McHenry Fellows Class of 2024
We spoke with the 2021–23 cohort of McHenry Fellows to learn about their summer internships.
“This summer, I interned with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) — the United Nations (UN) Migration Agency in Dakar, Senegal, West Africa, where I served as a migration, environment and climate change (MECC) program consultant. I was based in the country office and worked with the mission in the West and Central Africa Regional Office. I coordinated and lead a high-level engagement with the Organization for the Development of the Senegal River (OMVS) — a regional organization comprising Senegal, Mauritania, the Republic of Guinea, and Mali — which culminated in a new strategic partnership between the organization and the IOM Senegal Mission for pipeline projects on migration, environment, and climate change in communities around the Senegal River Basin.
Through this project, I enhanced my research, strategy, design, and implementation skills on a variety of migration-related topics, including climate change and local development planning; continental labor mobility and mutual skills recognition; climate-smart community reintegration; legal identity for integrated border management; and pastoralism and climate resilience.
One highlight for me during this internship was co-leading the development of a concept note/proposal on humanitarian challenges confronting pastoralist communities in the Sahel territory of Senegal, which was shortlisted for overseas humanitarian innovation funding. Additionally, I also lead the design of a strategy, terms of reference, and budget for a diagnostic study in the Matam and Kédougo regions of Senegal. This work informed the development of a toolkit for the mainstreaming of MECC into local development planning across communities in Senegal. I further contributed to several concept notes, proposals, and theories of change on a wide range of issues related to migration. The key lesson for me from this summer is that soft skills, such as teamwork, personal resilience, diplomacy, and foreign languages, are as important as thematic expertise for a successful international affairs career.
Carlos E. Chacón
“This summer, I worked at the Ethics and Business Conduct Department of the World Bank. It is my first experience at a multilateral organization. The department is in charge of the promotion, training, and development of the highest ethical standards to the bank’s staff members. I gained valuable quantitative and facilitation experience while learning from multidisciplinary colleagues from all across the world.
My first project involved working with the staff members responsible for training all the bank employees on ethics. I designed and executed a training module for over 30 members and created a 50 Best Practices for Facilitation guide to provide more engaging and meaningful learning experiences.
The second project I worked on is about long-term impact evaluation. With the help of colleagues, I designed a framework to foster and evaluate the effectiveness of the department’s products that aim to generate behavioral changes over time.”
Juan Fernando Gomez Lopez
“I was touched by the story a Gambian migrant shared with me. After he embarked on a journey to Italy, looking for better job opportunities, migration officers stranded him in the middle of the Saharan border between Libya and Niger.
This account is a good overview of my summer experience as an information management intern at IOM-UN Migration in The Gambia. My objective was to help their data-heavy reports give justice to the unique human experiences they intended to portray. My main task was to introduce technology and human-centered design principles to visualize data that resonates with IOM’s audience. As a result, I conducted workshops on storytelling using Power BI, a data visualization software available but not used by the IOM staff. On the other hand, I used the R programming language to automate their data cleaning process. In addition, I designed a data quality management checklist to help them monitor and trust data processes.
I hope these activities will help IOM-UN humanize their reports. This experience was a fantastic opportunity to practice technical skills while learning about migration.”
Maria Paula Mercado
“This summer I had the opportunity to complete an internship at the U.S. Department of State. I was an intern in the Public Diplomacy Bureau of the Global Engagement Center (GEC). I supported the GEC’s mission to direct, lead, and coordinate efforts of the federal government to understand, expose, and counter foreign state and foreign non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining the interests of the United States, its allies, and partner nations.
It was a life-changing experience to be at the forefront of the world’s most pressing challenges involving the information environment. I received an inside look at current lines of efforts between interagency and international partners, including the private sector, civil society, tech industry, and the media, to counter malign influence activities. I also met with high level officials, conducted open-source research, and reported on Russia’s war on Ukraine, Chinese efforts to influence public opinion, and influence campaigns aimed at the Global South.
My time at the Department of State was invaluable. I developed a deeper understanding of the challenges ahead and critically analyzed frameworks aimed at addressing these threats. It strengthened my interest in strategic communications and the power that messaging will continue to play in foreign policy.
“This summer, I joined Human Rights Watch (HRW) as an intern in the Middle East Division. During my sojourn, I had the opportunity to remain deeply immersed in everyday hardships in my home, Iraq, where people are rapidly facing a reality in which, as one of the most vulnerable lands to climate change, their country is gradually becoming unlivable. Besides environmental issues, examined from the angle of the oil industry, I worked on absent accountability for protesters slain for joining a protest that decried the loss of the country in 2019, which I had the honor of covering and photographing at the time. I also worked on human rights concerns regarding the now-in-effect constitution in Tunisia, as well as human rights issues in Saudi Arabia.
That aside, I resumed my work on my first poetry collection, of which four poems appeared in Jadaliyya. An opinion piece of mine appeared in Middle East Eye, in which I resorted to the poetics vis-à-vis a devastating status quo. Another opinion piece on the political and journalistic discourse in Iraq is coming out soon. Beyond the sad state of today’s world, I spent the summer wandering around Washington, D.C., with my camera, researching, and studying art whenever I had the chance to do so.”