On-campus research and internships can be extremely beneficial in supplementing your academic experiences in the classroom, as well as preparing you for future endeavors beyond your time at university. Additionally, opportunities offered through the university are not your stereotypical coffee-fetching, telephone-answering positions. The professors and staff members that you are working with really do believe in the potential of undergraduate students, and they allow you to assume real responsibility and perform work that caters to your own skillset and interests.
And despite the challenges we WaMStAs might face due to the nature of our programme (some employers prefer longer-term time horizons–see Froitzheim’s class on Comparative Politics), these opportunities are still well within reach. This is especially true if you use the JDP as a selling point in your interviews and cover letters, presenting it in a way that reflects how you truly are part of a unique student body. WaMStAs can easily adapt, we are willing to try new things, and we’re always up for a challenge. We also know exactly (more or less) what we want. I mean, how many incoming freshman have already locked in their major before they’ve even enrolled in a single class? The programme really is what you make of it (see, Wendt’s theory can be relevant!), and I encourage you to put in the extra effort because it will pay off.
There are quite a few WaMStA-friendly programs available at W&M. Personally, I have been involved in a broad range of IR-focused organizations on campus, including:
The Project on International Peace and Security (PIPS): an undergraduate think-tank that focuses on issues in international security. I had the chance to work with some of the most intelligent people I have met throughout my time at university, who really inspired me in so many ways. This was one of the most memorable experiences of my Freshman year, and although it was quite time-consuming, it was also incredibly rewarding. Because you only need to commit one semester as an underclassman (Intern), or one year as an upperclassman (Fellow), this project is very accommodating to the JDP. Professors Amy Oakes and Dennis Smith are familiar with our programme, and have expressed their support– Prof. Oakes even studied abroad in London when she was an undergrad!
AidData: provides geospatial information on global aid flows. AidData is IR applied to the real world, which is such an exciting thing to witness and take part in. Additional perk: if you work here during the summer, you are given the offer to take classes with ITPIR (Institute for the Theory and Practice of International Relations) faculty, which is not only a great learning opportunity, but also a great way to boost your CV and to network with professionals in the field. We even went on a field trip into DC where we got to visit places such as the World Bank, Brookings, and Georgetown.
The Monitor: the journal for international studies at W&M. I am currently serving as Chief Copy Editor, but have also worked as a Reviewer in the past. This is a really great way to become better informed on recent and relevant topics in IR, and also to enhance your own writing and editing skills. For me, the best part about the Monitor is that I was able to remain involved even from thousands of miles away. Another option is to contribute your own work, which means that your articles or papers will undergo a peer-reviewed process, and potentially be published in a real academic journal!
If you are interested in learning more about any of these opportunities, please feel free to contact me!