newsId: 2577422B-5056-AF26-BE96409FBA74E790
Title: High School Students Explore International Affairs at SIS
Author: Anne Deekens
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Abstract: High school students explore international affairs during the Community of Scholars pre-college summer program at SIS.
Topic: International
Publication Date: 08/26/2015
Content:

Eighty-one high school students from around the world participated in the 2015 Community of Scholars program at the School of International Service (SIS) in July, the largest group to date since the program began in 2008. Community of Scholars (COS) is a rigorous college-credit summer program designed for rising high school juniors and seniors interested in international relations.

“There are not always opportunities to explore an interest in international affairs in high schools, so this is an opportunity for students to pursue that with likeminded peers,” said Page Hogan, director of pre-college programs at SIS. “It also allows them to bolster their college applications and get a taste of college.”

From taking college-level classes, to visiting embassies, to playing Capture the Flag on the quad, COS participants receive an unprecedented opportunity to experience life as college students in Washington, DC.

Students enroll in one of the following three-week courses for three hours of college credit:

• Worlds Apart, Worlds Together, Conflict, Culture, and Cooperation: Professors Dylan Craig and Mirjana Morosini
• Diplomacy and Dictators: U.S. Foreign Policy in an Uncertain World: Adjunct Instructor Edward Lucas, SIS/PhD ’16, and Professor Garret Martin

During the first week, the students access lectures online from home, engaging in discussion with their professors and peers via podcasts and video lectures. The following week, they move into dormitories at American University and attend classes on campus for two weeks. The courses, taught by SIS faculty, feature hands-on simulations in national security strategy and conflict assessment.

The participants also go on site visits throughout Washington, DC, experiencing what it might be like to study and work in the nation’s capital. This year, students visited the U.S. Department of State, the World Bank, the Saudi and Canadian embassies, and toured monuments and museums along the National Mall. They also participated in community service projects at Capital Area Food Bank and St. Luke’s Mission Center.

Another goal of the program is to introduce students to career opportunities in international affairs. Guest speakers this year included SIS Diplomat in Residence Ambassador Sally Shelton-Colby, SIS professor and journalist Colman McCarthy, and recent SIS alumni, who discussed their careers in international relations with the students. David Fletcher, career advisor at SIS, organized the alumni panel and also led a workshop on resume writing.

Many COS students decide to apply to American University for college. In 2015, 43 COS students applied to AU; of those students, 37 were admitted and 22 will enroll this fall.

“We are thrilled to welcome so many of our students back to AU for college. And we have received wonderful feedback on this program,” said Hogan. “The students are engaged and some parents have even said it has been a life-changing experience for their children. We couldn’t be more pleased to hear this, and we look forward to seeing the program continue to grow.”

To learn more and apply, visit the Community of Scholars website: http://www.american.edu/sis/CommunityofScholars/index.cfm

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Title: SIS Students Advise on Education in Kenya
Author: Jennifer Swope
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Abstract: This summer, 11 SIS graduate students participated in a unique practicum in Kenya, led by Professor Amanda Taylor, which focused on community development through education.
Topic: International
Publication Date: 08/24/2015
Content:

This summer, 11 School of International Service graduate students participated in a unique practicum in Kenya, led by Professor Amanda Taylor, which focused on community development through education. The SIS practicum program is designed to give second-year master’s students real world experience in project management and consulting while preparing them for post-graduate careers.

In the Kenya-based practicum, called “Leadership Development, Program Design, and Assessment in International Education,” students had the opportunity to conduct field research and provide recommendations to a local non-governmental organization (NGO).

Nearly 70 percent of Nairobi’s population lives in informal settlements, with limited or no access to government services, including public education. Despite the elimination of school fees by the Kenyan government, which allowed greater access to schools by poor children, the capacity of schools to educate more children has not increased, creating a new barrier to receiving a quality education.

Taylor explains, “To fill this gap in education, residents of informal settlements developed their own schools but often lacked skilled leadership, teacher training, or the infrastructure to meet the needs of their students. In 2008, Dignitas, a Nairobi-based NGO, began partnering with these schools to strengthen leadership, improve instructional quality, and provide infrastructural support to help schools create an environment where all children can fulfill their potential. To advance its mission, Dignitas wanted to evaluate its work as well as strengthen its education for community development model.”

SIS students, working in teams, were given three tasks:
• Develop a progression model to allow Dignitas to help its partner schools transition to independence
• Design a culturally-responsive and comprehensive educational program evaluation toolkit
• Create a parent-community leadership development program

Dignitas has found it difficult to easily transfer teacher and leadership development program responsibilities to its partner schools. One practicum team looked at best practices from peer organizations and used information from interviews to develop a new model for Dignitas to implement, so that schools can more easily transition to independence.

Another team developed a toolkit to track and evaluate the organization’s teacher and leadership development program. Student achievement is often measured by test results, but at these schools, student populations fluctuate, making it difficult to know if teacher development programs are having an effect because not all students sit for tests. The team interviewed teachers, collected data, and developed a mechanism to evaluate the impact the programs have on teachers, which ultimately impacts student achievement.

The final team was tasked with designing a parent and community leadership development program to better engage parents as one step in community transformation through education. The group interviewed parents and community leaders as well as members of the Dignitas staff to determine what the stakeholders were most interested in and what was feasible to implement.

Mikaela Spencer, SIS/MA ‘16, describes the experience as a “hands on experiential learning component. It was fascinating to learn about Dignitas during class sessions and then travel to Nairobi to see the organization in action, observe how it functions up close, and carry out our group plan for our own research.”

Upon returning to the United States, students presented their recommendations to Dignitas. Taylor noted, “Students were inspired by the passion and commitment of community leaders to improve education for their children. And the work they completed and the opportunity to be in the field helped put into context what they learn in the classroom.”

Emilie Cooper, SIS/MA ‘16, said, “Working for Dignitas with the SIS Kenya practicum team was an invaluable professional experience that helped me grow as an international development practitioner. My fellow students and I established a positive working relationship with our client by understanding its needs, following up with requests, and producing requested deliverables under strict deadlines. Learning how to prepare and execute a work plan on the ground and engage in field research are skills I will certainly use in my future career. The “real life” experience of working as a consultant on a team was a challenging, rewarding milestone in my professional growth.”

To learn more about the practicum program at the School of International Service, visit: http://www.american.edu/sis/practica/index.cfm.

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Title: Internship Awards Provide Career Experience for Students
Author: Anne Deekens
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Abstract: Six undergraduate students in the School of International Service (SIS) are gaining career experience this summer in the field of international studies through funding from the SIS Internship Fund.
Topic: International
Publication Date: 08/21/2015
Content:

Six undergraduate students in the School of International Service (SIS) have gained career experience this summer in the field of international studies through funding from the SIS Internship Fund. The SIS Internship Fund provides assistance to undergraduate and graduate students to pursue unpaid or international internships to enhance their academic experience and career prospects.

Four undergraduate students received funding from the SIS Internship Fund. Dean James Goldgeier created this award program four years ago in order to assist students with demonstrated financial need to support their participation in unpaid internships in the Washington, DC metropolitan area.

Two undergraduate students received funding from the Fred & Jean Allegretti Foundation, which provides financial support to educational institutions and other nonprofit organizations.

The awards provide students with career experience, invaluable professional development opportunities, and access to professional networks—all of which can enhance their future job searches.

Read more about the students and their internship experiences:

Mehvish Jamal, SIS/BA ‘17, is in the Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholars program. She is a double major in international studies with a focus on environmental sustainability and economics and a minor in entrepreneurship. Jamal received an award for summer employment with MISFIT Juicery, a startup social enterprise that fights food waste by processing fruits and vegetables that are not up to cosmetic standards into cold-pressed juice. As the strategic operations associate, Jamal was responsible for a variety of business operations tasks, including hiring employees, developing an employee training manual, creating financial statements, working on the company's branding strategy, and researching methods of measuring social and environmental impact. After graduation, she hopes to pursue a career in social enterprise.

Jamal says, “I am incredibly passionate about harnessing the power of business to address pressing social and environmental challenges. This experience has helped me confirm that I am deeply passionate about entrepreneurship and that I would someday like to start my own social enterprise, while allowing me to apply what I have learned in the classroom in a real-life setting and to develop new skills and experience.”

So Lee, SIS/BA ‘17, is an international studies major with a concentration in international development. She worked for the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) as a research intern for the Korea Chair. As part of her internship, Lee monitored current events related to the Korean peninsula and wrote weekly policy issue briefs on topics including South Korean domestic politics, trade, and economics, the United States-Korea alliance, North Korea, and global relations. She also researched and wrote brief biographies of foreign policy leaders in current events. Her main duties included conducting policy-research and writing for articles, conference reports, event summaries, grant proposals, and data collection. Upon graduation, Lee hopes to pursue a master's degree in public policy with a focus on global health and ultimately, to work for an international organization. Lee received funding for her internship from the Fred & Jean Allegretti Foundation.

Jamie Sheasley, SIS/BA ‘17, is studying foreign policy and national security, as well as global and comparative governance. She is also obtaining a minor in history. Sheasley interned for the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Organization Affairs, which focuses on utilizing multilateral engagement to advance U.S. interests in issues such as peace and security, nuclear nonproliferation, human rights, economic development, climate change, and global health. Her duties included assisting with the East Asia and Pacific Affairs portfolio. Sheasley has enjoyed interning for the State Department and plans to pursue a career as a foreign or civil service officer for the State Department, either in the political or public diplomacy track. She received funding for her internship from the Fred & Jean Allegretti Foundation.

Casia Thompson, SIS/BA ‘17, is interested in environmental sustainability and global health. Thompson interned at Voice of America, the official external broadcast institution of the U.S. federal government. She is excited that this internship has allowed her to access and communicate with other cultures on topical issues via a leading news platform. Upon graduation, Thompson hopes to continue to pursue a career involving media and multiculturalism.

Andrew Yaldaparast, SIS/BA ‘17, is focusing his studies on global economy and governance. He also plans to graduate with an economics minor. Yaldaparast interned for the Department of Commerce in the International Trade Administration (ITA). He worked in the global markets office, which promotes American business overseas by providing information on how to export and create match-making programs for United States exports. Yaldaparast supported ITA administrative and communications teams by providing metrics and other information regarding the impact of the activities of ITA’s domestic offices. Yaldaparast plans to intern with the State Department this fall and is also interested in looking into the private sector for future career opportunities.

Abigail Yarger, SIS/BA ‘16, is studying international relations with a focus on foreign policy and international development. Yarger served as a business development intern for the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW). Yarger assisted with project proposals, grant writing, and grant research. She was responsible for reviewing new project opportunities related to transforming gender norms in the international arena and combating gender based violence and preventing child marriage. Additionally, Yarger reported on newly funded projects, including ICRW's leadership at the Girls not Brides conference in Casablanca and partnerships with the Gates Foundation and USAID. She also coordinated with the ICRW Asia Regional Office in New Delhi. She aspires to pursue a career working in a diplomatic or humanitarian capacity. Yarger is particularly interested in returning to the Balkans to participate in reconciliation efforts and conduct local research. She also hopes to return to India to continue serving as an English teacher at the Shanti Bhavan School for Dalit children in the rural south.

Yarger says: “I am dedicated to addressing global women's issues, as I believe women and girls are an essential solution to poverty alleviation and progress. I am intent on participating with communities and policy makers abroad. I also envision myself supporting refugee communities internationally and conducting interpretive research in the field.”

Learn more about internship opportunities at SIS.

Learn more about how to support student opportunities at SIS.

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Title: Skyping the World
Author: Gregg Sangillo
Subtitle:
Abstract: AU students foster international dialogue through a virtual exchange program.
Topic: International
Publication Date: 08/18/2015
Content:

Many American University students study abroad during their junior or senior year. But what if first-year students could try an appetizer before the main course? That's exactly what School of International Service assistant professor John Robert Kelley helped a group of students do in the spring 2015 semester.

First-year AU undergrads set up "virtual exchanges" with students in other countries. Communicating via Skype, Facebook, and other channels, they built bridges across cultural divides and shared common human experiences. An AU student could discover what it's like to be a college student in, say, Japan. In turn, a Japanese student could learn about college life for an AU freshman in Washington, D.C.

"My sense is that it did not feel like a task. They found it fun, and I think they established, through this virtual platform, genuine personal connections," says Kelley.

Getting Started, Exceeding Expectations

After teaching AU students in a University College cross-cultural communication course in the fall of 2014, Kelley implemented an additional research component. In conjunction with the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, a virtual exchange program was devised for the spring. Each AU student-participant got a grade and earned one academic credit.

AU students operated in teams based on regions and countries: The AU South Central Asia team interacted with students in India; Europe (Czech Republic students); Western Hemisphere Affairs (Brazil); Near Eastern Affairs (Morocco); Africa (Kenya); and East Asia Pacific (Japan). The participants in those countries were mostly college students and close in age with their American counterparts.

Kelley had been hoping to run a program like this for years, but getting the virtual exchanges up and running is no small feat. The process begins with AU students emailing various colleges in order to find willing partners. But messages sent to unfamiliar colleges in foreign countries can be misinterpreted as spam. Kelley would occasionally follow up with another note to build trust and ensure the AU program's legitimacy. Yet AU students did the legwork, and Kelley was incredibly impressed with their commitment.

"It really exceeded my expectations. And I'll also say that it really convinced me about the validity of the educator as facilitator of an experience, rather than as a dispenser of knowledge alone. It's important for me to advise them along the way. But what I tried to do here was to create an atmosphere where what they got out of it was what they put into it," he explains. "They all just did fabulously well."

Talking Current Events and Breaking Bad

Caroline Sparno, a rising sophomore, explains the process in more detail. Each week they had specific themes to address. One week it might be a social issues talk, and the next week might be focused on current events. "So we kind of developed a greater relationship because we were able to talk about more pressing issues and ideas," she says.

But the conversations could also be fun and casual. "They watched a lot of TV shows that we liked. They watched Breaking Bad," she remembers.

Sparno is earning her bachelor's degree from SIS, with a minor in French. She plans to study abroad in France during her junior year. Yet after her experience doing the Czech Republic virtual exchange, she hopes to visit that country as well. Though the program ended last semester, she still keeps in touch with Czech students. "We catch up every now and again to see how they're doing. And if I do make it to the Czech Republic, I definitely want to look them up when I get there."

A Very AU Conversation

Cameron Cushner, also a rising sophomore in SIS, was part of the team focused on Brazil. It was a nice fit for Cushner, as he's taking Portuguese at AU.

Plenty of front-burner political issues came up during discussions between the two groups. "It was good timing because it was about the same time that protests in São Paulo were going on," he says. "And it was a very AU conversation, you could say. We got into gay rights, race relations—things like that."

Not surprisingly, he says they had a lot in common with their Brazilian counterparts. He remains in contact with his virtual exchange partners through Facebook and WhatsApp, and he's hoping to study abroad through the AU program in São Paulo.

These kinds of opportunities are part of why he came to AU. "I love travelling. I love experiencing other cultures, other foods, other ways of life—especially when it comes to soft power diplomacy," Cushner says. "So, I felt like this virtual exchange was a great start."

Agents of Change

In his book, Agency Change: Diplomatic Action Beyond the State, Kelley explored how non-state actors can solve problems and wield influence in international relations. He says virtual exchanges exemplify this process. "What we're doing here is diffusing the representative of a state, of a culture, of a nation, down from the official level to the popular level," he says.

Older techniques involved sending students abroad to promote U.S. national interests, but this is now evolving into more of a dialogue, he says. And it's fundamentally different from diplomat-to-diplomat contacts. "I think what you're getting is a more honest conversation this way. It's not talking points," he says. "It is legitimate, genuine, honest, unfiltered, unadulterated expression, between citizens who don't have a skin in the game of politics."

And, as Sparno attests, communicating overseas through technology doesn't have to be cold and impersonal: "It was more than just talking back and forth, and making videos. It really felt like you were there. And you learned so much from people on the other side, and I can call them my friends now."

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Title: Remembering Matthew C. Shlonsky
Author: Dean Jim Goldgeier
Subtitle:
Abstract: In Remembrance: Matthew C. Shlonsky
Topic: In Remembrance
Publication Date: 08/17/2015
Content:

Dear SIS students, faculty, staff, and alumni,

I am tremendously saddened to inform you of the death of School of International Service 2014 alumnus Matthew Shlonsky.

Matt was shot near the Shaw-Howard University Metro station in Washington, DC, just before 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, and taken to a hospital where he later died. I am at once at a loss for words yet also resolute that he not merely be remembered by his death, but how he lived.

Matt came to American University from a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, and was a proud Clevelander. After his graduation, he joined Deloitte Consulting as a Business Analyst, consulting on strategic communications, organizational transformation, and business development. He also worked as a tutor for LS Tutors, where he hoped to train students to develop strong organizational skills. He had served as a Hebrew tutor and homework aide at the Washington Hebrew Congregation while studying at the School of International Service, and he worked throughout his high school years at the Temple Tifereth-Israel in a Cleveland suburb. A colleague at the Washington Hebrew Congregation recalls, "warm with a spectacular attitude, Matt was adored by all of the students in our school."

While studying at the School of International Service, Matt interned in the office of Ohio Senator Rob Portman, as well as the government affairs office of Amgen, and the Glover Park Group. Senator Portman said in a statement, "Matt was a talented young man with a bright future who was taken from us too soon. He was an outstanding intern for me in Washington."

Matt was a passionate hockey player and skier, and served as captain of his high school hockey team. At American University, he was active in the Men's Club Ice Hockey, Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, AWOL Magazine, and the Kennedy Political Union. He also studied abroad at Universidad Diego Portales in Chile. He cared deeply about Latin America, and earned a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies with a concentration in International Business Relations and a regional concentration on Latin America.

Matt also loved the Washington music scene and worked as a writer and in business development at The Mues, a music and artist promotion company here in Washington.

Now that I have told you a little about what he did, please let me tell you about who Matt was. Matt was smart, enthusiastic, motivated, conscientious, easy going, and a willing volunteer who helped anyone who sought his assistance. I met with Matt when he last visited the School of International Service two weeks ago to serve on an alumni panel for our pre-college program, and his enthusiasm for what he was doing was infectious.

While a student at the School of International Service, he volunteered his time to help faculty with their research--and his work was excellent, thanks in large part to his sharp intellect, strong work ethic, and tremendous passion for learning. Faculty, staff, fellow classmates, and others greatly enjoyed working and being with him. While he had very well informed views for a person his age, he was also open to new ideas and always interested in others' points of view.

I share the grief of Matt's profound loss with the countless School of International Service faculty, alumni, staff, and students who knew him during his time as a student and subsequently as an alumnus.

I will update you with information about a memorial or service for Matt as I learn more.

Students, faculty, staff, and alumni are encouraged to seek counseling support if they would find it helpful during this difficult time.
- Counseling resources for students are available through the Counseling Center at http://www.american.edu/ocl/counseling/ (outside of business hours, please contact AU Public Safety and request the counselor on call).
- Counseling resources for faculty and staff are available through Human Resources and the Faculty/Staff Assistance Program at http://www.american.edu/hr/FSAP.cfm.
- Chaplain resources for all members of the American University Community are available through the Kay Spiritual Life Center at http://www.american.edu/ocl/kay/index.cfm.

In moments of jubilance and in moments of tremendous sadness, I am reminded that the School of International Service community is a family. As a family, I ask that we embrace those suffering from Matt's senseless and tragic loss, and that we continue to support one another in the weeks and months ahead.

With best wishes,

Jim Goldgeier
Dean
School of International Service

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Title: From Undocumented Immigrant to American University Graduate
Author: Enrique Benavides
Subtitle:
Abstract: Enrique “Ernesto” Benavides, SIS/BA ‘15, came to the United States illegally when he was 14 years old. Now a legal permanent resident, he recounted his story in a term paper for a course with Professor Elizabeth Cohn.
Topic: International
Publication Date: 08/12/2015
Content:

Enrique “Ernesto” Benavides, SIS/BA ‘15, came to the United States illegally in 2006 when he was 14 years old. Along with his father, Enrique travelled approximately 1,400 miles and endured separation, the threat of police and border patrol, exhaustion, and other hardships to reunite with his mother and brother in Texas. As an undocumented child, Enrique struggled to find acceptance in his community and at his school. Now a legal permanent resident, he recounted his story in a term paper for an independent study course with Professor Elizabeth Cohn. Below is an excerpt about his journey from El Salvador to American University:

Every day, approximately 300 Salvadoran immigrants start their trips in the hope of reuniting with their families in the United States. In 2006, my dad and I—seeking to join my mother in the United States—were two more.

A truck dropped off our group of ten immigrants at the shoulder of a mountain that divided Guatemala and Mexico. The mountain was steep, covered by short thorny trees and rocky, slippery terrain. We barely made it to the top of the mountain, and I was weary from lugging two backpacks and a gallon of water. My dad was the last to make it to the summit. As he approached me I could see his exhaustion.

The coyote, who was guiding our group to the United States, advised us to find somewhere to rest. I looked around and admired the beautiful landscape of the mountain. This trip would be an adventure, I tried to convince myself. Then, someone fired a gun. I heard the coyote scream, “Salven sus vidas!” (Save your lives!). I always wanted to move to the United States, but this was not how I imagined how I’d get there.

                                               *             *             *

After more than two weeks travelling through Mexico, including a week when I was separated from my father and afraid, our group reached the United States-Mexico border in the Arizona desert. Among bushes, trees, and mud we ran through to the other side.

We walked for four days and nights until finally a big truck arrived and the coyote yelled for everyone to jump on. Rushing, I found a spot on top of a greasy spare tire. We drove in the dark, across hills, holding onto each other to avoid flying out the truck or being speared by the cactuses along the road.

This journey from El Salvador to Texas was the longest three weeks of my life, but at the end of it my dad and I were reunited with my mom. Finally we could live together as a family again. But the price of family reunification was even higher than risking our lives trekking through Mexico and the Arizona desert. The real challenge was to keep our family together in the United States, in a world completely foreign to us all. No-one in my family could speak English, and whereas my parents had run a successful business in Salvador, we now had to start from the bottom and learn a new system of life.

                                                *             *             *

The high school year started and I knew its importance as a preparation for college. Undocumented Hispanics like me often represent negative figures of high school dropouts, people who cause trouble, or workers with low wage earning jobs. I hoped this stigma wouldn’t affect me throughout school, as I was determined to succeed. From my first day of class, my goal was not only learning English, but getting the best grades possible. Slowly, throughout my freshman year, I improved my English with the assistance of my English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher.

The next year, I requested to be enrolled in AP World History. My counselor was skeptical because these were college level classes, but my ESL teacher supported me and believed that I could succeed. Every weekend, I studied from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. for this class and at the end of the year, and I achieved a 5, the highest score on the national exam.

More than ever, my dream was to earn a college degree. My ESL teacher advised me during my junior year that American University would be the best choice for my career goal of influencing U.S. foreign policy and Latin America. I was thrilled when I received the news that I had been accepted to American University’s School of International Service. But then U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement notified me that I needed to be interviewed at the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador for my permanent residency. That meant leaving behind my family and all I had worked for, including those college opportunities, to return to El Salvador and enter the country legally.

Two years after petitioning for forgiveness for entering the United States illegally, I received my permanent residency and was once again reunited with my parents in Texas. After two years of community college in Texas, I transferred to American University, where I learned the bigger picture of immigrants’ struggles and reflected on my own story. I also had the opportunity to work at the Latino Student Fund and the Embassy of El Salvador in Washington, DC.

                                                  *            *            *

Throughout my mother’s entire life she dreamt of family reunification. Now that I have graduated, I am a consultant with the World Bank in Washington, DC, and will visit my mom when I can, hoping to making her proud as I grow up on my own.

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Title: President Obama Delivers Speech on Iran at AU's School of International Service
Author:
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Abstract: Read Dean Jim Goldgeier's message to the SIS community following President Obama’s appearance at SIS on August 5, 2015.
Topic: International
Publication Date: 08/07/2015
Content:

Below is Dean Jim Goldgeier’s message to the SIS community following President Obama’s appearance at SIS on August 5, 2015.

Dear Friends,

We were deeply honored to host President Barack Obama on Wednesday, August 5, at American University's School of International Service (SIS) for an historic address on the Iran nuclear agreement. During his remarks, the president echoed John F. Kennedy's famous "Strategy of Peace" commencement speech at American University in 1963, stating that "it is surely the pursuit of peace that is most needed in this world so full of strife."

Wednesday marked President Obama's second visit to SIS. In July 2010 he delivered a major immigration speech in the newly opened SIS building, calling for a system that "reflects our values as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants." American University has a long tradition of presidential visits extending back to the university's founding, and President Dwight Eisenhower broke ground at the establishment of SIS in 1957.

It has been tremendously heartwarming to hear from our alumni, current and incoming students, and other members of the SIS community who have reached out over the past few days to convey their pride in SIS for hosting President Obama on such a momentous occasion. Please join us on Facebook and Twitter @AU_SIS to continue these conversations.

To learn more about President Obama's memorable visit to the School of International Service, please visit these links:

Video of the president's speech: http://1.usa.gov/1EbWSCX
Text of the president's address: http://1.usa.gov/1Nd2Qso
Story about the president's visit: http://bit.ly/1NcaVOa
Video highlighting student reactions: http://bit.ly/1MTAw0c
Photo gallery on Facebook: http://bit.ly/1M8LjD6
Storify summary of tweets: http://bit.ly/1STUnkJ

With warm regards,

Jim

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Title: President Obama Channels JFK at AU
Author: Maggie Barrett
Subtitle:
Abstract: President urged resisting “drumbeat of war.”
Topic: International
Publication Date: 08/05/2015
Content:

In a gutsy speech on Wednesday, August 5, at American University's School of International Service (SIS), President Obama made the case for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (otherwise known as the Iran deal)—a diplomatic agreement aiming to prevent the Islamic Republic of Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

"The choice we face is ultimately between diplomacy or some form of war," said the president. "Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not three months from now, but soon."

Channeling JFK

President Obama started off by comparing today to circumstances in 1963.

"Fifty-two years ago, President Kennedy, at the height of the Cold War, addressed this same university on the subject of peace," he said, noting that at the time, "the prospect of nuclear war was all too real" as the Berlin Wall had just been built, the Soviet Union possessed the most powerful nuclear weapons, and China was on the verge of acquiring a nuclear bomb.

The president proceeded to outline how Kennedy's diplomatic approach succeeded, and set the stage for future diplomacy surrounding the acquisition of nuclear weapons in the Soviet Union and around the world, pointing out that not every conflict was avoided, but nuclear catastrophe was.

"The agreement now reached between the international community and the Islamic Republic of Iran builds on this tradition of strong, principled policy diplomacy."

Words, not Swords

During the next hour, the president advocated for the deal as not just the sensible, diplomatic resolution that would prevent Iran from ever acquiring nuclear weapons, but really, the only alternative to war.

"Congressional rejection of this deal leaves any US administration that is absolutely committed to preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon with one option, another war in the Middle East," he said. "I say this not to be provocative, I am stating a fact. Without this deal, Iran will be in a position, however tough our rhetoric may be, to steadily advance its capabilities."

Without the deal, President Obama said that what brought Iran to the negotiating table—the multilateral economic sanctions from the US, China, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the European Union—would unravel.

"US rejection of the deal would be a severe blow to US credibility," said James Goldgeier, Dean of AU's School of International Service. "It would leave US businesses looking on from the outside as the Europeans, Russians and Chinese rush in."

And while the president emphasized the negatives of military action—the most recent being the War in Iraq—he repeatedly extolled the virtues of diplomacy, citing the resolution of the Cold War as the ultimate example as the stakes were much higher.

"The Cold War was much more dangerous," agreed Goldgeier, whose expertise includes U.S.-Russia relations. "The Cold War was a global struggle that was military, political, economic, ideological, and diplomatic. The Soviet Union had the capacity (as Russia still does) to obliterate the United States with nuclear weapons as we could do to them. Iran is a regional power with regional ambitions—dangerous yes, but not the Soviet Union."

The American (U) Way

Aria Chehreghani, an Iranian-American and first-year SIS grad student from North Potomac, MD, is one of the lucky AU students who witnessed President Obama deliver the speech today.

"It was truly a blessing to have witnessed such a historic speech," he said. "President Obama delivered his case for the Iran deal in such a passionate tone that left me with goose bumps. The first class I'll be taking as a grad student is public diplomacy, so I'm ecstatic to learn and discuss how crucial diplomacy is in foreign policy."

Below: check out edition of "West Wing Week" mentioning President Obama's August 5, 2015 speech at AU.

Chehreghani is far from alone in his zeal for diplomacy. One could say it is the AU way. American University President Neil Kerwin referenced it in his introductory remarks at today's event.

"Our campus is a place where different cultures, perspectives, and points of view are discussed with passion and civility," said Kerwin. "That is a core value… that we practice and protect. That is why American Presidents and other world leaders come to our campus to test ideas, make policy statements, and create change."

Carola Weil, Dean of AU's School of Professional and Extended Studies and an expert on foreign relations, said diplomacy has a successful track record and despite naysayers, Americans will support it.

"History and research have demonstrated time after time that when the American public is fully informed, there is much greater support for multilateral engagement such as we have seen in the case of the Iran treaty negotiations."

Iran's Interests, Israel's Interests

At several points the president's speech drew applause from the audience of 250, including in response to a remark in which he agreed with those who oppose the Iran deal.

"What's more likely to happen should Congress reject this deal is that Iran would end up with some form of sanctions relief without having to accept any of the constraints or inspections required by this deal," the president said. "So in that sense, the critics are right. Walk away from this agreement and you will get a better deal—for Iran."

But Pedram Partovi, an assistant professor of history at AU and an expert on modern Iranian history, says there are indications that Iran has interests in the deal beyond relief from the economic sanctions.

"Iranian leadership is taking a more pragmatic and realistic approach to the current political situation in the Middle East," Partovi said."For some, any cooperation or coordination with the Americans is considered a violation of revolutionary principles. But there are also those in prominent positions in the Iranian government who understand that there are issues of mutual concern and that cooperation with the US and its allies may be helpful in resolving those issues."

Some of these issues are ISIS and other Sunni extremist groups in Syria and Iraq. But Hezbollah is not one of them as noted in the president's speech.

"Iranians view Hezbollah as a Lebanese defense force against Israeli aggression rather than a terrorist entity," Partovi explained.

Israel, the strongest US ally in the Middle East, has vehemently opposed the deal at every turn. President Obama addressed how he is squaring US-Israel relations with what he believes is his presidential duty.

"I believe the facts support this deal. I believe they are in America's interests and in Israel's interests," he said. "And as President of the United States, it would be an abrogation of my constitutional duty to act against my best judgement simply because it causes temporary friction with a dear friend and ally."

Planned with Purpose

The time and location for the president's speech was of particular importance. Not only is AU where President Kennedy delivered "A Strategy of Peace," but today is the 52nd anniversary of the US, Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom signing the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty—the agreement foreshadowed by "A Strategy of Peace."

August 5 is also one day before the anniversary of the first use of an atomic weapon—the bombing of Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945. This year marks the 70th anniversary.

Read story about Hiroshima's 70th anniversary.

"John F. Kennedy cautioned here more than 50 years ago at this university that the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war," President Obama said in his closing remarks. "But it is so very important. It is surely the pursuit of peace that is most needed in this world so full of strife."

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newsId: F83C8264-5056-AF26-BE7155E9860BB272
Title: President Obama to Deliver Foreign Policy and Iran Speech at AU
Author: Gregg Sangillo
Subtitle:
Abstract: Obama extends AU’s tradition of presidential visits.
Topic: On Campus
Publication Date: 07/31/2015
Content:

President Barack Obama will give a foreign policy address with a particular focus on the Iran Deal at American University's School of International Service on Wednesday, August 5. The White House chose American University, because it is where John F. Kennedy made his famous 1963 speech on nuclear disarmament and world peace.

President Obama's Iran Deal speech at AU falls on the 52nd anniversary of the signing of the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty--a treaty prefaced by Kennedy's speech at AU. The treaty was signed on August 5, 1963, in Moscow by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union.

The speech will be streamed live on the White House website, and archival video of the speech will be provided on American University’s website. Follow on Twitter at @AmericanU and @WhiteHouse, and join us on Facebook.

Obama has made several appearances at American University in recent years.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Kennedy family members, including the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. and current U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy, endorsed Obama for president at a rally in Bender Arena.

In July 2010, President Obama gave a major immigration speech at SIS, calling for a system that "reflects our values as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants." In December 2013, Obama did a wide-ranging interview on MSNBC's political show Hardball with Chris Matthews. In front of a packed crowd of AU students at the Greenberg Theatre, Obama offered his thoughts on health care, the NSA wiretapping controversy, Pope Francis, and high-stakes battles with House Republicans.

American University has a long tradition of presidential visits extending back to the school's founding:

In 1914, when American University opened, President Woodrow Wilson gave the dedication.

In 1934, President Franklin Roosevelt appeared at the launch of AU's program to help train federal employees in new methods of public administration. Today, AU's School of Public Affairs offers undergraduate, graduate, and executive-level programs to help build careers in public service.

In 1957, President Dwight Eisenhower broke ground at the establishment of the School of International Service.

In 1963, President John F. Kennedy delivered a historic foreign policy speech at AU's commencement. He called for a nuclear test-ban treaty and mutual understanding with the Soviet Union.

In 1993, President Bill Clinton addressed AU's Centennial Convocation and focused on how the U.S. must exert leadership in the global economy. Clinton returned to AU in 1997 and encouraged equity in accessing higher education.

After leaving office, Clinton appeared at AU in 2012 to accept the school's inaugural Wonk of the Year award. And former President Jimmy Carter launched the bipartisan Commission on Federal Election Reform at AU.

The nuclear agreement with Iran is of special relevance next week. Thursday, August 6 is the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing; the AU Museum at the Katzen Arts Center is holding a Hiroshima-Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Exhibition through August 16.

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Title: El Chapo and Mexico—Three Questions for Carolyn Gallaher
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Abstract: Mexican drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán Loera recently escaped a maximum-security prison for the second time. We asked Associate Professor Carolyn Gallaher for insight:
Topic: International
Publication Date: 07/21/2015
Content:

Mexican drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán Loera recently escaped a maximum-security prison for the second time, dealing a major blow to Mexico's efforts to curb gang-related violence in the country. We asked Associate Professor Carolyn Gallaher, an expert on drug cartels and organized violence, for insight:

Q: Who is El Chapo and how did he break out of prison?

El Chapo (“shorty”) is the nickname of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the head of the Sinaloa Cartel, Mexico’s largest drug trafficking organization. Guzmán escaped after his associates built a mile long tunnel from a nearby house to his shower stall in Altiplano, the maximum security prison where he was held. The Sinaloa Cartel is famous for building tunnels underneath the U.S.-Mexican border and is believed to have sophisticated engineers on its staff. The cartel’s tunnels are usually at least five and a half feet tall, well-ventilated, and include mechanized transportation for people and cargo. The ability to build a tunnel underneath a maximum security prison could only have happened with the assistance of people inside the prison, who may have been bribed or coerced into helping Guzmán’s tunnel-building team and hiding their activity from other authorities.

Q: El Chapo is seen as a hero by many in Mexico. What is his appeal to the average Mexican?

Many people in Mexico see El Chapo as a Robin Hood figure. Guzmán was born in the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains to a poor family. Once he made it big, he donated money to poor villages in the mountain communities where he spent his formative years. His organization also provides jobs to poor farmers in the Sierra Madre who grow the marijuana and poppy plants used to make heroin. Others find jobs as porters or security personnel in his organization.

Q: The capture of El Chapo in February was a major victory for the Mexican government. How does this brazen escape affect Mexican law enforcement efforts to crack down on violent crime?

El Chapo’s escape raises serious questions about the capacity of Mexico’s justice system. The ability of Guzmán’s associates to build a tunnel underneath one of Mexico’s most secure prison suggests that organized crime in Mexico can corrupt and/or threaten people at all levels of the Mexican government.

For ordinary citizens in Mexico, Guzmán’s escape provides further evidence that organized crime and the Mexican state are often one and the same thing. For Mexico’s American partners in the fight against drug cartels, his escape calls into question the effectiveness of the Merida Initiative, the U.S.-Mexico partnership to fight organized crime and associated violence.

For media requests, please call J. Paul Johnson at 202-885-5943.

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newsId: AB62D6E3-0B19-07D5-6C50ABE95733BD66
Title: Gerardo Talavera, SIS/MIS '15
Author:
Subtitle:
Abstract: MIS Graduate uses diplomatic skills in his country’s Foreign Relations Ministry.
Topic: International
Publication Date: 08/06/2015
Content:

Why I chose MIS:

I am a Peruvian Diplomat. I hold a Bachelors degree with a major in Economics from the University of Maryland and a Masters degree in International Relations and Diplomacy from the Diplomatic Academy of Peru. When searching for a masters program, I was looking for a competitive university with international prestige that could add special knowledge and expertise to my profession. The School of International Service, and MIS in specific, was exactly what I was looking for: a great and demanding program that could give me the liberty to explore my intellectual curiosities, improve and reaffirm my professional skills, all in a diverse and enriching atmosphere. I was also enticed by SISs great network of professionals in Washington D.C., which would help my career as a diplomat, no matter where I get posted. 

How MIS has made a difference in my world:

MIS has broadened my knowledge and given me the tools to compete in a very demanding professional market. Although I am a diplomat and will serve my entire professional career in the Peruvian Diplomatic Service, I know that the skills taught in MIS have prepared me to deal with the challenges I might face in the future. The vast range of classes offered has improved my negotiating, investigative and analytical skills. Not only have I been taught by an excellent group of professors, all leaders in their fields, I have also had the chance to learn from fellow students, many of them great professionals who are thriving in their careers. This experience in MIS has helped me grow both professionally and personally.

Field of study:

One of the great things about MIS is that it gives students the liberty to choose from the amazing range of courses that SIS has to offer. Personally, I chose classes that I thought would reinforce my diplomatic skills. I also found very useful the new MIS program requirements. The economics and statistics classes updated what I learned as an economics undergraduate major and strengthened my investigative skills.

SIS activities:

I joined the intramural soccer league both fall and spring semesters of my year in MIS. This was a great experience for me; it is where I met most of my great friends at SIS and it broadened my network for future endeavors. I also attended many of the alumni networking events organized by MIS and other programs at SIS. These were a great way of meeting people and learning more about the programs reach and all the professional possibilities Washington D.C. has to offer.

Languages:

Spanish (Native)

English (Advanced)

Portuguese (Beginner)

World issue of interest:

Multilateral diplomacy.

Foreign Economic Policy, specifically Free Trade Agreements as a way of integration and economic development.

New type of open integration processes like the Pacific Alliance.

Professional role model:

My professional role model is Peruvian career diplomat and former Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1982 to 1991, Ambassador Javier Pérez de Cuéllar. He was also Ambassador of Peru to Switzerland, Venezuela and the Soviet Union.

Favorite book:

A World for Julius by Alfredo Bryce Echenique

Favorite movie:

The Life Aquatic by Wes Anderson

Current residence:

Lima, Peru

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Title: Larissa Kougblenou-Siebens, SIS/MIS '15
Author:
Subtitle:
Abstract: SIS Graduate has the opportunity to implement a pilot World Bank Project to increase awareness and use of eLearning (MOOCs) in Benin.
Topic: International
Publication Date: 07/30/2015
Content:

Why I chose MIS: 

I completed my undergraduate studies in Management Information Systems and International Business, but I have always had a calling for being of service to disenfranchised and marginalized people. The MIS program provided me the flexibility to further my knowledge in International Relations, especially International Development and Peacebuilding. My ultimate goal is to leverage my knowledge and expertise in International Business, Information Technology (IT), organizational development and enterprise architecture to impact the lives of marginalized populations at a policy level.

How I make a difference in the world: 

Well… I am still working on that. In 2011, co-founded an informal nonprofit organization called "THINK International and Human Security," to analyze global issues in international politics, development, security and human rights.

Furthermore, I have been working for the World Bank Group for about 3 years now, and through this work, I was fortunate to win the Youth Innovation Fund Competition with some good friends/ colleagues. The YIF is an initiative which aims to facilitate cooperation within the World Bank Group, while simultaneously investing in young staff to acquire operations experience, increasing their capacity and potential. It offers young staff the opportunity to design and implement innovative small scale projects in client countries, with the possibility to be scaled up into formalized projects.

Our team won funding to implement the Benin e-Learning Project (or Bridging the Youth Opportunity Gap in Benin through e-Learning) aims to create a sustainable knowledge-sharing platform between instructors and students by increasing the awareness and use of e-learning, and Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in Benin.

I consider these two efforts very small steps towards a future through which I can help improve Human security (freedom from fear, wand and indignity) not only in my country, but also in other areas of the world.

How MIS has made a difference in my world: 

MIS has given me the flexibility that I needed to customize a concentration that allowed me to hone my theoretical and technical knowledge in development, Mediation, policy and governance, by allowing me to benefit from the renowned curriculum of the International Development and International Peace and Conflict Resolution Masters Programs at SIS. Furthermore, throughout my experience as a MIS student, I have appreciated that each course offered allowed for independent research. I have expanded my social network with mentors, professors and intelligent friends from diverse origins who have inspired me to strive for better, and broadened my understanding of different cultures.

Field of study: 

International Development and Peacebuilding

SIS activities: 

I participated in an Intergroup Dialog on Race and Ethnicity.

Languages: 

French (Native), English (Advanced), German (Intermediate) 

World issues of interest: 

Human Security, Education, Poverty, Immigration, Terrorism

Professional role model: 

Dag Hammarskjöld, Second Secretary-General of the United Nations

Favorite book: 

Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor by Paul Farmer

Favorite movie:  

En Route to Baghdad.  It is a movie about Sergio Vieira de Mello, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights and Kofi Annan's special envoy to Iraq. http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/enroutetobaghdad/film.html

Current residence: 

I currently live in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

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Title: SIS Alumna Helps to Raise Funds for Small Nonprofits in NYC
Author: Stephanie Block
Subtitle:
Abstract: Dana Williams, SIS/MA '86 wears two hats as a real estate professional and nonprofit fundraiser.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 05/14/2015
Content:

Having the unique privilege to meet and work with people from around the world with fascinating lives is the best aspect of her work, says Dana Williams, SIS/BA '86.

When the economy declined a few years ago, the real estate professional sought other sources of income and experience. Through her search, Dana discovered The Funding Network USA (TFN) New York and enthusiastically approached the organization on various occasions to serve on their team.

Beyond the hardships that came as a result of the economic downturn were glimmers of sunshine, Dana says. "I realized how drawn I am to supporting grassroots projects with positive, sustainable solutions to complex problems," she adds. She serves as project director for TFN NY in addition to maintaining a successful real estate career with Sotheby's International Reality and acting as vice chair of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation's Brokers Partnership.

TFN is a global organization that hosts live crowdfunding events on behalf of grassroots, social impact non-profit organizations. The first organization to benefit from TFN's fundraising work is Harlem Grown, a small non-profit with a mission to inspire youth in Harlem, N.Y. to live healthier and more ambitious lives through mentorship and hands-on education in urban farming, sustainability, and nutrition.

Dana has also served as a board member for Habitat for Humanity NYC, as gala co-chair and mentor for Children's Aid Society and volunteered at the 1st Tribeca Film Festival.

Dana was attracted to AU's School of International Service mostly because of her lifelong intrigue with Keyna. "SIS encouraged a study experience abroad, so I chose to study in Kenya for a semester," she explains. "Going to school in Washington, DC was an exceptional opportunity that I never took for granted."

Dana's memories of her undergraduate experience are certainly fond. "I remember a small group of us meeting at the Tavern after Professor Duncan Clarke's energetic and inspiring lectures to simply talk about the world," she shares. "Some of my activities included mentoring and interning on Capitol Hill with an organization that lobbied for U.S. sanctions against the South African government."

From showcasing an apartment with a balcony overlooking Central Park to traveling to Harlem Grown to coordinate TFN's summer event which they will host in its garden, no two days are ever the same for Dana.

Regardless of how busy her days get, Dana says always has time to stay connected with friends from AU. "I made the most valuable and lifelong friendships at AU," she says. "I have a core group of close friends from AU that live in Australia, California and nearby."

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Title: Be Curious and Stay Connected: Lessons from Tony Silva, SIS/MA '94
Author: Megan Patterson, SIS/BA '11
Subtitle:
Abstract: Tony Silva, SIS/MA ’94, looks back on his AU experience and his international communication master’s program.
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 02/09/2015
Content: "Be curious and remain curious."

Tony Silva, SIS/MA '94, values this philosophy as one of the most important things that he learned from his master's degree in international communication at American University's School of International Service. Having graduated with a degree in journalism from New Mexico State University, Tony came to AU, and SIS specifically, with a passion to do good in the world. Throughout his career, and now as executive vice president of Social Change at Ogilvy Public Relations, he is doing just that.

Looking back on his career, Tony knows that he has always been striving to make the world better. He describes the work that he and his colleagues at Ogilvy do, saying simply, "Social change is ultimately to improve the human condition." He credits the diversity at AU for helping him realize his "interest in travel, interest in issues, and how these issues effect a global population." 

While Tony went straight to the SIS master's program after graduating from college in New Mexico, not everyone else did. He valued the diversity of his peers, both globally – "Many of my classmates were from other countries or had spent a significant amount of time abroad" – and professionally – "I got to just learn not only from the professors, but from everyone around me." 

Tony knows the value of his degree, and he says that in his experience, the Washington, D.C. community values it as well. "Many AU alumni stayed in Washington for 25 years," he says, "so AU is well respected." Tony also is a big proponent of continuing to engage with the university. What's one reason why he encourages others to be engaged with their alma mater? "I got a private tour of the new SIS building before it was opened! That's one of the nice perks of staying connected with the university." 

5 things Tony Silva says his AU experience taught him: 

  1. Be curious and remain curious.
  2. Stay engaged and interested in many things.
  3. Bring new thinking into the workforce.
  4. Allow and accept the evolution of communication.
  5. Stay connected with people. Staying connected helps operating in this world a little bit better.
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Title: SIS Graduate Student Studies Development in Africa
Author: Antoaneta Tileva
Subtitle:
Abstract: Kafia Ahmed, second year SIS graduate student in IPCR interned in Kenya.
Topic: International
Publication Date: 10/13/2014
Content:

Kafia Ahmed, a second year SIS graduate student in IPCR, focusing on development in East Africa and prevention of gender-based violence, interned in Kenya this past summer and shared her experience with us:

SIS: Describe the organization you interned for and the type of work that you did.

KA: Adeso is a humanitarian and development organization that is changing the way people think about and deliver aid in Africa. It is an NGO in Africa working in a very different way than most. It believes that development must come from within, not outside African communities (i.e. Africans themselves must determine Africa’s future) and that while international aid has provided much-needed support, it often falls short of enabling lasting change at the grassroots level. Adeso wants to change this by creating and utilizing strong bonds with African communities. 

I worked with many of the organization’s existing projects and supported a variety of central functions during my time there. I learned a lot about the organization by doing the tasks put in front of me and spent a lot of time interacting with the other staff to plan and execute projects.

SIS: Are you still in contact with the organization? 

KA: I was mentored by the organization’s Regional Communications and Advocacy Manager who I am still in touch with and currently working with to support some of the organization’s projects while I am now back in D.C.  

SIS: Describe the value of international education in relation to your own personal experience.

KA: It's difficult to learn about the world without getting there and experiencing it for yourself. No one can teach you the same way that travel can. You have to get out there and see what kind of person you can become, by challenging yourself. 

SIS: What specifically about your program abroad did you find helpful/useful? 

KA: The fact that I was given real work to do and not busy ‘intern’ work really made it a meaningful experience for me. It showed me what I could potentially be doing if I worked there full time and taught me skills needed for future work in the field. 

SIS: How did your study abroad experience influence your career aspirations? 

KA: My internship abroad was a look inside the exact kind of work I hope to do after finishing my degree. It allowed me to experience what real life conditions are for doing important work abroad and the challenges as well as the meaningful impact that are part of it. It enabled me see another piece of the picture and how I can be a part of it one day.  

SIS: What were the most challenging or difficult aspects of your program and how did you overcome them? 

KA: My biggest challenge was not getting in my own way and allowing myself to take on tasks that scared me and rising to the challenge.

SIS: How beneficial do you think it is to have this program on your resume or international experience, in general? 

KA: I think that this experience shows that I am a good candidate for the kind of work that I want to do, it shows that I am capable and have the skills set they seek.  

SIS: What kind of professional skills did you develop during your time abroad? 

KA: Timeliness, organization, and how to ask for help when I need it.

SIS: What advice can you offer to other study abroad students? 

KA: Think about what kind of job you’d like to do when you graduate and pursue an internship with an organization that has an opportunity like that. Find the person who has that job and ask them how they got to where they are.  

SIS: How did your time abroad influence your studies at SIS or academic interests, in general? 

KA: My experience showed me that the career path I’ve chosen is the right one for me and that I can actually succeed and thrive in my chosen field. 

SIS: Would you recommend the program to your peers or if the internship site interested in receiving more AU students? 

KA: I would highly recommend this internship to anyone interested in East Africa and dignified development solutions. Others can reach out to me and the SIS International Programs Office if they are interested in interning with Adeso.  

SIS: Does your career goal relate to your international experience?

KA: Yes.

SIS: Is there anything else that you wish to say about your experience? 

KA: Feel free to read the blog entries I wrote while there: http://kafiainkenya.blogspot.com/

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Title: From a Semester in Norway to a Career in International Education: Caitlin Murphy, SIS/MA '14
Author:
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Abstract: Profile of Caitlyn Murphy, SIS/MA '14
Topic: International
Publication Date: 10/06/2014
Content:

Caitlin Murphy is a recent alumna of the SIS International Communications program who spent a semester studying abroad in Norway with one of the SIS partner institutions, Norwegian University of Life Sciences. After graduation, Caitlin accepted a position at Lebanon Valley College as the Associate Director of Global Education. She now manages all international aspects at the College from international student recruitment and advising to study abroad programs. During her time as a student in the International Communication program, Caitlin focused her studies on international education.

SIS: Describe your experience abroad during your degree program at SIS

CM: I studied abroad for a semester at the University of Life Sciences (NMBU) in Norway. I worked with the SIS International Programs Office and was placed in regular graduate classes at NMBU with all the other students studying there. It was a complete immersion and I not only took classes there that were different from those at SIS, but I learned so much about the country and culture of Norway. I also was able to travel around a lot on the weekends.  

SIS: Describe the value of international education in relation to your own personal experience 

CM: International education is the most inexpensive catalyst, energizer, therapy, and mirror that anyone could ask for. The experience challenges at the onset, evokes curiosity, leads to triumph and confidence, which in turn, with some reflection, is the key to all future trials and tribulations. The power to thrive somewhere else has been jumpstarted with such an experience and that is something that students can take with them for the rest of their lives.

SIS: How did your study abroad experience influence your career aspirations?

CM: Although I have studied abroad a few times before, this experience was even more transformative than I could have imagined. I met people from all around the world, I gained more spontaneity and courage, and lastly I gained genuine empathy for circumstances I had never experienced until I was five months in Norway making sense of my early 20s and my future. While I had a sense of how to navigate trains and airplanes before, I learned much more about ferries and fjords. That may seem irrelevant, but now I know that I need to be in a place that values the great outdoors, and mountains are a must.  

SIS: What advice do you offer to a study abroad student?

CM: My advice is to do everything you can. Do the things that scare you most, for the biggest risks yield the biggest rewards. Make yourself uncomfortable in times when you can make others comfortable, and you will learn to develop meaningful friendships and lasting experiences. Do not think of study abroad as a static experience. Once you have lived somewhere else, you begin to start a life with a group of people; that doesn't have to end when it's over. Reflect, communicate, and motivate yourself to stay connected elsewhere as you continue to expand your options and your world back home.  

SIS: What specifically about your program abroad did you find helpful/useful? 

CM: My program was a taste of a completely different education system. I was not accustomed to simply hearing lectures and then taking final exams that were worth large parts of my grade. While initially I was worried and annoyed about the grading process, I realized that many other students have lived this way forever and survived. I thought, why can't I? I will be better for it in the end and I will become more adaptable in my test-taking skills, and it turned out to be beneficial in the end. It has made me more flexible and a bit more stress free. 

SIS: What were the most challenging or difficult aspects of your program and how did you overcome them? 

CM: The most challenging aspect of my program was learning to balance my budget in one of the most expensive cities of the world. Some of my favorite pastimes were difficult to fulfill because such activities were extremely expensive. However, I tried new activities and did many more things with friends in our apartment complex on campus. For example, instead of eating out we cooked in -- it was during these times that we shared cultural traditions and nuances. I practiced my language skills and laughed over foreign music or entertainment. The little moments truly make the entire experience; that is the secret.  

SIS: How beneficial do you think it is to have this program on your resume or international experience, in general? 

CM: Because of my work in international education, having a network outside of the United States is always vital. Also, because I lived with international students from all around the world, I was fortunate to make lasting connections and great friendships with these people. Now I have a little network to call on for visits, favors, advice and so on as I continue in my work.  

SIS: What kind of professional skills did you develop during your time abroad? 

CM: In Norway, I was exposed to sustainability, international development, poverty, and economics through my coursework. These frameworks are vital for my future in international education and how I will conceptualize my work. While the following are not professional skills, they have served me after my time in Norway. I learned how to cook all sorts of international foods, as I was surrounded by international students. I also learned how to cross country ski, swing dance, and improved on my Italian language speaking, oddly enough. 

SIS: How did your time abroad influence your studies at SIS or academic interests, in general? 

CM: I knew going into graduate school that I wanted to study abroad so I made sure to focus on my core courses to start. This actually made me much more focused my first year and encouraged me to take additional credits, such as Skills Institute Courses. Taking on additional work to start and allowing myself more creativity towards the end of my program truly gave me a strong foundation to grow in whatever direction I wanted to at the end of my program with elective credits and thesis work abroad.  

SIS: Would you recommend the program to your peers? 

CM: I think every SIS student SHOULD study abroad. There may only be so many chances to have such an uninterrupted time period to go and explore. Even if you have done it before, every experience, new place, and new face you make can be the difference in where you end up. As SIS students, we need to practice what we preach and get out into the world MORE.  

SIS: Does your career goal relate to you international experience? CM: I hope one day to be working abroad, in some sort of educational or training capacity. Seeing Norway has opened my eyes to a desirable country, but also a great and interesting case study to an education system that is a bit unique. 

SIS: Is there anything else that you wish to say about your experience? 

CM: My experience in Norway is still so central to not only my life but my entire essence. During my experience, I faced new life obstacles, and many roads were converging at once: saying goodbye to friends, graduation, getting a job, moving, and other relationship changes. Being in Norway at the time allowed me to think objectively and with new eyes that were not exhausted by my daily routine of who I was and where I was going. This new context truly provided a new canvas and the experiences I had and the friends I made colored this for me in ways I couldn't have imagined by the time I returned home. I am still working on this "painting" in a sense, but I think, breathe, and dream about Norway and those experiences still.  

There was a story that the Norwegian Embassy did on me during my first or second week in Norway. I also made a video -- there are no words, it is just a slideshow. Enjoy!

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newsId: D865A1EC-E4CE-7F77-0DF01C5A5707D0C7
Title: From Undocumented to Unstoppable
Author: Rebecca Vander Linde
Subtitle:
Abstract: Daniel Alejandro Leon Davis achieved his college dreams, despite seemingly insurmountable odds.
Topic: Alumni
Publication Date: 06/13/2014
Content:

At age six, Daniel Alejandro Leon Davis, SIS/BA ’13, came to the United States from Venezuela with his mother to visit siblings in Miami. Instead of returning home, Daniel and his mother stayed in the U.S. permanently, though they were undocumented. Despite what seemed to be insurmountable odds, Daniel persevered. He received AU’s prestigious Abdul Aziz Said Phi Epsilon Pi Scholarship, graduated Magna Cum Laude, and won the Fletcher Scholar Award for exemplifying integrity and selflessness in citizenship while achieving academically.

As an AU student, Daniel was the first undocumented intern for the Clinton Global Initiative, part of President Bill Clinton's philanthropic foundation. Now, he is chief of staff to Michael Skolnik who is a civil rights activist, political director to hip-hop pioneer Russell Simmons, and president of GlobalGrind.com.

“My mother lived the American dream,” Daniel says. Although his mother can’t speak English, she put on a brave face and gave her children everything she could, working as many as three jobs and eventually becoming the top interior designer for Mercedes Homes.

It is clear Daniel’s mother is his inspiration and champion. Looking back at his childhood, he recognizes the signs that she struggled because they were undocumented. He remembers nights when his mother would go without food; her constant apprehension around police officers (even mall security guards) for fear of deportation; and frequent visits to her lawyer’s office. Undocumented immigrants often live in such secrecy and fear, it is not uncommon for them to hide their status from their children, which is why Daniel did not learn he was undocumented until his senior year of high school.

Daniel dreamed of attending an Ivy League school, but the country's economic crisis derailed those plans. His mother could no longer afford the tuition, and his undocumented status disqualified him from financial aid and scholarships, so he enrolled at Seminole State College and earned his associate’s degree. Many prestigious four-year schools accepted Daniel’s transfer application but would not allow him to attend because he was undocumented.

When he called American University and revealed his status, his admissions counselor said, “Oh, you’re a dreamer! We have a way of putting you into the system,” and enrolled him despite his being undocumented. Although he again faced financial obstacles, he would not be deterred this time.

"I gave up on my dream once. I'm not giving up on my dream again. I don't care what I have to do. I'm going to American University," Daniel told himself. He called 95 scholarship organizations and asked if any of them would accept an application from an undocumented student; only three said yes: the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, Coca Cola, and Phi Theta Kappa.

At his graduation ceremony, the president of Seminole State announced to Daniel, his mother, and the entire school that Daniel won all three scholarships he applied for, which totaled more than $160,000. He says, "That's the day my life changed. That's the day that everything was worth it, the day that I live for every single day."

Still, life was not easy. The scholarships did not take effect until after his first semester at AU, so Daniel couldn’t afford housing and stayed with friends instead. In October 2011, he “came out” as undocumented by wearing a sign announcing his status on LGBTQ National Coming Out Day. He told his story at an event that evening. After that, he says, “Strangers would come up to me on campus and say, ‘Hey, did you eat today? Do you want me to swipe you in to TDR?’ I felt what community truly meant at AU and that people really stand for what they believe in there.”

Unlike other students preparing for graduation, Daniel knew he wouldn’t be able to find a paying job because he was undocumented. Still, he wanted to use his personal experience and success in creating social change on a larger scale. “I introduced myself to Michael Skolnik [at an event] using the networking skills I learned in one of my classes at American,” Daniel says. Through a friend, he got a meeting with Michael and worked on some projects for him. Michael was so impressed with Daniel’s work that he immediately hired him as his chief of staff.

It was a shock. “I figured I’d be an intern,” Daniel says. Instead of interning, Daniel runs a team charged with harnessing celebrity power, especially on social media, to create social change. He has worked with Alicia Keys, P. Diddy, Common, and countless others.

Daniel also finds time to give back to the American University community as a volunteer with the Latino Alumni Alliance and as a social media ambassador. He volunteers because, “AU gave me a lot, a lot, a lot! From Dr. [Fanta] Aw making sure I had housing, to people making sure I had scholarships, professors spending so much time with me and caring for me. … My service is a way to pay back all the ways people helped me at AU. And if I can help that next undocumented student who goes to AU, or help that next Latino student, I want to do that. For me, volunteering means knowing I get to be a part of a community that lasts forever outside of campus.”

Daniel is now married and is an applicant for permanent residency in the U.S.; the Washington College of Law legal clinic is assisting him with his application process.

Daniel's AU education was possible thanks in large part to donor-funded scholarships including the Barbara Bohn Wright Memorial Scholarship, the Annette Langdon Scholar-Activist Award, and the Abdul Aziz Said Phi Epsilon Pi Scholarship. Learn more about how donations to AU make a difference in students' lives.

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newsId: 17586CF3-9100-C85A-DFAC23808CB4475F
Title: Julio Antonio Ubillús Ramírez, SIS/MIS '13
Author:
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Abstract: An SIS graduate student from Peru brings his skills to his country's embassy in Prague, Czech Republic.
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 06/04/2014
Content:

How has SIS made a difference in my world?

  • The MIS program is the second masters program I completed. Before the MIS, I obtained a masters degree in Diplomacy and International Affairs from the Diplomatic Academy of Peru (ADP). In general terms, my time at SIS has allowed me to increase and broaden my knowledge in many relevant academic fields that are interesting and important for my career, such as International Relations, Diplomacy and Foreign Policy making, among others. This experience has allowed me to strengthen my understanding and capacity for analysis of many different events in International Politics.

 

What was one important turning point (interaction with a faculty member, course topic, event attended, internship moment, book, etc.) during my time at SIS that influenced my professional path?

  • I arrived to SIS with an already established career path, being a Foreign Service Officer in the service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Peru. However, I had very valuable experiences while taking classes with Ambassador Anthony Quainton (“Diplomatic Practice”), Professor Daniel Masis (”Proseminar in International Relations II”), and Professor David Mislan (“Theories of Foreign Policy Decision Making”), among others. Those were nothing but very interesting and useful academic experiences which are helping me today in different aspects of my career.

 

What has been a -- possibly unexpected-- pivotal experience or piece of knowledge that has led me to my current position?

  • One of the most interesting and valuable experiences I had while studying at AU was taking a class with Ambassador Anthony Quainton, who happened to be Ambassador of the United States to Peru during the late 1980s until the first couple of years of the 1990s. As a Peruvian diplomat, it was very interesting to learn from the experiences of a foreign diplomat such as Ambassador Quainton, especially regarding his insights about Peru´s political and diplomatic affairs during a very delicate and important period of the history of my country.

 

Why I chose SIS?

  • I arrived to the SIS as the result of an agreement signed between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Peru and American University, which allows one Peruvian diplomat to take the Master in International Service (MIS) Program every year. In exchange, the Diplomatic Academy of Peru receives two SIS masters students (one per semester) every year. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Peru has the policy of encouraging its youngest diplomats to increase their academic education in order to be better prepared to address the challenges and duties that are inherent to our labor as Foreign Service Officers. To me, SIS represented, among the different choices to pursue higher education, one of the most attractive ones, not only because of the reputation of the university, but also because of the experience and versatility of the professors that are part of the School of International Service.

 

Fields of study?

  • I have a bachelors degree (2002-2006) and a “Licenciatura” (Professional Degree) (2007) in International Business from Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos in Lima, Peru; a masters degree in Diplomacy and International Affairs (2009-2010) from the Diplomatic Academy of Peru (ADP) in Lima, Peru; and a masters degree in International Service (MIS) (2012-2013) from the School of International Service (SIS) at American University in Washington DC, United States.

 

Languages?

  • Spanish (native)
  • English (advanced)
  • Portuguese (advanced)
  • French (intermediate)
  • Czech (beginning lessons)

 

World issue of interest?

  • Integration processes in Latin America.
  • Foreign Economic Policy as a tool to promote growth with equality in developing countries.
  • The increasing political and economic influence of China in global affairs.

 

Professional role model?

  • Ambassador Javier Pérez de Cuéllar. A Peruvian Diplomat that held the position of Secretary-General of the United Nations between 1982 and 1991, leading the most important international organization during the end of the Cold War, a turning point in the history of international politics.

 

Favorite book?

  • "Ficciones" by Jorge Luis Borges.

 

Favorite movie?

  • "El secreto de sus ojos" (The secret in their eyes) by J. Campanella.

 

Current residence?

  • I am currently living in Prague, Czech Republic.

 

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Title: Ann Mangold, SIS/MIS '12
Author:
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Abstract: Alumna’s Fellowship Allows Her to Make a Difference through Federal Service
Topic: Alumni Profile
Publication Date: 06/04/2014
Content:

Why I chose MIS:
I chose MIS because of its location in Washington, D.C. and the excellent reputation of its faculty as well as the School of International Service. I think close proximity to the nexus of politics and decision-making creates unmatched opportunities for students who study in D.C. I also liked the idea of having classroom interaction with fellow students who had a variety of experiences, from the private sector and government to NGOs and international development.

How I make a difference in the world:
I’m currently completing a Presidential Management Fellowship with the Department of Labor, Office of Public Affairs. The Labor Department’s mission focuses on promoting, developing and improving work opportunities for job seekers and wage earners. In addition, the department also works on preventing, mitigating and eliminating international issues such as human trafficking and forced labor. Although it sounds cliché, I really do feel like I’m contributing to making a positive difference in people’s lives, whether it’s making workplaces safer or helping to raise the minimum wage – these are things that matter, and I’m proud to be a part of it.

How MIS has made a difference in my world:
Through MIS, I formed a solid network of mentors, professors and friends who have offered invaluable advice and support in my professional pursuits. I feel lucky to have met such an intelligent and inspiring group of people. My time at MIS also helped me to secure my first post-grad school job, which was a great opportunity with a media company in Kabul, Afghanistan, which I learned about through a fellow MIS student.

Field of study:
The great thing about MIS is that there are very few required courses, which allows students to choose most of their electives to focus on key interest areas. It’s sort of like a “choose your own adventure” for graduate school. I chose to take courses primarily in international security and foreign policy, with a regional focus on the Middle East.

SIS activities:
Outside of class, I completed internships with the Women’s Foreign Policy Group, The Moshe Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University and The New Yorker. I found these experiences to be extremely valuable because they provided practical insight into the issues I studied and helped me to explore possible post-graduation career options, as well as meet some very interesting people in the international relations field. Additionally, I spent time getting to know my classmates and professors. Not only have many of my classmates become close friends, but they also have served as an automatic professional network.

Languages:
Working knowledge of Spanish and Arabic. I also learned basic Dari (a Farsi dialect) while living in Afghanistan and found that immersion is the best way to learn a language quickly.

World issue of interest:
I don’t have a particular issue that I’m focused on, but I would say that anything related to education/literacy for women and children (particularly girls) is of interest. I am also interested in increasing foreign policy understanding and engagement amongst Americans. It seems fewer and fewer are involved or aware of what’s happening in domestic politics, let alone the rest of the world.

Professional role model:
My mom. She set a great example for my sister and me of how to balance a career with having a family/personal life. It must have been extremely difficult, but she never complained. I find this especially amazing since she taught first grade for 36 years – it can’t have been easy to manage a classroom of six-year-olds all day and then come home to run a household.

Favorite book:
That’s a tough choice. The first book that comes to mind is Skeletons on the Zahara by Dean King. It’s a true story that recounts the experiences of American sailors who were shipwrecked off the coast of Africa in 1815, captured by desert nomads, sold into slavery, and subjected to a hellish two-month journey through the Sahara. It’s a fascinating portrayal of human courage and resilience.

Favorite movie:
“The Lives of Others.” Set in the early 1980s, it follows the monitoring of East Berlin residents by the Stasi. I like films that are grounded in real-life events. I also love the movie “Working Girl” with Melanie Griffith. It’s a classic “girl power” movie.

Current residence:
Washington, DC

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Title: Profile: Jesse Pruett, SIS/MIS '12
Author:
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Abstract: MIS graduate uses his skills to mentor and develop the next generation
Topic: International
Publication Date: 05/28/2014
Content:

Why I chose MIS:
I chose MIS because it offered an internationally respected program with the flexibility to fit within a demanding and often unpredictable schedule.

How I make a difference in the world:
My father had a jar filled with coins he had collected from his world travels, which fueled an early fascination with all things “international”. I have been extremely fortunate to have been involved, in very small ways, with many of the significant world events of my generation. At this point it is my hope that I contribute through mentorship and development of other “internationals” whose own experiences will influence the direction of our country and the world.

How MIS has made a difference in my world:
MIS provided a great window into the nexus of academic theory and the real-world experiences of a great cohort of student-colleagues representing a broad swath of perspectives. Sharing the academic adventure with them enriched not only my appreciation of studied histories and subsequent events but it also expanded my understanding of my own experiences.

Field of study:
My official area of focus was U.S Foreign Policy, with an unofficial emphasis on the interagency aspects of expeditionary efforts abroad.

Languages:
English, Spanish

World issue of interest:
I am interested in how military and civilian instruments of national power can coalesce in expeditionary circumstances, coordinate with international partners, and collaborate with local populations and leaders to deliver the most beneficial expression of American ideals into that environment.

Professional role model:
The American Generals of World War II provide a series of case studies in achievement in International Affairs. Eisenhower, MacArthur, Bradley, Patton, Marshall (and others) each offer lessons and insight into the traits required to commit to a cause, overcome doubt and hardship, balance strength and compassion and serve as leaders in incredibly intense environments. At the more personal level, my father is my truest role model, providing a foundation of character that I strive to build upon in both my professional and personal endeavors.

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