Archive for internship – Page 2

SIPA Summer Internships Abroad

One of the greatest things about SIPA is the opportunity to do a summer internship abroad. And with abroad, I mean almost any corner in the planet. From Bhutan to Brazil or Cambodia to Bolivia, hundreds of SIPA students say goodbye to New York City every May to embark on fascinating adventures.

This past summer I decided to go to Kenya. Before coming to SIPA, I worked for four years in development projects at the Organization of American States, but my experience was centered in Latin America and the Caribbean. The idea of living and working in East Africa has always been appealing to me; my summer internship was a great way to get a taste of what this amazing region has to offer.

My internship, like most students in the MPA in Development Practice program, was with an Earth Institute project. A fellow student and I worked with Millennium Cities Initiatives, a project that provides technical assistance to over 10 cities across Africa to advance urban development.

We were based in Kisumu, a warm and relatively small city in Western Kenya, on the shores of the mystic Lake Victoria. Our mission was to support the District Health Office in identifying all health providers in the District, and carry out a survey to find out more about their infrastructure conditions and the services they provide. In a city where only a handful of streets have a name, we also carried out a geo-mapping of all clinics, hospitals and dispensaries, plotting them in a Google Map that will hopefully help local authorities to better manage health delivery.

Driving around Kisumu slums in a motorbike in search of clinics constantly reminded me of the importance of doing field work to give sense to what we study at SIPA. The challenges governments face to provide quality services and the many obstacles low-income people confront to access them are some of the most present discussions we have in class. Every summer, SIPA students have the opportunity to see these problems first hand, greatly enriching our understanding of the complexities behind development.

Blog post submitted by Mariana Costa.  Mariana is a second year student in the MPA in Development Practice program at SIPA. 

Summer 2011 Internship Post #2 – Dara Stofenberg

Dara Stofenberg is a second year MIA student concentrating in International Security Policy.

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One of things I am most grateful for at SIPA is the wide variety of employers across sectors who come to the school to recruit for their organizations. On any given day, there are multiple employers from think tanks, NGOs, the U.S. Government, and consulting firms coming “to sell” their organization to SIPA students, whom they view as potential future employees. It was through this process that I found my summer internship at Booz Allen Hamilton in Washington, DC. Over the course of my 10 week experience, I provided analytical support, conducted research, and wrote papers to help the firm better support some of its security sector clients.

Booz Allen Hamilton is a top government consulting firm and contractor, as well as one of the Fortune 500 largest public companies. The firm has been ranked consistently by FORTUNE magazine as one of the “100 Best Companies to Work For,” and this summer I learned that it is easy to see why.  “Collaboration” is perhaps the most important word at Booz Allen. Teamwork drives everything the firm does. Whiteboards and discussions are the modes that drive the way work is conducted. Bouncing ideas off of colleagues, regardless of their tenure, is a consistent feature of the work day. This aspect creates an energizing and friendly environment where people are happy to help and mentor one another.

Coming from SIPA, where students are no stranger to doing things in groups, all of the group projects, homework assignments, presentations, and study sessions, I participated in during my first year definitely helped prepare me to excel in this environment. Like at SIPA, working in a group environment at Booz Allen fostered some great relationships. I interned in a small cohort with 13 other students from other great international and public affairs schools, including two other Columbia students. I look forward to being in contact with these individuals both personally and professionally throughout my career.

I feel very fortunate that I was able to work directly in my area of interest and in an engaging environment where diversity, development, and merit were highly valued. If not for SIPA, I probably would not have had the opportunity to have gained this incredible experience.

Summer 2011 Intership Post #1 – Mynor Godoy

All MIA and MPA students at SIPA complete thirty weeks of professional development during their two year program.  Fifteen weeks is comprised of an internship and fifteen weeks is comprised of a group project referred to as a workshop or capstone project.  SIPA offers no summer classes and this allows our students the opportunity to complete their full time internship anywhere in the world.

There are several SIPA students working in the Admissions Office this year.  The blog will feature a post written by each of them describing what they did over the summer.  The entries should provide a glimpse of the exceptional individuals in our program and the various professional opportunities they engage in over the summer.  This first entry was written by Mynor Godoy, an MIA student concentrating in International Security Policy.

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Recreating Realities Through Art

For many Americans, perceptions of Latin America are often tied to violence, corruption and poverty. Many of these views are derived from and enforced by media coverage of the war on drugs, among other things. Colombia is considered one of those dangerous places. The United States and Colombia officially declared a war against drugs in the late 80s. The city of Medellin, Colombia was usually in the spotlight because of its most notorious resident – Pablo Escobar. However, for Colombians, the war on drugs only perpetuated the cycle of violence that had been plaguing the country for years. While Colombia has been considered a perfect conflict resolution case study by some, there does not seem to be much resolution. In contrast, cities like Medellin have experienced a transformation of conflicts characterized by a recycling of violence.  What better place to spend summer and put my conflict resolution skills to the test, right?

I decided to attend SIPA specifically because of its International Security Policy concentration and Conflict Resolution Specialization. As an undergraduate at the University of California, Irvine, I developed an interest in the phenomenon of youth gangs and was able to do research on the transnational gang Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13).  Even though I had some experience, I was surprised that at SIPA, I was funneled from a classroom course and into the field so quickly.  I secured an internship with Fundación Mi Sangre in Medellin thanks in part to Professor Aldo Civico, who taught “Theories and Methods of Conflict Resolution.” At SIPA, professors are the leaders in their respective fields and are valuable resources for their students. With his extensive experience working in Colombia, Professor Civico knew of plenty of organizations that fit my interests.

Fundación Mi Sangre is a local, arts-based non-profit that was started in Medellin by Colombian musician Juanes. Its mission is to help victims of landmines and internally displaced people in the cities of Colombia. It is one of the leading peace-building organizations in Colombia and it has offices throughout the country. Medellin was not the city that came to mind when I started my internship search, but after talking with the director, it was a no-brainer. Mi Sangre was a fusion of all the things I was passionate about: education, at-risk youth, community advocacy, and art. They were in the process of launching a new program known as “Pazalobien” and they wanted me to assist with their research on the role art can play in the construction of peace.

Due to the years of conflict in Colombia, Medellin has one of the largest populations of displaced people in the country.  Since the city is located in a densely populated valley, there was no place for the displaced people from the countryside or coast. These displaced people have been forced to build their homes on the mountainsides. Entire hillsides have turned red, as brick homes have overrun the lush grassy slopes. These areas, known as comunas, are very similar to the favelas in Brazil or the ghettos of the United States. The harsh realities of comuna life are twofold: the residents there have to worry about adjusting to the social problems posed by their new surroundings, and they also live in constant fear of the combos or gangs that operate in the comunas. These groups are made up of guerrilla, paramilitary and cartel influences. They have established lineas invisibles or “invisible lines” that cannot be crossed. Violent turf wars keep residents locked inside their homes.  This form of urban warfare has claimed many young lives in the comunas. The combos even threaten parents with death if they don’t give at least one child to the gang. Ultimately, many families end up leaving, resulting in a population of people that have been displaced numerous times.

In this context, Mi Sangre has partnered with a local organization called Circo Momo to help youth living in the comunas cope with the violence and create new opportunities. Circo Momo is an organization made up of sociologists and psychologists interested in the arts, which they use as a means to do social work and help rehabilitate youth who may have been victims of violence or abuse. The technique is simple enough; participating schools have one day dedicated to art in every class, from kindergarten to high school and ranging from literature to science. Staff at Circo Momo implement project-based learning and bring a framework for the day, but allow students to choose the subject. One example was the kindergarten class in Comuna 5 where the students were fascinated with robots. The Circo Momo staff structured their sculpture lesson around robots. Each student made a robot out of clay and was then asked to place the robots in the middle of their table. They would then discuss the robot family that had just been created. Each family was different and students would then be asked to decide who was the dad, who was the mom, and so on. In this way students learned to work together and accept differences. More importantly, they were able to discuss what a family was and the type of relationships families foster. Slowly, these types of projects are helping Medellin heal from the wounds of the conflict and build a generation of students that can tell Medellin’s history from a different perspective. Their perspective will be peace.

These youth groups are also supported by the Mayor’s office on Cultural Affairs, not just Mi Sangre, and the strong emphasis on social works projects seems to be a valuable investment. Yet, these youth groups were not moved into action because of a small influx of funding. Rather, they were working in their communities and trying to change their neighborhoods before the funding even came. They understood that there were alternatives to doing drugs or stealing. However, without the financial support, their organizing efforts would have been limited only to their single comuna and their sphere of influence would be much more limited.

My internship experience helped me to see that working with youth in conflict zones is my calling. During the course of my internship, I would start work at 8 AM in the offices of Mi Sangre, and then head out to interview leaders or visit classrooms in the comunas, then head to youth group meetings, and finally visit hip-hop groups that met at night around the city. I returned to my apartment at 11 PM, exhausted mentally, emotionally and physically, but with an overwhelming sense of fulfillment and accomplishment. The work that I did in Medellin demonstrated that reconciliation and reconstruction are possible in conflict zones. In short, a better world is possible. Augusto Restrepo, a representative from the Mayor’s Office on Cultural Affairs, put it the best, “When you ask me if peace is possible? These kids demonstrate that it is because if it wasn’t, they would not be in the comunas.” It is hard to find a stronger argument for the powerful role that art plays in constructing peace.  The youth living in the comunas are leading a revolution; they are recreating their communities and constructing a new reality – all without ever picking up a gun.

Washington D.C. Career Conference

One topic that sometimes will come up when prospective students are considering where to do go to school are the pluses and minues of geographical location.  Geographical location of a school is a logical topic to consider and I thought I would provide a bit of input to complement the entry below, submitted by current student Lacey Ramirez.

There are certain tangible benefits of going to school in a particular place.  If you go to school in New York you will be close to the United Nations for example.  However, if you were to go to the United Nations today and stop ten people that work there, it would be highly unlikely that all ten graduated from a school in New York.

I would say the same for Washington D.C.  I have several friends that work in D.C., however none of them went to school in the greater D.C. area.   In short, and I am not providing earth shattering insight here, you do not need to go to school where you wish to work.  I went to school in Portland, Oregon and have worked in Pusan, South Korea, Santa Clara, California, and New York City.

Another fact that you might be interested in is that the second largest network of SIPA alumni in the world is located in Washington D.C.  We do understand the desire of our students to have exposure to what Washington D.C. has to offer and one part of this is our annual Washington D.C. Career Conference.

In addition to the article below on the 2011 Conference, I think you will find the following former blog entries to be useful as well:

Without further delay, here is the entry composed by Lacey that she wrote after attending this year’s conference.

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A very important question one has in choosing a graduate school is what kinds of employment opportunities will come from a particular school.  This was a central question when I was looking at programs, and I was especially interested in those that offered some kind of professional development.  At SIPA professional development is a core component of the curriculum.

Each year we are required to take a day-long professional development course.  The courses are tailored to meet different interests of students in the program, and include the following topic areas: private sector, international students, career changers, media and communications, and international/nonprofit sectors.  Courses are taught by successful SIPA alumni and professional recruiters.  I have often used the resources and materials that I gained from these courses in my internship and job searches.

Another really interesting professional development experience offered at SIPA is the Washington DC Conference, which is a 3-day event offered during winter break.  I participated in the conference this year, and it truly was a great experience and central to the job search I am initiating as I enter my last semester.  The conference provided a great opportunity for me to gain exposure to my different fields of interest and practitioners.  Also, the conference is only open to SIPA students making it really easy to maneuver and feel comfortable.

The first day of the conference included panels on different sectors and covered topics such as corporate social responsibility, urban and social policy, international development consulting, security policy, energy policy, multilaterals, and the list goes on and on.  It was challenging for me to narrow the ones I wanted to participate in!!  Admittedly, I am not typically a huge fan of panels, but I was incredibly impressed with the practitioners who led them.  The panels were also mediated by a staff member from the SIPA Career Center, and the audiences were just the right size for questions.  The best part was being able to approach the practitioners after the panel and exchange contact information!!!

The second day of the conference was a series of site visits.  The visits included many different offices in the federal government, consulting firms, development banks, think tanks, and private practitioners.  It was a whirlwind of visits and also provided an opportunity to connect with specific offices of interest.  I also realized in a site visit that I am extremely interested in a particular organization that I will be applying to this spring.  The best part is that I have a series of contacts that I now know, and I can email them for guidance through my application process.

The evening of the second day of the conference the Career Center organized an event at the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown that was a little more informal event with hors d’oeuvres and drinks.  SIPA alumni in the DC area were all invited to the event, and it gave us another venue to get advice from seasoned professionals and recent grads.  I also appreciated that it was a little more of a relaxed environment in which to network.

The final day is reserved for one-on-one informational interviews.  The SIPA Career Center sends out a list of SIPA alumni available to participate in the interviews. I then sent out a number of emails to alumni working in offices of particular interest to me.  I was able to set up about five interviews, and it was a fantastic process.  The ones I chose were different from the ones I visited on the 2nd day, and it really helped me to narrow down organizations that I am specifically interested in and the potential job opportunities that fit my interests.

The best part of the conference is it provided current students exposure to a number of varying fields ranging from security policy, humanitarian affairs, development, and even included private sector opportunities in finance and economics.  I was able to cover my range of professional interests, and I know several other people who also felt satisfied with the experience.  I have made some amazing contacts through the whole process, and I have a new sense of confidence about applying for jobs.  I am very pleased that I chose to participate in the conference, and it truly was a great benefit to me.

"The most global public policy school, where an international community of students and faculty address world challenges."

—Merit E. Janow, Dean, SIPA, Professor of Practice, International and Economic Law and International Affairs

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