Archive for October, 2008

Idealists as Social Entrepreneurs

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

As you might imagine because I am the senior partner in this intergenerational dialogue with Mark, blogging is a new venture for me.  Writing in a more formal style comes more naturally.  Nonetheless, I suspect I will adapt to – and ultimately relish – this spontaneous style of communication (like I have a choice :-) ). 

I am posting an engaging article that appeared last week in The Washington Post.  Entitled “For This Generation, Vocations of Service,” it speaks to the basic assumption of Working World – that our readers want to make a difference in this turbulent world of ours.  Mark and I wrote a book for idealists – people who want to change the world – make it better.  So much of the emphasis in our culture in recent decades has been on short term gratification and material success.  Yet those who are most happy are, as Albert Schweitzer phrased it, those “who have learned to serve.”   

His is one of the three quotations we highlight in the beginning of the book.  Enjoy reading about the social entrepreneurs highlighted in the Post article.

“Writing out loud”

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

After my last post on the international character of the historic 2008 presidential election, I now leave the U.S. to observe things from afar (after having just cast my absentee ballot for Barack Obama).  No, I’m not going to observe in any official capacity—instead, I’m headed off to the beaches of Bali.  My good friends Derek and Karina are getting married on the Indonesian island this Saturday and my girlfriend and I will be there to celebrate.  Then, after going all that way, we figured we’d hang around a bit, so we’ll spend two weeks exploring Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore.  Starting tomorrow, I’m off-line and off-blog for two solid weeks, returning on November 12.  Sherry will keep things under control in my absence.

I leave you with a thought-provoking article from Andrew Sullivan on why he blogs. The essay is Sullivan’s first attempt, after more than eight years as a blogger, to grapple with the meaning of blogging as a medium.  He tries to define the unique nature of blogging versus other writing forms:

No columnist or reporter or novelist will have his minute shifts or constant small contradictions exposed as mercilessly as a blogger’s are. A columnist can ignore or duck a subject less noticeably than a blogger committing thoughts to pixels several times a day. A reporter can wait—must wait—until every source has confirmed. A novelist can spend months or years before committing words to the world. For bloggers, the deadline is always now. Blogging is therefore to writing what extreme sports are to athletics: more free-form, more accident-prone, less formal, more alive. It is, in many ways, writing out loud.

He makes a persuasive argument that blogging is not the death of traditional, long-form writing, but rather makes this kind of writing that much more necessary:

A blogger will air a variety of thoughts or facts on any subject in no particular order other than that dictated by the passing of time. A writer will instead use time, synthesizing these thoughts, ordering them, weighing which points count more than others, seeing how his views evolved in the writing process itself, and responding to an editor’s perusal of a draft or two. The result is almost always more measured, more satisfying, and more enduring than a blizzard of posts. The triumphalist notion that blogging should somehow replace traditional writing is as foolish as it is pernicious. In some ways, blogging’s gifts to our discourse make the skills of a good traditional writer much more valuable, not less. The torrent of blogospheric insights, ideas, and arguments places a greater premium on the person who can finally make sense of it all, turning it into something more solid, and lasting, and rewarding.

Read the essay.  It is infinitely worth your time.  See you in two weeks.

It’s time for a new marketing strategy

Monday, October 27th, 2008

If you watched SNL this past Saturday (it’s okay to admit it—the show has suddenly become relevant again in this election season), you probably saw that during musical guest Coldplay’s performance, lead singer Chris Martin wore a white band around his right arm on which were the handwritten words “Barack Obama” (no video available yet, so until I can find it, above in its place is an inexplicably hilarious skit of Andy Samberg impersonating Mark Wahlberg—think of it as a mental health break). Seeing as Martin and his Coldplay bandmates are British and clearly not voting on November 4, his armband was a not so subtle reminder that American elections, and especially this year’s elections, are worldwide affairs.

For all of us working in international education, exchange, and development, one of the issues at the heart of the 2008 election is the United States’ image throughout the world. The work that we do, whether it be facilitating student and professional exchange programs, advising international students on a university campus, or working to improve education and communications infrastructure in a developing country, has at its core an interest in presenting the United States and its people at their best. And while most of would say that we are not in the business of convincing others around the world that the United States is great (or the best, or even good), we are in the business of helping to provide them with the firsthand experience of our country and its people so that they can make their own, informed decision, one that is not based on inaccurate stereotypes. Our next president will go a long way toward either continuing the downward spiral of anti-Americanism that has been persistent and ever-growing these past eight years, or toward restoring the U.S.’ image and standing as an admirable, moral leader worthy of being followed.


More Peace Corps

Saturday, October 25th, 2008

A fitting follow-up to my last post on the evacuation of the Peace Corps from Bolivia.  A nonprofit group called More Peace Corps is leading a campaign to reinvigorate and expand the Peace Corps.  From a 2001 speech by Sargent Shriver, driving force behind the creation of the Peace Corps:

Our present world cries out for a new Peace Corps – a vastly improved, expanded, and profoundly deeper enterprise…I’m not defending the old Peace Corps – I’m attacking it!  We didn’t go far enough!  Our dreams were large, but our actions were small.  We never really gave the goal of ‘World Wide Peace’ an overwhelming commitment.  Nor did we establish a clear, inspiring vision for attaining it.

Is the Peace Corps the new CIA?

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

A troubling yet still hopeful article in today’s Washington Post detailing the Peace Corps’ recent evacuation of all volunteers from Bolivia. Troubling because the Peace Corps, the one engine of American government that has long been viewed as a representation of all that is best about the United States and its people, is increasingly seen as an intelligence gathering arm of the U.S. government:

“The less presence of the United States in Bolivia, the better,” Juan Ramón Quintana, Bolivia’s minister of the presidency, said in an interview. “We believe the security policies of the United States have damaged the constitutional rights of the students of the Peace Corps, by tasking some of them to do intelligence work.”

Yet still hopeful because more than 15 of the 113 evacuated volunteers decided to return to their posts in Bolivia of their own volition to finish the worked they’d started. And of those who were unable or decided not to return, it is clear that the majority of them do not agree with this worrying slide of the Peace Corps into government propaganda and intelligence gathering machine. From one of those volunteers forced to leave:

“Peace Corps, unfortunately, has become another weapon in the US diplomatic arsenal,” volunteer Sarah Nourse of Mechanicsville, Md., wrote in a widely circulated e-mail. The Peace Corps withdrawal “is one more chance for the US to maintain its tough image and hit back, harder.

“More than ever, Bolivia needs living examples of real Americans,” Nourse went on. “They need someone to help, not for financial gains but because the task exists and because it’s the right thing to do.”

I think it’s on all of us working in and supportive of the fields of international education, exchange, and development to ensure that the Peace Corps and all similar exchange and development programs remain the powerful forces for mutual understanding that they have always been.

“It takes character to humanize your enemy. Then if you have to bomb them, at least it hurts more.”

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

This quote from Rick Steves, the globetrotting author of more than 30 bestselling guidebooks and the host of several public access TV and radio shows, who came to Georgetown yesterday to speak on the topic of “Travel as a Political Act.”

Rick began his talk with an endorsement of the importance of travel that I think strikes a particular chord in this historic election season:

There is so much fear today. The flip side of fear is understanding. I’m not afraid, not because I’m courageous but because I’ve been there.

For too many people, Steves believes, travel is all about “seeing if you can eat five meals a day and still snorkel when you get into port.” He sees, however, as the title of his lecture indicates, travel as having a much deeper purpose. It should allow us to get to know a people, a nation, and a culture, to broaden our historical, political, and social horizons.


Nothing better than when your mom pulls out the camera

Monday, October 20th, 2008

Sherry and I participated in two Working World events last week, both of which I neglected to post on over the weekend as I had planned. I blame the sudden appearance in DC of my old friend Alex and his wife Di (on a last minute trip from London), which led to a much, much later Saturday night than originally planned. But I digress….

The first event took place last Monday and was hosted by our shared alma mater, American University, and more specifically by the master’s degree program from which I received my “piece of paper,” International Communication. The second was on Thursday and my current home turf, Georgetown’s campus, hosted by our benefactors at GU Press, as well as the Georgetown University Bookstore. These were similar events—round table type conversations with groups of 20-30 students, undergraduate and graduate alike—that began with a short spiel from Sherry and I on our book, then ended with the real meat: Q & A and discussion with the participants. A good crop of insightful, thoughtful, sometimes downright challenging questions were raised, buoying my hopes (not that they ever really fell, but I like the word “buoy”) that this book and blog are needed and wanted. A few of the highlights:

How can I convince my parents that my plan to work/volunteer abroad after college is not only a viable first step for my career, but also a move that follows my passions, not a way to put off the inevitable or delay the real world? (from GU event)


Online discussion on building a nonprofit career

Friday, October 17th, 2008

The Chronicle of Philanthropy is hosting a live online discussion next Tuesday, October 21 at 12:00 noon with Shelly Cryer, author of The Nonprofit Career Guide: How to Land a Job That Makes a Difference. Participants are encouraged to submit their questions early. Tailor yours to how to land a job and build a career at an international nonprofit. Participation is free for all.

“The fear of looking like an idiot”

Friday, October 17th, 2008

In the New York Times, Alina Tugend describes the trouble with networking:

Networking brings up many of the same emotions as dating—fear of rejection, fear of looking like an idiot, fear of overstepping boundaries, fear of failing. And even if you can overcome those anxieties, you have to know how to do it right. Networking is more than meeting and chatting with lots of people, more than swapping business cards.

I couldn’t agree more. As I describe in Working World, networking for me (at least in the traditional sense of attending events and pressing the flesh) has always been a panic-inducing endeavor. Tugend offers some useful and practical advice, especially when she admonishes job seekers to be realistic in their networking—”don’t set yourself up to fail” by saying you’re going to attend two networking events per day or meet 20 people at each event. Such expectations are unrealistic and will ultimately be counterproductive.

But I think Tugend misses a key point, especially when it comes to networking in the fields of international education, exchange, and development—it is beneficial to network at all times, not just when and because you need a job.


I want to volunteer abroad…but I’m broke

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

A reader named Amy responds to our post on voluntourism:

Voluntourism sounds like an excellent idea….However, I’m about to be graduating from college and I know I would never be able to afford to participate in “voluntourism.” What would your advice be for a broke idealist?

Amy raises an important point about voluntourism and international volunteer work in general: it can be awfully expensive, and thus cost prohibitive for recent graduates on a tight budget. Which seems slightly ironic in that it doesn’t seem like the impulse to give back should bring with it a high tab. But as many who’ve written on this topic point out, you wouldn’t expect a local organization for which you’re volunteering to pay for your transportation and morning coffee—so how can we expect an organization to pay for our international travel expenses?

Idealist and Transitions Abroad offer informative perspectives on why it costs money to volunteer. But to get back to Amy’s question, how can a broke idealist participate in voluntourism or get experience abroad? After the jump, a few ways to tackle this:


Monday, October 13th, 2008

Many thanks to for featuring Working World the book and the blog in the Global Careers section of their recently launched website.  Founded by Tim Honey, former Executive Director of Sister Cities International, BeGlobal is an essential resource for those seeking a career in international affairs, as well as anyone interested in finding opportunities to “think locally and act globally.”

Expand your notion of the international

Sunday, October 12th, 2008

Franca Gargiulo, head of the international marketing and management firm Avenir Monde in Monterey, CA, makes an important comment on Sherry’s and my discussion on why it’s so hard to get a job in international affairs. Expand your view of what we typically, and perhaps too narrowly, think of as “international jobs,” Franca says:

My only thought on the comments of how to expand a job search is not to overlook the “non international” job in private industry. In many cases, sales and marketing positions at the junior level require much interaction with key customers, vendors, etc. and this will, de facto, include a huge global constituency. The title of the position may not say “international” but you can be sure that if you are acting as a program manager or coordinator, one will have a huge array of global exposure. This kind of experience in the private sector is worth its weight in gold and can be just as complelling as those jobs/positions with international organizations. The key is reading between the lines and asking questions about the position and the type of interaction one would be having in the role. So the message here — take a look at some hidden gems that might just have a description of “sales coordinator” as a title. Sales for any firm is 50% international!

Brian Kelly, editor of U.S. News & World Report

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

I had the privilege yesterday of hearing from Brian Kelly, the editor of U.S. News & World Report.  Brian, a ’76 grad of Georgetown, came back to campus to participate in a Dean’s Lunch Seminar, a program initiated by my office.  Brian’s had an interesting and varied journalistic career, moving from the Chicago Sun-Times to a small political magazine in DC, Regardie’s, to the Washington Post, then to U.S. News & World Report, where he worked for nine years before being named editor in 2007.

He spoke to a small group of Georgetown students about his early days as a political reporter (“I covered crime and politics, but in Chicago, it’s pretty much the same story”), about the opportunities and challenges the Internet has brought to journalism (“Bloggers often use MSM [mainstream media] as a derogatory term, though in the MSM we actually check our facts”), and about why he still has a passion for journalism even after 30 years (“Journalism is not about being witty or clever or the smartest guy in the room.  It’s a service, it’s about communicating with the public”).

Brian also had a few things to say about the international nature of his journalism career:


International Education Week website is live

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) at the State Department just launched its International Education Week 2008 website. IEW is November 16-20 this year—get involved! I know I will…which is a nifty segue into letting you know that I will be speaking on the topic of careers in international education, exchange, and development at my alma mater, the University of Notre Dame, on November 18. More details on that event to come…


Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

A great article in the San Francisco Chronicle on the growing trend of “voluntourism”:

After a decade of unprecedented consumerism, the rise of voluntourism may suggest that the pendulum is swinging toward a more altruistic worldview. But there’s also a certain logic in our workaholic culture embracing the idea of a working vacation. Whatever the reasons, voluntourism seems to be attracting more professionals, families and affluent retirees – just the sorts of people the travel industry must court to stay alive in an era of exploding fuel prices.

This idea of a working vacation is certainly not new to those familiar with alternative spring break trips and similar programs.  Regardless, the idea of voluntourism strikes me as not only a way to give back but also a means to gain short-term experience working abroad.  Highlighted in the article are the micro finance organization, which began “a fellowship program that places trained volunteers with partner organizations for a minimum of 10 weeks,” and the nonprofit organization Global Volunteers, which supports volunteer vacations both abroad and in the United States.