis’ Call for New Approaches

Last Friday, September 28, Fordham IPED and Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice (CAPP) hosted a conference entitled “Reduce Hunger: Pope Francis’ Call for New Approaches” which tackled on the issue of global food security. The conference featured numerous scholars who talked about the different challenges, and innovation in ensuring food security for the world.

The conference started with a remark from Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, who gave an overview of the perspective of Pope Francis with regards to food security. Archbp. Auza also drew from his own experience living in poverty in rural Philippines, as well as on his experience working for various Apostolic Nunciatures around the world. He most especially highlighted what Pope Francis thinks to be the causes of food insecurity, and the various principles that the Pope is suggesting in approaching the problem. Among the causes according to Pope Francis, he says, are: conflict, the throw-away culture, land-grabbing, and structures of poverty and exclusion; and among Pope Francis’ principles in approaching food insecurity includes: moral imperative to not eliminate the hungry in eliminating hunger, the necessity for a long-term plan and not just humanitarian intervention, and a conversion of people towards love. The Archbishop also made a point that the problem on food is not a resource issue – that the Earth can provide. Rather, the archbishop remarked, that the problem is a human issue – that as a society we don’t provide and distribute our resources.

Prof. Christopher Barrett then talked about the various challenges of global food security for the 21st century. According to him, we have accomplished so much but there are also a lot of challenges to be worried about – we are in the best of times and in the worst of times. He started by highlighting humanity’s accomplishments such as the dramatic decline in the stunting of children, and in the number of those living in poverty. However, new problems have also arisen such as the increasing number of people who are undernourished. He highlighted that the areas of challenges are in: lack of supply in vitamin-rich foods, climate change, conflict zones, poverty traps, and distribution networks.

As part of the panel discussion, Prof. Craig Gundersen gave an overview about food security at the local level particularly in the United States. He explained how the SNAP program help reach those who are in need by having eligibility requirements that are realistic, benefits levels that have real impact, effective mechanisms that limit corruption, and the autonomy and freedom of the beneficiaries.

Prof. Sarah Davidson Evanega highlighted her research and work on the impact of GMOs. She featured different interviews of different people from different parts of the world whose lives were changed for the better because of access to GMOs. She proposed that this is a justice issue – there’s an urgency to use science and technology to better the lives of people most especially the poor. She explained how many problems faced by farmers like climate change and pests can be addressed by using genetically modified crops.

Mr. Bill O’Keefe of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) also gave his insights on food security drawing from on-the-ground perspectives. He suggested the integrated approach of CRS that focuses on the vulnerable by targeting systems and structures rather than relying on individual problems. He also proposes the use of technology and of partnerships with the public and private sectors to really make an impact in communities and countries.

Mr. O’Keefe giving on-the-ground perspectives in approaching the problem of food insecurity

Dr. Daniel Gustafson gave a national policy perspective on food security by giving examples of successful programs in various countries. He used these examples to demonstrate that through transparent and effective programs, food security for the world can be achieved. He suggested that we learn from our previous experiences in order to have more efficient and effective programs most especially for the poor.

Prof. Gustafson provided examples of national policies that have effectively addressed food insecurity

A lively panel discussion moderated by Rev. Richard Ryscavage, SJ then followed. The discussion questions ranged from private sector participation to utilization of technology; from market volatility to addressing the movements against GMOs. Overall, the discussions gave a sense that there is a lot to be optimistic about. Yet, there are still a lot of challenges to address. We cannot be satisfied by what we have accomplished but rather push forward and face the challenges to really attain food security for the world.

The conference ended with a wonderful rapporteur report from Mr. Brian Strassburger, SJ, who encapsulated the call to action of the whole conference into one word – magis. He said that after hearing from everyone in the conference, it is clear that we should not be content to what we have achieved but we need to go further, deeper, and more, into the challenges of food security. The day ended with some light refreshments and entertainment from the Creative Leaps International.

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2018 Summer Internship Series: Greg Fischer, Elly Reserva, and Amr Ali’s French Language Immersion

IPED Arrupe Fellow Greg Fischer and Language Immersion Study Award Recipients Elly Reserva and Amr Ali all spent their Summer 2018 in different parts of France for an intensive study of the French language and culture. The three IPED students studied through Alliance Française, an international organization that aims to promote French language and culture around the world. The institution offers daily three-hour intensive language courses, complemented with various cultural activities and immersive experiences.

Greg Fischer in Grenoble

Greg’s class in Grenoble consisted of 7 to 10 students from all over the world (US, Brazil, Australia, Switzerland, Colombia, Hong Kong, South Korea, Venezuela). The instructor brought years of experience from teaching French in East Asia through Alliance Française. Greg arranged a long-term stay through AirBnB which allowed him to use his host to practice his French and continue his immersive experience away from the classroom.

Greg with his classmates


Greg said “A long term immersive experience such as studying French requires you to recreate your daily routine in a different language. That’s invaluable. Having to rely on the language you’re learning enables a greater internalization of the material being used in class.” The diversity of France was on full display in the neighborhood where he stayed; he lived in a neighborhood with a high population of West Africa immigrants and passed through the Tunisia and Algerian stores in order to get to class every day.

Greg and Amr in France

The timing of studying French was also ideal for Greg who was able to watch much of the 2018 World Cup outside of the classroom. It was always easy to find a large public place with a large crowd to watch a French National team game en route to their World Cup victory (unfortunately Greg left France before the final). As an avid fan, coach, and player, the World Cup served as an easy way to bond with other French fans.

Learning French with IPED was a worthwhile experience for Greg. The summer immersion experience with Alliance Française offers a wealth of learning experiences for all beginners, intermediate, and advanced students. The courses are intensive and the opportunities for immersion are boundless. While learning a new language is not a simple or easy process, Greg feels that he got the strong foundation he needed to build upon his language skills.

Elly Reserva in Lyon

Elly’s choice to study French in Lyon was influenced in part by its identity of being France’s gastronomy capital and its reputation of being a student-friendly city. The size of the city itself was perfect for her too, saying that “it was not too huge that it overwhelmed someone like me who’s a first-timer in France, and not too small that I always had something to do after class to continue the French immersion—most of which involved exploring the different Bouchon Lyonnais (restaurants that serve the traditional Lyon cuisine).”

At a bouchon lyonnais, about to feast on Andouillettes de Lyon

Like Greg, Elly’s class was small, composed of students from different parts of the world with different backgrounds and motivations for studying French. The fact that the classes are small allowed them to have enough time to actively participate in class. Alliance Française conducts a placement test before courses start to match and group students at the right level. However, the school organizes various activities so that students from various levels get to interact with one another.

On their last day, the French professor brought cheese to class, while each student brought little somethings from their country for a mini feast!

Elly stayed with a host family throughout her stay in Lyon. Her host family complemented her learning in school by including her in the day-to-day family activities, giving her a closer look to the French traditions and customs. “I couldn’t have asked for a better host family. They made my study of French successful, and my stay in Lyon truly memorable. I still exchange e-mails with them regularly, and I hope I can keep it up.”

Elly’s farewell dinner prepared by her host family. Au revoir!

After the summer language immersion, Elly intends to continue learning French to prepare her for a career in International Development.

At the Ancient Roman Theatres with an overlooking view of Lyon

Amr Ali in Toulouse

Amr’s decision for applying to LISA was influenced by his passion to learn new languages, in addition to the importance of speaking French in pursuing a career in International Development. Located at the south of France, Toulouse, was a perfect choice for Amr. The city is one of France’s most historic cities counts two of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It’s a very small and walkable city with elegant buildings and unique architecture. Most of the buildings are made of pinkish bricks, which earned it the name “La Ville Rose” (The Pink City). Amr said, “Toulouse offered a very friendly atmosphere to learn a new language. Although it was a small city, I was able to do different activities which helped me to practice French. Also, the location was great and enabled me to explore different parts of France.”

Amr with his classmates

Like Greg and Elly, the class size was small (10-12 students) which ensured the interaction and participation in class. In addition, Alliance Francaise offered lots of activities such as cooking, singing, and visiting Toulouse’s landmarks such as the headquarter of Airbus. These activities ensured the continuance of the immersion nature and acquiring varied range of vocabularies in different aspects of life. Unlike Greg, Amr was lucky to celebrate France’s World Cup victory and to witness the country’s celebrations.

At the Airbus headquarter during Alliance Francaise trip

Alliance Francaise helped Amr to stay with a host family which helped him to practice French and continue the immersion nature. The LISA experience was remarkable for Amr; “I couldn’t ask for a better summer and learning experience,” he said.

At the Calanque de Marseille while exploring France with Greg

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2018 Summer Internship Series: Tait Militana at the U.S. Department of Agriculture

By: Tait Militana ’19

During the summer 2018, Tait Militana joined the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a student trainee in economics. He worked at the Economic Research Service, USDA’s arm for agriculture and economics research, where he supported a data product that forecasts income across the U.S. farm sector.  The product is released three times a year, providing a measure of the health of the farm sector as well as its contribution to GDP

Tait’s principal project was to build out a database of historic farm income forecasts and provide initial analysis to help ERS answer the question: How accurate are our projections?

He also provided support for ERS’ August income release.

Tait in the U.S. Department of Agriculture

During his internship, Tait worked extensively with the SAS and Stata statistical programs and learned data manipulation and extraction techniques.

“Having the opportunity to program every day in a research environment helped me deepen my skill set in quantitative analysis and compliment the economics training I’ve received at IPED,” Tait said.

In addition to the programming experience, the ERS internship exposed Tait to the many policy issue affecting American farmers as well as the federal system for producing, analyzing, and dissemination economic statistics.

A group photo with the team from USDA

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2018 Summer Internship Series: Kelly Cannon at United Nations Development Program

By: Kelly Cannon ’19

This summer, I worked as an intern at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) with the Global Programme on Nature for Development. At the UNDP, my work focused on the New York Declaration on Forests (NYDF), “a partnership of governments, multinational companies, civil society and indigenous peoples who strive to halve deforestation by 2020 and to end it by 2030.” The NYDF focuses on ten global goals related to the protection and restoration of forests. “If realized, [these goals] have the potential to reduce annual carbon emissions by 4.5 to 8.8 billion tonnes of CO2 – equivalent to the annual emissions of the United States.” As a part of the NYDF team, I researched and consolidated resources to populate the Global Forum for the NYDF, a space for endorsers of the declaration to interact and share best practices that promote the ten goals. I also created knowledge products, including photo essays, showcasing outstanding examples of community initiatives working to end deforestation and promote alternative livelihoods. Furthermore, I managed endorsers and potential endorsers of the declaration in order to ensure effective communication. My role also required event planning support, which provided me the opportunity to attend a High-Level Dinner at the UN General Assembly on “Innovations and Solutions for Safeguarding Life on Earth” (see photo above with my wonderful team).

Kelly Cannon with the team from UNDP

In addition to my internship at the UNDP, I worked as a Graduate Assistant for the IPED Program. I undertook two primary projects. The first involved developing the Fordham-Francis Index report, a human needs assessment tool designed in response to Pope Francis’ address to the United Nations. I consolidated and organized research for the publication and utilized a variety of software tools including Tableu, Prezi, and Microsoft Publisher. The second project was the Annual IPED Alumni Directory. This required reaching out to IPED alumni throughout the summer and collecting data in order to compile their contact and employment information and organizing it using Microsoft Access and coding it in Microsoft Word to prepare the directory for publication. As I put together the Alumni Directory, I enjoyed learning about all the amazing work IPED alumni do all over the world! My summer internships taught me new skills, developed old skills, provided networking opportunities, and fostered new friendships.

Kelly at the UNDP Office

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