Thursday, February 27, 2014

Hudson Institute, National Bureau of Asian Research, White House: Allen Smith '13

An interesting letter from Allen Smith '13; while he doesn't mention it below, he's parlayed these experiences into a White House internship that he's currently doing.  Questions? Contact Professor Fields for more details. 

Dear Puget Sound students:

My name is Allen Smith. I graduated in May 2013 with a degree in International Relations, and I have been asked to share my some of my post-graduate experience. I have held two part-time research internships with different think tanks simultaneously, as well as a part time job. It was a lot to balance, but I found the experience rewarding and not unlike balancing upper-level classes.

My first internship was with a think tank based in Seattle called the National Bureau of Asian Research. It is much smaller than a normal think tank, and operates on an outsourcing model of scholarship. Rather having a stable group of in-house scholars to publish articles and pieces, the NBR has the bulk of its research done by outside scholars from around the world. This gives its publications a broader and more global perspective, rather than a specific niche in the spectrum of think tanks.

So what was my role? I was a Research and Operations intern, reporting directly to the Vice President of Research and Operations. I did a little bit of everything: I researched potential topics for roundtables and other pieces, found scholars who could contribute to a specific piece, answered phone calls at the front desk, and helped with events held by the NBR. I also generated various ways to visualize data from the NBR's online database of metrics from different states, culminating in some final designs that may be implemented on a permanent basis. Lastly, I provided research and editorial assistance to the Vice President whenever he would write pieces for publication.

Overall, the experience taught me a lot about how a think tank operates on a day-to-day basis, even a slightly unorthodox one. I would recommend this internship for people who want this experience, or who want to see the kind of work required in a serious policy environment.

My second internship was with another policy shop, the Center for Political and Military Analysis at the Hudson Institute. The Hudson is based in D.C., but one of their researchers runs a non-resident research internship. Essentially, you select or are given a topic to research, and then you are responsible for producing a 25-30 page research paper by a deadline. If your work is used by the Hudson, you will be credited accordingly. The topics available for me to choose from were very diverse, and anyone with an interest in security, proliferation, or military issues would have a bevy of topics to choose from.

This internship was great for me because it exposed me to a standard of professional research and writing that is not grade dependent. Either my work was good enough, or it wasn't. My research and writing skills grew a lot through this process, and I received good feedback from my superior.

Balancing both internships was a challenge, and there were times where I thought I would have to sacrifice one or the other. But, as so often happens, when we push our limits, we can discover some surprising results. I made it through both internships with nary a scratch, and I am much the better for it.

If you'd like to learn more about these think tanks or their internships, you can visit their websites here: (Look under "Center for Political-Military Analysis Interns)

Best Wishes and Good Luck,

Allen Smith