Global Politics Fellows: More than an internship

As graduate students file in and out of Founders Hall on a daily basis, a pocket of undergraduate students is garnering the university’s attention on Arlington’s campus. This little-known group of undergraduates is a 25-student cohort that attends classes once a week on campus to discuss international affairs and meet global leaders from Washington, D.C.-based organizations.

Arlington’s new undergraduate program, entitled the Global Politics Fellows, began this semester. As the first Mason undergraduate cohort-based program, the GPF provides an internship experience to accompany a curriculum that totals 15 credits. The program is available to students within the global affairs and the public & international affairs programs who have completed at least 60 credits of classroom hours.

Kristin Leonato, coordinator for the GPF program at George Mason University, has served in a similar capacity for student programs at American University.

”This program more than anything helps students plan ahead,” said Leonato.

(Photo courtesy of GMU CHSS)

As part of the GPF program, students are enrolled in a six-credit internship course that comprises at least 20 hours of work spread over 3 days a week. Students are responsible for finding their own internships and receive support from career services and faculty in obtaining these opportunities. 

 “I am thankful to have found my internship at the Wilson Center from a professor’s recommendation,” said sophomore Jake Chavara who is interning at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in the Ronald Regan Building

For their efforts, students receive a metro stipend that is based on travel to their internship. Depending on the organization and nature of the internship, the student internships are either paid or unpaid.

Students take three 3-credit classes outside of the internship, tallying 15 credits total for the semester in the program. In addition, they attend a weekly distinguished speaker series. The speakers range from C-level executives, leaders from the intelligence community and representatives from American Red Cross (ARC) and Rosetta Stone. Students listen to total of 8 speakers over the course of the semester. Some of the speakers include Robert Pastor, former U.S. national security advisor to the Jimmy Carter Administration, and Mason’s president, Ángel Cabrera.

The GPF experience does have a grade attached in order for students to receive credit for their time interning. Students are incentivized to work hard and represent themselves and the university well, as 30 percent of their grades is determined by their supervisor evaluation and the remaining 70 percent is based off a 10–12 page research paper specific to their internship.

The speaker series within the GPF program provides more depth to these D.C.-based organizations from a micro level, a quality that the participants find very engaging. The speaker series focuses on current challenges and day-to-day responsibilities of these organizations, similar to an informational interview.

The small class size of approximately 20 to 25 students allows for engaging question-and-answer sessions. The class size also allows students to ask questions that pertain to seeking and applying to opportunities within the specific field of study from the speaker’s background.

The internship experiences of the students span from working for subcommittees on Capitol Hill to Non-Government Organizations, international embassies, think tanks and government agencies. Primarily the students are heavily involved in researching, writing, scheduling, planning events and completing various administrative tasks.  Many students within the GPF program have spoken highly about how the opportunity is invaluable to them in gaining work experience, building connections in the international community, networking with like-minded professionals and building their resumes. These are among the reasons that Leonato and Mason fellows believe this program will take flight and become a popular and enriching experience for students.

Global Politics Fellows Spotlights:

Macy Passawe with Hanane Grini, both Global Politics Fellows, with Ambassador Johnnie Carson at event sponsored by the Africa Society of the National Summit on Africa (photo courtesy of Macy Passawe).

Macy Passawe – Passawe is a junior at Mason and plans to graduate with her B.S. in global affairs with a concentration in global governance. She found her internship experience by a rather uncharacteristic method of doorbelling around D.C.’s embassy row. ”As a last resort I went around doorbelling on International Drive with my resume and flier about the program.” She is currently providing support at both the Embassy of India and the Embassy of Bangladesh.

As part of the program, Passawe has been working on various research projects that pertain to India and a collaborative effort with the U.S. in African affairs. Passawe definitely recommends this program and finds it a very enriching experience due to the smaller classroom size that aligns with her post-graduation interests. “I would recommend this program to anyone interested in international affairs!” said Passawe.

Passawe has aspirations to join the Peace Corps and Foreign Service and is very interested in exploring the option of becoming a diplomat. She is passionate about humanitarian aid and efforts to promote global peace. The Global Politics Fellows program has allowed her to take advantage of various events in Washington, D.C. related to her field.

Through her connections, built from her internship experience, Passawe was given the opportunity to attend a reception for Johnnie Carson, U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs. Her experience thus far can be best summed up that, “The Global Politics Fellows experience has been enriching, and it has inspired me to do more to contribute to international affairs.”

Jake Chavara (photo courtesy of Jake Chavara)

Jake Chavara

Chavara is very astute and articulate but not a traditional candidate for this program. Due to his sophomore status, Chavara accompanied his application to the program with letters of recommendation, and he was granted admission to the program.

As a member of the Global Politics Fellows, Chavara is currently interning at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in the Ronald Regan Building as a staff and scholars intern within the office of academic relations. He currently conducts research on policy legislation, performs data-entry tasks and plays an active role in communications coordination.

Most recently he’s served as an aid to Robert Litwak on nuclear proliferation issues to provide research on strategies of engagement research in Pakistan, North Korea and Iran. Chavara exudes tremendous gratitude towards the program and boasts that “the speaker series is fantastic!” He also greatly appreciates the stipend that the university has afforded the Global Politics Fellows for travel expenses.

Chavara is particularly interested in pursuing opportunities in the Intelligence Community after graduation would like to work in areas of international security or national defense.

Dillard with Congressman Darrell Issa (photo courtesy of Elizabeth Dillard).

Elizabeth Dillard

Dillard is a senior at Mason currently interning with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Capitol Hill. She landed her internship through an interesting connection at the State Department while in the Republic of Djibouti, Africa.

Dillard highly recommends the program and finds the speaker series an invaluable component of the program. She said, “I have focused my research on three areas so far: Department of Defense’s expenses on conferences in surplus of $100 million, federal properties access and postal reform legislation.” Lately her time has been more heavily focused on research and writing on postal reform issues. In fact, she hopes to have an original contribution to a proposed new law on postal reform to go before Congress.

”It’s been a great experience so far, I could have an impact on national policy,” Dillard said.

As a result of her internship experience, Dillard has met Congressman Darrell Issa of California’s 49th congressional district, who serves as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Dillard enjoys working in the Rayburn Building on the Hill and attending hearings on various topics ranging from Information Technology reform to defense spending in Afghanistan. Dillard has recently taken the Foreign Service Exam and plans to pursue a career with the State Department or USAID after Mason.

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