Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Alison Harrell, MIPA

Alison Harrell, MIPA

Rockville, Maryland

Undergraduate education
Bachelor’s degree in international development, minor in international studies, Pennsylvania State University

Expected graduation
May 2018

Research interests
Education and women’s issues in Sub-Saharan Africa

Summer internship
I served as a regional affairs intern at the U.S. Department of State-Bureau of African Affairs-Office of Economic and Regional Affairs. I supported the regional and multilateral affairs team in preparation for the United Nations General Assembly by liaising with desk officers and assisting with the paper coordination process. I also aided the democracy, human rights, and governance officer with the Trafficking in Persons and Child Soldiers Prevention Act waivers. Other general assistance to the office included coordinating and drafting daily briefings for the Bureau’s leadership concerning major events and developments on the continent, redesigning the office’s organizational chart, and updating the workload allocation spreadsheet. Finally, I spent two weeks managing the Environment, Science, Technology, and Health portfolio.

What project best illustrates your summer internship?
I was part of a working group to combat wildlife trafficking in Sub-Saharan Africa. I organized meetings for several offices to gather and share background information and proposals to address this problem. I liaised with regional environmental officers in Sub-Saharan Africa and then sought approval from the office’s leadership on the proposals. I also provided the regional input necessary as a representative of the Bureau of African Affairs for this multi-bureau policy formation process.

What experiences and skills helped you get the internship?
My international experience in Sub-Saharan Africa, La Follette coursework, and demonstration of interpersonal skills through past work experience all helped me secure this internship.

Career goals?
I would like to work in international affairs for the federal government or a non-governmental organization, specifically focusing on Sub-Saharan Africa.

How have your La Follette School courses and/or experiences set you on the path to meeting your career goals?
Courses such as Policy Analysis, International Program Evaluation, Statistical Analysis, and Professional Development Workshop have helped me discover specific skills and experiences to pursue that will help me reach my career goals. The focus on networking within the La Follette community has also been helpful.

Project assistantship
I have a project assistant position with Professor Emilia Tjernström. I am looking forward to this opportunity to focus on Sub-Saharan Africa from a research perspective and to learn more about economic development.

What advice would you give to prospective La Follette School students?
My advice to prospective La Follette School students is to take quantitative classes, use the La Follette network to learn more about career paths and opportunities, pursue a summer internship, and participate in extra-curricular activities.

Most rewarding experience at the La Follette School
I have really enjoyed taking courses with professors who have amazing experience and expertise in their subject areas.

What did you do before enrolling at the La Follette School?
After graduating from Penn State, I interned at two international nonprofit organizations: the Ethiopian Community Development Council, which is a refugee resettlement agency, and America’s Unofficial Ambassadors, a grassroots organization that promotes tolerance and understanding between the United States and Muslim-majority countries. When these internships ended, I worked as an administrative assistant at Fourth Presbyterian Church before I moved to Madison. After arriving in Madison, I joined the Schools of Hope AmeriCorps Project, where I served as a tutor coordinator at Leopold Elementary School for one year.