New Data Shows Long-Lasting Impact for Alumni of the Muskie Internship Program

Each August around 50 Edmund S. Muskie Internship Program participants gather for a debriefing seminar to reflect on and share their summer internship experiences. Their achievements and success stories serve as great proof of the Muskie Program’s importance for participants’ personal and professional development. But what happens after they complete the program? How do our alumni continue to succeed and use their international experience to support positive change in their home countries?

As the Muskie Program entered its sixth year in 2020, we invited Dr. Kelly Feltault at Cultural Crossings Consulting, LLC, to conduct an external evaluation to assess the long-term outcomes and impacts of the Muskie Program on our alumni and their home communities. More than 100 alumni participated in the survey, and some agreed to be interviewed. As a result, the Muskie Program team received a lot of interesting data, and we are happy to share a few major findings from this evaluation.

Muskie Internship Participants Gain Professional, Personal, and Intercultural Skills

As an experiential learning program funded by the U.S. Department of State, the Muskie Program provides each participant with a three-month summer internship with a U.S. host organization in their professional field. This immersive U.S. work experience contributes to Muskie participants’ transition from graduate students to self-confident professionals by building their professional, personal, and intercultural skills.

According to program alumni responses to our evaluation survey, the most frequently learned or improved professional skills during the program are working on diverse teams and networking. Ninety-two percent of Muskie alumni reported improving their personal skills, especially asking for help, managing adversity and challenges, and becoming adaptable in new and uncertain situations.

The high level of responsibility given to Muskie interns to manage projects and provide input at work required them to build personal skills such as taking initiative, self-reliance, and taking responsibility for their work. In addition, U.S. work experience significantly increased participants’ intercultural skills, and almost half of Muskie alumni continue using those intercultural skills in their daily life.

If you are interested in learning more about the summer experience of our interns, here is a story from our 2019 Muskie participant, Alisa Ivanitskaya, about her summer internship experience at the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

Muskie Alumni Use Their Experience to Support Positive Change at Home

After completing the Muskie Program, alumni apply the skills and experience they gained when they return home to further their professional goals and contribute to positive change within their communities. In fact, 78% of Muskie alumni respondents indicated that it is important for them to use their Muskie experience to support change in their home countries.

Many of them currently work on projects related to education, such as: education in rural areas (economic development, eco-business planning);  safety and health (gender-based violence prevention, childhood nutrition programs, mental health awareness); gender and social equity (mentoring, disability access, social services, private school for low income students); English education (language clubs, online English programs); and youth mentorship.

Other ways program alumni share their Muskie experience include mentoring others (85%), demonstrating the skills they gained through their daily work and actions (77%), and showing or teaching others (69%). Overall, Muskie alumni are trying to introduce different elements of U.S. work culture into their workplaces in their home country to build and expand local capacity.

To learn more about our alumni’s achievements after the Muskie Program, check out this blog story about Firdavs Navruzov, our 2015 Muskie alum, who established The Knowledge Academy in Bukhara and recently received a state award for his contributions to educational development in Uzbekistan.

Muskie Internship Program Leads to Long-Lasting Positive Changes

It is incredible to witness all the great things our program alumni are doing after their Muskie Program experience as they become inspiring leaders driving positive changes in their communities. Based on the evaluation data, 80% of respondents believed they could not have achieved the same professional accomplishments without participating in the Muskie Program. Interviewees agreed they would not have as many job opportunities nor be as competitive in the job market without their Muskie experience. They also said they “would be a different person”, less self-confident, and not be a “self-starter” able to adapt to change, start new endeavors, and reach their professional goals if they had not participated in the program.

See how our 2018 Georgian alumna, Lela Akiashvili, became a human right leader in her country here. As Lela said, “[My] Muskie internship gave me a huge advantage as an international student. I was able to enrich and diversify my professional experience at two different institutions, build resilient networks, and work on programs that I truly cared about. Moreover, Muskie experience helped me to find a job in the U.S. as well as upon return—in Georgia.”