U.S. Department of State, Office of Policy, Planning and Resources for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Washington, D.C.
This summer, I had the opportunity to intern at the Department of State in Washington, D.C. Specifically, I worked in the chief technology officer unit within the Office of Policy, Planning and Resources. Established in 2004, this office encourages the department’s public diplomacy efforts at home and abroad by establishing long-term planning initiatives and allocating budgetary and technology resources to support foreign policy objectives. Interning for this office was an incredible professional experience and solidified my interest in pursuing a future career in public service.
As a member of the chief technology officer unit, I worked in person one to three days a week and was involved with a wide variety of projects. This group specifically supports digital engagement to ensure that public diplomacy practitioners have the strongest tools at their disposal to collaborate around the world. From my very first day, I had the opportunity to sit in on meetings with public affairs offices and other State Department bureaus that had questions about specific platforms, such as Zoom, or were interested in bringing their teams onto new applications, like Slack. It was fascinating to not only learn about the work happening behind-the-scenes that ensures that bureaus have the technological assistance they need to efficiently operate but also better understand potential arguments against the introduction of yet another digital platform from officers who were satisfied with the way things were.
In addition to participating in meetings, I had the opportunity to jump in on existing projects as well as engage with my own. I helped edit and update user adoption guides that explained how public diplomacy practitioners can leverage different tools and features to conduct work more effectively, and I designed infographics and one-pagers that could be shared to interested users. One of my major individual projects involved creating more than 30 slides for a presentation that shared specific features of and onboarding techniques for a technology platform. It was amazing to be given so much responsibility and to be trusted with creating a document that would be used to help future state department employees better understand how this application would assist their public diplomacy work.
As a political science and history double major, I was a little uncertain at first of my abilities to intern with an office focused on technology. However, this experience highlighted how interdisciplinary the realm of public diplomacy and public affairs really is. I learned not only how digital engagement supports and intertwines with foreign policy initiatives but also the importance of public diplomacy work on the international level.
I am extremely grateful to the Estate of George Mead and to the ’68 Center for Career Exploration for this summer experience. I look forward to incorporating what I learned at the Department of State into my studies at Williams as well as in my future career endeavors into public service.