Washington, D.C. – The Edmund S. Muskie Professional Fellowship Program’s class of 2023 gathered in Washington, D.C. on August 17th and 18th for a final program debriefing event to reflect on their summer experiences, ways they grew professionally and interculturally, and to learn about ways to stay connected as alumni.
The seminar’s first day acted as a time of reflection for the fellows. The reflection sessions were broken into three different themes: professional goals; intercultural competence, diversity, equity, and inclusion; and volunteering. In the professional goals session, the fellows reflected on goals they had set at the beginning of the summer, and the way their internship has shaped their overall career goals and outlook. Afterwards, they shared with other fellows at their tables.
To break up the reflection sessions, the group headed to the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) museum for the program’s cultural activity. Here the fellows learned about different time periods of American history and saw rooms dedicated to states that donated to the museum, showcasing what a home in that state would look like in a past era.
Afterwards, the fellows met with Cassandra Sanchez, ICDEI Senior Advisor at Cultural Vistas, to discuss how their intercultural competence has changed from the last time she spoke with the fellows during the program’s orientation. To wrap up the first day, fellows were asked to draw a depiction of their volunteering experiences and share with their tables. Fellows shared their stories of volunteering and hung their artwork around the room to be viewed until the end of the day.
The Muskie team kicked day two off by speaking of how to stay engaged with other Muskies as alumni. Cultural Vistas’ Director of Alumni, Emily Commer, and Marion Lange, Regional Alumni Coordinator at the U.S. Department of State, provided Muskie fellows with tips about staying engaged with different alumni networks they are members of.
As part of the two-day event, eighteen Muskie fellows also presented on their summer internship experiences. These presentations ranged from predictive analysis of artificial intelligence to life at a post-production color-grading studio to damage of Ukrainian cultural heritage sites. Fellows were able to showcase what they learned through their internships, give their opinions on U.S. work culture, and field questions from their peers.
Many participants saw the Muskie Program as one of the only ways to get practical working experience while getting their master’s degrees in the United States and spoke to that in their presentations and reflections during the event.
“Participating in the Muskie program really enriched my academic experience. It was a unique opportunity; I had the chance to put my knowledge into practice, learn about U.S. working culture, and gain some interesting insights,” said Mariam Latsabidze, a Muskie fellow from Georgia who is studying public policy at the University of Minnesota and worked at East-West Management Institute this summer.
An important thing highlighted in the certification ceremony was that while the 2023 Muskie Program has come to an end, the ties that have formed between participants are lasting and the memories created will live on. Whether ending their journeys in the U.S. or starting new ones elsewhere, Muskie fellows will remain together in community.
Funded by the U.S. Department of State, the Muskie Program aims to provide emerging leaders from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Moldova, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan with professional work experience to compliment the graduate studies they are undertaking through the Fulbright Foreign Student Program.
Since 1992, the U.S. Department of State has provided thousands of graduate school fellowships for students from across Eurasia to build democracies, strengthen the transition to market economies, and establish strong civil societies. Cultural Vistas has built upon that foundation by providing hands-on, professional skill-building opportunities across the United States for more than 380 graduate students over the last nine years.