Aurora Matthews HS Internship

Aurora Matthews (MID '12)

One of the main reasons I chose to attend GSPIA was the Ford Institute for Human Security.  I saw an opportunity to be a part of a type of research program that I saw other schools lacking in.  I decided that if there was a chance for me to make my mark in graduate school, it would be through contributing myself to an entity such as the Ford Institute.  I had grand plans my first semester in GSPIA: join one of the Ford Institute’s working groups, attend as many Speaker Series events as possible, maybe even seeking out Ford Institute affiliated faculty to see if they needed my help in any of their projects.  But then came statistics, economics, and all the other stresses and pressures that accompany a student’s first semester in GSPIA.  In the beginning of my second semester I realized that I hadn’t integrated myself into the one place in GSPIA that I wanted to the most.  So I decided to seek out information about whether I could do an internship with the Ford Institute during the summer.  By the end of the second semester I was thrilled to be informed that there was going to be enough work at Ford to accept a few interns for the summer (2011).  In May I, along with Shena Cavallo (MID-’12), Zachary Karazsia (MID-’12) and Steve Coulthart (PhD’14), finally attained my goal of working at Ford and officially began my summer internship. 

As an undergrad I completed multiple internships, most notably in Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s press office and another for the Committee to Protect Journalists.  Before coming to GSPIA, I worked at a public relations agency in Washington, D.C.  By the time I was in graduate school, I wasn’t looking for the typical internship.  I was ready to dive headfirst into as much research and writing as I could handle.  No coffee fetching for me.  And I got exactly what I wished for.  Dr. Taylor Seybolt, the Ford Institute’s director at the time, had a couple projects in mind for the four of us.  The first project I began working on revolved around the Responsibility to Protect Doctrine (R2P).  If I thought I was going to get any sort of a break from academic reading this summer, I was wrong.  But this was exactly what I wanted.  The four of us were given a long list of books and journal articles, which we split up amongst ourselves, and began reading and then writing literature reviews to be used as background information for Dr. Seybolt. These literature reviews dominated the first part of my internship.  But they didn’t only help enhance Dr. Seybolt’s research that summer.  During my second year in GSPIA I found myself calling on the various theories, research models, and names of the experts that I had familiarized myself with during my internship.

The second part of my internship at the Ford Institute that summer eventually fuelled my own research and ultimately culminated in inspiring my final Capstone paper at the end of my GSPIA career.  At the time, Dr. Seybolt was doing extensive research into finding out what, if any, is the tipping point from mass violence into genocide.  My work shifted from literature reviews to case studies.  I was asked to look into Kyrgyzstan, particularly the violence that occurred in 2010, but also in 2005 and 1990.  Zack began working on the case of Sudan, while Shena and Steve both collaborated on Ivory Coast and Libya.  We were each given a generic protocol to complete consisting of a little more than fifty questions.  The assignment appeared straightforward; just answer the questions.  But it was anything but.  Since that summer, I have become extremely knowledgeable in the history of Kyrgyzstan, as well as in other countries in the region such as Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan.  It took a long time to begin to understand the conflict that occurred there in 2010, and was much more complex than I could have ever imagined.  I can’t speak for the other interns I worked with, but I think they all encountered similar problems in each of their case studies.  My assignment didn’t just teach me about Kyrgyzstan.  I learned so many more valuable research methods, all of which have carried over into other academic settings and I am sure into my future jobs.  The end result of this work was a paper written by Dr. Seybolt and presented at a conference.  Each of the interns was acknowledged in the paper and given credit for our work.  This was exactly what I wanted to do at the Ford Institute.

The end of my internship at Ford did not mean the end of my involvement in the institute.  Throughout my second year at GSPIA I was a constant presence in the office.  Not only did I make it a point to attend as many Speaker Series events that I could, I even wrote about many of them and had them published on the Ford Institute website.  My work at the Ford Institute is truly invaluable.  My internship provided me with opportunity to learn, develop professional skills, contribute on a team and individually, and produce work that I am extremely proud of.

Ford Institute for Human Security
3930 Wesley W. Posvar Hall, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15260