’16s Visit Washington: Days #4 and #5 (International Development and the Private Sector)

Wednesday morning began with a visit to the Washington headquarters of the defense contractor Northrop Grumman.  Our host, Vice President for Capture and Proposal Operations, Gary Jack, really rolled out the red carpet for us — we even had a parking space reserved for us!

Parking, Northrop Grumman.

An engineer in the Innovation Center, Kelvin Franklin, demonstrated for the Fellows some of the advanced technologies currently being developed at Northrop Grumman regarding unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).  Ambassador Marisa Lino then discussed with the students her distinguished previous career in the Foreign Service and the nature of her current work in the private sector.  She was followed by Ben Abrams, who discussed the relationship between Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Congress, explaining with a smile that while “lobbyists” sometimes get a bad name, they serve a valuable and necessary function.

The Fellows with Ms. Priddy, Dr. Rezelman, Mr. Abrams, Mr. Jack, Mr. Franklin, and Ambassador Lino, Northrop Grumman.

After a quick lunch, in the early afternoon we stopped by the offices of the Washington Bureau of NBC News.  Our host, Ellie Hall (’07), showed us around the studio and introduced us to several of her co-workers, including the Managing Editor of NBC Nightly News, Albert Oetgen; the Deputy Washington Bureau Chief, Ken Strickland; and NBC’s Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent, Andrea Mitchell.  It was fascinating to be a “fly on the wall” as the line-up for that day’s Nightly News was finalized, as well as to see the studio where one of the Nixon-Kennedy debates took place and where even today Meet the Press is filmed.

The Fellows with Ms. Hall, Ms. Priddy, and Dr. Rezelman, Washington Bureau, NBC News.

After our visit to NBC we rushed across town to the Ronald Reagan building for a meeting with officials at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).  Our host, Tom Baltazar, is currently a Senior Advisor in the Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs.  After a presentation from Anne Ralte, a Senior Advisor in the Office of the Director of Human Resources, the students enjoyed a lively discussion about the challenges of international development with Mr. Baltazar and Ms. Ralte.

The Fellows with Dr. Rezelman, Ms. Massey, Mr. Baltazar, and Ms. Ralte, U.S. Agency for International Development.

That evening, over an informal dinner of Swedish cuisine, students met with a Director in the Eurasia Group’s Global Energy and Natural Resources department, Greg Priddy.  Mr. Priddy explained how political risk consulting works and gave the students insight into careers, and life in general, “inside the beltway.”

Our final stop for the trip was the Pentagon.  Our host, Lt. Commander Chris Schwarz, discussed with the Fellows his career so far as a Surface Warfare Officer in the U.S. Navy, as well as his present work in the Air-Sea Battle Office.  Not only did the students learn a great deal about the Navy, and the Department of Defense in general — they also received a great introduction to the sheer size and scale of the Pentagon itself!

The Fellows with Dr. Rezelman, The Pentagon.

Well, that’s it for the inaugural International Relations Fellows tour of the Washington foreign policy establishment.  Stay tuned to this blog for further updates regarding the activities of the IR Fellows, including retrospective comments next week from Fellows themselves about what they learned during their week in Washington!

’16s Visit Washington: Day #3 (Diplomacy)

Today began with a tour of the Embassy of Nicaragua, followed by a general discussion of what it is that embassies do, with Sammia Hodgson, the Nicaraguan Educational Attaché.  Maria Margarita Espinosa, of PRONicaragua (the official investment promotion agency of Nicaragua), then gave a presentation to the students about the potential advantages of doing business in Nicaragua.  We concluded our visit with an informal conversation about life as a diplomat and simply as a resident of Washington, D.C., and left with a better understanding of Nicaragua, of how embassies work, of possibilities for future collaboration, and even bags of gifts!

The Fellows with Dr. Rezelman, Ms. Priddy, Ms. Espinosa, and Ms. Hodgson, Embassy of Nicaragua.

As we walked to the State Department, Ms. Massey, the Director of the Global Health Fellows program, was delighted to find herself across the street from the headquarters of the Pan American Health Organization (a Regional Office of the World Health Organization).

Ms. Massey in front of the Pan American Health Organization.

Our visit to the State Department began with a tour of its Operations Center.  Even in today’s world of high technology, managing emerging world crises still largely comes down to phone call and e-mails.  We then visited the Korean offices and discussed Korea, Burma, China, and the Foreign Service in general, with several experts including our host, Mary Beth Polley (’97).  As we were leaving, several Fellows were overhead to be already sketching out their plans to work for the State Department one day.

The Fellows with Dr. Rezelman, Ms. Priddy, and Ms. Polley, State Department.

While we were in the area, we couldn’t resist ducking down to the Mall to visit “Al and Abe”!

The Fellows with Dr. Einstein, The Mall.

 

The Fellows with Ms. Massey and Dr. Rezelman, Lincoln Memorial.

’16s Visit Washington: Days #1 and #2 (A Tour of the Washington Foreign Policy Establishment)

On Sunday, August 5th, we gathered at Norfolk Academy for the drive to Washington, D.C.  By the time they had finally arrived in Rosslyn, six hours later, two harsh realities of the program had dawned on the International Relations Fellows: Washington traffic is bad, and Dr. Rezelman is capable of talking about world politics for hours.  Topics of conversation in the car varied from the role of Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) in the formulation of U.S. foreign policy, to the role of Swedish furniture stores in the restaurant business (and the potential of McDonald’s in the furniture business), to the love lives of various fictional characters from popular culture.  After a dinner atop the hotel restaurant overlooking Georgetown, everyone retreated to rest for our first full day in Washington.

Our formal introduction was accomplished by an ideal host, Glenn Nye, in an ideal place, a conference room overlooking the Capitol.  As a former Foreign Service Officer, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) officer, and U.S. Congressman, Nye was able to provide the Fellows with a sweeping overview of the challenges posed in the formulation of U.S. foreign policy.  Nye focused especially on the relationship between Congress and the various agencies of the Executive Branch.  We also learned about some of the ways Nye’s current employer, Palantir Technologies, provides technological support to the study and practice of U.S. foreign policy.  As Jessica reflected later, “Nye was a great start to our trip as we learned about the new software [created by] Palantir and the media’s influence on government institutions.”  Hannah found most interesting Nye’s work for the State Department “in the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Singapore,” remarking “now I want to learn more about being an ambassador.”  Unfortunately our photography skills were not as sophisticated as our host, but with the aid of photo editing software, soon we should be able to improve our group photograph:

The Fellows with Dr. Rezelman and Congressman Glenn Nye, Palantir Technologies.

After our visit to Palantir Technologies, we crossed over from the Senate to the House side of the Capitol:

The Fellows with Ms. Priddy, U.S. Capitol.

The Office of U.S. Representative Scott Rigell (VA-02) was kind enough to arrange a tour of the Capitol for us from none other than Norfolk Academy alumnus, and Rigell intern, Alex Patterson (’09).  Mr. Patterson provided us with an introduction to the breaktaking architecture, sculpture, and history (he was well-trained in history) of the U.S. Capitol.  Along the way, Mr. Patterson also provided the Fellows with an informal discussion of the life of a university student of international relations and the life of an intern “on the Hill.”

The Fellows with Mr. Patterson, U.S. Capitol.

Sophie remarked that “I had never been to the Capitol before.  It was so cool to be in the underground tunnels!”  Pablo was struck by the architecture: “People really enjoy beauty.  The Capitol is nothing but.”  Hannah was especially impressed with “the frieze in the rotunda which was a breaktaking depiction of America through the years.”  Thomas was proud that, while “every state can have two statues of bronze or marble in the Capitol,” Virginia actually gets three (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Robert E. Lee).  Ms. Priddy was finally able to confirm or deny (confirm, as it turns out) a story she had been told as a child that Florida had chosen to honor in one of its statues the inventor of air conditioning.

Robert Gorrie, “Father of Air Conditioning,” U.S. Capitol.

Our final stop of the day was at the Cato Institute.  Our host was Cato’s Vice President for Defense and Foreign Policy Studies, Dr. Christopher Preble.

Dr. Preble, Cato Institute.

Dr. Preble continued the discussion of the role think tanks play in Washington that had begun earlier that day with Glenn Nye’s description of his work with the German Marshall Fund.  As Thomas explained, “many think tanks are liberal or conservative, but the Cato Institute is different because it is libertarian, and sides with both parties on different matters.”  Jessica was impressed by “the Cato Institute’s unique nonpartisan views.”  Pablo explained that “it takes many years of hard thinking and work” to make an impact through a think tank.  Sophie discovered one possible future career path: “Before going to the Cato Institute I wasn’t sure what a think tank was, and now I’m interested in possibly being in one when I’m older.”

A delicious postscript to the day was provided at the Mala Tang Sichuan Hot Pot restaurant.  Some of us discovered that we love seaweed, and some of us discovered that we didn’t, but we all agreed that it was good that we now all had an informed opinion on seaweed.  Sophie made the most important discovery of all, that of a second possible future career path: that of a chef.  We all agreed that “Sophie Sauce” (a mixture of plum sauce and soy sauce) was fantastic.