Ryan's Internship  Institute of World Politics | Washington, DC

Week 3.5: Parading the Pentagon
June 14, 2019

Today I was fortunate enough to join a small group of fellow IWP interns on a private tour of the Pentagon. The former IWP Events Coordinator moved on to the Pentagon in 2016, politically appointed to work in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. I had the opportunity to tour the pentagon, meet with Admiral Joseph Mulloy, and receive a non-confidential brief on the South China Sea when I was a junior in high school, but had not been back since. Especially under this administration, it was interesting to visit the Pentagon, knowing that current Acting Secretary of Defense, Patrick M. Shanahan is quickly on his way out, and Mark Esper will take his place in a week.

A definite highlight of the experience was walking down the Pentagon River Terrace Entrance and looking over the Parade Grounds. When we entered the office of the Secretary, we were able to pass through a security checkpoint and walk down the steps that look out over the terrace, the Capital building across the river, and the flight path out of Ronald Regan International Airport. As we passed through the point, the officer on duty told us that we would need to be quick, as they were expecting a visitor in a couple of minutes. When we walked down the steps, the color guard and Pentagon Press Corp was preparing for the arrival and entrance of Portuguese Defense Minister, Joao Titterington Gomes Cravinho, and his envoy. 

Our guide had never seen the full color guard perform for the arrival of a foreign minister at the Pentagon, and had only seen it happen overseas, so she was excited to try to stay and watch the ordeal. We waited for a few minutes and then saw the Portuguese envoy approach, escorted by a couple police cars. We crouched behind a car to the side of the steps to be out of the photographers' range, and watched the precession of the Portuguese and American color guard members, and then the Portuguese Minister and his entourage. 

I greatly enjoyed witnessing the ceremony of entrance and diplomacy, especially at the Pentagon as I tend to associate national defense with colder and harder forms of engagement and diplomacy. Further, as I’m committed to a year of federal service within three years of graduating, it was a helpful experience in opening my eyes to the breadth of operations that fall under each federal agency, like the Department of Defense. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity and know it is not one I will soon forget.


Week 3: The Orienting Continues
June 11/12, 2019

The past couple weeks at the Institute of World Politics have not quite fit my initial impression of my summer internship. My research advisor, Amb. Hughes, has yet to return from overseas and communication has not been consistent as he’s traveled to more remote states. As such, much of my time at the Institute has been filled by the more mundane tasks such as writing articles about IWP alumna as they enter the news cycle. However, events sponsored by IWP and an orientation with the National Security Education Program (NSEP) have kept my days more than full.

Moving chronologically, this Monday and Tuesday marked the Boren Awards Scholarship Orientation in Washington, DC. Scholars and Fellows flew in from across the United States (and I biked a mile down Connecticut Avenue) to fill the halls of the Mayflower Hotel, and become intimately oriented towards our upcoming academic terms abroad.

Stepping back, the Boren Awards Program is a funding program within the broader National Security Education Program, that provides funding to undergraduate and graduate students, who propose and submit plans for unconventionally long studies abroad. The Boren centers around language acquisition, specifically those identified as critical to the national security of the United States. My application centered around studying Arabic in Jordan from August 2019 to late May 2020. Part of the student-program agreement in committing to the Boren is a year of service within the Federal Government, which must begin within three years of graduating.

I’m far from certain what my career will look like, but thanks to the Boren, I have an idea of how it  may start. I was surprised to find that as a rising Junior, I may be on the younger end of program participants. It appears many students joining the program as undergraduates are doing so after three years at university, and will return for a final semester upon completion of their time abroad. As such, much of the Q & A portions following each panel presentation consistently centered around the service requirement/“opportunity”.

As someone who is new to the world and lingo of federal service, I did not stand to ask any questions, but learned quite a lot about the ins and outs of becoming employed by the federal government. One detail of the service requirement states that Boren participants are to initially pursue employment in one of the first tier agencies—Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, or one of the 17 Intelligence Agencies. If students are unsuccessful or maybe leaning towards other agencies, they may also apply to second tier agencies which include USAID and the Peace Corp, but must submit a statement to the program writing how the position employs their language capabilities, and furthers national security interests.

The majority of these panels were occurred on the Monday, and on Tuesday we were instructed to ‘run for the hill!’ That is Capital Hill. The program had scheduled congressional meetings for each participant with their respective senators and congressperson. I met with two staffers from Senator Thom Thillis’ and Senator Richard Burr’s offices, before meeting with the Senior Legislative Assistant to Congressman Patrick McHenry. I was the only participant from the tenth district of North Carolina, so I flew solo to my meeting with Congressman McHenry’s Assistant, but was joined by three fellow North Carolinians on my visits to Senator Burr’s and Senator Thillis’ offices.

Each representative’s office was in a different building, so I enjoyed being able to ‘tour’ the Russell Senate Offices, the Dirksen Senate Offices, and the Rayburn House Office. Further, as I’ve been in DC for a little over a month now, it was a nice homecoming to visit offices loyalty upholstered in North Carolina leather and imagery of Carolina barbecue, Nascar legends, and the Blue Ridge Mountains.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the discussions the staffers were willing to, and seemingly excited to, engage us in. As participants in the Boren, our visits were to promote the scholarship program, as well as the NSEP program as a whole, in hopes of assuring congressional support. However, I don’t think NSEP receives much opposition, and is, as it should be, a non-partisan and celebrated issue. As such, much of our conversations revolved around the staffers hoping to hear more about our goals and interests, and offering their advice, knowledge, and contact.

The Congressional visits just about concluded the orientation program. We returned to Connecticut Avenue for a few final panels featuring alumni presenters, and an FBI leader sharing the story of ‘The Game of Pawns.’


Week 1: An Introduction to the Institute
May 27, 2019

I'm thrilled to join the Institute of World Politics this summer, working as a summer research assistant. The Institute, or I.W.P., is a graduate school in Washington, D.C., founded to provide professional education in statecraft, national security, and international affairs. In truth, I had never heard of the school until this past spring when I went to a career fair at Georgetown University. I.W.P. had not been on my list of organizations to visit, but I was drawn in by a conversation between one of I.W.P.'s representatives and another interested student. In speaking with the representative, I learned that Duke's Program in American Grand Strategy had recently established a relationship with I.W.P., and she encouraged me to contact her with any questions about their graduate programs or internship opportunities.

I.W.P.'s representative had been not only eager to hear about my interests, but responded to my topics of study and curiosity with related opportunities and course offerings at I.W.P. One characteristic factor of I.W.P. is the necessary qualifications of associated professors. Each professor has substantial experience as a practitioner of the disciplines they teach, working or having worked as leaders in their fields.

Though the internship schedule includes a short shift twice a week working in administrative positions, the bulk of the internship centers around a research experience with a professor. Opportunities included--broadly--researching: cybersecurity, the spread of human rights, the K.G.B., and diplomacy. I requested and was approved to research diplomacy with Ambassador Phillip Hughes. A broad topic, but Amb. Hughes has been traveling this week so we were not able to begin working on the project. I'm very excited to meet and begin the project next week.

Unable to begin the research portion of my internship, this first week was slow and allowed ample time for me to acclimate. Monday marked orientation for all interns (including two very nice Tar Heels). Much of the orientation centered around familiarizing ourselves with the school's buildings--Marlott Mansion and two neighboring buildings. Definite highlights of the tour included a number of hidden safes located throughout Marlott Mansion, which once served as a K.G.B. stronghold in our nation's capital.

This coming week I'm looking forward to meeting Amb. Hughes and learning more about the project he has planned. Another aspect of the internship includes the opportunity to audit classes offered by the school. I'm hoping to be able to continue studying Arabic through the summer, in preparation for the coming school year which I will spend abroad in Jordan. I'll also be taking a course with Professor Albert Santoli entitled 'Peace, Strategy, and Conflict Resolution.' I'm a little nervous as I'll be joining two weeks late and have not been able to look over a syllabus or reading list to prepare, but am looking forward to starting!