|D.C. internships: Classroom theory meets practice
After two summers of technical work in a laboratory, Rice junior Rahul Rekhi, a bioengineering and economics major, wondered if his approach to his studies was becoming too narrow. This summer, as a 2011 intern for the Baker Institute's Jesse Jones Leadership Center Summer in D.C. Policy Research Program, Rekhi worked at the National Science Foundation, where he researched ways to spur innovation in the 21st century.
"It was a rare opportunity for an engineer like me to apply science and technology issues to policy," said Rekhi. "It made me realize how important it is for technical people to see the big picture and learn how to communicate effectively with policymakers."
Rekhi was one of the dozen 2011 Baker Institute D.C. interns who last Saturday presented their summer research projects to an audience of institute fellows, Rice faculty members and alumni of the program. Using PowerPoint slides and a laser pointer, the interns — some of whom are pictured above — described a wide range of projects, including an analysis of America's aging workforce, the environmental and cost benefits of bus rapid transit, and the federal response to sexual assault in the armed forces.
Audience members asked questions or, on occasion, challenged the students' findings during a spirited discussion after each presentation. Lawrence Hampton, lecturer in management at Rice's Jones Graduate School of Business, recorded the event on video, and will meet with interns individually to critique their content and delivery.
The goal of the D.C. summer internship program is to offer Rice undergraduates hands-on experience in public policy research and analysis in the nation's capital. "It allows students to integrate classroom theory with its evaluation and application in real life," said Steven W. Lewis, who leads the program. Lewis is the institute's C.V. Starr Transnational China Fellow and a professor of the practice in humanities at Rice.
The program provides stipends that cover the interns' summer living expenses in Washington. Applicants are responsible for securing internships at government agencies, private think tanks or nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) — most of which are unpaid.
"There's no way I could have worked in Washington without this program paying for my housing and living expenses," said Rice senior Ellory Matzner, who attended congressional committee meetings, met with lobbyists and researched the impacts of the 2012 Farm Bill for Defenders of Wildlife, an organization dedicated to the preservation of wild animals and native plants. "This experience let me see the process in action, and I loved it. It was the deciding factor for me to eventually attend law school and work in environmental law in Washington."
Since 2004, 63 students have represented the Baker Institute and Rice University at some 45 government agencies, public policy think tanks and NGOs in Washington. "The program is not only educational, but in many cases, it provides pre-professional training," said Allen Matusow, the Baker Institute's academic affairs director.
Many of the interns' summer projects form the basis of applications for prestigious national honors such as the Rhodes, Marshall and Fulbright scholarships and the Watson fellowship — honors that have been awarded to many program alumni.
As in previous years, the 2011 D.C. interns are already outstanding students and leaders. Benjamin Chou and Rebecca Jaffe have been named Morris K. Udall scholars, and Rekhi is a Barry M. Goldwater scholar. Tawfik Jarjour is chair of the Rice Centennial House Committee and past president of Rice Habitat for Humanity, Chou is president of the Rice Undergraduate Research Symposium, and Matzner is chair of the University Court.
Visit the Baker Institute website to learn more about the D.C. internship program and other student opportunities at the institute. Applications for the next class of D.C. interns will be accepted through Jan. 31, 2012.
The 2011 summer research topics are listed below. Each intern will write a report on his or her project, which will be published by the Baker Institute or select academic journals.
Benjamin Brookstone '12
Natural Language Processing and Education Policy: Extending Semantic MEDLINE Beyond Medicine
Internship: National Institute of Health's Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications
Matthew Carey '12
Analysis of Emergency Department Utilization by Centenarians Using a Nationwide Dataset
Internship: Urban Institute Health Policy Center
Benjamin Chou '13
Keystone XL: Obama's Political Dilemma
Internship: White House Council on Environmental Quality
Rebecca Jaffe '12
Internship: World Resources Institute EMBARQ Center for Sustainable Transport
Tawfik Jarjour '12
Saving the World: Disaster Relief and Faith Based Organizations
Internship: Christian Connections for International Health and Habitat for Humanity International
Ellory Matzner '12
Current Issues in the U.S. Farm Bill
Internship: Defenders of Wildlife
Sailesh Prabhu '12
International Cooperation in Space
Internship: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Studies and Analysis Division
Joe Pullano '13
Massachusetts v. EPA: Supreme Court Influence on Public Policy
Internship: American Enterprise Institute Legal Center for the Public Interest
Rahul Rekhi '13
Developing a 21st Century Innovation Ecosystem
Internship: National Science Foundation Congressional Affairs Group of the Office of Legislative and Public Affairs
Neeraj Salhotra '13
How the U.S. Can Fund Energy Efficiency Retrofits
Internship: Center for American Progress
Mark Seraydarian '12
The Challenges of Aging Gracefully: How America Can Prepare for Global Demographic Change
Internship: American Enterprise Institute
Chajin Wu '13
Sexual Assault in the Armed Forces: Department of Defense Remedies to Provide Justice for Victims
Internship: American Civil Liberties Union, Washington Legislative Office
Baker Institute and Brookings collaborate on paper about electronic money trail
A dramatic growth in technologies, combined with older methods of money transfers, has helped create new opportunities for criminals to cover their financial tracks. A new report by the Baker Institute and the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings details the latest trends in the illicit movement of money around the world and proposes several ways to curtail it.
"The combination of the enormous growth in social networks, the complexity of peer-to-peer systems and software and the number of Internet and wirelessly connected devices is altering the landscape of financial transactions at a rate and to a degree that is unprecedented," wrote Chris Bronk, fellow in information technology policy at the Baker Institute and one of the report's co-authors.
"Shadowy Figures: Tracking Illicit Financial Transactions in the Murky World of Digital Currencies, Peer-to-peer Networks and Mobile Device Payments" was also co-authored by John Villasenor, nonresident senior fellow at The Brookings Institution in governance studies and the Center for Technology Innovation, and Cody Monk, instructor/lecturer at the National Intelligence University and The Naval Postgraduate School.
"Almost no one would argue that governments do not have a right to track and trace digital financial transactions associated with activities such as terrorism and human trafficking," the authors wrote. "It is less clear, however, how governments can surmount the formidable technical and organizational challenges associated with detecting and monitoring these transactions."
They suggested that any solution "will require a combination of self-regulation, government-industry collaboration and change in both technology and culture within government agencies."
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The James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy is a nonpartisan public policy think tank located on the campus of Rice University in Houston, Texas. The institute's distinguished fellows and scholars 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.