Blog Posts

Epilogue

Posted at 12:00am Aug 11, 2011 by stephaniedudek

Back at the beginning of the summer, I mentioned the importance of knowing what you want out of your internship before you even walk through the doors on your first day. Whatever you determine your ultimate goal for your experience to be – networking, gaining new skills, socializing, putting a really cool company name on your resume, or a job – will ultimately determine how you approach your work and what you will get out of your experience. As I have mentioned countless times, State is my dream employer, and this internship was a foot in the tightly guarded door. For me, this internship was an 11 week job interview. I know full well that the economy is schizophrenic and funding is tight (at best) so I wasn’t sure how realistic that goal was, but it was my goal none the less. I approached every day not as an intern, but as if I was a full-blown employee of my office. Well, my dream job is one step closer to being a reality. This academic year I will be working as a part-time foreign affairs officer for the same office in which I interned! Balancing a full-time course load (in Baltimore) and this job (in DC) will certainly be challenging, but I think the sacrifices now will pay off in spades down the road. I won’t be able to socialize with my classmates, the new class, or my friends and family as much as I would like to, but I will have unprecedented access to the people who hold the jobs which I covet. Fortunately I already know the ropes in this office so there’s less of a learning curve to deal with, making it that much easier to really get into my work. And this new experience puts me one step closer to the holy grail which my classmates and I all long for: a full-time job come June. It’s not a guarantee, but certainly a step in the right direction.

The end of the line

Posted at 10:21pm Aug 05, 2011 by stephaniedudek

Okay, so I teared up a little. Fine, more than a little. Thank goodness for dark sunglasses.

It barely seems possible that my 11 weeks at State are up. It has been a truly amazing summer and I feel so fortunate to have had that experience. It has been a whirlwind summer and I have met so many fascinating people, the likes of whom I would likely never have met anywhere else. It still seems like a dream – I wanted this for so long, and I got exactly what I wanted. That’s a good feeling.

This summer has confirmed to me that while it’s great to have “life plan,” it’s also important to be able to veer off course when it just seems like the right thing to do, even if you don’t necessarily know what comes next. When I graduated from college in 2006, my plan was to go to grad school to get my PhD in international relations and become a professor and researcher at a think tank. While working on my PhD, I lost my passion for IR, or at least I thought I did. I still love IR, but not in the academic sense. I love the academic mind set, but it’s not what I want to spend my life doing – I’m a policy person. I still pull on the skills I learned in that program on a daily basis – I honestly think it gives me a much more extensive view on life and my work. Had I stayed in that PhD program, following my plan slavishly for fear of deviating from the plan, I would never have had this experience. And that would have been a crying shame.

A new way of doing business

Posted at 12:00am Jul 30, 2011 by stephaniedudek

One of the great things about working at a place like State is the exposure to amazing people and events, on a near-daily basis. Earlier this month on July 12th, State hosted the Open Government Partnership (OGP), a public-private partnership which grew out of President Obama’s first official act as president, in which he promised a more open and transparent government. After months of planning and preparation, the event turned out to be a huge success, with government and civil society representatives from over 65 countries turning out for a day-long ministerial-level meeting.

Now this meeting wasn’t the typical “UN Style” ministerial meeting. No, the State Department is turning a corner and changing the way it does business, courtesy of the “Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review,” or QDDR. One of the big changes being pushed through the QDDR is more of a reliance on public-private partnerships, bringing together the most able and agile people and organizations to tackle the toughest issues in international relations. Participants in the OGP came together to discuss innovative ways of tackling problems which crop up in open government initiatives, such as fighting corruption, servicing citizens, and promoting transparency, among others. The partnership is lead by a steering committee comprised of 16 members from the public and private sectors who have shown great leadership in open government initiatives. Participants heard lectures, but they also spent much of the day in smaller break out groups discussing ideas and ways of implementing those ideas in their home countries.

Although the July 12 meeting was a huge success, the initiative hasn’t even formally begun – OGP will be officially launched on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, New York in September 2011. At this time, the steering committee will officially launch the partnership and the Open Government Declaration, which states can sign in order to signal their intentions to move towards a more open-government policy and the promotion of OGP principles at home and abroad.

To learn more about the Open Government Partnership, visit http://www.opengovpartnership.org/.

ogp

Secretary Clinton delivering opening remarks at the Open Government Partnership meeting at the Department of State on July 12, 2011
(photo courtesy US Dept. of State, http://www.flickr.com/photos/statephotos)

 The video of the day's opening remarks by Secretary Clinton and Brazilin Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota

Get out of the office, part II

Posted at 12:00am Jul 05, 2011 by stephaniedudek

Like I said before, one of the best things you can do at a job or internship is attend events outside of your office or typical workday. I was fortunate enough last week to attend two events where the Secretary spoke, both of which were important, high profile events in their issue area.

The first event was a panel discussion on the status of LGBT issues in foreign policy, hosted by Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA), which featured a senior-level panel, with remarks by Secretary Clinton. It touched on issues which affect LGBT members of the foreign affairs agencies (State, USAID, etc.) and their families, as well as LGBT rights as human rights and human rights as LGBT issues, as Secretary Clinton asserted last year. For more details, see the official write-up on humanrights.gov.

lgbtpanel

from left: Assistant Secretary Michael H. Posner, Undersecretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero (moderator), Deputy Administrator for USAID Don Steinberg, and Deputy Assistant Secretary Daniel B. Baer; photo courtesy of humanrights.gov.

lgbtclinton

Secretary Clinton (photo courtesy state.gov/r/pa/ei/pix/)

 

The second event which I attended was the highlight of my summer – the 2011 TIP Report release. As I mentioned before, I’ve been researching trafficking in persons for many years, and although it is no longer the focus of my academic or professional life, it is something which I still feel passionately about. I’ve read the TIP report every year and even had friends refer to it as my “bible,” especially while writing my theses. This year, I got to attend the super-big-deal event where the Secretary formally released the report, and it was way better than I could have imagined! It was an overflow crowd attended by ambassadors from over 30 countries, members of the civil and foreign service, NGOs, and civil society members. The release was presided over by Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero, Ambassador-at-large for the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons Luis CdeBaca, and Secretary Clinton. For the text of each of their speeches, please visit: http://www.state.gov/g/167166.htm and http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2011/06/167156.htm. To read the text of this year’s TIP Report, please visit: http://www.state.gov/g/tip/.

tipclinton

Secretary Clinton speaking at the TIP Report Release, with Under Secretary Maria Otero (in the pink jacket) and Ambassador Luis CdeBaca (in the black suit), and the recipients of the TIP Heroes Award. (photo courtesy state.gov/r/pa/ei/pix/)

Happy Fourth of July!

Posted at 12:00am Jul 04, 2011 by stephaniedudek

The U.S. Department of State has a large contingency of foreign service officers, serving out American foreign policy in the field at over 250 posts around the world. Check out how diplomats and embassies around the world celebrate July 4th far from home: http://blogs.state.gov/ (DipNote is the official blog of the U.S. Department of State.

Hope you all had a great 4th! Smile

Get out of the office!

Posted at 12:00am Jun 27, 2011 by stephaniedudek

No matter where you do your internship, there are bound to be many events which you will have an opportunity to attend. One of the best things about DC is the access that you have to so many unique and exciting events in such a small area. I’ve been researching human trafficking since 2005, when I chose the topic – on a whim, really – for my senior capstone course on the European Union. Although I have many other interests, both professionally and academically, it’s one that I like to keep up with as it’s so important to the lives, health, and and wellbeing of so many people around the world. This past week, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend A Public Forum on Modern-Day Slavery and Human Trafficking, co-hosted by Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST) and CNN International at the George Washington University. It was an interactive panel event with some fascinating panelists including Ambassador Luis CdeBaca from the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Congressman Chris Smith, U.N. Goodwill Ambassador for Human Trafficking Mira Sorvino, CNN International’s executive vice president and managing director Tony Maddox, Kevin Bales, who is a leading trafficking researcher, and Rani Hong, a trafficking survivor-turned-advocate.

Panel members, left to right: Rani Hong, Tony Maddox, Mira Sorvino, Amb. Luis CdeBaca, Kevin Bales, and Congressman Chris Smith, R-NJ

Life still goes on!

Posted at 12:00am Jun 23, 2011 by stephaniedudek

I apologize for being rather MIA lately – but I promise I have a good reason!

This past Saturday, I married my best friend and the love of my life – we’ll call him AC (that now makes me SC – guess I need to change the title of this blog?). It was a fantastic evening and was fortunate to be surrounded by so many wonderful and caring friends and family. I know it sounds cliché, but it truly was a fairytale. It was a black tie affair with 95 of our nearest and dearest. Of course, none of it would have happened if my parents weren’t so generous in offering us our dream wedding, so I have to mention them Smile Having an understanding internship advisor  who allowed me lots of time off also made it much easier for me to deal with the last minute details and have a relaxing, enjoyable wedding weekend.

With some of my classmates at my wedding

Two types of learning

Posted at 12:00am Jun 15, 2011 by stephaniedudek

When we go to school, or return to school, we expect to learn tangible lessons which we can apply to our lives. There’s something very valuable in learning tools which can be easily applied to situations, but all too often people complain that they’ve learned “nothing valuable” in a class, when in fact they have – it just wasn’t handed to them on a silver platter. It is up to each and every one of us to learn something new in everything we do, especially in a class. Now I admit, some professors are better and sharing and explaining information and knowledge than others. However, if you have learned “nothing,” you have no one to blame but yourself. Not everything that we learn has a direct correlation in life or the real world. Perhaps the most valuable lesson we learn in higher education is how to extrapolate knowledge and experience into seemingly irrelevant situations.

My internship this summer is pure international relations and diplomacy. What I learned in Real Options or Operations has no place in this internship. Or does it? Perhaps the tools I learned in those classes aren’t particularly applicable, but the way I learned to think in those classes is. Those who are able to think outside of the box, so to speak, are the ones who truly excel at what they do. Anyone can memorize and regurgitate facts. That involves little to no understanding. That’s the easy part. The hard part is thinking critically and logically, applying disparate ideas and knowledge sets to varying situations to come up with a novel, unique way of looking at a situation or solving a problem.

Growing up, I was never a stellar math student. In fact, I doubled up on band classes in high school to avoid taking advanced math classes my senior year. However, my now-fiancé has two masters degrees in math – this came in handy when it came time to study for the GREs and GMATs. One thing he always told his calculus I students was that yes, calculus is a set of tools, but it’s more than that – it’s a way of thinking, of looking at math problems and real-world situations. In high school, or even college, I wouldn’t have understood this. But he’s right. And that lesson is applicable to many disciplines and situations. You can choose to memorize, or you can choose to learn.

Prior to attending JHUCBS, I was enrolled in a Ph.D. program at the University of Delaware. For those who might be unfamiliar with academic education (as opposed to professional education), much of the emphasis is on manners of thinking. One of my chief complaints at the time was that we spent so much time discussing theories, but no time discussing areas of policy. What I didn’t know at the time, but figured out later through reflection and experience, is that discussing theories is often times more useful than discussing policies. Theories allow you to apply many differing frameworks and lenses to the same situation, allowing you to understand it better and from more perspectives. Discussing a policy often leaves you with the same set of ideas you started the discussion with. Personally, I think the best approach is a little bit of both, but the importance of learning to think broadly can never be underestimated. Maybe I’m not using the “stuff” I learned at UD in my JHUCBS classes, but I’m certainly using the methods of thinking that I learned at UD in my JHUCBS classes.

I often get asked why I’m pursuing an MBA. After all, I want to work for the federal government on international relations issues. I’m using this experience to gain valuable skills that are all too often missing from the repertoires of other (aspiring) federal employees. I market myself as an “IR person with management skills.” I have no interest in pursuing a stereotypical MBA career in finance or Wall Street, but I want to learn the management skills and the way of thinking that accompanies an MBA education so that I can apply them to the career I chose, to give me a broader skill set and a better understanding of the situations which cross my path.

Looking back to look ahead

Posted at 12:00am Jun 14, 2011 by stephaniedudek

Something I think too many people take for granted are the experiences they have on a daily basis. How many people complain about their commute? Or their roommate/spouse/siblings/parents/friends? Or the politics which may or may not affect their lives? Or their jobs? But how many people stop to really appreciate each and every experience they have in their lives? Everything we do really shapes who we are and who we will become. We can’t change what has happened – all we can do is reflect upon it and determine what our next move will be. I know I’ve said it many times before, but I can’t get over how lucky I am, and how much my life has changed in the past year.

  • In March 2010 I was admitted to the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, as part of the inaugural class of the Global MBA program;
  • April 2010, I got engaged to my best friend;
  • August 2010, I met some of the most interesting and amazing people when I started my MBA;
  • January 2011, I spent three weeks working in Lima, Peru;
  • January 2011, I found out I had been accepted into my dream internship;
  • May 2011, I successfully finished my first year of my MBA; and
  • May 2011, I have had so many amazing experiences and met some truly astonishing people through my internship at State.

And that’s just the last year or so. I’ve had so many other life-changing experiences, many of which I haven’t appreciated until recently. I strongly believe that one should always be in awe of one’s own accomplishments – if you’re not in awe of yourself, why should anyone else be in awe of you? It’s easy to take things for granted, and it’s even easier to complain. But those who do, those who maintain a positive mindset and appreciate all that happens to them, both “positive” and “negative,” are the ones who come out on top in life.

Déjà vu

Posted at 12:00am Jun 01, 2011 by stephaniedudek

In college I participated in a course called the ICONS (International Communication and Negotiation Simulation) Project. Each year, our school/class would represent one country, and within that country we would have students who acted as a foreign minister, bureau chiefs, and bureau members, along with two professors who acted at the country’s leadership. My first year we were France, and I was in the Bureau of Peacemaking and Peacekeeping. My second year we were Germany, and I was the Counter-Terrorism Bureau chief. My third year we were Poland, and I was bureau chief again, this time for the Bureau of Refugees and IDPs. There were typically five to six bureaus, each of which had four to six students who crafted the policies for that bureau, based on a common scenario. SimCon, which was run out of the University of Maryland College Park would send out a scenario which included the context and negotiation topics for the session. Other universities from around the world participated in this exercise as well, which took place entirely online, but not all of them had such a realistic infrastructure. I knew it at the time, but now I know for a fact – the way our professor, who was also my academic advisor, ran the class was very true to how foreign ministries conduct business. The methods which we used in ICONS have proven to be very helpful during my time at State, in understanding how things are done and why they are done the way they are. Even the manner in which bureaus are briefed about the happenings of other bureaus is very similar to how we carried out our “foreign ministry” in class. People often ridicule the “red tape” of governments, but after seeing it, both in simulation and in reality, there is a reason for it. Back in college our professor would have alumni come back and tell us how helpful the course was in securing them jobs in politics or related fields, and while I had no doubts as to what they were telling us, seeing it first hand is just amazing. I have always been very grateful for the experiences I had in and as a result of ICONS, but I appreciate it in a whole ‘nother light now.

I got my first real assignment yesterday, and I’m very excited about it. It involves working between bureaus/offices, sort of acting as a mediator between the other bureaus. It seems like it’s going to be a bit challenging, but a) it has real-world implications which stand to be beneficial if I can do it well (and real-world implications of another variety if I do it poorly), and b) I think it could really emphasize not only my knowledge on the topic area, but my management/leadership/negotiation skills as well. Wish me luck!

On a side note, I got a new car last night!! I loved my Jeep – the Red Rocket – but this car is super sweet. Smile I’ve driven an SUV for the last 9+ years, so it’s weird being in a sedan again! But it’s nice to have a reliable car to take me to work (and school) every day, that I won’t have to worry about. Unfortunately, I didn’t get home until very late last night because of the time it takes to complete the paperwork, so I am a bit sleep deprived right now, and am probably rambling on. Off to bed!

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