2020 PFIG Recipient Madison Parse

Jessica Meyers

Journal Entry #1

Today was the last day of my first week as an intern with the United States Agency for International Development. I was brought on as a direct hire in the Office of the Executive Secretariat and have obtained my security clearance.  I am a Program Analyst for the National Security Coordinator and work in the Executive Office alongside the Counselor, the White House Liaison and the Senior Advisor to the Administrator. I did not apply to this job in particular, but this is where they have put me and it has been fascinating!

My post-graduation plans have always included the government or NGOs, and I wanted to gain some experience in one sector or the other. I applied to be an intern thinking I was going to be working in one of the bureaus hoping to work on an environmental campaign, but fate has placed me in the Executive Office and I am really getting a glimpse of how an agency works as a whole, and not just one component. My main role in assisting the National Security Coordinator allows me to participate in all of his meetings whether in working groups on Human Rights, policy briefings on counter-terrorism, or strategy groups for Post-Covid plans. My supervisor is heavily involved in interagency issues and it is amazing to see how USAID operates as a whole and as a piece of a larger picture.

I really love working in National Security which is something I had never considered because I am getting experience with people who are experts in all different fields from all different agencies. It is incredible to watch how big decisions get made, and how much USAID really cares about how they are interacting with the developing world and what a difference America can make. COVID has really shaped the internship in that it is a whole new lens in which to analyze National Security. We are spending a lot of time analyzing how COVID is impacting the developing world, and how we can further aid them in order to strengthen our relationship, making them more resistant to malign actor’s influence, extremist regimes, and predatory debt collectors. People from all parts of the agency are working in food security, global public health, and relocation in regards to COVID, and in my new position I get to be briefed on issues from all over the world. I am so grateful to be in this position and I have learned more than I could have imagined in one week and cannot wait to see what the rest of the summer brings!

Journal Entry #2

As of today I finished my third week working with USAID. So far the experience has not at all been what I anticipated. I do not know what I anticipated given that I did not apply for a specific job, but getting to work in national security is not what I had anticipated. Right now I am waiting for more training before my real work can begin so I have been going to a lot of meetings, taking notes, and reading. I fear that by the time my training is complete and I get a handle on my roles and responsibilities that the summer will be over and I will have not gotten all that I could have out of this experience. At this point though I am considering staying through the fall to maximize this opportunity. 

Working closely with the National Security Coordinator, the majority of my time is spent reading and discussing counter-terrorism and counter-malign influence and being a part of the inter-agency has led to some fascinating conversations and meetings. I think one of the neatest things about my job is that I work with all political appointees rather than civil servants, so the presence of the current administration is far more palpable than I would have imagined for not being in the White House. Once I realized that everyone around me was political, hearing their professional and personal conversations became a whole new lens in which to learn from this summer, it also a great challenge. 

While it is highly inappropriate and strictly forbidden to discuss personal politics at work, it is hard to ignore discussions of casual dinners with the Trumps and colleagues reminiscing on when they worked on the Trump campaign back in 2015. I have been pleasantly surprised by how these personal conversations are paired with professional ones where the same person who worked in the Trump Administration are also fighting for more funding to aid the developing world. This internship has made me very optimistic about our future in partisan politics and our path to a less polarized country. Though it is challenging to refrain from friendly conversations that may expose my personal political beliefs, it has been enlightening to have the insight of what the political appointees around me are thinking. I am very grateful for this experience not only for the opportunities it may lead to, but for the optimism it has restored in myself during such a chaotic time. 

Journal Entry #3

As I write my final entry, I am struggling to take on a concluding tone given that I am not reaching the end of my internship. I began my internship quite late and will remain in my position through the fall remotely. I am very excited to stay on, because I think the greatest thing I will take away from this internship (aside from professional advancement), is a new position and set of resources with which to approach my fall courses. 

Though I am devastated 100% of my classes are officially online, I am still beyond excited for what I am enrolled in. I am taking courses on engaging in local communities through development projects, science and technology in global development, politics of air pollution, comparative politics, and sustainability in the Middle East, all of which directly related to what I work on with my internship. I am excited to pair my academic learning with my new position in national security and development and apply what I have learned in each setting to the other. The overlap is immense while the approaches are entirely different. I think this semester will be monumental in my personal and professional development in regard to how I will approach some of our great issues in my hopefully influential career shaping policy. 

I took this internship to see what it is like amongst the people who actually make the policies I think can change the world, and it has been more than I could've asked for. It confirmed my belief in the power of policy and the mess that is bureaucracy, but I am excited to engage and hopefully bring positive change to the developing world. To others trying to filter through the infinite ways to modify the global systems in which we feel bound, I will say that I most certainly got the answers I was looking for by working for a startup one summer and the US Government the next.  There are absolutely downfalls and advantages to working in the field, starting a small company to address one issue, or working in a Capitol Hill, but each is necessary in trying to alter the world we live in and all that is messed up in it. I would highly suggest finding contrasting internships for your summers in college you can best decide for yourself where you best fit. 

Thank you for the opportunity to take this internship this summer and all of the expensive commuting costs that come with it. Another thing I learned from this experience is that I am not cut out to commute over an hour and a half each day! Again, thank you.