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Student Patricia Mullaney-Loss Gains Valuable Experience at SPP-Funded Internship

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Patricia Mullaney-Loss

When Patricia Mullaney-Loss started her summer internship at the U.S. Department of State, Office of Western European Affairs, she wanted to learn more about current foreign affairs, and so far she’s gained that knowledge and more, including valuable experience and contacts to help her make future decisions about her career.

Mullaney-Loss received funding for her summer internship through the University of Maryland School of Public Policy Internship Program. Each semester, the SPP Internship Program provides compensation to full-time graduate students for unpaid internships. “I am extremely grateful for the financial support,” she says. “Without funding, I would not have been able to do this internship.”

Going into the internship, Mullaney-Loss says she already knew a bit about Western European cultures and languages (specifically Italian, Swiss, French, and German) through her family. “I still did not know much about our political and economic relationship with those countries,” she says. “I thought it would be a great experience to be steeped in an environment that focused on these aspects. Furthermore, I was interested to hear more about careers in the Foreign Service.”

I am interested in a career in cultural diplomacy—allowing us to foster understanding and cooperation across nations through creative and educational pursuits. Working at State has given me the opportunity to see what it would be like to be an FSO specializing in public diplomacy.
Patricia Mullaney-Loss '15

In thinking about her future career, she says this internship has allowed her to gather important experience working with Foreign Service Officers (FSO). “I am interested in a career in cultural diplomacy—allowing us to foster understanding and cooperation across nations through creative and educational pursuits,” Mullaney-Loss says. “Working at State has given me the opportunity to see what it would be like to be an FSO specializing in public diplomacy.”

She goes on to say, “It has been fascinating to be a part of the foreign policy making process. I have learned how the structure of the department moves paper from my office up to the principles (assistant secretaries and Secretary of State John Kerry). There are so many hands that go into writing the papers, but at the end of the day you have an extremely thorough and consistent document that will be used to further our relationships with foreign countries.”

One of her most interesting projects so far has been helping with the confirmation process for ambassadorial nominees. “I have also been able to attend high-level meetings and events with the senators, secretaries, and ambassadors,” she says. “I have been able to work on plans for the Milan Expo, and I have also enjoyed working on papers for principles—knowing they then take those documents to stay informed and to speak to other leaders.”

Mullaney-Loss says her internship experience has been a busy one. “My work varies, and is generally quite substantive,” she says. “I condense information for principles, gather information for officers, attend meetings, summarize information from the meetings, organize schedules, and help with events. Because of my language skills, I have also been asked to translate and summarize documents or attend certain meetings with foreign nationals. I really have been able to take ownership on issues, allowing me to learn a lot in a short time.”

The writing skills that she has gained through courses at UMD School of Public Policy have proved to be helpful at her internship. “Writing concisely is crucial, she says. “Learning how to tailor a memo or other document to that specific setting is key. I have also needed to conduct research and synthesize material quickly.”

She also says this experience has taught her to always say yes to an opportunity. “I have volunteered for activities that I first thought might not be interesting, but that have allowed me to gain new knowledge and great contacts,” she says. “I have found more self-confidence by realizing that FSOs are constantly learning and asking questions and it was okay for me to do the same.”

Though her experience isn’t over yet, Mullaney-Loss says she’s already gained so much. “I have made contacts, learned how to respond to others tactfully, talked to many people doing cultural diplomacy, experienced the foreign policy process, expanded my writing skills, and learned substantive information every day,” she says. “I am able to be a part of the significant and meaningful work that happens at this department every day. It is an amazing experience to work on relationships with other countries and to see how our diplomatic process works."


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