The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Notes from the Field: Samantha Sherman '15

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Rockefeller Center-funded interns reflect on their experiences as part of our Notes from the Field series. The Rockefeller Center helps students find, fund, and prepare for a leave-term internship experience in public policy research, public policy analysis, issue evaluation, or activities which help shape and determine public policy.

Student Intern: Sam Sherman '15

Internship Organization:
Women's Foreign Policy Group – Washington, DC

How would you describe your employer in one paragraph? What’s the elevator pitch?
The Women's Foreign Policy Group (WFPG) is a nonprofit organization that promotes global engagement and the leadership, visibility, and participation of women in international affairs. WFPG hosts in-depth global issues programming featuring women leaders and also works to promote the next generation of women leader through mentoring and leadership development programs. Recent programs have covered the crisis in Iraq, the recent elections in Egypt, and US foreign policy in Africa, and much more.

What are your specific responsibilities in the organization?
Because our office is small, I get to engage in many different aspects of WFPG's work. A typical day might involve conducting research for an upcoming foreign policy program, coordinating details for an event, calling embassies, writing an article for the WFPG website, managing e-mail correspondence, and helping compile our annual Guide to Women Leaders publication. Interns also have an active and visible presence at all WFPG events, ensuring that everything runs smoothly and everyone has a great time.

How did you feel on the first day of your internship?
I immediately felt welcomed by the organization and excited to get started. We had a morning bagel brunch meeting with the president of the organization and my fellow interns where we all got to know each other. I knew upon hearing all of the exciting things I'd be involved in at WFPG and all the cool travels, studies, and interests of the other interns that I had found a great place to spend the summer!

What is your favorite part of the internship so far?
The most rewarding part of the internship is that I am able to attend all of our events. WFPG events are always topical and interesting, so they attract a broad array of attendees including prominent diplomats and foreign policy professionals. It's been incredibly exciting to meet women ambassadors from around the world, as well as witness how the international affairs community engages with foreign policy issues. Events that I've worked at include a State Department Briefing on foreign policy challenges in Africa with Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a talk about the future of Egypt under President Sisi with Michele Dunne, our annual Celebration of Women Diplomats hosted by the Ambassador of Liechtenstein, a briefing on the crisis in Iraq from expert Robin Wright hosted by the Embassy of Slovenia, and a talk from Ritu Sharma on her new book on women and international development. As an intern, I also have the privilege of attending events hosted by other organizations in Washington, DC. For example, while I was conducting research for our Egypt program, WFPG sent me to related events hosted by the Wilson Center and the Center for National Policy.

What challenges have you faced so far?
Dealing with diplomats is like learning to speak another language at times! I had to quickly pick up on things like the fact that "HE" stands for "Her Excellency", that "DCM" is "Deputy Chief of Mission", and how to properly pronounce "Charge d'Affairs," a challenge for someone with no French background. I also learned that trying to actually speak with the ambassador's office of an embassy can sometimes be a challenging test of patience and phone skills. What compensates for the occasional challenge of calling embassies is that it can actually be pretty fun. Each embassy definitely has its own personality. I'm personally a big fan of the hold music at the Embassy of Oman, and I love being greeted with a cheery "Buen día!" from the Argentine Embassy.

What do you hope to achieve by the end of your internship?
I hope to serve WFPG as best as I can in promoting women's leadership in international affairs, as working for the organization has only increased my support for our cause. As I catalog senior-level women officials and diplomats for our Guide to Women Leaders, I'm struck by the visible reality that international affairs remains an overwhelmingly male-dominated field, both here in the US and abroad. My ultimate goal for my internship is that my contributions will positively impact the organization. In addition, working at the WFPG is a great chance to learn from powerful, successful women, both substantively in terms of hearing their analysis of critical foreign policy issues, and in terms of career advice and mentoring. On a more personal level, my goal is to learn as much as I can so that I can one day be a successful woman in foreign policy giving advice to others!

What have been some practical lessons you've learned in the day-to-day life of your internship?
The best caffeine fix in DC: a Dirty Chai from Baked & Wired in Georgetown!

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