CUNY Baccalaureate Workshop on Internships and International Affairs
April 20, 2011
On April 13, 2011 CUNY Baccalaureate hosted over sixty participants for a Workshop on Internships and International Affairs. According to the program’s Academic Advisor, Rafal Szczurowski, the idea for the Workshop was born when CUNY BA joined the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI), an initiative established to link the institutions of higher education with the work of the United Nations. The event brought together student panelists, specials guests who shared their global experiences, and CUNY Hunter College faculty, Professor Pamela Falk, who gave an overview of work in the field of international relations and spoke on the importance of undertaking internships. Students found the presentations informative and inspirational.
In her opening remarks, Professor Falk mentioned four rules that would help with careers in international relations: (1) commitment to make a difference in a work you love; (2) sense of values; (3) humility; and (4) sense of humor. An expert in the field, Professor Falk listed its most important elements: academia, government, media, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector. For those seeking internships, she recommended to be innovative and open-minded perhaps avoiding the most sought-after institutions when choosing which to pursue.
Professors Falk emphasized the value of internships. They are designed to expose the participant to the field, the institutions, and the people. In many cases, students could be given more responsibilities and have more access during an internship than in the first 10 to 15 years of a contracted position. She ended with a personal story of her pro bono work to help an Afghan refugee detained in the US. Without her intervention, a young Afghan mother would have been deported to face prosecution or even death. Listening to Professor Falk, students heard words of wisdom and encouragement from a professional who truly loves and is great in what she does.
Following Professor Falk, four exceptional students, Maisha Lopa, Rachel McCroy, Michelle Muita, and James Aldworth presented on their internships in international affairs.
Maisha Lopa (CUNY Baccalaureate/Macaulay) has interned in several domestic and international institutions, among them Women’s World Banking and the United Nations NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace and Security. She highlighted the role of internships as a way of building experience, gaining institutional knowledge, trying different professions, and supplementing academic work. Maisha was able to secure numerous internships through networking with professionals, fellow students, alumni, and college professors. She also advised to visit the college career service office and explore the opportunities they may have for networking and professional development.
Rachel McCroy (CUNY Baccalaureate) always wanted a career in human rights. She has been collaborating with the Foundation for Post Conflict Development (FPCD) for two years. This nongovernmental organization sets up maternity clinics and youth centers in East Timor. The FPCD is currently looking for two new interns and Rachel offered to help with the application process.
Michelle Muita (CUNY Baccalaureate) interns at the Council on Foreign Relations. Michelle’s five different internships taught her how to function in an office setting, deal professionally with supervisors and colleagues, and what working environment she feels the most comfortable with. Michelle discussed the importance of grades, academic rewards and scholarships, mentors, and networking when applying for internships. She advised fellow students to be punctual, proactive, and not to be afraid of asking for more work and responsibilities.
The only graduate student among the panelist, James Aldworth, presented on the official United Nations Internship Program. While completing his MA in International Relations at City College, James worked at the UN Department of Public Information, Outreach Division. His main project was to set up a social networking campaign for the UN Academic Impact. Among the benefits of his internship was a chance to work in a multicultural environment and to learn about the inner-working of the UN Secretariat. He recommended volunteering regularly, in addition to academic and professional work, and to master at least two of the six UN official languages.
Current global challenges call for an interdisciplinary perspective, an approach which merges academic training, hands-on experience, multiculturalism, and international exposure. For students, volunteering or interning at international organizations is a step towards achieving this goal. CUNY Baccalaureate invited students to speak on how internships contribute to their academic and professional development. They delivered not only valuable information on internships but also inspirational stories about their lives.
Original Post By Rafal Szczurowski, CUNY Baccalaureate Academic Advisor (H-O)
For more information, go to http://cunyba.gc.cuny.edu/
“The 1.5 Trillion Dollar Question”
Meeting of Religious and Disarmament NGO’s on Military Spending
On March 9th, 2011, the Committee of Religious NGOs and the NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace and Security held a joint meeting at Church Center to discuss excessive global military expenditures, explore ways to divert the money towards other global crises and prepare for participation efforts for the April 12th Global Day of Action on Military Spending. A panel of distinguished experts led the discussions and it included Ray Acheson of Reaching Critical Will, Ibrahim Ramey of Temple for Understanding and Muslim American Society, Hiro Sakurai of Soka Gokkai International and Allison Pylak of Religions for Peace.
Ms. Pylak made the opening remarks and explained that the motivation to organize the meeting was due to the unprecedented global expenditure on military, which reached an all time high of $1.5 trillion in 2009. She stressed that excessive and overall amount of spending was being put into defense at the expense of critical humanitarian issues such as education and development. She pointed out that the projections for military spending is expected to reach 1.6 trillion in 2010 and encouraged the NGOs present to participate on April 12th to raise awareness on the issue of excessive military spending.
Ray Acheson, Director of Reaching Critical Will stressed the staggering statistics attributed to global military spending. She pointed out that military spending went up 50% since 2009 and the global recession, instead of decreasing military spending, spurred 2/3 of countries to increase their spending. She said, “the industry that builds the means to slaughter each other is also one of the biggest contributors to the world economy.” Ms. Acheson spoke about how the global arms industry is becoming more concentrated, growing bigger and richer as instances of conflict, war and terrorism become more prevalent. She highlighted that as investments in conflicts increase by means of arms sales (5 permanent members of the security council are responsibly for 76% of the total annual arms sale globally), investments in conflict resolution and peace initiatives are falling far behind. She concluded her speech by bringing attention to the fact that one-year of current military spending – $1.5 trillion – is enough money to fund 700 years of the current UN annual budget.
Hiro Sakurai of the Soka Gokkai International and current president of the UN NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace and Security spoke about the issue of excessive military spending from a Buddhist perspective. He stated that 1.5 trillion dollars itself seems like a weapon of mass destruction and that it is not contributing to the Millennium Development Goals set forth by the United Nations. He expounded upon the need to bridge the gap of communications between policy makers and disarmament advocates. He said, “For a successful dialogue, we need to know why our opponents find it necessary to hang on to these budgets. They think weapons enhance security but it creates tension and trouble.” Furthermore, Mr. Sakurai highlighted the importance of human security and recalled an ancient Buddhist episode to illustrate that hard power is not the way to sustain stability. To achieve true stability, he said, “Establish not through military might but through social development and democracy.”
The last speaker of the panel, Ibrahim Ramey of Temple for Understanding and Muslim American Society, touched upon a range of issues regarding religion and disarmament and specifically the need for greater disarmament dialogues within the Muslim community.He said, “What is missing in the internal conversation in Islam and the larger global conversations about what to do 1.5 trillion dollars. Christian communities have led the way of serious discussions of peace and disarmament dialogues. In Islam, you have a different challenge, because the platform for this kind of dialogue has not started to solidify.” He also stressed the importance of raising the leadership of women to the forefront because the consequences of war and militarizing have been more devastating to women and children. He said, “If the war systems of the world is crafted by men, we need to recognize that women will lead us out of it. Discourse of movement has to include women.” Lastly, he called upon the faith based community to find ways to demilitarize the U.S. economy and push for the idea of a National Department of Peace which would work towards converting the militarize U.S. economy into a normalized economy.
The event was attended by a host of faith based NGOs and UN agencies such as the United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs. The robust discussion after the panel’s speeches touched upon a variety of issues including the actual figures regarding military spending. It was pointed out that actual military spending is much higher that what is reported because it does not include money spent on nuclear capabilities and covert operations. The group also noted that high military spending countries are almost all democracies. The event concluded with a short video that asked people from all walks of life about what they would do with 1.5 trillion dollars. Their answers, almost unanimously, touched upon humanitarian causes. The success of this joint effort by RNGOs and Disarmament NGOs will hopefully propel further collaborative efforts between NGOs ahead of the April 12th Global Day of Action Against Military Spending.