Tag Archives: Council on Foreign Relations

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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Student Spotlight: Luther Flagstad at the Council on Foreign Relations

Luther Flagstad standing outside the Council’s subtle entrance in Manhattan.

Luther Flagstad (IPED ‘18) is the U.S. Foreign Policy Volunteer Intern at the Council on Foreign Relations and in the David Rockefeller Studies Program—CFR’s “think tank”–under Ambassador Robert D. Blackwill, the Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy. The CFR is an independent, nonpartisan membership organization, think tank, and publisher. The U.S. Foreign Policy program at the CFR seeks to understand the challenges and opportunities the United States faces overseas and to assess the pressures and political dynamics shaping its foreign policy choices. The program’s goal is to provide insightful analysis and recommendations that help policymakers, business leaders, journalists, and the general public better understand how the United States weighs its interests and values when it makes foreign policy decisions.

One of the meeting rooms at the Council.

As an intern, Luther works closely with Ambassador Blackwill’s Research Assistant, Ted Rappleye, researching current U.S. foreign policy issues. The CFR provides interns with expansive opportunities for professional development.  Luther writes: “At CFR I’ve been able to listen in on “not-for-attribution” meetings delivered by policy makers from around the world, attend sessions on writing and research skills, practice writing policy memos, and learn and absorb as much as I can from fellows, researchers, and other interns.” Luther was involved in the research for a piece published by Ambassador Blackwill in Foreign Policy titled, “Fact Checking Trump’s ‘Alternative Facts’ About Mexico”.

Luther Flagstad at his desk in the interns’ “pit.”

Luther obtained his position, initially, by attending the CFR’s back-to-school event where he created a network with the other research assistants. He was able to draw on these connections when positions when he submitted his applications.

Luther had this advice to offer: “If you are interested in a career in policy, I couldn’t recommend an internship with CFR enough. The exposure it provides to the field is outstanding.”

Luther maintains his status as a full-time students while performing his internship duties part-time.

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2017 Council on Foreign Relations Career Trip

On Friday, March 3, the IPED students had their final career trip of the year to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in New York City. The students visited the think tank and were able to meet and hear from Gordon M. Goldstein. Mr. Goldstein spent his time telling us his story and discussing cyber/internet security opportunities and challenges.

IPED at the CFR with Dr. Schwalbenberg

He has previously worked with the United States Mission to the United Nations at the World Conference for International Telecommunications (WCIT) in 2012 and is currently working on crises in cyber security. Mr. Goldstein said that the internet is too powerful a tool to allow market forces to work on it freely, necessitating a national policy.

At the Council round table

Gorgeous interior of the CFR

Mr. Goldstein closed with some advice to the IPED students in their search for a job. He explained that the students should have fifty conversations with fifty new people and to get contacts for three more people from each of them. In this way, the students can grow their knowledge base through the experience of others and their network, which is of the utmost importance. Along with this advice he stressed that students should not be afraid to make cold calls, because people genuinely want to help and will respond to sincere interest.

IPED pictured with Mr. Gordon Goldstein (center).

The IPED students ended their day with some pictures at the Council’s headquarters.

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Council on Foreign Relations: African Policy Studies Intern – Nathan Birhanu

Over the 2016 summer, I interned at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) within the Africa Studies Program. CFR is one of the primer think tanks in the world that promotes better understanding and independent research regarding foreign policy that affects not only the United States but countries across the world. CFR accomplishes this in three manners: as a membership organization, publisher, and think tank. CFR has nearly 5,000 members and 170 corporate members that it helps bring together via influential forums. CFR also publishes information through various avenues, with the prominent publication being Foreign Affairs, a leading magazine on foreign policy and global affairs. Finally, as think tank, CFR has nearly seventy fellows that research, write, and analyze leading global issues across various regions and sectors.


Nathan attends a roundtable discussion at CFR.


I was fortunate enough to work under Ambassador John Campbell, the senior fellow for Africa Policy Studies. During my time working with Ambassador Campbell and his research associate, I worked to support the Africa studies department by editing and drafting publications, gathering research on policy issues, and completing administrative tasks. As an intern, I was encouraged to write independent research pieces that were relevant with my academic and professional experiences to be published on the Africa studies blog. I was able to publish online on topics related to Ethiopia and Eritrea security issues, Africa and China relations, and challenges people with albinism face in Southern and Eastern Africa. Interns also have access to general meetings and roundtable discussions with prominent experts speaking on contemporary global issues.

Nathan and Allen Grane, research associate, pose with Ambassador Campbell’s new book, Morning in South Africa, which is used in IPED’s South Africa course.

Nathan and Allen Grane, research associate, pose with Ambassador Campbell’s new book, Morning in South Africa, which is used in IPED’s South Africa course.


The exposure I had while at CFR has contributed tremendously to my goal of eventually working on the African continent, be it in economics, business development, or international relations. It also provided me the opportunity to utilize the knowledge I gained in my course studies in International Political Economy and Development (IPED) at Fordham University and five years working in sub-Saharan Africa. More importantly, my CFR internship was made possible because of the Summer IPED Fellowship I was graciously awarded. Because of the fellowship, I was able to completely immerse myself at CFR and participate fully in the research, events, and work.

Nathan and Allen Grane, research associate, pose with Ambassador Campbell’s new book, Morning in South Africa, which is used in IPED’s South Africa course.

President of CFR Richard Haass (left) discusses Ambassadors Campbell’s (right) new book, Morning in South Africa, and political and economic affairs in South Africa.


IPED has a strong relationship with CFR and sends interns to the various departments. Applying online to African Policy Studies, the Center for Preventative Action, or other internships that align with one’s experience is the best way to gain an internship at the institution, as it is meritocratic and selective based on academic and professional experience.


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Student Spotlight: Tyler Falish at the Council on Foreign Relations

Tyler FeatureDuring the spring of 2016, Tyler Falish (IPED 2017) is serving as an intern at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). CFR is an independent, non-partisan membership organization, think tank, and publisher.

Currently, Tyler supports the work of Ambassador John Campbell–the Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies–and Allen Grane, a research associate. The CFR Africa Studies program covers sub-Saharan Africa generally, but has a specific focus on Nigeria and South Africa. As an intern, he edits and cross-references the facts on posts that get published on the “Africa in Transition” blog, and conducts background research on articles and book chapters that Ambassador Campbell is writing. In addition, he monitors major political and economic events in sub-Saharan Africa and updates CFR Africa’s Twitter account.

In his spare time at CFR, Tyler researches and writes on African issues of personal interest. He recently published a blog post about the African Union and the limits to its power and efficacy in the context of the current instability in Burundi related to President Pierre Nkurunziza’s third term.

Tyler shares that working at CFR is a great experience, as CFR has a specific professional development program for their interns and provides them with opportunities to attend events hosted at CFR headquarters in New York City. “So far, I’ve attended a talk by Stanley Fischer, and most recently, Nobel Laureate Angus Deaton,” he adds.

Tyler learned of this internship opportunity with CFR from Samantha Andrews (IPED 2016) during the fall 2015 semester and applied as soon as the position was posted on the CFR website, as they hire on a rolling basis. He notes that there are a number of think tank internships at CFR each semester in New York and a few more in their DC office. He recommends that, in applying to think tanks generally, one must have and show a genuine interest in the subject matter, and emphasize one’s editorial and research skills, as those are the primary tools required in such positions.

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