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Summer 2014 and Fall 2014 Practica

1) Assessing Intercultural Competence in International Education

June 3 – August 4, 2014

In order for NGOs to effectively implement international educational programs, they must be equipped to recognize and respond to the cultural dynamics shaping their work. This practicum will support Teach for China (TFC), an affiliate of the growing Teach for All network dedicated to reducing the global education gap, with their efforts to recruit, prepare, and support interculturally-competent teaching fellows for work in rural Chinese schools. The practicum team will begin by developing a conceptual framework to define and evaluate intercultural competency as well as to measure the effectiveness of intercultural training initiatives. Following a preliminary set of interviews with TFC leaders about the program's mission and goals, the practicum team will observe and evaluate the relevant portion of the organization's Washington, D.C.-based selection process for its new American fellows. The team will then travel to rural China during TFC's summer training institute for its incoming cohort. Focusing on the portion of the program dedicated to intercultural training, the team will conduct ethnographic observations and interviews to evaluate its effectiveness. The team may also implement a pre-and post-institute assessment and may also deliver an intercultural competency workshop for the fellows, depending on the organization's interest and needs.  Upon our return, we will analyze our data to produce a comprehensive assessment and will provide concrete recommendations to support the organization's future recruitment and professional development efforts.

Selection Criteria:
Students from all programs are encouraged to apply. Students should have a background, demonstrated through coursework or applied experience, in one or more of the following areas: international education, intercultural relations, program evaluation, qualitative and quantitative research, program and/or curriculum design and implementation. Chinese language background is a plus.


6/30-7/3, 7/7-7/9  9am-3pm
7/14-7/27  In China field work (exact dates TBD)
8/1, 8/4  9am-3pm

Professor Bio: This practicum is offered by Dr. Amanda Taylor ( of SIS. Dr.  Taylor’s research and teaching focus on the intersection of culture, power, and education. She is particularly interested in the role of race in shaping educational policy and practice as well as community organizing for school reform. Her work has been published by Oxford University Press, the Free Press, and in peer-reviewed journals including Urban Education and Equity & Excellence in Education. Before joining the faculty at SIS, Dr. Taylor taught at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the Relay Graduate School of Education, and in public and international high schools. She served as the Director of Graduate Enrollment Management at SIS for six years and has consulted for the District of Columbia Public Schools, Mass Insight Education, and the Civil Rights Project (now at UCLA).

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2) Water, Cooperation and Peace In the Middle East

May 12 – July 15, 2014

This practicum focuses on examining and assessing cooperative Palestinian-Israeli water projects for their significance as peacebuilding initiatives and practices. It will be of interest to students across the School of International Service (SIS), and in particular to Global Environmental Politics (GEP), International Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR), International Politics (IP), International Development Program (IDP) and Comparative and Regional Studies (CRS). It may also be of interest to students across the University, including the Kogod School of Business and the Washington College of Law (WCL).

AU’s main regional partner organization in the Middle East is the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies (AIES), based at Kibbutz Ketura in Israel. While details remain to be finalized, the team’s research will likely build on the Arava Institute’s “Mitigating Transboundary Wastewater Conflicts” initiative, which seeks to reduce conflict and promote dialogue through shared water management. In the past, this practicum partnered with a Palestinian organization in the West Bank, as well as several US based organizations both off and on campus, notably American University’s Center for Israel Studies (CIS). Similar partnerships are being established for Summer 2014.

The principal research task will be to assess the peacebuilding significance of the transboundary program’s cooperative efforts. Students will become intimately familiar with transboundary water projects in the region, both theoretically and on the ground. They will meet practitioners working for NGOs as well as the beneficiary parties of transboundary water projects. They will also meet Israeli and Palestinian officials whose governance practices have bearing on water, cooperation and peace in the region.

Team members will be trained in theories of environmental building, hydropolitics with an emphasis on the Middle East, rapid appraisal research methods, interviewing techniques and more. Team members will undertake desk-study and research design work in Washington, then collect data in the field through participant-observation, interviews, focus groups, and archival work at the project sites. Students will produce an environmental peacebuilding assessment in the form of a report that will be submitted to participating organizations. This report will be used to further develop their intervention methods and water management projects in the Middle East.

The course will run approximately from May 12 to July 15. From May 12 onwards, students will begin reading intensively in preparation for their theoretical and field word. In May-June, students will have a period of intensive preparation at AU, followed by ten days of field work in Israel and the West Bank. In June-July, students will allocate a focused period back at AU for final report preparation and presentation. Editing of the final report may extend beyond the July 15th date.

There are no specific course prerequisites but an application’s competitiveness will be enhanced by showing relevant language skills, prior experience or field work in the region, coursework on or experience with water governance or water projects, and coursework, experience or skills with peace and conflict resolution.

Students will be applying for part of their funding from SIS through a competitive process. Assuming this application is well done and competitive, we anticipate additional essential travel-related costs per student of approximately $750.

The practicum will be led by Dr. Eric Abitbol ( and Dr. Ken Conca (, both of SIS. For more information, please contact Eric Abitbol by email.

Eric Abitbol is an academic-practitioner in the field of environmental peacebuilding, housed in IPCR (International Peace and Conflict Resolution) and GEP (Global Environmental Politics) at American University. Specializing in Israeli-Palestinian relations, his recent work analyses the discursive practices of Israeli and Palestinian water practitioners, assessing hydropolitical peacebuilding, hydrohegemony and hydrohegemonic residues. He is currently sharing the leadership of a collaborative North-South research project intent on assessing the effects of Peace and Conflict Impact Assessment (PCIA). He is also pursuing research on the constructions of sustainability as cultural violence, with specific reference to asymmetric conflict environments. Abitbol is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability (IRIS) at York University (Toronto, Canada) and is on the board of the Journal of Peacebuilding and Development.

Dr. Ken Conca’s research and teaching focus on global environmental governance, environmental peacebuilding in war-torn societies, environmental politics and policy in the United Nations system, water governance, and environmental policy analysis. He is the author/editor of several books on international environmental politics, including Governing Water, Confronting Consumption, Environmental Peacemaking, The Crisis of Global Environmental Governance, and the widely used teaching anthology Green Planet Blues. Dr. Conca is a two-time recipient of the International Studies Association’s Harold and Margaret Sprout Award for best book on international environmental affairs and a recipient of the Chadwick Alger Prize for best book in the field of International Organization. He is a member of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Expert Advisory Group on Conflict and Peacebuilding.

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3) Forests and Livelihoods: Rural Development in Brazil

May 27 – June 21, 2014

This practicum focuses on rural development, working with the Iracambi Research Center located in the Serra do Brigadeiro semi-deciduous forest region in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. Iracambi has three main project areas involving building a sustainable rural community: fostering payments for ecosystem services, identifying new income sources for rural communities through ecotourism, and encouraging forestry and agroforestry best practices. The practicum group from SIS will support these initiatives through engaging three main projects. The first two involve in a case study on community responses to the threat of mining, and community responses to the opportunities offered by the formation of an environmental protection area in which the community would assume responsibility for the use of natural resources in the area. Another project involves organizational development of the Iracambi NGO, focusing on revision of the organization’s strategic plan. The research will be based at the Iracambi Center, and findings will be written into a project report. Project evaluation skills, first-hand interviews, and stakeholder analysis will be integral to the practicum. The practicum is offered in conjunction with a course on Rural Livelihoods and Food Systems, also taught by Prof. Bratman. During the May 27 – June 21 course and practicum, students will spend a few days in Rio de Janeiro, two and a half weeks at Iracambi, and also visit Ouro Preto and Belo Horizonte.

Selection criteria: Students must be able to travel to Brazil for the practicum, as well as enroll in the course on Rural Livelihoods and Food Systems which is offered in conjunction. Ability to stay in a rural area which is 12 km from the nearest town and a high level of cultural awareness are also musts. Students applying for this practicum should have some background, demonstrated through coursework or applied experience, in one or more of the following areas: rural and urban development; extractive industries; social and environmental standards and assessments; project evaluation. Prior travel/residence in Latin America and/or Portuguese proficiency are desirable. A few translators will be on hand for assistance during the stay.

Professor: Eve Bratman’s research involves sustainable development politics in the Brazilian Amazon. She has conducted research and work in Brazil for over a decade. Her book-in-progress is "Development’s Crossroads: Infrastructure, Sustainability, and Human Rights in the Brazilian Amazon.” Her major research projects focus on the links between environmental policy, agriculture, and human rights in Brazil and beyond. Dr. Bratman also has a keen interest in urban politics and development issues closer to home, including in Washington DC.

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4) Qualitative Data Analysis and Participatory Research in Rural Sierra Leone

Fall semester 2014

The West African nation of Sierra Leone is rebuilding after a devastating decade-long civil war, and numerous international and local NGOs are working there on various aspects of post-conflict peacebuilding. This practicum focuses on two important issues facing the country: improving community-based education and community-based reconciliation. Students in the practicum will take data recently gathered in Sierra Leone and work on analyzing it and producing reports for a British NGO (Children in Crisis) and a local peace and reconciliation NGO. They will also produce a policy brief for the Sierra Leone Ministry of Education, a “best practices” report supporting the expansion of the local reconciliation model to other post-conflict contexts, and a report appropriate to be shared with rural Sierra Leonean research participants.

For the NGO client, students will seek to answer two central questions:

  • Can quality community-based education be delivered and sustained at low cost in remote rural areas where the state is absent or weak?
  • What changes in children's (particularly girls') capabilities can be observes from school-centered gender programs?

Students will review literature on Sierra Leone, reconstruction of post-conflict education systems, and community-based reconciliation programs. They will learn about participatory research approaches, and use NVivo—the most widely-used qualitative data analysis software—to organize and code the data from the two research projects. Students will learn qualitative data analysis skills by engaging deeply with a real-world, somewhat messy data produced by Sierra Leonean research participants. The end results will be formal reports to the clients, a policy brief for the Sierra Leone Ministry of Education, and a report appropriate for sharing with research participants and their communities.

Professor: Susan Shepler is an Associate Professor in the International Peace and Conflict Resolution Program. She first started working in Sierra Leone as a Peace Corps Volunteer in 1987, and has focused much of her scholarly and professional attention there ever since. Her book, Childhood Deployed: Remaking Child Soldiers in Sierra Leone, is forthcoming from NYU Press in June 2014. In addition to academic work, she has worked as a research and evaluation consultant in West Africa for UNICEF, the International Rescue Committee, and Search for Common Ground. She spent the 2013-2014 academic year in Nigeria as a Fulbright Scholar and Visiting Professor at the University of Jos in the Centre for Conflict Management and Peace Studies.

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5) Intelligence Analysis

Fall semester 2014

This practicum focuses upon assisting a U.S. Intelligence Community client solve a vexing analytical problem. After the Intelligence Community client presents its challenge, students will collaboratively develop a report that addresses its requirements. The final report will most likely be a short, incisive piece (>25 pages), given the ultimate consumer of the product will be busy national security professionals and subject matter experts.

Students will have the opportunity to interact with members of the Intelligence Community who will periodically attend class to provide advice and guide the research to completion. Students will be graded not only upon the quality and creativity of their research and analysis, but also upon their presentation and time-management skills.

Previous Intelligence Analysis practica have examined al Qaeda propaganda, resource extraction in Africa, and “How Civil Wars End.” This unclassified report will be presented to the Intelligence Community client at the end of the semester at its facilities.

Professor: Aki Peritz is the Senior Policy Advisor for National Security at Third Way. He is the co-author of Find, Fix, Finish: Inside the Counterterrorism Campaigns that Killed bin Laden and Devastated Al Qaeda. Prior to working at Third Way, he spent several years as a counterterrorism analyst for the U.S. government, and has authored or co-authored various publications on a wide range of national security topics, including: counterterrorism, China, cyberspace, nuclear proliferation networks, post-9/11 legal doctrine, U.S. intelligence cooperation in the Middle East and Asia, and military issues in South Asia.

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6) Human Rights Impact Analysis

Fall semester 2014

This course will introduce students to the field of human rights impact analysis, a process for systematically identifying, predicting and responding to the potential human rights impacts of a business operation, capital project, government policy, or trade agreement. Arising out of the development of the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights, companies are expected to conduct human rights "due diligence" in order to identify, prevent and mitigate adverse human rights impacts, and to account for their performance. This process includes assessing actual and potential human rights impacts, integrating and acting upon the findings, and tracking as well as communicating their performance.

Client: The client for this practicum is Nomogaia (, a nonprofit research and policy organization dedicated to clarifying the corporate role in human rights protection and facilitating corporate responsibility for the communities impacted by capital projects. Nomogaia has undertaken a number of human rights impact assessments around the world and has created cutting edge methodologies in the field of human rights due diligence for business enterprises around the world.

Course Goals

  • Understand theories of human rights impact analysis
  • Utilize a human rights impact assessment model to evaluate a range of human rights risks emanating from a particular project
  • Identify specific human rights risks emanating from a project, policy or trade agreement
  • Develop transferable skills that can be utilized in future human rights impact assessments

Outcomes: Students will provide Nomogaia with two products: a full catalogue of the potential human rights impacted by a specific project and a report that distills the findings from the catalogue process. The students will also meet with Nomogaia staff to report on their findings. The catalogue process is the key first step taken in the HRIA process and frames the field research that confirms human rights impacts resulting from the business development under investigation by Nomogaia staff.

Professor: John Richardson has more than 20 years experience in the fields of political risk analysis, corporate governance and corporate social responsibility. He has served in a number of roles on behalf of institutional investors, involving work as a shareholder advocate and negotiator for activist investors and as a proxy voting agent. In that later role, he has represented both pension funds and investment management firms with combined equity assets of $50 billion and voted in excess of one million ballots on a range of corporate governance issues. Mr. Richardson has also worked in the private equity field, negotiating transactions involving ESOP leveraged buyouts of distressed companies, working with labor unions and employees to complete a number of successful buyouts of public and private companies. In addition, his work with labor organizations on the local and national levels has given him considerable insight into challenging business issues.

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7) Global Defense Exports

Fall semester 2014

Global Defense Exports (GDE) comprises a key element of U.S. multilateral and bilateral national security and defense relationships with allied and friendly nations. While the political and operational components of our foreign policy and security relationships more widely known, our GDE engagement with other nations materially influences the ability of the U.S. Government to implement its own strategic goals. In an era of diminishing domestic defense procurement, current trends highlight increasing emphasis by the U.S. and its key allies with respect to promoting their defense exports in an already competitive global marketplace. As a result, the U.S. Government is attempting to reform its GDE-related regulations, policies, and processes to increase the predictability, efficiency, and transparency of U.S. defense exports. At the same time, however, the U.S. and many other nations would like to maintain – or even strengthen – conventional arms non-proliferation measures that control worldwide exports of both military and dual-use equipment and technologies.

Students will work in teams to assess GDE issues provided by course client, the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA). The client’s projected GDE areas of interest include, but are not limited to: (a) U.S. and foreign partner/customer perceptions of defense procurement requirements; (b) U.S. Government interests and concerns regarding export of U.S. defense articles and services; and, (c) mutually beneficial coordination of foreign and U.S. defense acquisition activities. Student teams will be asked to develop and articulate their own views regarding strategy, policy, and procedural options to address the challenges faced by the Administration and Congress with respect to client issues. Team activities will include discussion of specific issues with the client, evaluation of current global defense export trends, assessment of ongoing Administration reform efforts to facilitate defense exports while maintaining (or even improving) U.S. and multilateral non-proliferation controls. The teams will then develop proposed courses of action (COAs) designed to achieve positive client results despite factors such as divisions within the Administration, media skepticism, foreign government influence, and Congressional concerns. Each team will discuss and debate their COAs with the other teams, then prepare and present a collective briefing and corresponding executive summary to the client. The products provided to the client will: 1) frame the issues under consideration; 2) describe specific areas that require action; 3) provide an analysis of the pertinent qualitative and quantitative factors; 4) address both the risks and potentially beneficial impact(s) on national security of their recommended COAs; and, 5) summarize their findings, recommendations, and observation. In addition to the client briefing and executive summary, the teams will also brief their products to AU SIS faculty and current or former senior U.S. Government officials from the Executive Branch and Congress involved in global defense export matters.

Professor: Frank Kenlon is an Adjunct Professor who focuses on defense acquisition, global defense exports, and international defense technology security matters. Prior to teaching at SIS, Mr. Kenlon spent over 30 years as a civilian Department of Defense (DoD) acquisition professional while also serving as a Navy Reserve Intelligence Officer for 25 years, retiring as a Captain. His work assignments at DoD included aviation logistics procurement at Naval Air Systems Command, logistics planning on the Chief of Naval Operations staff, head of the International Agreements Directorate at the Navy International Programs Office, and Senior Executive Service (SES) positions as Director, International Negotiations and Acting Director, International Cooperation in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology & Logistics).

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8) The Role of NATO in US National Security Policy

Fall semester 2014

NATO has since its inception at the end of World War II been a critical element of US National Security Policy. As time has passed and the security environment has changed, the US has encouraged the Alliance to adapt to the emergence of new ones. Broadly speaking, there have been four “eras” of NATO’s focus:

  1. The Cold War. NATO was the key instrument for the United States and its allies to prevent territorial expansion of the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies in Europe.
  2. European Integration. At the end of the Cold War, the US worked through NATO to begin the integration of newly independent Central European nations into the Euro-Atlantic system.
  3. Peacekeeping. During the 90s, there was a flurry of instability in Eastern and Central Europe, primarily in the Balkans and NATO was the key organization to provide peacekeeping forces and mediators to mitigate conflict there.
  4. Counterterrorism. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the US depended on its NATO allies to support it in Afghanistan (to a lesser extend in Iraq) and elsewhere that we view terrorism as a threat.

The United States is drawing down its forces engaged in Afghanistan and our NATO allies are down to token levels.

What next in Trans-Atlantic relations? This is a critical policy debate taking place in the US government leading up to the next NATO summit and it is the question we will explore in this practicum.

Client: The RAND Corporation. RAND is a research institute that works closely with the Departments of Defense and State to develop policy options in the field of national security.

Professor: Stuart E. Johnson is a senior policy analyst at the RAND Corporation, where he directs studies that focus on national security strategy and the forces and resources needed to implement the strategy. He is also a professor at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. From 2002 to 2007, Johnson served as director of research in the Center for Technology and National Security Policy at National Defense University (NDU), where he directed a program analyzing the future U.S. national security environment and how to translate that into choices for defense policy and planning. From 1997 to 2002, Johnson directed the International Security and Defense Policy Center within the RAND National Defense Research Institute. Prior to joining RAND, he was director of research at NDU's Institute for National Strategic Studies. He planned and executed a program of study in support of senior decisionmakers in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) and the Joint Staff. He also served as director of systems analysis at NATO Headquarters, directing a multinational staff of analysts to develop requirements for the forces of NATO nations, and as principal European/NATO analyst in OSD, Program Analysis and Evaluation.

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9) Transformation, Peacebuilding and Development

Fall semester 2014

Originally conceived in the context of post-conflict recovery efforts to promote reconciliation and reconstruction, the term peacebuilding has more recently taken on a broader meaning. The peacebuilding continuum now involves a range of distinct but closely related activities, from providing humanitarian relief to protecting human rights, to ensuring security, to aiding economic reconstruction and development, to building community resilience, governance, reconciliation and conflict prevention. In a larger sense, peacebuilding involves a transformation toward more manageable, peaceful relationships and governance structures—the long-term process of addressing root causes and effects, reconciling differences, normalizing relations, and building institutions that can manage conflict without resorting to violence.

This practicum focuses on key aspects of contemporary peacebuilding; specifically on building the social infrastructure necessary for a more durable peace in conflict-ravaged societies. Students will work with international non-governmental organizations, such as Global Communities, with government agencies, such as The Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO) at the United States Department of State, or the umbrella association of peacebuilding and development organizations, the Alliance for Peacebuilding. Students will work closely with staff of client organizations on topics such as atrocity risk and prevention, building community resiliency, fostering public-private partnerships to promote peace, advancing reconciliation and building social cohesion. The practicum will provide opportunities for practical skills development in such areas as advanced research and formulation of policy options; development of resiliency implementation strategies; programming to enhance local peacebuilding capacity; cross-cultural communication; intergroup and inter-organizational dynamics, including headquarters-field relations; and monitoring and evaluation. Regional foci include Latin America, Africa, particularly the Sahel and the Great Lakes region, and the Middle East.

While students from all programs are welcome to apply, special consideration will be given to applicants with course work and/or experience in conflict resolution and peacebuilding, development, human security and area studies.

Professor: Hrach Gregorian is President of the Institute of World Affairs, a DC NGO which has been engaged in conflict resolution and peacebuilding training, research and consultation since the early 1990s in the US and numerous other countries. He was a Director at the US Institute of Peace from 1988 to 1993, and is a co-founder and current board member of the Alliance for Peacebuilding.

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