Internship Blog Series: Geneva Centre for Security Policy

Internship Blog Series: Geneva Centre for Security Policy

My name is Priscilla Haingo Plat and I am a second-year graduate student in the School of Diplomacy & International Relations at Seton Hall University. I am originally from Madagascar and France and nearly a year ago, after moving out of Paris, I started the M.A. program offered by the School of DiplomacyI knew such an academic endeavor would be a crucial step in the right direction to help narrow my career path, develop leadership skills, and uncover unique professional opportunities. 

Among these unique opportunities was a remote internship at the Geneva Center for Security Policy (GCSP). GCSP is an international foundation focused on building and maintaining global peace, security and stability. I joined the organization in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, assuming the role of Young Leader in Foreign and Security Policy, as part of their prestigious Global Fellowship Initiative (GFI). My graduate school specializations are global negotiation and conflict management, with a regional focus on Africa. Therefore, getting an insider’s view of a Geneva-based institution with 45 affiliated member states, which is recognized as one of the world’s leading centers for executive education, policy analysis and diplomatic dialogue, constitutes a dream internship experience for the political affairs specialist, policy analyst and diplomat that I aspire to be.  

With GCSP engaged in research, data collection, and leadership skills for activities surrounding climate changemigration, international security, foresight in Africa, conflict prevention, and the nexus between terrorism and organized crime in all its forms. Alternating between strategic anticipation and terrorism in relation to preventing violent extremism (PVE) essentially determines the work that I am doing with the Center. 

significant portion of the expertise I applied to the Center’s projects related to key security and peace policy issues that I acquired during my first year of graduate school. Courses such as Institutions of Post-Conflict Governance, Peacemaking and Peacekeeping, and the Art and Science of Negotiation, as well as various on-campus event organized by the School of Diplomacy, undoubtedly sharpened my knowledge and analytical thinking on foreign policy and international security. 

Given the circumstances, performing remotely and coordinating with my colleagues who are based in Geneva, has caused me to develop more effective reporting methods and rearrange my daily schedule, keeping in mind that time difference is a challenge that has to be overcome in order to meet deadlines and reach individual, collective, and global objectives. 

Not only does this fellowship program provide its participants with executive courses, conferences, seminars, workshops and the chance to participate in regional or issue-specific collaborative designs, but it also offers exclusive networking connections; notably, GCSP’s experts, executives-in-residence, associatesand doctoral and government fellows. I would highly recommend any student majoring in international relations apply and make the most of this fellowship program in the pursuit of a thriving career. 

Internship Blog Series: DCAF – Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance

Internship Blog Series: DCAF – Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance

My name is Emanuel Hernandez. I am a second-year graduate student pursuing an M.B.A. in Supply Chain Management/M.A. in International Relations dual-degree program at Seton Hall University. In the summer, I was selected as the School of Diplomacy’s Sergio Vieira de Mello Fellow, a fellowship program created in honor of a Brazilian UN diplomat who was killed in a bombing while working as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Iraq.

De Mello fellows are placed as research assistants in project-based work at the DCAF – Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance for a duration of eight weeks. DCAF, an international foundation under Swiss law, is dedicated to improving the security of states and their populations within a framework of democratic governance, the rule of law, and respect for human rights. DCAF helps its partner states and international actors to improve the governance of their security sectors through inclusive and participatory reforms based on international standards and practices. The foundation currently has 63 member states and operations in more than 74 countries.

I interned for the Latin America & Caribbean (LAC) Unit within the Operations Department. As one of the newest units at DCAF, we had a small team, with only a head of division, two project coordinators, one financial officer, and two interns (including myself). Working in such a small team comes with both challenges and perks.

One of the main advantages of working in a small team was the one-on-one feedback and mentoring from my peers. We worked in a dynamic environment that required everyone in the team to be able to perform multiple tasks. During my time there, I prepared multiple research reports and concept notes to be used in funding proposals, translated and edited publications and legal documents for international cooperation projects, and prepared daily briefs on security sector news in DCAF’s focus countries in LAC. I also had the opportunity to improve my professional writing skills in Spanish.

However, being responsible for multiple tasks in a small team came with its own challenges. Sometimes, the workload exceeded the time available in a given day, so I needed to learn how to prioritize tasks effectively to make sure that I got everything accomplished at the right time.

Participating in the internship reassured me of my choice to pursue a dual-degree program. My background in international relations was essential for processing data, understanding complex issues, and delivering information concisely in research reports. My education in business administration, on the other hand, was particularly useful in understanding financial statements and legal documents needed to implement and monitor international projects. I would certainly recommend this internship to anyone that is interested in international project-based work.

Geneva is a vibrant city during the Summer, and DCAF is located at the heart of international Geneva. While my objective had always been to work in the New York/Washington area, this experience opened my eyes to the professional opportunities in Geneva, which serves as a hub for hundreds of international organizations, multinational companies, and non-governmental organizations. Based on my experience with DCAF, I will be keeping an eye on jobs in Geneva when I begin applying for full-time positions.

Internship Blog Series: Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN

Internship Blog Series: Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN

My name is Roxane Heidrich. I am a second-year graduate student in the Diplomacy and International Relations Program, specializing in Global Negotiations and Conflict Management and International Security. I completed an internship at the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York.

My goal upon graduation is to work in the field of mediation of international conflicts and facilitate dialogue between stakeholders. These conflicts also possess a security dimension prior to peace talks, and I was interested in learning what arrangements need to be present on the ground before one can begin the mediation process. The Holy See matched these interests of mine in their dedication to peace and reconciliation as a religious organization. Such organizations are often at the forefront of mediation efforts, brokering ceasefires and peace agreements and playing a major role in bringing together rival parties and negotiating a successful and lasting peace.

In this sense, my decision to pursue this internship followed my understanding of mediation as an activity that needs to be carried out with the principles of neutrality, genuine engagement, and the unbiased interest of the mediator to help the parties find the best possible solution. I learned that the Catholic Church brings this to the table and more, which is linked to people’s connection through faith and a number of principles that call for mutual understanding and using non-violent means for solving violent crisis.

In my position, I learned much about the principles that guide the work of the Holy See in peacebuilding across the world. More specifically, through attending meetings at the Security Council (where the Holy See is an Observer State), I learned about such security arrangements that are fundamental to the cessation of the hostilities – a step that comes before the deployment of other types of efforts such as mediation and post-conflict reconstruction. I learned even more about UN strategies for peacekeeping and peacebuilding, including the challenges to such efforts which are very often represented by the political disagreement between Member States.

From this internship, I learned many new and transferable skills, such as writing reports in an accurate and timely fashion, speaking about and analyzing current security issues in a critical way, understanding the context of current conflicts such as in Venezuela, Kosovo, Myanmar, and Palestine-Israel, and understanding the timing of UN interventions (peacekeeping, appointment of special envoys, establishment of sanctions, establishment and withdrawal of missions, and mediation/dialogue facilitation) depending on the timing and severity of the conflict and the compliance of the host countries. These new skills represent some of my greatest accomplishments, and I am excited to carry them forward in my career.

Some challenges included coordinating my internship responsibilities with coursework and commuting between South Orange and New York, which could be difficult at times when weather was bad. Overall, however, I would definitely recommend this internship to someone that has a solid grasp of the principles of Catholic Social Teaching and the flexibility to work in a very dynamic environment. The opportunities to learn a lot and to grow professionally are numerous, and I am very grateful for my experience.

Internship Blog Series: Pfizer

Internship Blog Series: Pfizer

My name is Amy Marks, and I am pursing a dual degree in the MBA/MA program with a specialization in Supply Chain Management. I was a Data Scientist Intern at Pfizer primarily responsible for improving the Supply Chain of pharmaceuticals through predictive analytics and machine learning algorithm improvement. During my time with Pfizer, I worked on a specific project in text mining through Latent Dirichlet Allocation and Natural Language Processing – in other words, I built models based on data in text format rather than numeric. In addition, I was responsible for building an interactive dashboard so that departments could interact with my findings independently based on their needs. My work allowed my team to quickly identify trends, patterns and areas in need of improvement and then communicate the results to the respective departments.

My internship directly supported my goal of improving access to medicine and vaccines in developing countries. Among its many global initiatives, Pfizer has a pledge to the Developing World under the Advance Market Commitment. Under the Gavi Vaccine Alliance, Pfizer has pledged to supply up to 740 million vaccinations to infants and young children in Gavi-eligible countries through 2025. This is only possible through sound supply chains, which are improved through data analytics.

My coursework equipped me with the basic skills and knowledge, but application in the real-life professional world can be challenging. Pfizer is an extremely fast paced, forward-thinking company; to keep up with everything going on around me was a big difficulty. However, I met the challenge by completing diligent research on topics before meetings, learning the big picture of specific projects, and, most importantly, identifying and improving on my personal strengths that could propel the company forward.  

The most rewarding part of my internship was gaining exposure to a variety of business operations. I had the opportunity to tour research, manufacturing and quality assurance labs throughout the company’s various locations. I attended weekly learning sessions that provided information on the ongoing projects outside my field of study. I also attended multiple events that provided a variety of networking opportunities, including volunteering at a local park, meeting after-hours for team bonding, and attending various workshops. Furthermore, I was included on daily conference calls and meetings, which were extremely beneficial in experiencing how global operations are managed in a business setting.

My biggest takeaway from this experience was the importance of getting involved, taking initiative, and identifying the strengths that you can offer. It is much easier to remain in your comfort zone or to quickly be overwhelmed by the jobs’ expectations, or by all of the activity going on around you. However, every person working on a project contributes in one way or another, and it is imperative to be self-aware of what you have to offer, what you can learn and how you can apply it. This allows you to not only gain skills, but to increase your own confidence, network with professionals, and highlight your value as a potential future employee.

I recommend this internship for students interested in business as well as the unique position of pharmaceuticals to improve the world through the direct production and development of sustainable medicines and vaccinations. It was a truly unique experience.

Internship Blog Series: State Department, Lome, Togo

Internship Blog Series: State Department, Lome, Togo

My name is Erick Agbleke. While in pursuit of my graduate studies in International Relations and Diplomacy, along with specializations in International Security and Global Negotiation and Conflict Management, I was given the opportunity to intern with the State Department at a US Embassy of my choice. Since I was born in Togo, West Africa, I opted to spend 10 weeks at the Lomé Embassy with the Political and Economic (Pol-Econ) section of the mission. I wanted to return to my country of birth after spending 16 years abroad, to witness and study what kind of effects that U.S. international policies would have on a political climate I am familiar with.

A highlight of my internship with the State Department was a project assigned to me by the Chief of Section (CoS) to strengthen my security background. I wrote and recommended a strategy outline to combat wildlife trafficking in Togo based on the Eliminate Neutralize and Disrupt (END) Wildlife Trafficking Act of 2016. My recommendations, if approved by the State Department’s Office of Economic Growth, Energy and Environment, would be implemented as a policy and included in an annual congressional report. I relied on past project management skills that I developed through my professional career as well as my data collection skills to complete the necessary analysis.

Located south of Burkina Faso and east of Benin, Togo has become a transit state for ivory traffickers smuggling illegal goods. The traffickers take advantage of the porous borders and enter Togo with ivory in its raw form and make their way to Lomé to transform the ivory into art relics transported and sold elsewhere. Lomé is a strategic city for the smugglers because it gives them multitude avenues of exit. It is equipped with an international airport and a seaport serving as the maritime hub for the region, and smugglers utilize these avenues of travel to take ivory into south-east Asia. After my initial analysis of the wildlife trafficking framework in Togo, I was able to address the shortfalls and recommend improvements on how to the government could benefit from a partnership with the U.S.

Interning with the State Department has intensified my desire to become a diplomat and work with other countries to overcome the same challenges we share across the world. In my coursework, I learn and process instances where all areas of international relations are intertwined, amplified by my hands-on experience abroad. I have gained a deeper understanding on how security, diplomacy, conflict resolution and economic development must reconcile with one another to advance towards a common solution. In reflecting on the experience, I would recommend this internship to my fellow colleagues, as it is a great way to gain insight into the wonderful work we do abroad as a country. It is also a great opportunity to apply and test the plethora of theories we learn and discuss in the classroom with our professors.

Student Publications: Graduate Student Op-Ed Featured in International Policy Digest

Student Publications: Graduate Student Op-Ed Featured in International Policy Digest

M.A. first-year Diplomacy student Erick Agbleke originally published an op-ed piece on “China’s Neocolonialism in Africa” in the Journal of Diplomacy. The piece was then chosen for publication in the International Policy Digest.

Below is a re-print of the article, also located at the link above.

Behind the Goodwill Aid: China’s Neo-Colonialism in Africa

Erick Agbleke

December 2018 will mark the 3rd anniversary of the 6th Ministerial Conference of the Johannesburg Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), where China’s Xi Jinping pledged to strengthen an already steady relationship with the African continent. With a promising speech to the African Union leadership and Heads of State, Xi promised to deliver a $60 billion package over the next 3 years that will include aid, interest-free loans, and capital.

To the 53 African countries that were in attendance, this was a welcome gift as Africa was just coming out of the ebola outbreak which left devastating effects in its path. It seems that China has found a way to expand its sphere of influence in the globalization race of the 21st century. Moreover, it is on the way to surpass the United States in terms of relevance and impact within the area. So, how and why does this matter, given the United States’ interest in the African region?

It is no secret that foreign aid can be used as a bargaining chip, where it goes a long way in facilitating international relations. For instance, the Marshall Plan of post-World War II was not initiated just out of the good heart of the US government. It was rather erected as a roadblock to the spread of communism in Western Europe. In the same way, China’s willingness to pour money and resources into the continent of Africa is not motivated by some form of sincerity towards the people, but rather to further its own agenda.

This financial sponsorship has ironically gained popularity with African leaders who welcome with open arms the gifts that Zhongnanhai come bearing to them. This allows China to bring businesses to the continent and build much-needed infrastructure, such as railroad tracks for transportation and commerce while instituting their ‘one belt one road’ initiative. However, this form of investment turns out not to be mutually beneficial to the African people. It buries the continent in insurmountable debt that the Chinese government maintains as leverage, a boon for them in terms of strategy. Case in point, the establishment of the first Chinese Naval base in Djibouti, which enables them to gain quick access into the Indian and Atlantic Ocean.

The West has a history of turning a blind eye towards Africa and its citizens, and Africans have come to accept such western indifference. Despite many clearly botched and stolen elections, including evidence of human right violations and overt dismissal of the rule of law, western powers have refused to hold many leaders accountable for their actions, no matter how vile they may be.

The silence from these countries who are typically quick to speak up and take actions when their interests are being threatened has emboldened some of these African leaders and empowered them to continue governing as they see fit. In the end, the collateral damage becomes the people they have sworn to lead and protect. China striving to be the biggest supporter and financier on the continent should be something that we should be concerned about; given the fact that they themselves are a substantial perpetrator of human rights violation and governmental intimidation. China’s waxing power on the continent may lead to an even greater disregard of human rights violations.

For the United States to regain a strong foothold within Africa and further advance its agenda of peace, power, prosperity, and principle, it must be willing to be the biggest stakeholder in terms of aid and financial support of the continent by investing in its growth and development. However, monetary support is not the only path to winning hearts and minds. Up until the Trump administration was handed control of the government, the U.S. was the best destination for education and business ventures. To some, the American Dream was still alive and attainable if they worked hard and played by the rules. This is no longer the case as the current administration sees fit to walk a hard line against immigration.

Programs such as the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED), which gave a way for multitudes of individuals that fled the atrocities in their civil war-torn countries to find refuge in America are being terminated. Families that have spent most of the past two or three decades building a new life here are being urged by a deadline to return to a country that is no longer theirs.

These more dismissive and closed policies can lead to a drop in foreign influence for a country such as the U.S., whose popularity has been on the decline over the last ten years due to the conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world. The policies being pushed by the Trump administration could, in turn, make it hard for the U.S. to gain support on the African continent while trying to curb the rise and effectiveness of terrorist groups that are operating in the area and threatening its interests.

The U.S. which has always championed itself as the vanguard for human rights around the world owes it to itself and for the success of its foreign policy to stand up to China’s expansion strategy. It will help tremendously in deterring terrorism and radicalization in Africa. However, the work should not solely rest on the Americans’ shoulders. The leadership in African countries must first recognize the neo-colonial practices that China is indirectly imposing on them and then stand against such unfair practice. To break free from dependency on outside actors and grow, there must be a willingness among the consortium to take responsibility for the development of the African continent which should be done in-house.

Internship Blog Series: The Nicholson Foundation

Internship Blog Series: The Nicholson Foundation

My name is Madison McHugh, and I am a graduate student in the dual degree program at Seton Hall University. I am obtaining a Master of Business Administration as well as a Master of Arts in Diplomacy & International Relations. I interned as the Communications Associate at The Nicholson Foundation, a non-profit organization in Newark, NJ focused on funding projects in health and early childhood across the state.

As a Communications Associate, I worked directly under the Communications Manager and assisted in assignments related to the official branding of all materials for The Nicholson Foundation. These assignments included managing website content, posting for the organization’s official social media, and writing and editing press releases, op-eds, and speeches.

My coursework in the dual MBA/MADIR program prepared me for success in my internship as I utilized skills such as research, writing, and public speaking. Not only do I feel that I honed my writing into specialized capacities, such as those embodied in health and early childhood education, but I am confident that I can fulfill the responsibilities of a communications position in my post-grad prospects.

My internship with The Nicholson Foundation was a unique experience because it offered me vast flexibility in assignments and responsibilities. Moreover, my individual input was highly valued within the organization, and many of my ideas were implemented during my time. I was even able to pitch a unique idea to the Executive Director: I wanted to create and manage his official, professional Twitter page. To this end, I created a PowerPoint and pitched the idea after setting a personal meeting. He was very receptive, and with more discussion on details and management in the weeks to follow, he agreed that I should move forward with my idea.

The freedom that I was given at The Nicholson Foundation was both exhilarating and intimidating. On the one hand, I was able to capitalize many times on my ideas and implement positive changes towards increased efficiency and impact within and without the organization. On the other hand, the Communications Manager offered me a great amount of responsibility during his paternal leave, and I managed the Communications Department in his stead throughout April and May. At the time, while I had been acclimated to the chain of command, it was a new and exciting challenge to manage to both positions as well as the needs of the department as they overlapped with others in the organization.

I would highly recommend this internship to students who want the opportunity to put their innovation, originality, and professional drive to the test. The Nicholson Foundation is a wonderful organization that embraces new ideas and values contributions from youth that perpetuate the organization’s legacy as a health and early childhood funder in New Jersey.

Internship Blog Series: United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

Internship Blog Series: United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

My name is Chiazam Onyenso, and in my final semester within the Master of Arts program in International Relations and Diplomacy, multiple experiences have driven my current desire to continue my academic pursuits as they pertain to international affairs. My interest in collaborative international agencies reflects the internship I’ve committed myself to at the United Nations Population Fund.

My first-year M.A. studies mainly observed the nature of conflict, theories on the correspondence of the international community, resolutions and the management of international institutions that all catalyzed my eagerness to work for the United Nations.  As a humanitarian information management intern for its Humanitarian and Fragile Contexts Branch (HFCB), working with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) provided me with relevant knowledge on the effects of crises and the various avenues utilized by UN agencies to provide relief to affected populations and to address critical international issues. I developed exceptional skills in internal correspondence, analyzing and visualizing data, and reporting on fast-paced crisis situations in real-time. My assignments required background knowledge on humanitarian crises along with nurturing a strong understanding of UNFPA’s gender-based violence and health services for youth and women in conflict.

My experience as a UNFPA intern made me increasingly interested in staying with agency, in order to continue learning more on how it functions to fulfill its mandate and begin my career. Since last July, I have assisted HFCB in creating fact sheets, developing situation reports and analyzing information that will gradually populate UNFPA’s newly launched data portal, and the upcoming Humanitarian Action Overview for 2018. At the UNFPA, my work has been greatly complemented by the skills and knowledge I’ve procured through my master studies. Specializing in International Organizations, Global Negotiation and Conflict Management, while also earning a certificate in Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Sustainability has contributed to my understanding of UNFPA’s role and overall humanitarian response.  Most of all, I’ve recognized the most crucial capacities of international assistance and aid rely on sound international law.

I hope to broaden my experience in international relations in line with international law. Adequate response to affected populations and vulnerable groups across the globe depends on human rights policy and effective rule of law; essentials that have been made incredibly clear to me at UNFPA.

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