Hardly a month into my first year attending Georgetown University, I came across an internet advertisement for a commemorative anniversary screening of the film Black Hawk Down at a graduate school called The Institute of World Politics. Having come to Washington intent on studying international relations – and considering my admiration of Ridley Scott’s masterful cinematic rendition of the October 1993 Battle of Mogadishu – I was intrigued, to say the least.
Setting out late on a Friday afternoon, I wandered about Dupont Circle until I found myself at the corner of 16th and Church. As I entered the historic, red-brick edifice before me and stepped into the foyer, my eyes fell to a brochure sitting on the welcome desk with a quote from the Wall Street Journal. It read: “The world will not always run in accord with American interests and ideals. All the more reason for a school of statecraft that does.” Though at the time, I did not know how well I would eventually come to know the space around me, I had a strange hunch that I had just stumbled upon a place like no other in the very heart of the nation’s capital.
Fast forward eighteen months to March 2013, and I was putting the final touches on my application for a summer research assistant position with the Institute. In pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service degree, my academic focus had gravitated towards the instruments of security, particularly the military component of national power. As such, I was hopeful that this internship would afford me the opportunity to apply nearly two years of undergraduate study to meaningful use. I was accepted to the program, and I can only describe the feeling of arriving on the first day in June and walking up those same front steps as surreal.
Given my interests in military affairs, I was fortunate enough to work closely with Colonel Brian Mennes, the Institute’s visiting Army War College Fellow. I assisted him as he narrowed down his research proposal on national security reform, and for a man of such a high caliber, he was extremely humble and treated me as an equal. In addition, Faculty Chair Dr. Juliana Pilon offered me extra research opportunities.
The relationships I was able to develop with both of these individuals during my internship reflect the intimate yet professional atmosphere that only an institution like IWP can offer. Indeed, one will not find himself spending his days doing battle with a copy machine or seeking coffee for pedantic supervisors; rather, the IWP summer internship is a practical and stimulating educational experience.
While at IWP, all of the summer interns are effectively quasi-graduate students and must audit one course of their choosing. That being said, the quality of instruction I received in my Foundations of Homeland Security class was tremendous. The professor, James Jay Carafano, revealed himself to be an authority not only on homeland security, but also on military history and a host of other defense-related subjects. Moreover, while we certainly explored a wide array of homeland security topics, we also covered research design and analysis as we each crafted an original essay. I have since been able to apply the concepts and methods we examined directly to my undergraduate courses at Georgetown.
My praise for the IWP summer internship would be incomplete if I did not mention the offsite events I was able to attend. For instance, the other interns and I received a guided tour of the National Holocaust Museum from the Institute’s Polish studies expert, Marek Jan Chodakiewicz. Also, I had the privilege of touring the Pentagon with Randy Papadopoulos, the Department of the Navy’s Secretariat Historian. These trips and others typify the exciting opportunities that await IWP interns, and my worldview has certainly changed for the better because of them.
Recalling the Wall Street Journal quote that embodies the Institute’s commitment to the instruction of statecraft, I sought this internship to foster personal growth and development. I believe I achieved just that. The IWP experience is truly what you choose to make of it, but my brief time there gave me cause for reflection not only on the type of student I wish to be for my latter two undergraduate years, but also on the type of leader I aspire to one day become. As I continue to study both the foundations of international relations and the more nuanced discipline of international security at Georgetown, I have full confidence that the capacity in which I can best serve this country and the world at large – whether “down range” from a distant battlefield or from a boardroom inside the Washington Beltway – will evince itself in due time. When that time comes, I will no doubt look back to my summer internship with The Institute of World Politics and rest assured that it was an invaluable milestone along my journey.
IWP Research Assistant, Summer 2013