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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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2017 Finance Career Trip

On Friday, Februrary 24, students from the IPED Class of 2018 attended the annual Finance Career Trip in New York City.

IPEDers Moses Cam, Robyn Emory, Carlos Baeta, Jessica Way, and Owen Fitzgerald at U.S. Trust

The students began their day at U.S. Trust and spoke with Joseph Quinlan (IPED Class of ’84) from Bank of America. Mr. Quinlan works in the research division as a Chief Market Strategist and shared his thoughts on the current global outlook, his experiences, and his advice (“READ!). He said of the IPED program, “IPED taught me how to think on multiple dimensions.”

IPED students listen as Mr. Quinlan speaks about his work with Bank of America

IPED Class of 2018 with Joseph Quinlan (Center) and Dr. Schwalbenberg.

After speaking with Mr. Quinlan, IPED visited the New York Society of Security Analysts (NYSSA), one of many societies around the world that comprise the CFA Institute. Once there, the students were greeted by Mario Carias, who serves on the Board of Directors. The students were educated in what NYSSA does, how to become a certified charted financial analyst (CFA), and ways to become involved with NYSSA.

Mario Carias speaks to the IPEDers concerning NYSSA

Mr. Carias pictured with IPED ’18

Next, after a quick lunch, IPED ended their day with a visit to Ernst and Young (EY) where they met with Christina Innocentzi to discuss EY’s mission, the work they do, and job opportunities.

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2015 Washington DC Career Trip

Early on the morning of Thursday, November 5th, 20 Fordham IPED students departed for IPED’s annual Washington DC Career Trip.  This trip provides an opportunity for students to explore internship and career opportunities with the United States government, connect with alumni working in DC, and experience the nation’s capital.

An early arrival allowed for a brief visit to the White House.

An early arrival allowed for a brief visit to the White House.

The first meeting took place at Elephant & Castle, with a presentation from two IPED alumna from the International Trade Administration–part of the Department of Commerce.

Connie Handley, IPED alumna, is the Deputy Director of the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center.

Connie Handley, IPED alumna, is the Deputy Director of the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center.

 

Dr. Schwalbenberg with Israly Echegaray--IPED alumna and International Trade Specialist with the Dept. of Commerce.

Dr. Schwalbenberg with Israly Echegaray–IPED alumna and International Trade Specialist with the Dept. of Commerce.

After a great lunch at Elephant & Castle, and a brisk walk around the Mall, the group headed to USAID.

The clouds parted for a beautiful view of the Washington Monument.

The clouds parted for a beautiful view of the Washington Monument.

At USAID, the group met with Tracy O'Hier, IPED alumna and Disaster Operations Advisor with the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance.  Tracy was joined by Kristin O'Planik, Enterprise Development Specialist.

At USAID, the group met with Tracy O’Hier, IPED alumna and Disaster Operations Advisor with the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance. Tracy was joined by Kristin O’Planik, Enterprise Development Specialist.

Current students and IPED alumni gathered for drinks and dinner at Tortilla Coast.

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The next day, the trip continued with a visit to the Department of Agriculture, where we heard from three alumni working with the Foreign Agricultural Service.  Sean Cox is currently a North Africa Desk Officer, Brian Dutoi is an International Agricultural Program Specialist, and Andres Romero is an International Development Program Manager.

The group in front of the massive building housing the Dept. of Agriculture.

The group in front of the massive building housing the Dept. of Agriculture.

The trip concluded with a visit to the U.S. Capitol, where the group was treated to an informative tour, a tiny train ride, and a visit to the Senate office of New York Senator Chuck Schumer.

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Next stop: Senate offices!

Next stop: Senate offices!

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Urban Development Career Trip: The Bronx

IPED students took part in the first annual Urban Development Career Trip on Friday, September 18th. Students were given a tour of the area by a representative from the Fordham Road Business Improvement District (BID)

Fordham Road is the largest shopping district in the Bronx, and the 3rd largest in New York City.  The district is in a diverse, bustling community, and has a great mix of independent shops and regional and national chain stores.

The trip also included speakers from the local community, lunch and an alumni panel at the beautiful Bronx Library Center.

Getting oriented at Fordham Road and Grand Concourse.

Getting oriented at Fordham Road and Grand Concourse.

 

The Fordham Road Business Improvement District (BID) is a nonprofit organization encouraging community and economic development in the Fordham Road community of The Bronx.

The Fordham Road BID is a nonprofit organization encouraging community and economic development in the Fordham Road community of The Bronx.

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