Student Spotlight: Intercultural Dialogue

In December, the Graduate School Blog featured Emma Cregg, Master of Public Administration and Versailles Fellowship student, and her experience as an educator and researcher in Paris, France. Recently, Emma has accepted a position at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as the Intercultural Dialogue Section Intern. We have caught up with Emma to get the details on her research, fascinating internship, and how these opportunities have shaped her pursuits as a public administrator.

For the 2017-18 academic year, I am completing a research fellowship through the Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin that allows me to write my thesis for the MPA program while teaching English to French students at the University. My research employs a mixed methodology approach (personal interviews with local administrators, policy comparison, and quantitative surveys) to create an ethnographic comparison of how communities in two different countries share the challenge of interpreting national refugee policy to facilitate integration within their own communities. The topic of study connects my passion for intercultural exchange and refugee relief work with my research interests regarding the “implementation problems” public administrators must address when translating national policies within their own municipalities. More specifically, in comparing American refugee policy, which maintains all decision-making powers at the national level, to that of the UK, which allows local governments to opt in or out of national refugee rehabilitation programs, I am exploring how the level of local proprietorship impacts the refugee integration process in host communities.

After getting adjusted to my new daily life routine and teaching schedule in the fall, I decided to maximize my time abroad by applying for a few internships through the UN and other research or humanitarian institutions in Paris. I thought that fulfilling my MPA internship requirement in an international capacity would be a unique and highly beneficial experience. In December, I was selected as the Intercultural Dialogue Section Intern for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), whose headquarters are located in Paris- just down the street from the Eiffel Tower. This semester, I am dividing my time between teaching 9 English courses at the University of Versailles, interning 25 hours/week at UNESCO, and finishing up my thesis with the transatlantic support of a faculty committee led by Dr. Jos!

When I was called in for the interview at UNESCO’s Intercultural Dialogue Section, I assumed they selected my application based on my research topic and interest in a future career as a civil servant. I prepared for the interview by researching the department’s past and current projects, and came ready to discuss how my interests and skill sets aligned with their departmental mission. However, they told me my application stood out to them was due to my experience in assessment and data analysis during my time at the College of Charleston, where I worked as a GA in the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Strategic Planning. They described a new department-led project, Writing Peace, designed to develop intercultural literacy in schoolchildren and soon to be piloted by schools in Africa, Asia, and Central America, and asked me how I would frame assessment indicators for the program. Suddenly, I was pulling from the theory I learned in Dr. Keeney’s Program Evaluation course and sharing about the assessment projects I worked on throughout my assistantship. This is a good example of one of my biggest takeaways from my time working at CofC and studying in the MPA program: it has equipped me with new knowledge and experiences that are valuable and versatile… not just because it helped me extrapolate during my interview, but because that is what a career in public service requires.

Along similar lines, I see my opportunity to complete research, write a thesis, and gain professional experience in different cultural contexts as a challenging but rewarding set of experiences that I aspire to apply to a future career in local government. While interning for a department dedicated to facilitating intercultural dialogue among nations, I am helping assess projects and curriculum designed to teach intercultural competencies such as: respect, listening to understand, identifying interconnections, seeing through the “other’s” perspective, relationship building, and adaptation. These skills are not reserved for international peacekeeping. Intercultural dialogue also takes place when local administrators take additional measures to hear and represent diverse stakeholders or city planners employ community-based planning to respond to local populations’ needs. Intercultural dialogue takes place when the UK Refugee Council partners with community volunteers to welcome refugees in their communities; intercultural dialogue also takes place when a recent College of Charleston graduate says good morning to their long-term East Side resident neighbor. Such dialogue is a key constituent for the growth and development of local communities amid economic, social, and political change. Therefore, by pursuing a career in public service, I plan to join this conversation and utilize intercultural competencies while working to improve where and how diverse community members live through my role as a public administrator.


One thought on “Student Spotlight: Intercultural Dialogue

  1. Karen Chapman

    Féliciations! J’ai mon diplôme (MPA) de CofC, aussi! Je suis contente qu’il y a une chose à Paris!

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