Dejana Saric | Interning at the U.S. Department of State
Interning at the State Department this summer has allowed me to put many of the analytical and practical skills I have acquired over the past three years at Duke to use. While at the State Department I interned with the Office of South Central Europe, within the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, which covers the countries of the Western Balkans. I was extremely fortunate to work in an office that dealt with issues I was interested in and with coworkers who trusted me to take on substantial work.
Overarching Policy Exposure at State
As a public policy major with a slant towards international relations and foreign policy making, many of my classes have touched on and debated the importance of NATO as a security institution, the legacy of the Cold War and present-day U.S-Russia relations, the interagency process of the United States government, and the tools (so-called “sticks” and “carrots”) with which international policy is negotiated. Throughout my internship experience, I was able to learn about these issues in greater depth from our diplomats and observe the way in which the State Department engages with other entities in the government—from the NSC, DOD, and IC community—to craft our policies and respond effectively to the policies of foreign governments. This past summer was an especially opportune time to be working on the countries of the Western Balkans, given that elections took place throughout the region, a months-long political deadlock broke in Macedonia, and Montenegro acceded to NATO despite the threat of Russian retaliation (and received an official visit from Vice President Pence). Through observing the work of my colleagues, I was able to learn about the way that U.S. diplomats throughout the region engage with foreign governments to support U.S. policy objectives, such as promoting Euro-Atlantic integration, combating Russian malign influence, strengthening counter-terrorism efforts, and pushing reforms to strengthen the rule of law and combat corruption.
Major Tasks Undertaken During the Internship
My first task at the State Department was to assist the Montenegro desk officer to coordinate the ceremony for Montenegro’s NATO accession. The policy of Euro-Atlantic integration for the countries of the Western Balkans is one of the sticking points which has soured the relationship between the United States and Russia, and my involvement in this historic effort offered me the opportunity to learn more about the intricacies of our relationship with NATO. In preparation for Vice President Pence’s trip to Estonia, Georgia, and Montenegro, I helped coordinate close to 100 trip papers and drafted the papers for the Montenegro desk. At the request of the office director I also supported the office’s efforts to combat corruption and organized crime in the former satellite states of the Soviet Union. As part of this project I analyzed quantitative and qualitative data from 14 embassy posts in order to evaluate effective policy options which the United States can use to promote anti-corruption efforts in these countries, as well as to determine which of our previous efforts have been least effective.
Throughout my internship I was able to flex my writing abilities as I drafted speeches for Deputy Assistant Secretary Hoyt Yee, produced daily memos to embassy posts to keep them apprised of events at the State Department, drafted action memos and talking points, and produced meeting readouts to send to embassy posts. I also produced a report on Albania’s short and medium term NATO capability targets for the Deputy Assistant Secretary. In my last week with the office I was able to help the Office of the Vice President craft the speech the Vice President gave in Montenegro during the Adriatic Charter Summit.
Sabriyya Pate | Insights from the Council on Foreign Relations
The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) is an independent, nonpartisan think tank, membership organization, and publisher of Foreign Affairs Magazine. Active in the American Grand Strategy program and passionate about pursuing a career in conflict resolution and foreign policy, I entered my sophomore year hoping to spend the upcoming summer at the Council – a hub for senior national security experts.
In April, I helped organize the annual AGS career panel, where I was able to connect with a Duke alumnus and former research associate at CFR. Empowered by the tools of the AGS network – namely mentorship from our successful alums – I was soon able to speak to former CFR employees who consulted me on the goals I should set for myself during the internship.
I worked as the International Economics intern in the David Rockefeller Studies Department. My direct supervisor was the research associate to the Paul A. Volcker senior fellow for international economics. As part of the fellowship (named after the former chairman of the Federal Reserve), the fellow worked on an upcoming book for which I spent a large portion of my time conducting research. Both my incredible supervisor and fellow offered me great liberty with my assignments, and I am so thrilled to have had the opportunities they provided.
My responsibilities ranged from interviewing venture capitalists and entrepreneurs for one project to delving into German legislation to study factors contributing to the success of Berlin as a startup hub. I set the goal of attending every single CFR roundtable meeting, where CEOs, former government officials, former university presidents, high-profile journalists, editors of major news networks and publications, and more will gather off-the-record to discuss solutions and their active strategies towards combatting some of the world’s most contentious issues.
As part of the internship program, the interns participated in a National Security Council simulation in which I was designated the role of Secretary of Defense. Throughout the summer, the Intern Professional Development Program hosted events where the interns were able to receive direct coaching from the head of communications, life advice from the head of the studies department, training on writing well from the library services team, and more.
Living in Manhattan for a summer as an AGS fellow gave me access to the words and wisdom of some of the most incredible people. I attended a festival where Joe and Jill Biden, Governor Jeb Bush, Mark Cuban, Malcolm Gladwell, Van Jones, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and Whitney Wolfe, among others, were in attendance. The research associates and staff at CFR were consistent sources of insight into careers in foreign policy, and this summer I was able to develop a fuller conception of my future goals.
In addition to being selected as an intern, I was fortunate enough to receive the Franklin Williams scholarship at the CFR—a scholarship named after the late former Ambassador. As part of this scholarship, I was able to travel to the Washington D.C. office where I met a former State Department recruiter and had one-on-one meetings with a former ambassador, among other senior fellows in the office.
Without a doubt, my greatest takeaway from this summer experience has been an expanded set of frameworks and skills to problem-solve and interrogate adaptive challenges, including the role of the tech industry in combating foreign cybersecurity attacks, both bottom-up and institutional approaches to the crisis in sub-Saharan Africa, North Korean de-escalation, religious extremism, rivalries in the Middle East, politicized climate change, global refugee crises (in the Eastern and Western hemispheres), and many more.
Interning at CFR this summer challenged me to think critically about several of the world’s greatest challenges, both those discussed openly in the public sphere, and those under-the-radar threats to our world order. I was able to produce research that I never imagined myself capable of, get published, regularly witness discussions between incredibly successful leaders in foreign and domestic policy, exercise my own thinking cap with colleagues, and walk into the building every day humbled by the amazing people thinking, researching, writing and collaborating inside.
CFR events consistently reminded me of the incredible programming the AGS program offers to the Duke community. Experiences meeting policy experts through AGS allowed me to confidently approach my time at the CFR. Without a doubt, I was able to excel this summer thanks to the knowledge base cultivated through two years in the AGS program. Thanks to the AGS summer fellowship, I was able to spend more time exploring, learning, reading, and enriching my critical-thinking skills as an international relations-minded Blue Devil.
William Tong | An Impactful Experience with Carnegie-Tsinghua
With the generous sponsorship of the Duke AGS Summer Fellowship, I was able to intern at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing this summer as a Young Ambassador and a Government Relations intern. Needless to say, the opportunity to work at one of the world’s preeminent think tanks has been an extraordinary experience. My primary role at Carnegie-Tsinghua was to assist Thena Lee, the Government Relations and Partnership Coordinator, in her daily work. To put it simply, my job was to ensure that Carnegie-Tsinghua continue to enjoy the support of Tsinghua University, Carnegie’s partner institution, and the Chinese government.
By the end of the summer, I had produced over 80 documents, including policy memos, budgets, and guest biographies for weekly newsletters. One of the best things about working at Carnegie-Tsinghua was being able to see where my work ended up; for instance, some of the memos that I had prepared ended up in front of heavy-hitters such as the Chairwoman of Tsinghua University Chen Xu, former National Security Council Director for Asian Affairs Daniel Russel, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford Jr, and the Vice Minister of the Chinese Foreign Ministry Fu Ying. Despite being in awe of those who would read my memos, I remained focused and produced each and every document with the utmost care and attention. It is remarkable how much heedfulness is necessary to produce a worthy memo; every word choice, every sentence structure, and every punctuation needs to be carefully curated. Moreover, I must admit, translating policy memos between Chinese and English is a lot harder than I thought. Nevertheless, under the guidance of my supervisor, my work improved as I progressed further into the internship.
As an intern, it was an extraordinary time to be at Carnegie-Tsinghua this summer as my internship coincided with several major events. First, George Perkovich, Carnegie’s Vice President for Studies, who was in Beijing to spearhead Carnegie’s new tech-diplomacy initiative with Tsinghua visited. Then, we had the privilege of hosting William Burns, the President of the Carnegie Endowment and former United States Deputy Secretary of State under Hillary Clinton. Ambassador Burns is, as I would describe, one of those people whose intelligence is only matched by his experience, and we are talking about the second career diplomat in US history to ever become Deputy Secretary of State. During Burns’ visit, I was able to attend a panel that he participated in at Schwarzman College. This was the first of many occasions on which I visited the College during my summer in Beijing, and it only reinforced my desire to one day study there.
In late June, Tsinghua hosted the annual World Peace Forum, which was attended by countless dignitaries, former top diplomats, and current ambassadors. This was definitely one of the most significant highlights of the internship, as I got to rub shoulders with the likes of former Australian Prime Minister and renowned China-watcher Kevin Rudd, the man who coined the phrase “Thucydides Trap,” Graham Allison, and former Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. The two-day conference was enlightening and mesmerizing in every way; I got to see Chinese experts censure his Korean counterpart for the deployment of THAAD in South Korea and American experts repeatedly emphasizing the words “uncertainty” and “vacancies” when referring to the State Department under Trump. In short, I had not witnessed a more organized and more informative conference than the World Peace Forum
As we progressed into July, everyone at Carnegie-Tsinghua was all-hands-on-deck for the 7th U.S.-China Civil Strategic Dialogue, which was hosted by our headquarters in DC and involved a number of heavy-hitters, from Robert Zoellick, former President of the World Bank, to Susan Thorton, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. Though I did not participate in the actual meetings, it was obvious from our rigorous preparation that the dialogue was nothing but successful and fruitful. One particular topic for which I had drafted a policy memo was the geo-economic impact of China’s Belt and Road Initiative and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, certainly one of the hottest topics in international affairs since their announcement. In August, I spent the last week of my internship in Nanjing to serve as a translator in the annual Yao Foundation Summer Basketball camp. It was an unimaginable experience and it was really heartwarming to see Marshall Cho and Drale Campbell, the Nike coaches, work with the kids in a genuine and passionate way. To finish everything off, we got to take a photo with Yao Ming, the 7’6” legend himself.
As I said earlier, this summer was nothing short of amazing, but the best aspect about my internship, by far, was the people that I got to work with. Sure, I met many heavy-hitters and famous people over the summer, but the staff and fellow interns at Carnegie-Tsinghua were the real stars. Working against rapidly-approaching deadlines with zero room for error, we worked as a team and we helped each other when help was needed, whether it is translating a Swedish website, contacting a particular Chinese scholar, or reorganizing our library, as cliché as it sounds, we did it together. I extend my sincere gratitude to them for making this summer as memorable and rewarding as it has been, and for my fellow interns, I want to leave you with something that Paul Haenle, the Director of Carnegie-Tsinghua, said during our first meeting and something that I have come to hold as a vision of my own: “One day, I want to have two foreign ministers or high-level diplomats, representing their respective countries, sit across from each other at a table, and before they get started on official business, they would recount the days of their Carnegie internship.”
I would like to close this memo by thanking the Duke AGS program for funding my internship. Your generosity made it possible for me to offset the high cost of living in Beijing. Thank you for your support over the summer.
Max Labaton | Lessons from an Internship with the SFRC
This summer, I interned on the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC). I worked for the committee’s Ranking Member, Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland. The Committee is the Senate’s chief voice for influencing the nation’s foreign policy.
My experiences as a member of the AGS Council helped me understand the nuances of key foreign policy and national security issues. My time at the Committee coincided with several notable foreign policy developments. President Trump visited the Middle East, where he outlined his vision for collaborating with the Saudis and isolating Iran. The President decided to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement and to roll back President Obama’s diplomatic opening with Cuba. Additionally, tensions broke out between Sunni Arab states and Qatar, creating a destabilizing rift and complicating U.S. strategy in the Middle East. The committee’s focus included Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, the proposed budget cuts to the State Department and USAID, and the global migrant crisis.
I had the opportunity to monitor SFRC’s hearing on budget cuts to foreign aid and diplomacy, featuring Secretary Tillerson, as well as the Senate Budget Committee’s hearing on the FY18 budget featuring OMB Director Mick Mulvaney. I also watched the House Intelligence Committee’s hearing on Russian meddling in the 2016 election, where former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson testified. Senator Cardin met with the interns weekly, where he would discuss pressing legislative issues such the Russia sanctions bill and the $500 million arms deal to the Saudis, as well as domestic agenda items, such as the health care repeal effort.
Each intern was assigned to two portfolios within the minority office, and I worked on the human rights and Africa portfolios. The human rights portfolio focused on implementing anti-corruption efforts, ensuring adequate funding for good governance and democracy programs, and addressing accountability mechanisms for perpetrators of war crimes and other atrocities. A major focus of the human rights portfolio was the global migrant crisis, caused by the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Iraq and the famines in Nigeria, Yemen, Somalia, and South Sudan. I conducted research for drafting potential legislation to punish ISIL for war crimes committed in Iraq, drawing on reports from the United Nations, State Department, and NGOs. I also drafted memos for Senator Cardin on various topics including global anti-corruption efforts and counter-trafficking policy, as well as talking points for a meeting he had with U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.
The Africa portfolio focused largely on the three famines engulfing the continent, and on strategies for aid groups and NGOs to provide necessary supplies. I conducted research for potential legislation, such as a resolution that Senator Cardin considered that would call for free and fair elections in Kenya. I was assigned to write weekly memos to the portfolio’s senior staffer that examined current events in several key countries. Additionally, I attended meetings with officials from the State Department and USAID, as well as representatives from various NGOs and aid groups. Aside from the focus on the famines in northeast Nigeria, Somalia, and South Sudan, and the election in Kenya, the meetings explored ongoing corruption and conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, crackdowns on civil society and free speech in Ethiopia, and violent extremism in Somalia, Nigeria, and the Sahel.
There are three lessons I took from my experience. First, it is essential for Congress to play a vibrant role in the foreign policymaking process. During my internship, SFRC held a hearing focused on the authorization of military force and the need for a new authorization to fight ISIL. While the President has wide latitude on national security issues, Congress is an important partner in deciding when to declare and whether to fund a war, as written in the Constitution and codified in the War Powers Act. Legislation such as the Russia sanctions bill illustrates how Congress can leverage its power to strengthen a president’s backbone as he deals with adversaries.
Second, continued U.S. leadership in providing humanitarian and development aid is essential to maintaining strategic, political, and economic interests around the world. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Marshall Plan, one of the most successful foreign aid initiatives in American history. From the Marshall Plan to the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), U.S. leadership has played a critical role in fostering economic development, mitigating political instability, and tackling fatal endemics.
Third, despite the lack of press coverage of ongoing developments in sub-Saharan Africa, the region should be a higher national security priority for the United States. With a population of over one billion people and an average age of 18 years old, the region is home to the world’s fastest growing population. Terrorist threats from Boko Haram, al-Shabaab, and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb require both hard and soft power solutions. China’s One Belt One Road initiative and its increasing footprint on the continent pose additional challenges to U.S. interests. U.S. policies and initiatives, such as the African Growth and Opportunity Act, the End Wildlife Trafficking Act, Feed the Future, and the Ebola response have shown that U.S. leadership in Africa can yield mutually positive dividends and provide templates for further engagement in the region.
I would like to thank AGS for awarding me this fellowship and enabling me to pursue a rewarding and memorable experience working on SFRC.
Aateeb A. Khan | Interning at the Center for Strategic and International Studies
The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) is a multidisciplinary, non-partisan think tank located in Washington, DC. Thanks to the supplemental funding I received through the AGS summer fellows program, I was recently able to participate in an internship experience at CSIS’ Energy and National Security (ENS) Program. Sitting at the intersection of private-sector developments in energy markets/innovation and public sector concerns about energy/national security, the ENS team bridges an increasingly crucial gap in national security policymaking. While at CSIS, I was able to engage in a variety of impactful and personally enriching projects that benefitted both the program and my own educational development. I was also able to vastly expand my professional network in this unique space through exposure to figures in both the energy industry and the national security apparatus. This included the chance to discuss the decline of Chinese coal with BP’s chief economist, the fortune to debate the role of rising populism on energy MNCs with Norway’s minister of climate, and the opportunity to interview Trump administration officials on their plans for nuclear energy. Sitting only a few desks down from Dr. Henry Kissinger didn’t hurt, either.
Given the high volume of work that the ENS program attempts to process and output each summer, there was ample opportunity for me to keep myself busy. In particular, I spent much of the summer analyzing trends in Chinese energy markets. These included developments in Chinese coal, oil, natural gas, and electricity consumption as well as downstream concerns like developing refining capacity, grid resilience, and renewable energy curtailment. One project in particular that I would like to highlight was a deep dive into the development of the Chinese PV (Solar) industry. Long gone are the days when China was simply a cheap manufacturer of PV technology developed in the U.S. and Germany. Chinese manufacturers now dominate world market share while also pushing the cutting edge on new, more efficient PV technologies. As I learned, this has direct impacts on energy developments in the US. Most notably, an ongoing trade dispute in the US over the imposition of protectionist tariffs on cheap solar imports threatens to have long-term impacts on the health of the US solar market.
It was certainly a unique summer to be interning in DC, and the imposition of a potential solar tariff is only one example of attempts by the current administration to totally overhaul the trajectory of US energy production/consumption. For that reason, I also spent a large portion of the summer working on projects related to the recently-coined notion of ‘energy dominance.’ This included the chance to compile and present on all the proposed changes to EPA and DOI rules that threaten to change the energy landscape as well as contribute to a report on climate risk analysis disclosures for investors.
I remain convinced that I had the blessing to work with one of the most challenging and compassionate teams in DC this summer. It is truly a rare gem to have a team so dedicated to the development of their interns. Not only were the ENS staff more than willing to delegate critical tasks and projects to me, they would often go out of their way to help with my educational and professional development. This included the frequent opportunity to engage in 1-1 meetings with senior fellows to discuss ongoing projects and explain energy concepts that I didn’t fully understand. One ritual in particular stood out among the rest. One non-resident fellow would come in Friday and sit down with the ENS interns and spend a few hours grilling us, case-interview style, on the implications of the week’s energy news and on the results of our own projects.
In addition to the direct benefits of working with the ENS team, I benefitted directly from connecting with CSIS’ large intern pool. Many of those I interned, went to happy-hour, and played pick-up soccer with will continue to be both valued friends and professional connections that I will continue to benefit from for a long time to come.