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Baker Institute Update: Baker Institute summer interns sharpen research skills, explore careers in D.C.
The 2016 Jesse Jones Leadership Center Summer in D.C. Policy Research Internship Program summer interns are pictured in front of the National Archives. Back row (l-r): Evan Flack, Jackson Neagli, David Ratnoff, Albert Nabiullin and Alex Morton; front row (l-r): Tay Jacobe, Aaron Huang, Anjali Bhatla, Yasna Haghdoost and Griffin Thomas.

July 27, 2016: In this edition
Baker Institute summer interns sharpen research skills, explore careers in D.C.

For two months this summer in the nation’s capital, Baker College senior Anjali Bhatla is working toward her goal of becoming a “physician policymaker.” Her internship with the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Global Health Center in Washington, D.C., was made possible by the Baker Institute’s Jesse Jones Leadership Center Summer in D.C. Policy Research Internship Program.

Now in its 13th year, the program offers Rice undergraduates hands-on experience in public policy research and analysis. The interns integrate classroom theory with its evaluation and application in real life. In a city where unpaid internships are common, the program provides stipends that cover the interns’ summer living expenses in Washington.

“I am analyzing the role of international institutions in global infectious disease policy, including tuberculosis, malaria and anti-microbial resistance,” said Bhatla, a kinesiology and policy studies major who was named a 2016 Truman Scholar in April. “My research also studies the interface between health and security and the development of government partnerships in combating disease.”

The D.C. internship program is led by Steven Lewis, the C.V. Starr Transnational China Fellow at the Baker Institute, a professor in the practice and associate director of Rice’s Chao Center for Asian Studies. Since 2004, 118 students have represented the Baker Institute and Rice at a wide variety of government agencies, public policy think tanks and nongovernmental organizations in Washington.

“We’re pretty clear that we’re looking for people who are interested in public service, (are) very smart … and then we just make sure that we get students from every school, if we can,” Lewis said of the students selected to participate. “That also leads into all the different policy areas. So we make sure people do domestic policy, people do foreign policy, and it’s a very diverse group.”

Lewis’ Baker Institute colleagues Allen Matusow, director for academic affairs at the institute and the William Gaines Twyman Professor of History at Rice, and Joe Barnes, the Bonner Means Baker Fellow, help with recruiting and selecting students.

Those admitted into the program are responsible for securing an internship.

Aaron Huang, a Baker College junior majoring in economics and policy studies, is participating in the United States Foreign Service Internship Program, the State Department’s two-summer paid internship opportunity, with the first summer spent in D.C., including three weeks of foreign service training in the beginning, and the second at an embassy abroad.

“The USFSIP cohort is extremely diverse,” Huang said. “We have a person who speaks mountain pidgin, a 40-year-old veteran who was deployed in Afghanistan and someone who has worked in the CIA. I’m learning so much from their varying and wide-ranging experiences.”

Huang is currently with the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs as part of the internship’s first summer.

David Ratnoff, a Martel College junior majoring in history, is interning with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington Legislative Office, which is the federal lobbying arm of the organization. “I was attracted to the ACLU because I was concerned about protecting voting rights and combatting discrimination," Ratnoff said. "I conduct research on the civil liberties implications of pieces of legislation, help compile issue briefs and assist in hosting congressional briefings.”

An introduction to political theory and philosophy – and a career

The program also offers a unique education component focused on globalization and policymaking. The interns are required to attend three two-day-long seminars and read 15 classic and contemporary political philosophy and public-policy books for background information and discussion.

“It’s a whole day sitting in a basement of a tea house called Teaism in the Penn Quarter area, right next to the National Archives and the FBI headquarters, without Wi-Fi and bad cellphone service,” Lewis said. “For six or seven hours, we’ll sit there and talk about their internships, each one of these books and about how these theories of public policy are still relevant today.”

At the end of summer, the interns will return to campus to present their research projects on Aug. 27 to an audience of Baker Institute fellows and Rice faculty members. 

“The Baker Institute’s student programs, particularly the Jesse Jones Leadership Center, are a central element of the institute’s mission — educating and nurturing the next generation of decision-makers, public servants and thought leaders that will shape our nation,” said Baker Institute Director Edward Djerejian. “These programs have a unique track record of helping students gain valuable experiences they can build on throughout their lives. The Baker Institute is proud of the role it plays on the Rice campus to help students move beyond high performance in the classroom to personal and professional growth in all areas of their lives.”

Program alumni have gone on to law school, with many clerking with federal appellate judges and one becoming deputy solicitor general of Oklahoma, and three alumni have already become full foreign service officers at the State Department, Lewis said. Other recent alumni of the program are working in D.C. at the White House Council of Economic Advisers, the Asian Pacific American Caucus of the Congress, the World Resources Institute, Brookings Institution, the Urban Institute and Third Way.

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Upcoming Events
  • The 2016 Battle for Control of the White House: National Trends and Consequences for Texas. At this Roundtable Young Professionals event, political science fellow Mark Jones offers a nonpartisan take on the presidential election and how it will shape Texas’ future. August 23 | 6:30 pm
  • Integrating North America: Building a Modern, Efficient and Flexible Border. The Honorable Alan Bersin, assistant secretary for international affairs and chief diplomatic officer in the Office of Policy at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, will address the progress and remaining challenges in the cross-border regions of the U.S., Mexico and Canada more than 20 years after NAFTA.
    August 24 | 5:30 pm
  • 10 Commandments of Presidential Leadership. Dallas lawyer and historian Talmage Boston discusses his book, "Cross-Examining History: A Lawyer Gets Answers From the Experts About Our President," and the leading U.S. presidents who have epitomized essential leadership traits in an effort to provide important considerations for voters' analysis in 2016. August 31 | 6:30 pm
  • Smart Green Cities. Featured speaker Woodrow W. Clark II, co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, discusses his work on smart green communities and how such efforts can help mitigate the effects of climate change and global warming. September 13 | 5:30 pm
  • Stem Cell Tourism Near and Far: Achieving a Compromise for the Patient. Panelists examine the FDA’s efforts to combat stem cell tourism in the U.S. and why the clinical trial process is the gold standard for understanding the impact of therapeutic interventions. September 22 | 8:00 am

For a complete list, visit our event page.

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Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy is a nonpartisan, independent think tank in Houston, Texas. The institute's fellows and scholars conduct research and collaborate with experts from academia, government, the media, business and private organizations on domestic and foreign policy issues with the goal of bridging the gap between the theory and practice of public policy.
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