| by Stephen Diehl and Andrew Cassel

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United Nations flag rippling in a breeze.

Immersive experiences are an important way for students to become world ready and work ready. It’s also how they gain an advantage in the job market. The Institute has long-standing partnerships with organizations that give students opportunities for professional experience that are not available elsewhere.

Q & A with Alex Patton MAIPD ’22

Tell us about your practicum assignment.

Currently I’m completing my practicum—which is part of my International Policy and Development degree—with the UN Office of Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) in their conventional arms branch. The UN network is massive and there are so many agencies. I previously interned with another agency, the UN Population Fund, and I’m just kind of taking what I learned over there and the strategies for learning the acronyms, who does what, what we handle, etc. We handle things like small arms and light weapons, munitions, and IEDs. 

What are you specifically working on?

Right now, I’m about a month in and I’ve been handling the UNSCAR proposals [UN Trust Facility Supporting Cooperation on Arms Regulation], which is a funding mechanism that UNODA uses to fund small NGO projects that promote arms control in different areas or countries. We have specific focus points we want to concentrate on, whether it’s the western Balkans or the African Union, for example. What I’ve been doing is going through and summarizing them. Since I’ve become so familiar with the projects being proposed right now, I can suggest to my supervisor—who then suggests to donors—which are the best projects to fund, who is the most put together, how relevant they are to our priorities.


Alex Patton MAIPD ’22, International Professional Service Semester

As you delve deeper into the world of small arms and light weapons reduction, has anything surprised you so far?

It’s really interesting how small arms and light weapons can fall into so many categories. It’s not just disarmament; it can go into gender rights, for example. One thing I’ve been working on is a training manual that helps guide different NGOs and different offices in how to train personnel on the intersection between gender and small arms. It’s largely focused on gender-based violence, so this can relate to domestic violence, it can relate to toxic masculinity or violent masculinity. It also looks at militaries and how they relate to women in the local communities. Previously when I thought of disarmament, I thought it was just arms control, but once you delve more into the gender-based violence, it goes even further. Another project my branch has been looking into is the intersection with climate change. There are so many ways disarmament can branch off—it goes into so many fields. That intersecting nature is really interesting and something I’ve been learning about during my time there.

This is now your second assignment with the UN. How do you expect this professional field experience will support your career goals?

For me this is very important because I went straight from undergraduate into graduate school, so I don’t have a lot of professional experience. The practicum is something students do to integrate into the larger professional field. A lot of entry-level jobs want you to have two to three years of experience. So this is really great—it’s a full-time position. It’s great to get that professional experience, to be fully immersed in the UN agencies, the UN systems, and specifically the UNODA. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in gaining more professional experience, especially in the international development field.