On August 18, 2015, the Edmund S. Muskie Internship Program congratulated the very first cohort of Muskie interns with the successful completion of their program.
This day was an important milestone, because it represented both a celebration of this group as accomplished emerging leaders and the program establishing its completely new format and scope.
Since 1992, the Muskie program has provided thousands of graduate school fellowships for students from across Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia in order to build democracies, strengthen the transition to market economies, and establish a strong civil society following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Beginning in 2015, Cultural Vistas and the U.S. Department of State built upon that foundation to extend opportunities to graduate students to apply their learning and gain professional experience through summer internships with companies and organizations across the United States.
Over the last seven months, an important medium for showcasing this new format became film.
Although originally intended to document only participants as they developed professional skills in the American workplace, the project expanded to include our host companies and the Cultural Vistas staff that make it possible.
Soon, the Muskie video project materialized into a series of candid interviews documenting the program experience.
It wasn’t until we were able to sit down with Leon Billings, Edmund S. Muskie’s former Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of State and Senate, that we really began to get a sense of what makes our program strong.
As Leon reminds us during his interview, Muskie would have taught us the importance of building confidence and trust. He would have emphasized that confidence and trust are not built overnight, but require patience and a willingness to listen to those around you.
As we prepare for a second year of Muskie interns, we have a lot to be proud of and even more to look forward to. Whether participating in the program as a host company, staff member, or guest, everyone involved is helping strengthen regional ties, working toward a tomorrow where mutual understanding is the norm.