Wade Payson-Denney '13
Santa Fe Council on International Relations, Santa Fe, NM
BPIP Internship Fund
This summer, I was an intern for the Santa Fe Council on International Relations (CIR). I worked at the CIR's administrative office in Santa Fe. Although the CIR has hundreds of dues-paying members and dozens of volunteers, there were only two other full time employees at the office. Working in such a small office gave me the chance to take on a number of substantive roles and responsibilities-far from the stereotypical intern tasks of filing endless mountains of papers and getting coffee for your superiors.
The CIR's main partner is the US State Department, and we participated in its International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). The IVLP invites groups of high-level foreign guests ranging from government officials and engineers to archaeologists and women rights activists to tour the U.S. The groups visit four or five cities over the course of a three-week trip around the country. It is up to individual organizations such as the CIR to schedule the international visitors' (IVs) local programs. I helped our local volunteer program officers schedule meetings for the groups that came to Santa Fe, generated the visitors' physical itineraries, and accompanied them to professional meetings and other less formal events during their stay. This gave me the chance to interact with people from countries I had only read about. I was able to-as the admittedly heavy-handed, but accurate phrase goes-"travel the world without leaving home." I also encountered people, places, and organizations in my own home city that I probably never would have known about otherwise.
In addition to working with the IVLP, I did more generic office work, such as updating State Department databases to use for future programs. I documented the organizations and people used as resources during our IVLP programs and also researched potential new resources. My work showed the State Department the strengths of our organization, and enhanced Santa Fe's appeal as a potential destination for IVLP groups. While entering data was a bit mundane and repetitive at times, it was essential to the CIR's very existence and future success-as more than half of the CIR's budget comes from grants based on this information. Therefore this work allowed me to see how significantly I was able to contribute to the CIR.
I attended a number of lectures that the CIR hosted, with topics including the future of nuclear energy in the US, and the importance of helping rural communities in Third World Countries gain access to clean drinking water. I took on other projects such as updating the CIR's facebook page in order to increase interest in those aforementioned lectures and other events. I also worked with the CIR Board's Marketing Chair to create an advertising page for the CIR on the website www.santafe.com in an effort to increase our membership numbers and generate more interest in our organization.
What is the most interesting or important thing you took from your Internship this summer?
The most significant aspect of this internship was unquestionably the time I spent with the IVLP groups. The highlight of my time with the CIR was accompanying an IVLP delegation from Germany (I also helped schedule several of the meetings for these visitors.) This group was composed of visitors involved in German politics, including policy advisers and even a member of the Bundestag (Germany's Federal Parliament). This was fascinating for me, as a Political Science major who had just taken a course that focused in part on Germany's political system. I had engaging conversations with the visitors-who thankfully spoke English-about the differences between the United States' and Germany's political institutions and respective political cultures. I was actually able to apply what I learned in class to a real world experience!
I also greatly improved my networking skills during my internship. For example, I was able to accompany the IVLP groups to their professional meetings. This introduced me to many businesspeople, government officials, and other community leaders in and around Santa Fe. Additionally, my supervisor was an 'Ambassador' to the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce, and she took me to many Chamber events where I was able to meet professionals in a wide variety of fields.
How did the BPIP Fund help make your experience possible?
Without BPIP, I would have only been able to do this internship part time. I would therefore have missed out on a lot of the work outside of the office that I was able to participate in that added immeasurably to my experience.
Why would you recommend the BPIP Fund?
I can't recommend the BPIP highly enough for many reasons. Finding paid internships can very difficult, especially for students with majors in the humanities. For students like myself who need to earn money over the summer, BPIP gives you the chance to devote time and energy to an internship you are passionate about, and one that you may have otherwise not have been able to participate in. My internship also allowed me to apply what I have learned in class to real world experiences. It has given me invaluable professional experience before graduation and a step up in the job market once I leave college. I could go on, but I think you get the picture.
Along with what I have already described, I experienced firsthand the importance of diplomacy, and how it can truly improve relations between nations. I also learned that ordinary people like me can help shape foreigners' views of the United State. All of the visitors I spoke with said they had a significantly more positive view of America after the completion of their program. Furthermore, many of the visitors-including several from Middle Eastern countries with high levels of anti-American sentiment such as Algeria, Iraq and Yemen-said that they would bring their new perspective on the US back to their home countries. I have also been able to maintain contact with several of the visitors I met and hope to reconnect with them if and when I travel to their respective countries.
If any students are interested in doing something like this, there are 92 similar organizations throughout the country-listed at www.nciv.org. I couldn't recommend it highly enough, particularly for students majoring in Political Science and/or International Relations.
Finally, I would like to thank everyone at BPIP once again for making this amazing opportunity possible!