Jolena M. Zabel

Jolena M. Zabel’16 from Hasting, MN, interned with the Department of State (DOS) Office of the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights. This office has a broad, coordinating role and supervises seven bureaus and offices with diverse, complicated missions, and is headed by Under Secretary Sarah Sewall who reports directly to Secretary Kerry. This unique placement within DOS provided a stimulating, enjoyable, and often-challenging internship experience. As the only intern in an office of about fifteen, I was able to work closely with policy experts, Foreign Service Officers (FSOs), lawyers, and office specialists on a variety of projects and issues. My work portfolio included three main components: gender, social media, and “principle” management. Gender, as mandated by Secretary Kerry, should be crosscutting and integrated across all DOS programs, bureaus, and offices. My responsibility was to find out to what extent the bureaus and offices were living up to this expectation and how. Under Secretary Sewall also requested that I find ways to boost her personal involvement on gender-related issues, especially gender-based violence in conflict and child marriage. I worked with a Special Advisor to develop a Family Gender Mission for our office. This included meeting with gender advisors, analyzing metrics, reporting and evaluating gender-related programming, and drafting a final action plan. To address Under Secretary Sewall’s other interests, I arranged meetings with UN, NGO and other officials, wrote official briefs on related issues, and planned VIP events to raise the profile of her issues of choice. My other main projects—social media and management work—were less issue-focused but allowed me to build a variety of critical skills for when I enter the job market this coming spring. I designed a social media action plan to boost Under Secretary Sewall’s social media. I also created new content and organization systems for her social media, aimed intentionally at giving her a greater reach on Twitter. My DOS internship helped me better understand my career interests, skillset, and preferred professional environment. I especially appreciated the diversity of issues with which my office worked. From atrocities prevention to LGBTQIA+ protection, my office was working with posts around the world to influence positive change through diplomacy. I now realize that cultivating an integrated approach with knowledge of many other complex issues is important for successful advocacy and a stimulating career. With the clarity provided to me by my internship experiences this summer, I plan to pursue a job in politics and policy after graduation, either on the Hill, a campaign, or at an NGO.