The Public Service Leadership Program is a unique program which is building a national reputation for students to gain the skills, experience, and contacts needed for a career in public policy - both domestic and international. It was founded in 2006 by Ambassador Nancy Soderberg, a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the University of North Florida. As the current Director of the program, Ambassador Soderberg has used her extensive contacts in government and the nonprofit world to build a network of opportunities for UNF students to gain first hand experience in the field, building their resume and contacts -- keys to future employment. There are three elements to the program: internships; the Model UN program; and the Real World Washington trip. Each of these programs build lasting skills for students and transform the students' vision and career goals.
UNF students have the opportunity to gain first hand experience in the field of public policy through internships in the political arena, the government, the United Nations, and national and international organizations, experiences that are truly transformational. Over the last seven years, the Public Service Leadership Program has placed nearly 100 students in these exceptional positions, not only locally, but in Tallahassee, Washington, D.C., New York City, as well as internationally.
UNF students have worked for two to six months in offices of Senators Bill Nelson, Marco Rubio, and Elizabeth Dole, numerous Congressional offices, the Department of Education, Department of Defense, and the Department of State in Washington, D.C., U.S. Embassies abroad, including Paris, and Ankara. Other offices include Refugees International, National Democratic Institute, American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, CNN, Human Rights First, Amnesty International, Citizens for Global Solutions in Washington, and the Susan Komen Foundation in Atlanta, and PEN, Human Rights First, and Amnesty International in New York City. Students have worked for the United Nations World Food Program in Bangkok, Thailand, Tanzania, and Rome.
As these prospective employers have been actively seeking students whose background goes beyond the typical Ivy League experience, UNF students have proven themselves to be equals in the internship pool. With this success, the University now is able to place any student who seeks an internship and set each well on his or her way to a career in public policy. The experiences not only give the students real life experience in their fields but also inspire them to seek careers they had previously assumed were out of reach. UNF offers scholarships for many of these opportunities.
Stacey Enriquez, a UNF senior nursing student, discusses her 2007 South African internship, where she studied the country’s health care system and how it is treating its HIV/AIDS epidemic:
“If you are questioning whether the time, money, and effort put toward an internship is worth it – I say yes, absolutely. Knowledge can be gained from books and a classroom, but there is a unique experiential knowledge gained by putting what you have learned into practice. I now study nursing with greater conviction and purpose. I also feel a kinship with the people of South Africa who welcomed me by sharing their history, culture, pain, and hope for a healthier future. I am a better person because of them.”
Today, UNF students have found jobs from these internships in the offices of Governor Rick Scott, Senator Bill Nelson, Senator Marco Rubio, the UN World Food Program, the American Enterprise Fund, CNN, and a vast array of organations. Many others are in graduate school.
National Model United Nations (NMUN) is an organization that organizes competitions throughout the country that are designed to allow students from various universities from across the globe to compete in the policy arena. Universities represent a delegation that participates in the solving of real world problems in a simulated atmosphere that mirrors the formal committees they represent. Students debate, make speeches, enter negotiations, and seek solutions to international issues and crises using similar resources provided to actual delegates. The University of North Florida Model United Nations Team has a proud tradition of participation in Model United Nations Circuits winning top tier awards while competing within the National and International Model United Nation Communities.Each participating school is assigned a country and argues for resolutions based on their country’s point of view. Students write position papers, stating their country’s position on the issues chosen by the head of the conference and submit them before the competition begins.
Once at the competition, students are assigned to committees in groups of two and sit in committees such as the Security Council, Council on Women’s Issues, etc. They work with other countries and create resolutions that are voted on by the committee at large. Delegations (the team) are to stay in character the entire time, so they must work with countries and toward resolutions that are only what their assigned country would work toward, so teams must be prepared ahead of time. On the last day, student teams enter their resolutions into the pool to be voted on by all participating schools (countries) and lobby to get their resolutions passed.
Founded just four years ago by UNF students, the University of North Florida’s Model UN team is already winning awards. In the Spring of 2012, it took first place among more than 200 teams from universities all around the world at the Model United Nations Conference held in New York City in 2012. UNF’s 12-person team represented the country of Honduras and was one of only 17 teams to receive the Outstanding Delegation award, which is the first-place honor given to fewer than the top 10 percent of teams. This was the team’s second time ever participating in the national conference, and the UNF team, consisting of 30 total members, has only been in existence for two years.
The team takes three trips a year, to a regional conference, to one in Atlanta, and one at the United Nations in New York. The experience is a truly transformational one for the students, demonstrating to them not only how the United Nations works, but also the importance of leadership in addressing today’s complex, international challenges. Students are currently organizing an event for high school students at UNF in the spring of 2014.
Below are the most recent awards earned by UNF MUN:
NMUN Washington DC National Competition
Outstanding (1st Place Ranking) Delegation overall UNF representing the Republic of Turkey 2011
Florida Crisis Committee at the University of Florida
Individual Honorable Mention for performance as the Ukranian SSR 2011
NMUN New York International Competition
Distinguished (Second Place Ranking) Delegation overall UNF representing Mongolia/Nigeria 2012
Individual Outstanding for performance as Nigeria on the Security Council 2012
FMUN (Florida Model United Nations) 2012:Outstanding Delegation - Anna Barlow, Joy Bagwell, and Philip Sabado (United States of America)SRMUN (Southern Regional Model United Nation) 2012:Honorable Mention - JordanFLCS II (Florida Crisis Simulation) 2013:Outstanding Delegate - Anna BarlowHonorable Mention - Sheamus McNeely
In the Fall and Spring semesters, Ambassador Nancy Soderberg teaches a public policy course which includes role playing of senior U.S. government National Security Council meetings and a trip to Washington, D.C. to meet with senior U.S. officials. During the semester, students review current national policy issues and select one for research and discussion with key policy makers in Washington. Since 2007, the class has engaged senior U.S. policymakers on issues ranging from Bahrain, Russia, India, Venezuela, Somalia, Mexico, Turkey, Sudan, Mali, and nonproliferation. The undergraduates research and write a policy memo outlining their suggested changes to U.S. policy. They then travel to Washington, D.C., where the students discuss their policy papers with senior officials such as:
While in D.C., students continue to be surprised by how seriously officials actually read their paper and engage enthusiastically on their policy recommendations. For the first time, many of the students recognize they can have a career in public policy. Upon the class’s return to Jacksonville, the students write an op-ed article on their topic for the local paper, the Florida Times Union. Upon completing this course, students are so impacted by their discovery that they can have a leadership role in shaping this country’s future that they often change their career ambitions.
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Alumni Internship Testimonials and Updates
These individuals are happy to take questions concerning their experiences, please contact Charmaine Peralta at firstname.lastname@example.org or 904-620-1635 for more information.
"My internship with the United Nations’ World Food Programme in Tanzania could not have been more beneficial and worthwhile. Living amongst the citizens of one of the most impoverished regions on earth was remarkable, and sincerely humbling. This was an experience that can never be replicated in a classroom and one that has given me significant insight into the needs and the way forward for a counpassion and inspiration to succeed in and out of the classroom----I made a difference."
"As part of my interdisciplinary graduate certificate in Conflict Transformation, I took Ambassador Soderberg's Real World Power/Superpower Myth class. Not only did this course improve my critical thinking and writing skills, but Ambassador Soderberg later helped me secure an internship in Washington DC at a prestigious think tank, where I researched the future of UN peacekeeping operations and the protection of civilians during violent conflict. Following this experience I was able to land a job in DC at an international human rights advocacy organization and I am also currently finishing a Masters of Science in Conflict Management and Negotiations. My experience at UNF was instrumental in preparing me for a career in foreign policy and human rights advocacy."
Co-Founder & CEO of Eco Hub: www.theEcoHub.org
Reports Officer for the World Food Program headquarters in Rome, Italy:
In 2010, I started work as an intern with the World Food Program’s (WFP) headquarters in Rome, Italy. Today, after working in a handful of emergencies throughout the globe, I am back at a desk in Rome – a bit road worn, but grateful for the opportunities I’ve earned. I’ve played more of a role in global events during the last three years than I thought possible in three lifetimes, and for that I have my university to thank. The connections provided through UNF, as well as the internship-assistance initiatives of individual faculty, helped to jump-start my career and turn my good intentions into practical solutions. As a Reports Officer, it has been my job to let the world know what issues are preventing families from reaching their basic food needs, and what WFP and the cooperating humanitarian community are doing to help. I consolidate information – including WFP’s operations, food insecurity issues, as well as the overall political, economic, social and sometimes militaristic updates – to provide on-the-ground context for donor countries, WFP management, the general humanitarian community, and on occasion news media outlets. I’ve worked in Guatemala to support subsistence farmers and their families after mudslides and flooding wiped out seed silos, fields, and whole villages. At the onset of the Arab Spring, I went to Cairo where I took part in the refugee assistance to those populations fleeing conflict in Libya for neighboring countries in Egypt and Tunisia; and later, as fighting within Libya scaled down, I moved into the country to play a larger role in managing and evaluating distributions to families struggling to reestablish their lives in war-torn cities and governorates. In Rome, I help to provide donors with timely updates on country office and regional activities – ensuring that such direct, on-the-ground assistance can continue to be provided. There is a lot of uncertainty in my job, and I’ve had to learn to adapt quickly to evolving environments. I like working for WFP because it’s a constant reminder to be thankful, and that, while the world does not treat all equally, at least WFP (and organizations like it) give us the platform to help improve the situation for those who have been handed a raw deal. Working in this organization has been an unmatched opportunity, and I’m glad I’ve been able to play a small role in these evolving regions. Often I am asked how I came to work in such an interesting environment – once the UNF opportunity opened a door for me, I took it and ran. My advice has always been: forget the wardrobe and work for the job you want, not the job you have. If you enter as an intern, anywhere, and want a paid position – be ready to get your hands dirty and make yourself indispensable. I wish you all the best of luck in your path. All the best.
Read Ryan's World Food Program article here: http://www.wfp.org/node/3507/3837/181130
I remember the first day of Professor Soderberg's "Contemporary Issues" class as a student still unsure of my career goals. She promised that the internship experiences we could obtain through her mentorship would be life changing, and that only a brave handful of us would actually take her up on it. With determination, I recall telling myself, "I have to be in that handful."
Fast forward eighteen months, and I have begun to passionately pursue a career in government relations. After "Contemporary Issues," I took Professor Soderberg's Spring 2012 "Real World Policy" class in which we selected a U.S. foreign policy issue, developed policy prescriptions, and presented them before senior officials in Washington, DC that included a meeting with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Last year, I spent four months in Tanzania as an intern with the United Nations World Food Programme where I assisted with the Food for Education & Food for Assets initiatives. My experience there provided me with a firsthand understanding of the cooperative relationships between national & local government, NGOs, and international organizations.
Since returning to the States, I have been interning in the Jacksonville office of Senator Marco Rubio. Following graduation in April 2013, I will be moving to Washington, DC to continue work in government relations before pursuing graduate and law degrees.
Through Professor Soderberg's mentorship, I have already accomplished milestones in my collegiate career that I never imagined possible. Peter Drucker, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, once said, "Leadership is lifting a person's vision to high sights, the raising of a person's performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations." Professor Soderberg has done exactly this for me and my fellow students at the University of North Florida.
Her promise has held true: The opportunities I have had through her mentorship have changed my life and the trajectory of my career. Not a day goes by that I'm not grateful to be in that handful of brave students.
I am planning to pursue a PhD Degree in international relations in order to become a U.S Foreign Service Office. I will be graduating from University of North Florida (UNF) in April, 2013 with a Bachelor's of Science in International Relations and a minor in philosophy.
My goal is to represent America's interests in East Africa, in particular Ethiopia. My personal knowledge of the culture, religion, and language in the region, coupled with my graduate studies, will prepare me well for this career. I believe that this is only possible due to Prof. Nancy Soderberg encouragement and commitment to helping me understand international relations.
My interest in international relations stems from growing up in Africa. I was born in Yavello, Ethiopia in 1991 and my family and I moved to Nairobi, Kenya in 1994 because of the political instability of the Ethiopian government. Growing up in Kenya I assimilated into the culture, language and the people. Kiswahili became my third language after Afan Orom and Amharic. In hope for a better life my family and I moved once again to America, 10 years in the pursuit of happiness I have always kept my dream to help my people in my mind and heart.Before I began taking Prof. Soderberg's classes, I worked at UNF Environmental Center as a student assistant in August, 2011. I coordinated Garbage on the Green a $7,000 project. I recruited and trained over 160 students' for the university-sponsored event in 2011, and 124 students in 2012. The audit program is aimed at educating students, faculty and staff about ways to reduce campus trash through recycling, litter-prevention practices and other "environmental" issues. I also oversaw the planning, logistics, management of 60 student volunteers for Recyclemania. It is an ongoing 10-week long, friendly competition between 600 different universities nationwide.
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