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Migration Policy Insitute
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Alice Greider

Major: International Politics, Global and International Studies
Minor: History, French
Hometown: Elizabethtown, PA

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I'm an IUG student at the School of International Affairs, so the internship was required and I was aided in my search by their Career Services Center. My Honors Thesis is on asylum and refugees, so I looked for an internship where I could learn more about migration.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

I spent the summer as a Research Assistant intern at the Migration Policy Institute, a non-partisan research think tank in Washington DC. I was officially an intern for the Transatlantic Council on Migration within the International program at MPI, but worked mainly under one supervisor on whatever projects she was working on, which turned out to be quite the variety. Last spring, I set about looking for an internship at a research-focused think tank, figuring that since I had already completed an internship at the government level at the European Parliament, this would be a valuable opportunity to see the other side of the policy process. I ended up doing research for the Assistant Director for Research on the International Program, Meghan Benton. She studies labor market integration of migrants in Europe mainly, but I was accepted as an intern to work with her on a project mapping the rights of UK citizens living in the EU after Brexit. My task was to figure out what EU and national laws the newly ex-EU citizens would need to be aware of, and for what populations this might present a problem. For example, I researched what it took to get legal residence, healthcare, and access to social services in France, Spain, Germany, and Ireland. My next project was to write a large overview on immigration in the EU, identifying regional and country specific trends or factors such as colonial ties, labor market characteristics, and responses to the influx of Balkan asylum seekers in the 1990's. Later, I researched and wrote a summary on the nexus of employment and immigration precarity to identify if those without access to legal work will benefit from changes to the economy. Another project included research on existing quantitative studies on the cost-benefit analysis of immigrant integration projects for a mapping paper for a conference of the Integration Futures Working Group, which MPI organizes. For this conference, I also contributed background research on the effect of employment on health and crime, identified possible scholars and policymakers to invite to the conference, and wrote a memo on future and scenario planning for my supervisor. Aside from work for my supervisor, I also did many side projects for others. I was in charge of manning the front desk for a while, answering calls from reporters, government officials, students, and immigrants themselves about our research. I also compiled news articles and wrote a weekly International Migration News Update that was sent out to the entire staff. I created visual presentations of asylum data for an upcoming publication, and helped develop the source data for a data tool on asylum in Europe for MPI’s website using Tableau and Excel Macros. Sometimes I was given translation or citation and proofreading to do for a variety of projects, and I even got tasked with helping the outgoing President and co-founder with organizing his files to clear out his office. He worked in Clinton’s Department of Labor and helped negotiate NAFTA, so there were plenty of stories shared as we worked on sorting through decades of written and saved work. My favorite accomplishment however, was writing and presenting an article on the Western Balkans route which will be published on MPI’s online journal The Source. The chance to do original research on as aspect of the migration crisis that has geopolitical implications for the continued democratization of an area I care about, and to create an interactive map to go along with it, was really interesting.

I love carefully organizing my research to craft a seamless narrative that guides the reader through the policy problem and solution.

How did this experience impact you academically?

In addition to vastly widening my knowledge of migration issues, my internship certainly helped develop my writing and research skills. While I enjoyed research, on topics both new and old to me, either of the fact-hunting type or survey research, it is more enjoyable when I get to turn it into writing later. I love carefully organizing my research to craft a seamless narrative that guides the reader through the policy problem and solution. At first I struggled because for all of my other classes my writing has been for academic audiences. One of the main takeaways from the writing I did for MPI is that audience matters. The difference between writing the international news updates and the policy research summaries I did for my supervisor hinged on the difference in audience. Framing an issue as a policy think tank is very different, and that nuance was important to learn. Writing for policymakers or even for public awareness was a new skill for me. In all types of writing, precision is arguably the most important factor. This lesson, although imparted on me since freshman year, was reinforced at MPI. In school, our work does not undergo the editing process that my work at MPI did. My supervisor would continually ask me to further specify my claims with statistics or more detail, demand more clarity, and better references. My preoccupation with “flowy-ness” means too often I get hung up by interrupting the narrative with data. I did get the chance to write for the purpose of data when I wrote a Source article on the Western Balkans route, focusing on asylum applications and border closures to make my point that many were stuck in the Balkans, an unwanted presence in some already-unstable countries. Again, writing something that would be published under MPI made me hyper-aware of precision and clarity, knowing we work with experts who can question every fact and allegation.

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

While I could easily see myself working at a similar think-tank eventually, first however, I wish to work somewhere with more of a support and services angle. One day while at the front desk I had a call from an immigrant needing legal help, and while I unfortunately had to tell him that we are only a research organization and cannot help him, I wished him an Eid Mubarak. He was so touched and happy and thanked me to the point that I realized that before I devote my time to research, I’d first like to work somewhere I can help people directly. I also experienced a shift in research interests while at MPI. Previously my focus within migration was on refugees, especially those seeking asylum in Europe. This was the result of studying in Europe during the migration crisis and generally being interested in refugee protection internationally, but both my work for Meghan and learning about some of the work that others at MPI do (and don’t do) changed my focus. While I will still finish my thesis on asylum in Europe, I’m now planning on going to graduate school for conflict studies to focus on refugees in conflict. Internally displaced persons seem to represent a gap in policy research yet constitute the majority of all displaced persons and refugees. I hope to do my next dissertation on return migration and resettlement of displaced persons post-conflict, and I have MPI to thank for that re-direction.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

Think-tanks and research centers do a wider scope of things than most people realize, and to students who like the research and writing element of school, working at a place like MPI can be a continuation of that. The chance to continually be learning new things and writing pieces for public and government use is exciting, and can be done outside of academia just as easily. Interning at a think-tank is also helpful if you are considering government work because it allows you to approach the same policy issues from a different angle. To students who know what types of issues they find interesting, but not the way in which they want to work with them, this sort of internship gives valuable context and experience.

For more information on internships for Liberal Arts students, visit our website.
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